Hands-on Gear Review

BLKBOX 12W Portable Folding Kit Review

BLKBOX 12W Portable Folding Kit
By: Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 15, 2014
Price:  $150 List  |  $59.99 at Amazon - 60% Off
Pros:  Flexible USB cable makes plugging in easier
Cons:  Only one USB port, small storage pocket, bulky for the power limitations
Manufacturer:   BLKBOX
63
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Output Power - 30% 7
  • Ease of use - 15% 7
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 5
  • Portability - 20% 6
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Our Verdict

The BLKBOX 12W Portable Folding Kit looks and sounds good on paper, and that's not to say there is anything wrong with it. It worked reliably and gave us no glitching grief, but when we stacked it up against the competition, we were disappointed. It was heavier and bulkier than some panels that boasted more power, like the Instapark Mercury 10.

It also only had one USB port and an undersized storage pocket. We did, however, like their idea to put the USB port on a cable, which we feel adds some charging flexibility and reduces strain on the electrical connection.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Share:

The BLKBOX was an elusive solar panel, and didn't make a competitive stand in our lineup, but we did like the flexible USB cable for charging your device. Otherwise, many of the features missed the mark.

Performance Comparison


Putting the BLKBOX 12W Portable Folding solar panel to the test on the Big Sur coast. The size is comparable to the Anker 14W  but it is lighter and only has 3 panels.
Putting the BLKBOX 12W Portable Folding solar panel to the test on the Big Sur coast. The size is comparable to the Anker 14W, but it is lighter and only has 3 panels.

Output Power


Our reviewers were unable to find a good listing of the technical specifications of this solar panel, whether on the official website (which was very spare), or on retailer websites like Amazon. During the testing of these solar panels, we received an off brand dressed up to look like a bigger brand, so we are skeptical of companies who do not give clear product descriptions.

In our tests, the single USB charging port charged roughly on par with the Instapark Mercury 10, but it is a little bulkier, a little heavier, and does not feel as durably designed. With only one USB port, it did not score as high in the output power rating.

Ease of Use


We really like that the female USB port on this panel is on a flexible cord. This gives us much confidence that over time that port would not get torqued and wear out or break after being used and abused at every awkward backcountry angle we can drum up.

The bummer, however, is that there is only one USB charging port. Most other panels of its size on the market now come with two ports that charge two devices just as fast as one. This makes us question whether or not the panel is actually as powerful as it claims to be. The ways companies test and report output power can, at times, be misleading, and will often fail to paint an accurate picture. This one did pass muster for its speed at charging one device, but that speed was the same at which several other panels would charge two devices at the same time.

Not the smallish pocket and average overall size. We would have liked this panel a little more  for its size  if it had two USB ports rather than one.
Not the smallish pocket and average overall size. We would have liked this panel a little more, for its size, if it had two USB ports rather than one.

Weight


This panel is both bulkier and heavier than the Instapark Mercury 10, and only has one USB port. These factors combined to give it a lower score for its weight, especially given the lack of features and power.

Portability


For a panel with one USB port, the BLKBOX seemed unnecessarily bulky. It is very similar to the Instapark Mercury 10, but doesn't pack quite as much of a punch.

Versatility


This panel walks and talks much like the Anker 14W and the Instapark Mercury 10. When really taking a good hard look, however, it doesn't quite match up to either. One small reason is that it only has two metal grommets for hanging the device on one of the short sides. This means it is only possible to hang it vertically or support it with tie-downs on one side. This reduces its versatility quite a bit when taking it on a backpacking, kayaking, or camping trip.

The BLKBOX also mimics those two with the addition of a storage pocket--but it just misses the mark there, too. The pocket is too small even to fit one smart phone. Perhaps it was designed simply to hold the USB connector cables, but if that's the case, the pocket is excessively large and just adds unnecessary weight.

As any seasoned beachgoer knows  sand gets everywhere when you go to the beach. As such  we did not like that our devices wouldn't fit inside the pocket. We did  however  appreciate the USB port being on a cord rather than attached to the panel. We feel this reduces strain on the electrical connections in the USB port.
As any seasoned beachgoer knows, sand gets everywhere when you go to the beach. As such, we did not like that our devices wouldn't fit inside the pocket. We did, however, appreciate the USB port being on a cord rather than attached to the panel. We feel this reduces strain on the electrical connections in the USB port.

Best Applications


This is a good solar panel to get if it is on sale and you're new to solar charging and you just want to try it out, but in our opinion, it misses the mark in most categories. We are also bothered that there is so little information about the panel online, even on the official BLKBOX website.

Value


This solar panel's MSRP is listed at $149.99. This is a shockingly high price for this solar panel. If you can find it much cheaper, which is easy to do, then it becomes a decent value. This panel should be under $60 when considering the competition.

Conclusion


This solar panel performed fine, but it is not a strong competitor in the lineup of solar panels we reviewed.

Lyra Pierotti

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 15, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 100%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)


Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...