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Hands-on Gear Review
Instapark Mercury 10M18U with battery Review
Cons: Included battery is clunky, weak, low capacity, heavy
The Instapark Mercury 10 was easily the most underrated panel in our tests--that is, until we started stacking all of the specs of the panels in our review, side-by-side. The Mercury proved to be a solid contender--a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. Quickly, subtly, and solidly, the Instapark Mercury 10 established its seat among this review's award winners.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
After doing all the math, the Mercury 10 held its own as a lightweight, efficient, powerful, and rugged solar panel. It is big enough to do some fast charging, and the panel alone only weighs slightly more than the smartphone-sized Poweradd Apollo 3. This year, Instapark included their own battery in a kit with the Mercury 10, but we were severely disappointed in the battery. However, the simplicity and reliability of the panel alone still holds its spot as a Best Buy winner, with the battery having only bumped up the already very low cost about $17.
Check out the chart below to see where the Mercury 10 ranks in Overall Performance.
At 10 watts, this panel was on the more powerful side of the panels we tested, but not the most powerful; however, the USB ports provide 2 amps of current, which makes a huge difference when charging energy hungry tablets or newer smartphones. One port is labeled for iPad/iPhone, which on some devices denotes the port with higher amperage, but from the best of our research, it appears that both of these ports charge at two amps.
Last year, our testers were impressed by the Mercury 10's ability to hold the charging connection to our devices when we momentarily shaded the panel--this proved to be a particularly annoying problem with a few panels, which would drop the connection and fail to reconnect with our devices after someone walked briefly in front of the panel. This year, it still re-established the connection when completely shaded and then un-shaded, but it did not reset with the same ease when a cloud passed overhead. The Goal Zero Nomad 7 and the Anker 15W PowerPort Solar Lite with PowerIQ technology performed much stronger in this area.
Last, the proprietary Instapark battery. The included battery is one reason the Goal Zero Venture 30 Recharging Kit won our Editors' Choice award, but the Instapark battery ise a sore spot for the Mercury 10. This should have been a relatively high capacity battery, but we found its performance to be unpredictable. At first, it charged our iPad almost 20% in one test. In a subsequent test, it conked out after charging only 6%. In this latter test, the fan turned on and the battery felt warm to the touch.
Performance aside, we also thought the battery was big, clunky, and heavy. We much prefer the very sleek proprietary batteries to match the Goal Zero Venture 30 kit.
Ease of Use
This is an excellent panel for charging any devices that charge via USB, which is most modern personal technology items such as smartphones, tablets, many cameras, and some GPS consoles.
The Mercury 10 has a large, convenient pocket for stashing (and protecting) your device while it is charging, and keeping your cables organized while on the go. The panel has loops around the edges for hanging from trees, tents, etc. This makes it very easy to orient the panel for optimal sun exposure.
We also really like the sewn loops for hanging the panel instead of the metal grommets on other panels like the old Anker 14W panel from last year's review (which has been changed this year to sewn loops on the Anker 15W panel). Like with the Goal Zero panel, these sewn carabiner attachment points make the panel much easier to hang up, pin down, and then fold back for transport.
The velcro flap, however, that holds the panel closed when folded tends to fold over the third panel while propped in the sun. If you are easily irritated by minor design flaws, this panel may not bring you technological bliss.
This panel was one of the lightest full-fledged folding solar panels we tested. It has three decent sized panels that deliver enough power to charge a tablet with relative ease, and it only weighs a little more than some of the hard-shelled chargers like the Apollo 2, which has less than 1/6 the solar panel surface area. Many of the other panels that were about as powerful were almost double the weight. Pair this with a lightweight external battery for the ultimate dream team combo in backcountry solar charging.
The Mercury 10 was one of the most portable folding panels we reviewed thanks to its excellent weight-to-panel-size-ratio. This is a very light and compact panel for the solar surface area it provides.
This panel does not come with many adapters nor can you add them later. There is no cigarette lighter adapter capability or way to charge a laptop or device that does not have a USB cable. This means there are certain devices, such as camera battery chargers, that are not easily charged from this panel. This is a panel optimized for charging smart phones and tablets.
Though this kit includes a proprietary battery, we do not recommend the battery. It is large, heavy, shaped awkwardly for transport (bulky), and performed poorly (by overheating and losing a charge much faster than expected).
This panel is ideal for groups with 2 to 4 people that all want to keep their smart phones and tablets charged, but it is also light enough for solo travelers on longer journeys, or for someone who has a "mobile office" with a tablet and smart phone that will be in heavy use in the field. We highly recommend combining this panel with an inexpensive external battery so that you can charge the battery and a device at once.
Anyway you look at it, the Mercury 10 is an amazing value. It is on the less expensive side of the traditional folding panels, and boasts great price-per-watt and price-per-ounce ratios. This earns it our Best Buy Award.
If you mainly charge USB devices and want high performance first, with light weight a very close second, then this is the panel to get. Even if you are on a budget, this panel is hard to beat. The Instapark Mercury 10 is not new to our awards list. Previously a Best Buy winner, then an Editor's Choice winner, this panel continues to hold its own in the solar panel market. This year, it was edged out of the top slot by the Goal Zero Venture 30 Recharging Kit but still earns a Best Buy Award.
Other Versions and Accessories
You can buy this panel on its own without the battery, which we actually recommend. Then you could add a better battery, like one from our External Battery Review to use with it rather than the Instapark one, which we did not like.
Micro-USB cable for included battery pack.
— Lyra Pierotti
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Most recent review: March 6, 2016