Goal Zero is the go-to brand in the world of portable solar panels. Whether it is their green and black snazzy color scheme or the strength of their marketing department, at first glance, one might assume they are the only company out there making solar panels for the outdoor enthusiast. We put their ever-popular Nomad 7 back to the test, comparing it to our top picks of 2018. We found it to once again perform similarly to lesser-known brands, like the Suntactics 14W and the Renogy 5W.
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Review
Cons: Expensive, heavy, lots of extra parts & cords
Manufacturer: Goal Zero
Compare to Similar Products
Goal Zero Nomad 7
|Price||$64.93 at Amazon||$59.99 at Amazon||$30 List||$114.99 at Amazon||$160 List|
|Pros||User-friendly design, durable, lots of charging options||Inexpensive, efficient, user-friendly, excels in partly cloudy conditions||Relatively lightweight for panel type, inexpensive, charges devices efficiently||Powerful, works well in partial sun, cheaper than other laptop compatible options||Efficient for its size, durable, rigid design makes it easy to prop up, designed and built in the US|
|Cons||Expensive, heavy, lots of extra parts & cords||Bulky, heaviest weight||Ineffective if relying only on solar for power, less durable than other battery packs||Bulky, heavy, hard to set up, complicated adapters for laptop charge||Expensive, large, hard to transport, lacks storage pocket|
|Bottom Line||This panel is versatile and durable with a well-thought out design.||We were impressed by the BigBlue's ability to charge our gadgets quickly and reliably; its reasonable price is the cherry on top.||An efficient, compact battery pack with a 2W solar charger on it; out of the panels of this style, the Renogy is a top performer.||The X-Dragon 40W is the largest panel we tested and works relatively well for charging a laptop, though it is cumbersome and heavy.||For a rigid, efficient panel that is well-made and reliable, look no further than the 14W from Suntactics.|
|Rating Categories||Goal Zero Nomad 7||BigBlue 28W||Renogy 15,000mAh||X-Dragon 40W||Suntactics S-Charger 14|
|Charging Speed (30%)|
|Charge Interruption Recovery (20%)|
|Multiple Device Charging Speed (20%)|
|Weight & Portability (20%)|
|Specs||Goal Zero Nomad 7||BigBlue 28W||Renogy 15,000mAh||X-Dragon 40W||Suntactics...|
|Panel Size (watts)||7W||28W||2W||40W||14W|
|Weight (measured)||16.5 oz||23.5 oz||9.5 oz||37 oz||20.5 oz|
|# of USB outlets||2||2||2||1||2|
|Max USB Output Current (amps per port)||1amp||2 amp||2 amps||2.8 amps||2 amp|
|Size folded (inches)||9" x 1.5" x 6.5"||11.1" x 6.3" x 1.3"||6.3" x 3.1" 0.7"||10.43" x 6.3" x 2.76"||11.6" x 7.25" x 0.25"|
|Panel Type||Mono-crystalline||PET Polymer||Mono-crystalline||PET-Polymer||Mono-crystalline|
|Size opened (inches)||9" x 1.5" x 17"||33.1" x 11.1" x 0.2"||6.3" x 3.1" 0.7"||35.2" x 18.1" x 0.04"||11.6" x 14.5" x 0.125"|
|Battery input (Volts / Amps)||n/a||n/a||5V 2A||n/a||n/a|
|Charge capacity (mAh)||n/a||n/a||15,000mAh||n/a||2800mAh|
|Direct USB Plug?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||6 months||2 years||1 year||2 year||5 years|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Overall, this panel did not impress in our performance comparisons. The Goal Zero Nomad 7 was a bit finicky and slow to charge, though the design and size make it appealing for those who want a compact, travel-friendly panel. What Goal Zero lacks in saving weight and generating ample power, the brand makes up for in their clever design and extra features.
Charge Interruption Recovery
The Nomad 7W performed comparably to the Renogy 5W as it struggled to re-engage a charge after being shaded for a few minutes. Both devices didn't manage to charge beyond 2% during the testing period.
Our newest test version of the Goal Zero Nomad 7 was a bit of a disappointment. The previous version, for whatever reason, seemed to charge more efficiently overall, compared to the newer model. This is important to note because it shows the varying levels of efficiency among these products. The current test panel charged our iPhone 8% over the course of 30 minutes, in full sunlight. Comparatively, the Suntactics panel charged the same phone 30% in 30 minutes. The Nomad's performance is similar to the performance of the Renogy 5W because of their comparable size. Needless to say, our testing indicated that small watt panels have trouble charging power-hungry devices, which you'll want to keep in mind when choosing the best panel for you.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
The Nomad 7W doesn't have the wattage output to charge multiple devices at one, but it does come with a plethora of cords for charging nearly every electronic under the sun. It even comes with a car plug so you can charge devices via your car if the panel isn't working while you're on the road. For a multiple device charger, the BigBlue 28 or the X-Dragon 40W performed the best during o ur testing.
A plus is that Goal Zero products are built to last. Sometimes, it is worth buying a brand name product just for the reliability of its design and construction. The Nomad 7 is no exception. Out of the three low wattage panels, the Nomad 7 blew the competition out of the water regarding durability, simply because Goal Zero has been in the game for a while. It has large, sturdy pockets with plenty of storage and strong canvas covering the panels on the outside. Both the Renogy E.Flex5 and the Suntactics 14W lack this pocket, which is key to the longevity of the USB ports and the gadgets you are charging.
Weight & Portability
In size, the Nomad 7 is fairly compact, but for a number of reasons, the panel is also quite heavy. For one, there are quite a few cords and accessories that add to the weight. Another contributing factor is the panel's closure method. Unlike the Velcro of the BigBlue 28W or the Wildtek 21W, the Nomad 7 closes with magnets instead. This is a nifty feature but overall adds unnecessary weight to the overall panel.
The overall weight of the Nomad 7 is 16.2oz, which lands the panel right between the X-Dragon 20 and the Instapark Mercury 10W at 16 ounces. When comparing capacity to weight, this is a fair amount of weight, particularly when you think about how long it may take for the panel to charge your gadgets. It is significantly lighter and more compact than the Suntactics 14W, which weighs 20.5 ounces.
This is a great panel for someone who will be charging many different devices and wants a long-lasting, versatile panel. The Nomad 7 has a durable and well thought out design, and is also very user-friendly. For this reason, it's a good option for someone who is intimidated by the technological side of solar power, as long as they don't mind spending a little extra cash.
Sold for $80 online, the Goal Zero Nomad 7 is one of the more expensive panels in the fleet. While still having only a 7W capacity, the price per watt ratio is pretty high. When buying this panel, a decent chunk of the cost goes to the brand name and the trustworthiness of having a known and approved product. There are many panels, like both of the Anker products we tested this year, that are becoming more recognizable and may begin to give Goal Zero a run for their money in the coming years. For the cost and output capacity, the Nomad 7 is a tad expensive.
The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is not for everyone, but if you do decide it's for you, you will end up with a reliable, durable, versatile panel. The security the brand name provides is worth it for some, but it's important to realize how many other brands out there are, making the equivalent in solar power products. This Goal Zero model is well-designed and easy to operate, making it a great option for group trips where there are many different charging needs (though it may not be the fastest in charging speed).
— Jane Jackson