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Instapark Mercury 10W Review
Cons: Low capacity, bulky, heavy
Bottom line: For an inexpensive 10W panel, the Mercury 10W charges devices reliably and effectively, making it our pick for Best Buy.
Last year, the Mercury 10W wowed our reviewers as it outperformed some of the toughest competitors in our side-by-side testing. This year, the Mercury 10 continued to impress, holding its own with the more substantial capacity panels, for a lower price. If you are not ready to go for a larger wattage panel, the Mercury 10W is a reasonable mid-range option, for cost and efficiency. Even in the mid-power category, the Mercury 10W impressed; though it was the least powerful of the three panels, it performed just as well as the Anker 15W and better than the Nekteck 14W. In the end, the Mercury 10W is still the Best Bang for your Buck.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
After doing all the math, the Mercury 10W held its own as a lightweight, efficient, robust, and rugged solar panel. It is small enough to fit in a backpack or duffel bag for travel, while still having enough power to charge electronics efficiently. The panel's simple and smart design has stood the test of time, and the Mercury has continued to impress us during testing. Though it is only a 10W panel, the Mercury's tri-fold design provides a greater surface area of solar cells which increases the panel's power and ability to charge in sub-prime conditions. These factors, along with its reasonable price tag, make it our Best Buy Award winner for the second year in a row.
Charge Interruption Recovery
Unlike the other low capacity panels, the Mercury 10W has three panels of solar cells, which proved to be a big advantage in our charge interruption tests.
During the first 10 minutes of our test, the panel charged our battery to 2%. Nothing too impressive here, but later in the trial, the Mercury 10W was able to charge to 3% even after being shaded and unshaded. That's saying something! No other mid-range panel was able to increase the charge by a percentage after we began covering the solar cells. The other highlight of this test was the Mercury 10W's ability to still deliver a sustainable charge when one of the panels was completely covered. This is another benefit to this model or any one of the 20W contenders, which will also have three sections of solar cells. More surface area means a more sustained and reliable charge. The Anker Powerport 21, Anker Powerport Lite, X-Dragon 20, and Goal Zero Nomad 7 all earned 8 out of 10s for this metric - the highest score in the fleet.
The Mercury 10W charged our external batteries as quickly and efficiently as panels with much larger capacities.
Compared to the Nekteck 14W and the Anker 15W and the RAV Power 16W the other three panels in our mid-range category, the Mercury held its own. After 3 hours of charge time with the external battery, the Mercury 10W had charged it up to 50%. The Nekteck had managed 44% and the Anker 15W had charged its battery to 49%. This shows how efficient the Mercury 10W is for its size. Similarly, it took 30 minutes for the Mercury 10W to charge an iPhone 27%. In comparison, the Anker 21W (with 10W more power) charged the same phone to 33% in the same amount of time. The Mercury out-performed the RAVPower16W in this metric, as the RAVPower only charged our phone 21% in the same amount of time.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
The Mercury 10W had a difficult time charging multiple devices at once. This makes sense, as the panel is only a 10W panel, so each USB port is getting less than 5W at any given time.
Typically, when we plugged in our multimeter into all of the panels, the actual output capacity was lower than the companies claimed on the packaging. If you are looking for a contender that would consistently charge multiple devices at once, especially gadgets like an i-pad or tablet, the Mercury 10W might not be the best option. Larger wattage panels do better at this task in general, so the Anker 21W or the Powergreen 20W panel would be good options for panels that can handle that kind of power-draining task.
Like most panels, the Mercury 10W is made of durable, canvas fabric protecting the solar cells when the panel is collapsed. Its Velcro closures for the panel and accessory pocket kept their strength and didn't get worn out even when sand and dirt inevitably worked their way into the panel.
The sewn loops for carabiner attachment points also held up and were useful for hanging the panel in creative ways. We found the Velcro closure to be more efficient in the long term, unlike the magnetic closure of the Powergreen 21W, which seemed to lose some of its strength over time. The solar cells themselves on the Instapark Mercury are what impressed us. They are incredibly durable and have a ribbed texture that sheds water quickly and keeps dirt away.
Weight & Portability
Regarding weight and portability, the Mercury 10W fell short only because it is larger, and heavier, than the Anker 15W and the Nekteck 14W. Of all the three-panel solar chargers, it is the lightest, but it also lacks the output power of the Anker 21W and the PowerGreen 20W. This panel is a blue-collar worker, though. Its portable and light enough to take out on most trips and will keep your devices charged, reliably.
For having three panels, the Mercury 10W is no bulkier than the Nekteck 14W or the RAVPower 16W, but charges gadgets more efficiently. Though it is a bit heavier and thicker when folded up, the InstaparkMercury 10W does have the advantage of having a smaller area when collapsed. When folded up, it is almost the same size as the Renogy E.Flex5 (smaller than a magazine, remember!). So this does give the Mercury 10W the advantage of fitting in small backpacks or even sneaking in a duffle bag with less of an overall footprint.
This panel is ideal for charging phones and small devices. It is inexpensive, works well, and will last a long time. The Mercury 10W is a great panel for traveling, whether as a small group or for a solo traveler. Its capacity makes it versatile-since it can charge multiple devices and charge efficiently it works well for groups, but it is not overkill for a single person to use for simple charging needs. We highly recommend combining this panel with a small external battery pack so that you can charge the battery and a device at once. We used an inexpensive 6,000 mAh external battery pack that worked great with these small panels.
No matter how you slice it, the Mercury 10W is a great value. As a three-panel, high efficiency folding solar charger option, it shines without breaking the bank. It has no extra frills that you don't want to pay for and gets the job done charging small electronics effectively. Because Instapark has become a more reputable company in recent years, the Mercury 10W does cost more than the panels with smaller wattages. But it also means you will get an effective and reliable product that will last a long time. These attributes earn the Mercury 10W our Best Buy Award.
Year after year, this panel holds its own among the latest and greatest in solar technology. If you want a mid-strength panel with plenty of power and the ability to charge multiple devices at once, this is the panel to get. No other panel came close to having the kind of scores in our metrics and a reasonable price tag, giving the Instapark Mercury the Best Buy award for the second year in a row.
— Jane Jackson
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