The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Voltaic Systems Arc 20W Review

The Arc 20 is a 20-watt solar panel paired with a 24,000mAh external battery designed specifically to charge large electronics, like laptops, on the go.
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Price:  $280 List | $229.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Durable design, thoughtful concept, works well with Mac products, panel is effective
Cons:  Expensive, time consuming
Manufacturer:   Voltaic
By Jane Jackson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 4, 2019
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 18
  • Charging Speed - 30% 7
  • Charge Interruption Recovery - 20% 7
  • Multiple Device Charging Speed - 20% 6
  • Weight & Portability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Arc 20 system is designed to charge a 24,000mAh battery. From this large-capacity battery, the system keeps laptops, and other large electronics charged. The panel and battery and durable and sleek in terms of design, and recently, Voltaic has updated the battery. These new updates have made the system function more smoothly and in turn, charge laptops more effectively. These refinements have made for a more efficient system and have eliminated the plethora of adapters and cables needed to deliver a charge to an Apple computer, which is a significant update. The larger capacity panel provides more charge to our devices, though it also means that it takes a longer period of time for the 20W panel to charge this new battery fully. While there are still some hiccups in the system, Voltaic's work to improve the Arc 20 has definitely paid off.


Compare to Similar Products

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 huge 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.

Performance Comparison



Charge Interruption Recovery


When charging in partly cloudy conditions, the Voltaic 20W performed quite well in comparison to smaller panels in this review. 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 reestablish a connection to the panel after an interruption, which is significant, especially compared to smaller panels that will disconnect entirely when an interruption occurs. Regarding a complete system, the Voltaic takes the cake, but our Editors' Choice winner, the BigBlue 28 also does well in this. The BigBlue is more versatile and less expensive, making it a better choice for those who are less concerned with charging laptops.

The "Always On Mode" was a lifesaving feature for charging our laptop.
The "Always On Mode" was a lifesaving feature for charging our laptop.

Charging Speed


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. This new battery took about as long as the Aceyoon battery that we used in combination with the X-Dragon 40W. Our conclusion is that these batteries have a huge capacity that is challenging for a relatively small-capacity panel to charge fully.

The latest edition of the Voltaic system does slightly better in terms of charging speed with the updated 24 000mAh battery.
The latest edition of the Voltaic system does slightly better in terms of charging speed with the updated 24,000mAh battery.

Multiple Device Charging Speed


Again, 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, but if you are concerned with the lack of versatility in the Arc 20 set-up, consider the X-Dragon 40W or the BigBlue 28W. The X-Dragon 40 is especially versatile because it can charge a large battery, like the Voltaic, or a smaller battery powered by a USB cord.

Durability


The Voltaic charging system is, overall, very durable and is one of the more durable panels we tested. Comparable panels of smaller capacities are the Suntactics S-Charger 14W and the Renogy E Flex 10W. 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.

The  main flaw we found in the Voltaic's overall durability is the fact that the charge cable cannot be removed from the panel. This means the cable is always exposed to the elements.
The main flaw we found in the Voltaic's overall durability is the fact that the charge cable cannot be removed from the panel. This means the cable is always exposed to the elements.

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 preferred models like the X-Dragon 20W or the Anker panels, which have a storage pocket for extra cables.

The new battery has a larger capacity and a USB-C port along with the USB output.
The new battery has a larger capacity and a USB-C port along with the USB output.

Weight & 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 X-Dragon 40 with an external battery), the Voltaic is much more portable, since its panel is half the size of the X-Dragon. For large-scale charging, the Voltaic is our top pick.

The sleek size and design of the Voltaic panel is one of its most appealing qualities.
The sleek size and design of the Voltaic panel is one of its most appealing qualities.

We weighed the panel alone (separate from its battery pack and extra cords) and found that the Voltaic 20W weighs 26 ounces. This is relatively heavy compared to other panels in this review. Lighter options for a similar capacity are the Anker 21 or the Sokoo 22.

Best Application


This setup is best for those who use a laptop off the grid frequently. The Arc 20 is specifically designed to charge laptops and is compatible with Apple products. If you have newer Mac products, the Voltaic is compatible with a USB-C cable; this makes it super easy to charge laptops, saving the headache of trying to find the right series of adapters and cables. It is easy to use, and the battery can charge a laptop fairly quickly if it is fully charged.

Using the Voltaic to charge our MacBook was a smooth  easy affair.
Using the Voltaic to charge our MacBook was a smooth, easy affair.

The main problem we found was charging the battery off the solar panel, which seemed to take a lot of time and often did not work at all. We learned it is difficult to get enough power from the sun with such a small panel unless it is being tended all day (making sure it's out of the shade and oriented toward the sun).

Value


One of the biggest hold-ups with the Arc 20 is its price; it is one of the most expensive products we reviewed, mostly because it comes with such a large battery. With a price tag of $265, most of that is going toward the battery that is compatible with a laptop computer. For a cheaper setup, we tried out the combination of the X-Dragon 40 with an Aceyoon external battery. The price for this set up was $107 for the panel and $120 for the battery, for a total of $227. This is only slightly cheaper than the Voltaic setup and a bit more complicated in terms of cords and compatibility, so we felt that the Voltaic is a better option due to the overall convenience.

Conclusion


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 up. 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 are intent on charging your laptop and other large electronics remotely, then 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.

The complete Voltaic set up.
The complete Voltaic set up.


Jane Jackson