AiperPower’s new Flash 150W portable power station aims to help solve mobile charging and power worries by offering a compact configuration with an onboard AC inverter and all the plug options you’re likely to need, and at a price point that’s easy to afford.
Forget EV range anxiety, the real killer is mobile device charging anxiety. Raise your hand if you bring your charging cord(s) and adapter with you wherever you go. Raise your other hand if you’ve ever had your mobile music, gaming, photography, or (gasp) social media session come to an abrupt end because of a dead battery. Congrats, the number of hands you’ve got in the air is the number of complete recharges you should be carrying with you if you hope to escape the valley of dead battery despair during a crucial moment.
Although promises of better mobile battery performance are always being made, it seems as if until we hit a true breakthrough in energy storage technology and every device has plenty of onboard battery power to spare, the need for reliable mobile charging options will continue to rank high on the list of needful things. To that end, there are starting to be a lot more options in higher capacity portable power packs these days, as opposed to just being seen in off-grid and emergency prep kits, in the same way that portable solar chargers were kind of a fringe thing for a long time, and then were suddenly everywhere a few years later.
The latest model to cross my desk, literally, is the AiperPower Flash 150W unit, which is currently in the final days of what looks to be a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and I’ve spent some time putting it to work over the last few weeks keeping a bunch of different devices charged up. I’ve not had it long enough to really judge its reliability over time, which is probably the most crucial piece of information that isn’t often included in reviews (follow-up reviews after a year would make for good input for folks who always buy a year or more behind the product churn cycle).
I’ve had the pleasure of using and reviewing a bunch of different portable solar and battery pack units over the years when I wrote for TreeHugger.com, and I spend a fair amount of time throughout the year of relying on mobile power options in the outdoors for keeping the lights on, the music flowing, the photos snapping, and the laptop clicking. While that’s one segment of the market, and one which is growing steadily, another is emergency preparedness and having power packs on hand in case of outages or disasters, in which case this Flash 150W unit seems a little small to rely on in an emergency for longer than a day, or for keeping higher wattage devices running. However, some capacity is better than no capacity when you need it, and the unit looks designed to be robust and fairly dummy-proof, so I wouldn’t rule this out as an emergency backup power source.
The Flash 150W resembles a classic Stanley lunchbox in its format, although a bit smaller in size at 10″ x 4.3″ x 5.3″ (25.4 x 10.8 x 13.2 cm), and has a nice big grab handle on top that also be used to strap it down for transport or hang it where needed. It’s got some heft to it, at 3.9 lbs (1.75 kg), so it could come in handy as a blunt object in the event of a zombie outbreak, but while its outer case looks to be some sort of sturdy polycarbonate, I don’t think the warranty covers events like that.
The plug receptacles and ports on either end are protected with attached rubber dust covers, and the unit is said to be “water resistant up to IPX4 standards (rain, dust, and sand).” One end has a standard AC outlet and sports a 1W LED light, and the other has a port for charging the unit (DC in), a round 12V 10A car-type receptacle, two 12V 5A ports, a Type C USB port, a QC 3.0 USB port, and two standard USB A ports.
On one side is the unit’s LCD panel, which displays the current charge level in 20% increments, the ports currently in use, the internal temperature (more on that later), and the whether AC or DC charging is currently selected. There is also an indicator for “Modified Wave Output” in one corner that comes on when AC-out is selected, but it appears to be just a dummy light rather than a functional feature (and I’m not sure what I would actually gain with an actual sine wave display anyway).
According to the specs, the Flash 150W is rated as having 46750 mAh of capacity, which is supplied by 18650 lithium-ion batteries, and it can be charged with an AC adapter from house current in about 6 hours, from DC current in a vehicle in about 9 hours, or with a solar panel (the company is also offering a 60W portable panel that is said to take 10-15 hours to fully charge the batteries, but I did not get a chance to try that option). The Flash has a fan that kicks on when the temperature rises above a certain point, which brings me back to the temperature display, which seems like another “feature” that I don’t need. Assuming the unit’s internal protections will keep it from overloading or short-circuiting, and that the fan will kick on automatically when needed (which it does), why bother to display the battery temperature, other than perhaps to unplug a few devices if you see the temp rising?
As far as actual usable run-time for specific types of devices, it totally depends on the individual capacity and usual state of charge when plugging them in, but the company states that you can get 15+ phone charges, 2 laptop charges, 2 drone recharges, or 3 hours of running a CPAP machine or portable cooler (40W) from the AC outlet.
Although I didn’t carefully document the number of device charges I got from the Flash 150W, I did use it to charge both newer and older iPhones, an ancient iPad 2, several portable wireless speakers, and a flashlight, all on the DC ports, and I mostly used the AC port for brief periods just to put it through its paces. The one thing that didn’t want to work for me was plugging my MacBook Pro AC adapter into it, as my laptop just kept chiming over and over that it wasn’t connecting. I also tried plugging in my laptop USB C cord directly, but was not able to get it to acknowledge it and charge correctly. I’m not an engineer or technician — maybe a slightly more tech-inclined user than the average Joe — but I found no obvious way to work around this. I have a Goal Zero Sherpa 50 power pack with the optional AC inverter, and had no issue getting a laptop to run from it, so either there’s a ghost in the machine or the Flash is incompatible with a late model MacBook Pro.
One subtle feature that I did notice (which the Goal Zero Sherpa doesn’t have) is an auto sleep-mode, wherein the unit (and the display) would essentially power off when not in use. The Sherpa, on the other hand, has the ability to turn the screen light off while charging, whereas the Flash 150W doesn’t seem to have that option. On a side note, some battery packs have the ability to auto-detect when a device is plugged in and to begin charging automatically, such as the Goal Zero Venture series (another small power pack I have grown to depend on), but this unit does not. It’s a small thing, but I’ve found that depending on the use, all of those small things can add up to a big difference in how much we use them.
According to the specs, the Flash 150W features a “separate control per each output port to ensure that other ports continue to work even if one is in a short circuit or maximum output status,” but like so much of the electronic innards of batteries and other mobile devices, it’s something I’m not able to verify or measure to any degree. Likewise, the unit’s “integrated short circuit protection, [to] prevent overcurrent, over temperatures and short circuits” was either functioning optimally, in which case I didn’t notice it and didn’t have to do anything about, or was never needed (in which case I still didn’t notice or had to do anything about).
All in all, it seems like the AiperPower Flash 150W power station is a well-built unit that is capable of handling a variety of mobile charging needs with a minimal amount of accessories (remember the early portable solar panels that had to come with a bundle of different DC charging cords to fit various mobile device ports?). And one of the best parts is the relatively low cost, which is set at $109 for Kickstarter backers. When compared to the $200 Goal Zero Yeti 150, which has similar capacity and plug options, including an AC outlet, but which uses AGM Lead Acid batteries and weighs in at 12 lb (5.4 kg), the Flash 150W feels like not just a competitor, but a winner. But as I said earlier, it’s hard to compare performance over time, and to compare performance with other similar devices without doing a head-to-head trial and following up after long usage, so your mileage may vary. And remember folks, crowdfunded projects always entail a certain amount of risk, so caveat emptor and all that…
[AiperPower sent me a free review unit of the Flash 150, but all opinions and/or errors in this post are mine alone.]