Voltaic Systems Arc 20W Review
Cons: Expensive, time consuming
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The most recent iteration of the Voltaic Arc 20 has a few differences from the previous version, but these small changes make a massive leap in performance. The hold-ups we had with the previous version have been addressed in the new model; the panel is more or less the same, which is okay by us; it worked well in our previous review and still charges the battery effectively. The battery has been updated and is compatible with new Mac products with a USB-C outlet on the battery itself, right next to the USB outlet. Additionally, the battery has a larger capacity, making it much more effective at charging large electronics, like laptops.
Charge Interruption Recovery
When charging in partly cloudy conditions, the Voltaic 20W performed well. Since the panel has four fold-out solar cells, its added size allows for more effective charging, even when the device is not in full sun. The battery also manages to re-establish a connection to the panel after an interruption, which is significant, especially compared to smaller panels that will disconnect entirely when an interruption occurs. When it comes to boasting a complete system, the Voltaic does well.
Charging speed is a metric where we continued to run into issues with the Voltaic system, as the 24,000mAh battery struggled to fully charge when plugged into the panel. At one point, we left the panel in direct sun for over eight hours, and when we returned, the battery still was not entirely charged. Even though the battery has been updated and works much better in terms of charging capabilities, the panel itself struggled to charge this larger-capacity battery. The only conclusion we can make is that batteries with huge capacities have a challenging time fully charging small-capacity panels.
Multiple Device Charging Speed
We ran into some issues here with the Voltaic system; this panel is only designed to work with the Voltaic battery. It has one port, with a plug that only fits into the Voltaic battery, which means that there is no option for charging multiple devices. Now that the battery functions better, this is less of an issue.
The Voltaic charging system is, overall, very durable and is one of the more durable panels we tested. Both of these panels scored highly in our durability rating, with the only downside to the Voltaic being that the cord that connects to the battery cannot be removed from the panel.
This means that it is always exposed to the elements and the eventual wear and tear at the port on the panel. To protect cords in the long term, we prefer models that have a storage pocket for extra cables.
Weight and Portability
The Voltaic system is one of the most well thought out set-ups we tested. You can tell that its creators had portability in mind when designing this product. The battery is sleek, though the updated version is a bit burlier and slightly larger than the previous model. The panel folds down to be fairly compact; it is thin, even though it has four panels. Compared to the other option for charging laptops, the Voltaic is much more portable. The Voltaic is ideal for large-scale charging.
We weighed the panel alone (separate from its battery pack and extra cords) and found that the Voltaic 20W weighs 26 ounces.
One of the biggest hold-ups with the Arc 20 was its price. With an updated price tag, most of that is going toward the battery that is compatible with a laptop computer, and it's a better value.
The few changes made to the Voltaic system has brought it to the top of the list for those who want to keep a large-capacity battery charged. This system is compatible with Mac products, charges our laptops and phones efficiently, and is the most streamlined set-up for large-capacity charging. Though the price is high, if you're intent on charging your laptop and other large electronics remotely, the Voltaic could be a good investment. Since Voltaic ironed out the kinks with the battery, we are much more excited about this solar set-up.
— Jane Jackson