Renogy E.Flex5 Review
Cons: No pocket, no protective cover for panels, single USB port
Our Analysis and Test Results
Our Award Winner for Lightweight Design, the Renogy 5W stands out as the lightest and smallest of the models we tested this year. It's durable and waterproof, even though the panel itself does not come with a canvas outer layer, like most folding solar panels. The E.Flex5 is an excellent choice for simple charging tasks for those concerned about weight and portability.
The size and weight of this panel make it the most portable of the panels we tested. For small trips, or to keep in your bag around town, this panel works great. Because it doesn't fold up or have any closable storage pockets, it is not the best for long trips where you want your electronics to be organized and protected floating around in a larger bag of gear. If you are looking for a panel that will mostly be used for charging phones and other small devices, the Renogy will work great. Because it's only a 5W panel, keep in mind that it has only 1/4 of the power that the 20W panels have.
Charge Interruption Recovery
Its small size became the E.Flex5 panel's main drawback regarding its ability to hold a charge in less than ideal conditions. The panel charged our battery 2% in its period of full sun exposure but then failed to return to a charging state after being shaded for only a few seconds. The external battery did not charge at all after the panel was shaded, unlike other, larger capacity panels which were often able to hold a charge even when the sun was not gracing the surface of all of its panels.
This makes sense, since the E.Flex5 has a much smaller surface area covered with solar cells. It's important to think about where you will be using the panels before committing to one. A panel with a larger surface area will do better in wooded areas, for example, because there are more solar cells exposed, and less chance of the whole panel becoming shaded by branches and leaves.
All of that aside, the Renogy is still impressive since it has a 5W capacity at half the size of its competitors.
Just because it's light and portable does not mean it is ineffective! In just five minutes, the E.Flex5 had charged our iPhone 6 from fully dead to 5%; this proved to us that the Renogy works well to charge a fairly small device in a short amount of time, as long as the conditions are optimal. In 30 minutes, the Renogy charged an iPhone 6 27%.
When set out in full sun with the task of charging a 6,000 mAh external battery, the Renogy 5W was able to charge from 0 to 9% in four hours. This data is pretty eye-opening, especially when compared to a larger watt panel, which charged the same battery to full in three and a half hours. This just shows that higher wattage panels are much more efficient hands down.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
This panel is too small to effectively charge multiple devices. Its simplified design has one USB port on the backside of the panel and no storage for cords, etc., which is a downside.
Its simple design makes it a durable option since there are no extra parts to break off or wear out. The downside is the solar cells are always exposed since it does not have the same fold-up design that the other panels in the review do. We did not encounter any excess wear during testing, and its hard panel clipboard-like design makes it surprisingly solid.
The panels have a coating on them that also protects them from scratches, weather, and general wear and tear, which is nice because the panel is so small and light it easily slides into a messenger bag or a backpack for an overnight trip. Scratches and scuff marks will inevitably appear on these panels after some time, but this award winner proved to be incredibly resilient for such a delicate-looking accessory.
Weight & Portability
The E.Flex5 panel is leaps and bounds ahead of all other panels regarding weight. It weighs only 6.1 ounces, which is about three ounces lighter than the second lightest panel!
Its lightweight design and small size make it extremely portable, and it can slide in a backpack with books and computers with ease. It also comes with suction cups, so that you can hang on a window easily. The E.Flex is also one of the more natural panels to prop up against a rock, your device, the curb, etc., which we found to be a benefit during testing.
The E.Flex5 is a great affordable panel option. Though it is low in price, it still functions well. For charging small devices, like phones or small batteries, the Renogy works well; it saves size and weight by sacrificing charge time with its low wattage.
A unique panel from our fleet of foldable solar panels, the E.Flex5 shines as a lightweight, affordable, and simple panel. It is best used for simple charging tasks, so if you are a tech wizard with lots of electronics, this might not be the best panel for you. If you simply need to keep your phone charged and are not concerned with extra bells and whistles, then this award winner is a good choice.
— Jane Jackson