Anker 515 Portable Solar Panel (24W) Review: Flexible Off-Grid Power


Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $80

Anker 515 solar panel folded open
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Portable chargers are a great way to keep all your gadgets powered on when you’re enjoying the great outdoors or on the go. But once it runs out of battery or you go off the grid, you’re out of luck. That’s where the new Anker 515 Portable Solar Panel charger comes to save the day.

Here’s What We Like

  • Relatively affordable
  • Portable folding design
  • Can charge 3 devices at a time
  • Lightweight

And What We Don’t

  • No built-in battery
  • No USB-C port
  • Not water resistant

Phones and battery packs eventually run out of juice. And if you’re friends and family are like mine and constantly steal your battery bank when you go camping, or on a vacation, you’ll need a way to recharge everything. Who needs a wall outlet when I can recharge my phone with the sun, right?

And while Anker’s 757 battery station is excellent, sometimes you don’t want to pack around a massive portable battery. If you want to travel light, use Anker’s $80 portable solar panel to recharge your phone, tablet, or drone, or charge a portable battery throughout the day. Then, use that battery to recharge your gadgets at night or when the sun goes down.

Anker’s latest 24W solar panels are perfect for outdoor adventures and weekend camping trips, going off-grid, not to mention great to have in an emergency. Here’s everything you need to know.

Design & Build Quality

Anker 515 solar panel charger (24W)
Cory Gunther / Review Geek
  • Dimensions (Closed): 9.64 × 12.1 × 1.97-inches
  • Dimensions (Unfolded): 38.8 × 12.1 × 0.16-inches
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs

The Anker 515 solar panel is roughly the size of a small laptop when all folded up, meaning it easily fits inside a backpack. It has a durable fabric and plastic design and feels well made. Several metal buttons hold it shut, and more buttons keep the kickstands in place.

Once you unbutton everything, it unfolds into a four-panel layout with three flexible solar panels. Each panel is made from a CIGS material, a type of thin-film solar material that’s flexible yet durable.

The fourth panel has the circuit box with three USB-A ports and a large zippered pocket to hold cables or a portable charging brick. Unfortunately, there are no USB-C ports, so you’ll need to use an older large USB-A cable.

Anker 515 solar panel ports
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Some of Anker’s product images show a person laying the panels out over a backpack while hiking, so you can charge while you walk. And while I love that idea, Anker didn’t add a strap to attach it to your bag. There are reinforced holes on the ends, so I guess I could use some carabiners.

There’s not much to the design, and that’s fine. I don’t need or want anything fancy here, as it’ll just be sitting in the sun. That said, the fold-up design is great and ensures you can grab plenty of the sun’s rays without it being big and bulky, then easily store it when you’re all done.

Setup & Use

Anker 515 (24W) solar panel opened
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

In terms of setup, you’ll be charging in about 30 seconds. Unsnap a few metal buttons, unfold the panels, pull open the kickstands, and find a sunny spot. Then, plug in your phone or charger and let it do its thing. There’s no on or off switch. You just plug in and wait for the circuit to pull some power from the sun.

Two built-in kickstands unsnap and fold out. This makes setup fast and easy and delivers the perfect angle for maximum sun exposure. Or, if the sun is straight up, close the kickstands and lay the Anker 515 flat on the ground.

There’s no built-in battery, though, and it can’t store power. Instead, you’ll have to directly charge a phone or plug in a portable battery and charge it with the panels.

Anker 24w solar panels charging in the back of a truck
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

You’ll find a small circle LED indicator on the circuit box that’ll turn blue when it’s working correctly and pulling power. The light turns red if the unit is overheated or has an issue with your cable or device. However, that LED is extremely dim and hard to see, especially in direct sunlight, making it mostly useless. In the image below, it is blue, but you can barely tell.

Anker 515 solar panel circuit box
The blue LED indicator is hard to see and behind the panels. Cory Gunther / Review Geek

However, I did experience the red LED when I used the solar panel on a 112-degree day. It overheated and stopped working for a few minutes. Most people don’t live in the deathly heat of Las Vegas, so you should be fine. I never saw the red light again, but I also didn’t test it on such hot days.

I really like that the circuit box and charging ports are around the back, not the front. That way, you can easily store a phone or device behind the solar panels and out of direct sunlight, hiding the cables. Plus, that should help prevent it from getting too warm and shutting off.

While I love the lightweight and folding design, you must keep that in mind during use. If it’s a windy day, it’ll easily blow over and stop charging. Laying it flat helps, but the kickstands could be a little heavier when you need an angle. Instead, I put a few rocks on the kickstand straps, holding it securely in place, even against some strong winds.

Generating Power & Charging

Anker 515 solar panel charging a phone
Cory Gunther / Review Geek
  • Solar Input: 24W
  • Charging Output: 12W max per port (for charging)
  • USB A:  5V 2.4amp

Now to what you’ve all been waiting for. How well does it generate power, and does it actually recharge my phone and portable battery? More importantly, how fast is it? Well, with a product like this, there are way too many variables, so you’re mileage may vary.

The first time I used the Anker 515 flexible solar panel was on a mostly sunny 95-degrees day here in Las Vegas. I laid the panels flat on the ground and plugged in my Pixel 6 phone at 29% battery life. After just over 40 minutes, I went and checked on things, and it was up to 64%.

Anker 515 solar panels charging a phone
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

The Anker solar charger gave my phone 35% more battery after 40 minutes. That’s pretty impressive. On the second try, I had mixed results due to the weather, but it was still better than expected. I plugged in my backup Pixel 3 with 61% battery life, and after 45 minutes, it was up to 89%. A little while later, I was sitting at 100% with a full battery. Again, not the fastest, but that’s certainly not bad either. Especially if you’re out in the wilderness without a wall outlet.

The next day I had similar weather conditions but a bit more clouds. I connected my Anker 20,000 mAh portable battery, which was completely dead. After an hour and 30 minutes, I had one of four bars, which means 25% or roughly 5,000 mAh of charge. This means it’d take nearly five hours to charge fully, but that’s 20,000 mAh of battery I can use overnight to charge my phone and tablet. That’s enough to charge at least four smartphones.

Anker’s portable solar panel system only maxes out at 12W charging output power in ideal conditions, so you can’t expect crazy fast-charging speeds like a wall plug. Still, I was pretty surprised at how well it did, considering several clouds likely slowed the charging speeds. The solar panel’s three USB ports share a total of 21W output power, so while you can charge three devices simultaneously, it’ll be pretty slow.

Remember, this isn’t a set it and forget it like your home wall charger. You’ll want to check on it occasionally and ensure it’s still working, avoid trees or objects getting in the way of the sun, and keep it out of the shade. Depending on your space, this should be easy, or it’ll be a bit challenging.

You’ll Want One

Anker 515 solar panel fits in a backpack
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Ten years ago, portable solar chargers were somewhat of a gimmick and not all that useful. I had one bad experience several years ago where after 8 hours, my phone only had 16% battery. That’s no longer the case. The latest solar panel technology, along with improved charging speeds, means a portable solar panel charger is a viable option.

With the Anker 515, you know you’ll get a relatively stable charge as long as the sun is shining. And sure, it may not be as fast as the charger at home, but it’s literally turning the sun into battery power on the fly.

If you’re an avid camper and enjoy going off the grid or just want to add some tech to your survival gear, you’ll want the Anker 515 solar panel charger.

Here’s What We Like

  • Relatively affordable
  • Portable folding design
  • Can charge 3 devices at a time
  • Lightweight

And What We Don’t

  • No built-in battery
  • No USB-C port
  • Not water resistant





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