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Anker 15W Foldable Dual Port Solar Panel Review

15W PowerPort
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $80 List | $49.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, easy to use, durable, simple, powerful, light
Cons:  Small accessory pouch won't hold average smartphone
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Anker

Our Verdict

The Anker PowerPort Solar Lite 15W is a game changer. Anker has consistently proven itself to be one of the highest quality manufacturers of portable solar chargers during the entire life of this review category. Anker's panels have often been among our winners, earning that spot mostly for their reliable, high quality manufacturing. They have always produced a well-made, dependable product. And up until now, the only thing keeping their products from our Editors' Pick winning spot has been the heavier weight. If you need a little more power and are willing to spend another $10-20, check out the big brother to this panel, the Anker 21W PowerPort Solar.

Now, all that has changed. The PowerPort Solar Lite 15W is lighter than Goal Zero's 7 watt Nomad panel, and puts out a lot of power. Sound too good to be true? We thought so, too. But then we remembered that it was from Anker, so we had to give it a try. Read on to hear how Anker managed to steal the spotlight in this round of review updates.

New Version Available — January 2017
As of early 2017, the solar charged we reviewed was replaced with the seemingly identical PowerPort Solar Lite. According to Anker, this charger still puts out 15V and can be used to charge two devices simultaneously, but the price has dropped to $54! We've contacted Anker for more information and will post when we know more.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Portable Solar Panels of 2017 for Camping and Travel

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Score Product Price Panel Size (watts) Weight (measured) Battery kit?
78
$80
Editors' Choice Award
15 12.5 panel only
76
$170
Top Pick Award
7 (plus 12 W battery) 25.1 panel + battery kit
71
$80
Best Buy Award
10 20.9 panel + battery kit
62
$65
1.2 (reported on device) 5.8 w/ carabiner; 5.8 w/o hybrid battery charger
62
$100
1.2 5.3 hybrid battery charger
60
$130
3.5 13.3 w/ case and carabiner; 9 w/o case or carabiner hybrid battery charger
59
$80
not reported 7.6 hybrid battery charger
57
$110
5 22.1 w/ carabiner; panel + battery kit
57
$28
1.2 (claimed on website, math be damned--should be 1W) 6.1 w/ carabiner; 5.8 w/o carabiner hybrid battery charger

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
May 25, 2016

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A Mini-Revolution in Portable Solar Technology


Anker has seriously stepped up the game in the portable solar panel world. This year, they upgraded the 14W Dual Port Solar Panel to the Anker PowerPort Solar 15W and Anker 21W PowerPort Solar. The 15W panel costs $80, and the 21W costs $100. These panels have Anker's exclusive PowerIQ technology, which the company claims will replicate your device's original charging protocol to provide its fastest possible charging speed (with enough direct sunlight).

Hands-On Review


Anker's new PowerPort Solar Lite 15W panel is revolutionary. Anker slashed the weight of their 14W panel by more than half while increasing the power output by 1 watt, thus making it one of the most powerful panels by weight that we have ever gotten our hands on. Naturally, this newness unleashed our inner skeptics, so we ran the panel through our rigorous field tests to see if it is still up to snuff, maintaining the high standards of other Anker products.

The new 15W panel PowerPort Solar Lite by Anker.
The new 15W panel PowerPort Solar Lite by Anker.

Performance Comparison


Check out the following chart to see where each solar panel fell in line behind our Editors Choice winner.


Output Power


The Anker PowerPort Solar Lite packs a punch with 15W in just two panels, and a max current of 2.1 amps (divided between the two ports). In our field tests, the PowerPort Solar Lite charged an iPad in about 8 hours (or about 12-15% per hour) and an iPhone in 3.5-5 hours (or about 20-30% charge per hour). When charging both an iPhone and iPad at the same time, the rate was about 7% per hour for the iPad and 20% per hour for the iPhone.


This Editors' Choice winner is one of the most powerful and reliable solar panels we have ever tested. During a mostly sunny, week-long Denali expedition training on Mount Rainier, we were able to keep the team's various USB devices charged up. The charging was so fast that we didn't even have any fights break out over whose text messages were most important. We especially appreciate that either of the USB ports can provide the 2.1 amps of current when only one device was plugged in, and the charging optimization of the PowerIQ technology, which essentially ensures that your device is speaking the same language as the solar panel's circuitry. This resulted in optimal charging efficiency for all devices tested.

Testing the PowerPort Solar Lite 15W while training a team for Denali. This panel easily made the cut for this year's expedition.
Testing the PowerPort Solar Lite 15W while training a team for Denali. This panel easily made the cut for this year's expedition.

Note, however, that the total amperage output of this panel is 2.1 amps. Due to the inconsistent nature of solar charging, starting first with the ephemeral nature of the sun and exacerbated by losses in energy transfer between cables and plugs, our testing revealed that it is, in fact, rare to max out the output power of any device. In this regard, Anker pulls ahead of the competition by optimizing the charging with the PowerIQ technology, regularly scanning the system to keep the charging cranking.

Using USB power meters to verify the charging capacity of the 15W panel when plugged into an iPhone (top) and an iPad (bottom).
Using USB power meters to verify the charging capacity of the 15W panel. The iPhone typically drew less power  making it easier for the panel to charge. During our longer term tests  the iPhone charged up in roughly 3.5 hours  and the iPad took about 7.5.
 

This updated panel uses PET polymer thin-film solar panels rather than the more traditional monocrystalline. This results in lighter weight and affordability, as well as more resilience to shading and low-light conditions. However, they may be less durable and more susceptible to weatherization, and potentially less efficient in the long run.

Ease of Use


The Anker 14W was already one of the easiest panels to use in this review, so we didn't think Anker could improve much upon the panel in this category. If the 14W was that old Toyota pickup you regretted selling even though the kid who bought it was glowing with joy, then the 15W is the Sprinter van that gets you there faster, with better gas mileage, and includes all your favorite car-camping amenities (but for the same price as that old pickup, if you can fathom such a thing). We still love the old reliable 14W, but wow, this new one makes it hard to imagine we'd ever lived without it.


The only complaint came from a friend who said the panel's incessant resetting (and the noise it makes when it does so) was disrupting her Zen. Fair enough, this panel is so on top of its charging that it regularly scans the power setting to optimize the power to your device(s).

It's pretty easy to find creative ways to set up the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite. Here we set up the 15W panel to charge our smartphone and tablet from a pop-up camper.
It's pretty easy to find creative ways to set up the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite. Here we set up the 15W panel to charge our smartphone and tablet from a pop-up camper.

This panel took the reliability we loved from the 14W and packed it into a lighter weight, more compact, and even more powerful upgrade. Anker replaced the metal grommets of the 14W with sewn loops of parachute cord. Though they may not be as durable over the long term, they make the panel even easier to hang from tents, rogue protruding nails, camper trailers, etc., and likely shaved off a little weight.

With the handy parachute cord loops sewn at each corner (and in the middle between the panel and accessory pouch)  it is easy to find places to hang the Anker PowerPort Solar LIte.
With the handy parachute cord loops sewn at each corner (and in the middle between the panel and accessory pouch), it is easy to find places to hang the Anker PowerPort Solar LIte.

Our only complaint remains the same from the 14W: The velcro tab on the pocket which hides the USB outlets and holds your device or USB cords is very small. When we stuffed a larger smartphone into the pocket, the small velcro tab wasn't always strong enough to keep the phone inside. This was a little annoying when setting the panel out in the snow where we didn't want our phones to fall out and fill up with melting or blowing snow. And with smartphones rivaling small tablets with their gigantism, this didn't always make setup a breeze.

Even the smaller iPhone 6 is too big to neatly tuck into the panel's accessory pouch--but with the monstrous sizes of smartphones today  this is hardly a fault of Anker.
Even the smaller iPhone 6 is too big to neatly tuck into the panel's accessory pouch--but with the monstrous sizes of smartphones today, this is hardly a fault of Anker.

Weight


At 12.5 ounces for as much as 15 watts of power, Anker slashed the weight of the PowerPort Solar Lite by more than half from the 27.9 ounces of the 14W panel. You'll also see a significant cut in panel size, while still increasing the overall power. The 14W measured 34.6 x 11 in unfolded, and 6.9 x 1 x 11 in folded. The new 15W measures 18.9 × 11.0 in unfolded and 6.3 × 0.7 x 11.1 in folded.


Versatility


Weight was the only major Achilles heel of Anker's now-antiquated 14W panel. At almost two pounds, the old 14W version could be harder to justify taking along on your fast-and-light mountain missions, or your long through hikes where every ounce really has to earn its keep in your ultralight kit.


But now, at just over 12 ounces for 15W, 2.1 amps of total current, and boasting even faster charging speeds thanks to the PowerIQ technology, the PowerPort Solar Lite will be your favorite electronic companion on almost any adventure, even for the weigh-conscious ski mountaineer. The only way it could really be improved is if it could somehow also fit in our pocket. But now we're really asking a lot.

Setting the Anker 15W panel out to charge in intermittent sun after a day of backcountry skiing on Mount Rainier. The new sewn loops on the PowerPort Solar Lite are much more versatile than the metal grommets used on the 14W panel. Here  we looped them around the brakes on our alpine touring ski bindings.
Setting the Anker 15W panel out to charge in intermittent sun after a day of backcountry skiing on Mount Rainier. The new sewn loops on the PowerPort Solar Lite are much more versatile than the metal grommets used on the 14W panel. Here, we looped them around the brakes on our alpine touring ski bindings.

The two ports allowed us to charge our energy hungry iPhone and iPad at the same time, though it consistently charged the iPhone faster than the iPad (20% versus 7% per hour, respectively). In the image below, note that the much more power-hungry iPad hogs most of the 2.1 amps of current, but the iPhone charges faster. If we look at the relative battery capacities of each device, this makes sense: the iPhone battery capacity is about 7 watt-hours (Wh) while the iPad is just over 27 Wh. For this reason, we learned, it is best to charge bigger devices like iPads by themselves.

Using USB power meters to verify the charging capacity of the Anker 15W panel. The iPhone (left meter) was easier to charge than the iPad  especially when plugged in simultaneously  even though the iPad hogged most of the amperage.
Using USB power meters to verify the charging capacity of the Anker 15W panel. The iPhone (left meter) was easier to charge than the iPad, especially when plugged in simultaneously, even though the iPad hogged most of the amperage.

We really like how light, slender, and compact this panel is for the amount of solar panel surface area and the power output. It has much more surface are than the Poweradd Apollo 3, for example, and now it is only 5 ounces heavier.

Portability


The slender profile of this panel when folded makes it seem much smaller than it is. It packs easily into a duffel or large backpack, and can even slide unnoticed into smaller packs and travel bags. Because the accessory pocket is tucked inside when folded, it has no awkward protrusions that make it harder to pack away. It can slide into most packing situations effortlessly.


The chart above shows where this solar charger ranked in comparison to the other solar panels in the Portability metric.

Anker's PowerPort Solar Lite  open and closed  with an iPhone 6 (small version) for size reference.
Anker's PowerPort Solar Lite, open and closed, with an iPhone 6 (small version) for size reference.

Best Applications


In the current field of solar panel technology, the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite is the closest we have seen to the Holy Grail, the best of both lightweight and power worlds. When paired with a high quality external battery, the combo is unstoppable. This just might be your ideal panel for expeditions, car camping, backpacking, through-hiking, kayaking, and numerous other outdoor pursuits.

We vetted this panel on a week-long Denali prep course on Mount Rainier, where springtime means all conditions from winter to summer, and provides an excellent opportunity to test all of our equipment for weight and ease of use. This panel was a true crowd pleaser, outperforming the Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit, now our runner-up, while shaving off almost 4 ounces from the panel (not including the Venture 30 battery pack).

Testing the 15W PowerPort Solar Lite while training a team for Denali. This panel easily made the cut for this year's expedition.
Testing the 15W PowerPort Solar Lite while training a team for Denali. This panel easily made the cut for this year's expedition.

While we always advocate unplugging from technology while in the mountains, increasingly our phones are becoming competitive substitutes for our cameras, journals, and even GPS units. We are mindful of over-dependency on any single device (so we still carry a map and compass, traditional GPS, and sometimes satellite emergency communication devices), but all those smartphone apps sure do streamline our technology. Our solution? Keep 'em charged up!

Value


When researching the price of this product, our researchers did the internet equivalent of a double-take. We found ourselves checking and re-checking the listed prices. This panel blows the price-per-watt metric out of the water. And now it sets an aggressive standard for price per watt-ounce, if that's a thing…yes, it really is around $80 for 15 watts in just over 12 ounces.

Anker has not taken the same marketing path as Goal Zero, and they have yet to make any solar charging kits like the Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit, which is a clever way to entice buyers and encourage them to stay with your company. We have used the Anker external batteries with much delight--they are as well made as their panels--so perhaps a kit would be a tempting option from Anker.

Conclusion


Anker really crushed the competition with the new 15W PowerPort Solar Lite. It is hard to believe that it made a panel one watt more powerful than its last one while slashing the weight by more than half and cramming it all into a two-panel design, down from the four panels of the 14W charger. But it is all true. We've seen it, felt it, tested it, lived it. Stay tuned for the next sea change in the portable solar charger market. It's a new dawn.

Other Versions


Anker 8W
  • Cost - $70
  • Weight - 13.8 oz
  • Size - 9.25 × 6.69in folded / 19.2 × 9.1in opened
  • Portable Foldable Outdoor Solar Charger with PowerIQ™ Technology

Anker 21W PowerPort Solar
21W PowerPort Solar
  • Cost - $100
  • Weight - 14.7 oz
  • Size - 11.1 × 6.3in folded / 26.4× 11.1in opened
  • Portable Foldable Outdoor Solar Charger with PowerIQ™ Technology

Accessories


Included: micro-USB cable

This solar charger does not have an internal battery, but the Anker Astro E4 may fit the bill. Check out our External Battery Review.
Lyra Pierotti

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 26, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

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100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
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   Apr 26, 2017 - 07:05pm
ncacace · Hiker · France/Australia
21W Anker Powerport Solar Charger

I went for the larger one - It is heavier but I have to say that I certainly don't regret my choice

Hiked for one Month between 1700m - 2500m Sept/Oct from Slovenia through to Austria.
I had to charge my iPhone/Earphones/iPad/Headlamp. I was alone and carried everything I needed. I didn't see civilization the whole time and washed in the streams and rivers. It was an experience.

Thank God for my charger - Some of the sections of the Via Alpina Red Trail were really poorly marked and my GPS saved me getting lost on two occasions.

Get the 21W - it's worth carrying 7 oz (200g) - 200ml of water

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 15, 2017 - 06:49pm
paysdegalles · Camper · Sheffield England
I must agree with the comments above regarding this 15W panel, it is really superb. My main use for a solar panel is for use whilst touring / camping on a bicycle, ( mainly in the south of France ) where size and weight is really important.
The devices I need to charge being a kindle ( which actually lasts for ages ) and an iPhone 6, which I run flat every day using Google maps, generally charging power banks than the phone directly.

I use a home made USB charger from the hub dynamo on the bike which is great if I'm cycling at least 50 miles a day, but on days when I'm static at a camp site, the solar charger is a must.

Up until now, I've been using a "Silva" 5W 12V panel (about A5 size, unfolding to A4) with a Griffin USB adaptor.
Although the previous setup has worked OK, the Silva charger's a bit long in the tooth now, and very inefficient for its size.

I bought the Anker 15W panel from Amazon UK in January 2017, and have been amazed at its performance. Winter in Northern England's not really the best time to test solar panels, but the little Anker has been truly amazing, I've monitored its performance using a "Portapow V3 USB meter" which is great, and as it has an LCD screen, can be read in bright sunshine.

On the strength of the 15W panel, I bought the larger 21W Anker…….. What a disappointment ! I don't know if I had a duff one, but it was consistently out performed by a factor of 15 - 20% by the smaller lighter 15W panel even under cloudy skies, and through double glazing, where I would have expected it to have been far better.
I would certainly recommend the 15W panel if you only need to charge one device at a time.

Also, I would recommend steering clear of the very popular small 2600mAh power packs,(often found in supermarkets) many of which will only charge at 500mA or 1A, much better to go for a bigger one that will accept a 2A charge. With a panel capable of producing 2.1A a lot of available energy is wasted if the battery can only draw a much lower current.
Really can't praise this little panel highly enough, ( I've used several power meters 'cause I didn't believe the results at first ) Solar cells certainly have come a long way in the past couple of years!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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