BigBlue 42W Review
Cons: Bulky, heavy, lacks portability
Our Analysis and Test Results
This panel received high scores in all of our metrics related to charging ability but fell short in weight and portability.
Charge Interruption Recovery
Like other large-capacity panels, the BigBlue 42 gets high marks in this metric. The more surface area a panel has, the better it does in marginal conditions. Imagine if half this panel is shaded — there's still 20W of solar cells available and charging via the sun. That means that even when experiencing intermittent shading, the BigBlue was able to charge our phone 18% over the course of a 30-minute test period. This is on par with other panels of this capacity and much better than the smaller-capacity panels (10-20W).
Here, the BigBlue 42 impressed us once again. BigBlue is a solar charger brand that we have been testing for years, and we have yet to be disappointed in the overall performance of their panels. The 42-watt panel is no exception; during our round of timed charging tests, it charged our phone 30% over a 30 minute period. This is one percent per minute — a charging rate that is on the higher end of the spectrum when compared to the other panels in this review. Fast charging is the name of the game with this massive panel — especially for small electronics, like cell phones.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
With two USB ports and a good amount of wattage, this panel is made for charging multiple devices. We were impressed to see that it was able to charge two phones simultaneously with relative ease. The first phone charged 12% over 30 minutes, while the second phone charged 11% during the same time frame. This is an impressive leap from panels of years past, which struggled to charge our phones a few percentage points when multiple devices were plugged in.
The BigBlue 42 has the same construction as the smaller-capacity model we tested from the same brand, and receives a similar score in this metric. Both of these panels are designed to last. We had no issues with the performance of the solar cells over the course of our testing period. Plus, the materials used in the construction of the fold-up portion of the panel consist of reinforced canvas and canvas sewn clip-in points. The PET Polymer cells, as well as the canvas itself, are water-resistant and didn't seem to be affected by the sun.
Weight and Portability
Here, the BigBlue 42 falls a bit short. This panel is seriously bulky and weighs over 40 ounces. With efficiency, the ability to charge multiple electronics, and a solid score in interruption recovery, sacrifices have to be made in other realms. The BigBlue is a perfect example of this. This panel is a charging beast but weighs over two pounds — far too big to carry into the backcountry. It's relatively bulky in design, with a large storage pocket and multiple layers of fold-out solar cells.
This panel is large, powerful, and has a big charging capacity (in watts). This comes at a cost. Though not the priciest model out there, it's a bit of an investment. That said, for folks who live on the road or are planning to be without access to the grid for long periods, it is a reasonable investment to keep electronics topped off. Plus, it is reliable, well made, durably built.
The BigBlue 42 is powerful in full sun, performs fairly well in marginal conditions, and can charge multiple devices with ease. That said, it's an investment in size and price, relative to some of the other options included in this review. It works great for road trips or river trips — think situations where weight doesn't matter. We recommend this panel alongside other large capacity models for folks who want efficient charging and are not concerned with weight or size.
— Jane Jackson
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