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I liked the BigBlue CP500 portable power station as soon as I took it out of the box. It has a handy retractable lifting handle on the top, and the sides are shaped so you can easily carry it with two hands, too.
The BigBlue Cellpowa (CP) 500 is reasonably light at 7.8kg, but is sturdy and built well, and has a host of other useful features too.
The CP500 has a LiFepo4 battery which provides 537Wh of power which can be recharged up to 2000 times giving a battery life of 5.5 years if discharged and recharged every single day. BigBlue says that the power station will still retain 80% of its original capacity after all of these charges.
The CP500 has four ways of charging: solar power, AC current, your car battery, or by using USB type-C cables rated up to 60W. The power station can power up to 500W with maximum of 100W rated cables.
BigBlue also sells compact solar panels that work with the CP100 power station. Most of the solar panels I have tried for power stations are large and cumbersome and take up a huge amount of room in the car when travelling.
Panels coated in ETFE film will transmit up to 95% of light to the charger. It was gloomy when I took the image of my setup so I could not squeeze any charge from the day.
The portable solar panels are rated IP65 which means they are dust-proof and splash-proof so can be used in the rain. They also have a useful cut out handle in the top of the panel for portability.
During the time I was testing this power station it only rained once – so I took the panels outside to test if this was true. I placed the CP500 into a plastic bag and connected it to the solar panels.
Although the power input went down to zero charge whilst it was raining, as soon as the sun came out again, the panels started to deliver a charge of about 10W again. When I cleared the rain off the panels using a silicone squeegee the panel performance improved significantly.
The BigBlue CP500 looks streamlined and stylish. On the back of the unit there is a light, powered by a switch underneath the light.
The light cycles through high and low luminosity and will flash SOS if required. The front has all of the ports and display indicators.
There is a cigarette lighter port rated at 12V/10A, two DC 5521 output ports running at 60W maximum and a button underneath to turn them on.
On the right hand side of the unit there are two AC 120V ports rated at 500W with a peak of 100W. Along the bottom of the unit are two 18W USB type-A ports and two PD USB 3.0 type-C ports rated at 60W.
These support simultaneous fast charge for up to four devices with no power shuffling and power reduction between ports. There is also a power button for the main unit.
I used the BigBlue CP500 as my charger for my tablet, two phones and a battery pack and noticed that the output charge stayed constant throughout the time the devices charged.
It did not seem to adjust its output until the battery pack was almost fully charged, when output dropped slightly as the remaining charge trickled into the battery pack. the power output drop was not so noticeable when the mobile phone neared its full charge.
Once switched on the LED shows charging and discharge rate in Watts, ports in use, and approximate time to empty the battery at current output Wattage.
The CP500 power station is protected against over-charge, over-current, overheating, and short circuiting via its battery management system.
The BigBlue CP500 and sub $200 portable solar panels are certainly worth considering if you need power – and an efficient way to charge the unit when you are out and about for an extended period of time.