Editor's Choice 2018, Reviews

Powertraveller Falcon 21 solar panel review

Powertraveller has released its new line of solar panel chargers, the Falcon series. There are three panels in this series: Falcon 7, Falcon 21 and Falcon 40. Of these, only the Falcon 7 lacks some features, such as the ability to charge multiple devices at once. The company sent me its Falcon 21 panel for this review.

The Falcon 21 is foldable, has “SunPower” cells, is splash-proof (IPX4) and is made of polyester fabric. It comes in a nicely designed box with two carabiners to hang the Falcon from its metal eye-holes, a 2m DC cable, a 1m USB-C to USB cable, a female USB-C to male Micro USB adapter, a set of laptop tips an a 12V car charging socket.

The Falcon 21 charges two devices simultaneously, of which one has to be a 5V / 3amp maximum and the other can be a 20V / 1amp device. It can charge notebooks that draw up to 40W.

The interfaces are hidden behind a velcro-closed flap in a splash-protected plastic box. Next to the box, you can store your tips and some of the included cables, although that will make the slim folded panel considerably more bulky. The solar panel itself is subdivided in three panels that fold in an envelope-like manner. The folded Falcon is small and lightweight at barely 30cm length and 500g.

I’d never heard of SunPower cells before – allegedly, they produce 25% to 35% more power than conventional cells – but with the larger surface my Brymen BM867s industrial multimeter measured a voltage output of well over 5V on the USB port, whereas the Solargorilla, Powertraveller’s previous largest solar panel (but which has the same output specs as the Falcon 21) managed an output of a fraction over 5V on a mildly overcast morning this summer,.

Of course, power on its own doesn’t tell you the electrical flow the panel can produce at low light, but it’s an indication. Nevertheless, I took out the Brymen and set up a mAh output test and found the Falcon 21 needed to be aimed at the blue sky more than the Solargorilla – the latter started charging even when it was flat on the floor with a terrace above it. Amperage on both devices was almost identical.

Once the Falcon 21 is pointed towards open sky, it manages a nicely continuous, non-fluctuating output, so you can also power – not just charge – devices that remain within its specs. These include GoPros, iPads, iPhones, car chargeable battery chargers, an Apogee Duet iOS/Mac, a Røde AI-1 audio interface with a mic on phantom power. Other devices you can drive with the Falcon are listed on the Powertraveller website.

As with most of Powertraveller’s products, the Falcon 21 meets very high standards and is a joy to work with. From test units I still have in my possession for past reviews I know the company under-estimates the longevity of their battery technology in statements they make. For example, I still have a Powermonkey 5V I reviewed six years ago, which is still working great and showing no signs of decreased power output or recharging capability. That is re-assuring to say the least.