FlashFish A101 Portable Solar Generator Review

Today I am looking at the FlashFish 98Wh Portable Power Generator. This is a small power station with 1 120W AC outlet, 12V out, as well as USB-A and C ports. I will also be looking at their 50W Solar panels and how they interact with this unit. Thanks to FlashFish for sending this to me to look at and review.

 

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Buy the A101 here https://amzn.to/3dKnzga

Buy the 50W Solar Panels here https://amzn.to/3RiImp1

 

Packaging & Accessories

The packaging here is a brown cardboard box with black printing on the exterior and a decent amount of data. Inside the unit is protected with large pieces of ridged styrofoam. Accessories include an AC Power 12V power adapter to charge it, 12V car power source to charge, a 12V auxiliary adapter to power things you normally would in a car off the FlashFish, a Lanyard, and a quick start guide. 

The solar panels are a separate product and came in a nondescript cardboard box. They came with a 1M cable, and a bag full of different-sized adapters, and a manual. 

 

Physical Design and Construction

The size of this Power Generator is about 6 x 6 x 4”. Weight is 2.65 LBS. It’s an Orange and Gray plastic construction with a place for the included lanyard. There isn’t a handle here which I think would be a nice edition even though this isn’t a huge unit. 

On the front side there is a small screen in the center that gives you the battery percentage and lets you know if it’s turned on, and in AC or USB mode. The screen is hard to see in direct sunlight. I do wish during use the screen told you the amount of power going out in watts and the estimated time left, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do that. On the front panel, there are 2 USB-C ports, 2 USB-A ports, and a 12V IN, and 12V out. 

On the left side of the unit is the AC power plug, and on the right, there is a small intake fan that comes on when AC mode is turned on. On the back side, there is a diffused panel with a series of cool white LED’s underneath. This is more of a lantern, while I couldn’t fit the entire thing in my lumen tube, what did fit produced about 173 lumens, so I would guess the whole thing is about 200 lumens. Total Runtime was 9:14:00. There is also an SOS mode on the white LED, and all flashlight modes are controlled at the top. 

 

Performance

There are multiple output methods with the FlashFish, mainly USB-A, USB-C, 12V DC, and 120V AC up to 100W. 

 

USB-A on the unit is capable of the following profiles I will insert a photo of the tests I did with the CT-3 Meter. USB-C had a few differences, but overall more support than I was expecting. It’s not capable of PD support over 27W, so don’t expect to be charging most laptops over USB-C here.

I tested discharge here from 100% to 0% runtime using a USB-A load, and got 15849.6mAh of useable power, this took 5:47:00 with a load of 2.5A at 5V. Internally the unit claims it has 26400mAh of battery storage, so that’s about 66% of rated capacity, it’s normal to expect losses here depending on how things are calculated and just normal conversion losses but to me, this doesn’t seem like the most efficient circuitry. 

 

I also tested the 120W DC to AC converter here to charge my Canon Camera battery. Now, this is pretty inefficient because the power is going from DC in the unit’s batteries, to AC with the inverter and then the camera’s charger is taking it back to DC. The battery was about 2700mAh capacity, but to charge this took nearly 25% of the unit’s battery power. Good if you need it but not a very efficient use of power.

The AC power is capable of up to 100W maximum. That includes bursts that are often needed when motors start up etc. I tried to run a portable ice maker but there just wasn’t enough power available when the compressor kicked in. The AC power here is not a true sine wave, instead being sawtooth. This isn’t surprising given the price point here and size but it means that it’s not ideal for electronics, and some motors may not care for this. I hooked up a tower fan to it and while it worked the sound the motor made you could tell that something wasn’t right. I don’t believe this does damage to the fan motor but it’s just not designed for it and there could be issues with speed control. I also used a smaller desk fan that didn’t seem to care. I ran it for 2.5 hours and it discharged the battery to 50%. You can use the light or USB ports when AC mode is in use. 

 

Recharging

In the box, there is a wall wart to recharge the unit. It outputs 12V 2A, and this 12V port is the only way to charge the unit. It, unfortunately, doesn’t charge via USB-C. I charged the unit from 0% to 100% via the AC power adapter in 4.5 hours. During recharging the USB ports can be used to charge other things but the AC out will not work. Also included in the box is a car 12V power plug to adapter cable so you can charge via the car which is a nice touch. 

FlashFish also sent me their 50W 18V solar cells which I was really excited about because it’s the most powerful panels I have. They measure 17” x 16” folded, and 34” x 16” unfolded. They have nylon protecting them, and come with handles for easy transport. On one there is a pocket with the inverter electronics and a place to store cables. The inverter has 3 ports, USB-A capable of 5V & 2A, USB-A capable of QC3.0 but it’s unclear exactly which power specs, of course, this also depends on the conditions the panels are in too. The inverter also has a DC output jack on it as well as various adapters to fit other DC charging needs. The control electronics are designed so that you can use the USB ports and 18V DC if desired too.

I did a decent amount of solar charging on this unit because I was really interested in the different results in different conditions. I charged it from 0% to 100% in only about 4 hours during a very sunny day from about 10 am to 2 pm in Mid August without a cloud in the sky, peak time for solar.

 

I did the same thing in a partially cloudy sky across a 7-hour time window and it only charged to about 78%. So the amount of sun you are getting really makes a difference on how much power you are producing and then storing in the batteries. The solar panels to require adapters to be used with this power station, luckily they are included, but I think it will be hard to keep everything together. 

 

Final Thoughts

This is an interesting product, while it works as advertised, it has a number of areas for improvement in my opinion. My first would be to charge via USB-C so that you don’t have to use the 12V AC adapter, solar, or car charger. High-wattage USB-C charging is becoming the norm and it would be one less thing to travel with. A full sinewave inverter would be ideal too. Luckily it looks like Flashfish fixes most of these things on their larger units and I am guessing budget considerations prevented them from including everything here. 

 

The target market here is interesting, It’s small and portable, but 100W of nonfull sinewave power limits what it can power. I suppose a fan if you are out camping, radio, or lighting solution, or charger for a laptop, small medical device, etc. But 100w maximum isn’t a lot of power, and if you are charging things or batteries there is a fair amount of loss from going from DC battery power to AC back to DC most likely. When used as a 12V power source it should be more efficient. And I think if you wanted it for USB-C or A power there are better choices that are smaller, lighter, and accept USB charging. In a way it’s almost too big to be useful as a USB power source, but to small to be used as an AC power source. This is their entry-level unit, and larger units don’t have these problems.

 

I loved the solar panels here, they can be used to charge any 12V power source which is where you are going to get the best performance. I was surprised that in full sun they charged the powerbank at nearly the same speed as AC power did. The USB-C side works, but you just can’t deliver all the power they can produce. For instance, I charged my Sofrin LT1 and it took just as long as it would of plugged in via AC power. More a fault of the lantern then the panels. The solar panels are a must if you do plan to be without AC power for days and need to recharge multiple electronics daily. 

You could power a lot of smartphones, tablets and flashlights with this combo of the portable power generator and solar panels as long as the size and weight were not too restrictive for you. As a former boy scout, there were numerous trips I wish we would have had something like this, and that was back before everyone had as many electronics, or high-quality LED flashlights, like they do today.

JLasers 450nm Laser (Affordable, 1.6W, 14500 Battery)

Thrower flashlights seem to fascinate many enthusiasts and is a gateway into the hobby. Recently LEP lights have taken that distance to new levels using lasers, what I have for you today here is a very powerful blue laser that can reach an incredible distance, and even burn things. Thanks to JLasers for sending me their 1.6W 450nm blue laser.

 

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JLasers: 450nm the laser I have: https://www.jlasers.org/lasers/450nm-1600mw

JLasers Website: https://www.jlasers.org

Laser Safety Glasses that I have: https://amzn.to/3C7pDbP

 

Safety

Before I get into the actual review, I did want to touch on safety here. These lasers are a class 4 lasers, and that’s directly related to their power. This is not a toy and can do serious damage to people, pets, and things when used incorrectly. Pointing them at an aircraft is a felony in many places. You really should invest in some special laser glasses to protect yourself when using this especially inside. I have a pair of Honeywell Uvex Ultra-Spec 2000 which provide protection and conveniently are also what I use when curing UV glue when I glue tritium tubes in place. I will link to them in the comments below.

 

Performance

Check out the video for this. The results are pretty impressive and it’s near the first half of the video 🙂

 

Talk about the host & lens

So internally the light is using an Osram PTLB450B 5.6mm multimode laser diode powered by a JLasers JBL450 single mode boat driver. It produces a laser beam at the 450nm wavelength. To my eyes, this is a dark blue almost purple beam. Lasers have a duty cycle here to prevent damage, it’s recommended to run it for up to 1 minute on, and then 5 minutes off to cool. The 14500 battery goes positive side up, and interfaces directly with the PCB. One thing I would like to see is a small brass contact like you see on many flashlights, this can help with wear and ensure a good connection in the future, and more compatibility with other batteries if say spring was used.

JLasers recommends a 14500 lithium ion button top battery capable of at least 3A discharge. I found that I could run these Vapcell Gold flat tops without a problem, but the laser was less powerful since it was just at the 3A limit, it took more time as a result to burn cardboard. I ended up running instead of this blue Vapcell that was a button top and capable of 7A continuous discharge, the change in performance was impressive until the voltage sag kicked in. It’s worth noting here that fake and poor quality Li-ion batteries are a big problem, Amazon and Ebay are bad sources for batteries, Illumn.com is my favorite seller of legit batteries in the USA.

Up front, there is a small lens that unscrews so that the beam is focusable. I melted my first lens by getting the laser too close to some black foam, trying to burn a hole through it, and instead, it melted the lens. Good to know these are replaceable if you make some rookie moves like I did. While JLasers doesn’t have this item listed on his storefront, he does sell them separately.

Everything here is packaged in a stainless steel host. This is a common host that you also see on generic flashlights on AliExpress, I actually happen to have one. I think JLasers must polish up his more, though because there is a big difference in appearance. Machining here is pretty decent, the threads are a little gritty but the included grease helps. These are tail-activated lasers with a mechanical reverse clicky switch and lanyard attachment at the tail. It’s not tapped or milled for a pocket clip which I think is ok in this application. There is a spring-loaded piston in the rear, and at the front, there is a battery polarity sticker on the inside of the host which is a nice touch. The weight of my battery and lanyard was 120.7g. 

The packaging was a very basic generic cardboard box. I think it would add to the product to add a Certificat of Authenticity with the specs of the laser, and maybe a half page of safety and operating instructions. 

 

Website

JLasers is a small business out of Canada and that’s worth noting here because of the website. Functionally the website is fine, but it was created using Google sites, so it doesn’t have it’s own domain name, and to finish your order you are bounced out to Stripe. This is fine, but in my opinion, JLasers should go ahead and spend some time bringing the site into the current century for a more cohesive and professional experience. The current format could cause some buyers to question the legitimacy if they didn’t have prior knowledge they were a trustworthy business. Right now JLaser can only be found on Facebook for social media, and it’s a little tricky to find the link on his website, but it’s under Contact Us. Hopefully, they expand out to other platforms in the future. Powerful lasers should go viral!

 

Customer Service

Just a quick few words about customer service with JLasers. Jim was fantastic to converse with over email. I’m not a laser expert and had a few questions, especially about safety and he was more than happy to give me additional directions and reassured me that my laser glasses were appropriate. He was super nice too when I melted the lens too which was completely my own fault.

 

Final Thoughts

High-powered lasers are fun and impressive to shine up into the sky, or point out things at a great distance. My retired neighbor was so impressed with mine that he had me order him one. He loves star gazing and watching the international space station fly over so I am sure this will aid in pointing out those to others.

High-powered lasers have been around for a while. I remember ordering a green laser from China about 17 years ago from China and thinking it was amazing. This one puts that to shame in terms of performance. I always wanted better lasers, especially something that could burn a match head, or pop a balloon, but knew it was pretty expensive after looking at places like Wicked Lasers, where a 1W laser in the same wavelength would run you about $200. This JLasers 450nm is only $60 and is more powerful and smaller. Now if you are in the USA there is a shipping charge that adds to the cost, but you’re still looking at about 40% cheaper for more performance. As of publishing this video, Jlasers offers 7 different models in a variety of colors and wavelengths, all being under $100 before shipping. These are hand built so it might take a little while to build when you place your order but it ends up being a fantastic value and a warranty is even offered too. I can recommend this specific laser.

JLasers: 450nm the laser I have: https://www.jlasers.org/lasers/450nm-1600mw

JLasers Website: https://www.jlasers.org

Laser Safety Glasses that I have: https://amzn.to/3C7pDbP

 

Xtar VC4 Plus Review (VC4SL, USB-C, 3A)

It’s been a long while since I have had something from Xtar on the channel, so I was happy when they reached out to let me know that they had some new chargers and offered to send me the new VC4 Plus. It’s the new upgraded version of the VC4 I reviewed years ago. Xtar fans will rejoice to hear that you now have manual control over charging speed and a few other nice upgrades. One quick note before we get started, this version is known by 2 names, the VC4 Plus, and the VC4SL. The only difference I can find between them is the SL version doesn’t seem to come with the QC3 power adapter. Xtar didn’t give me the reason why it’s known as 2 different names. Let’s take a closer look.

 

The YouTube version of this review: 

 

This charger is known by 2 names the Xtar VC4 Plus and the Xtar VC4SL.
Xtar VC4 Plus: https://amzn.to/38YNwpI
Xtar VC4SL: https://amzn.to/391ACXG

 

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Packaging & Accessories

The packaging is a brown cardboard box with a line drawing of the charger on the outside, the sides give specs and battery sizes and chemistries that are supported. The back of the package gives a few more features.

What’s included is the charger itself, a thin nylon bag a leather texture and drawstring at the top, and Xtar 110/240v AC to QC3 USB adapter capable of 5V @ 3V, 9V @ 2A, 12V & 1.5A, and a USB-A  to C cable to make it all work together.

 

Construction & Design

The VC4 Plus physically shares a lot of the design and construction with other Xtar 4 bay chargers. The ABS plastic is fire resistant should there be a problem. There is venting on the sides and bottom. The differences here are mainly on the screen and in the power input which I will get to in a minute. The charger supports the most common sizes of the most common chemistry of batteries. I won’t go into all of them but put a photo of what Xtar says fits. In my measurements, I measured the minimum size of the bays at 77.7mm and the maximum at 31mm, so sorry 21800’s won’t fit here. I will insert a picture of all of the different battery sizes that can fit and are compatible. Basically, everything between 10440 to 32650 includes protected 21700’s and common NiMH sizes.

 

Power Input

The charger does have a USB-C connector as its power input. It can support a wide range of standards, Officially Xtar rates it as QC3.0 with the 5V, 3A, and 9V, 2A Profiles. QC3 was never a standard that caught on with me or my devices much so I ran it primarily off of USB-C PD which it did excellent under. 

4 Fully discharged 18650 batteries pull about 25 watts via USB-C PD. There is now powerbank function on this charger, not a deal-breaker for me for sure. While the charger can charge at 3A this only applies to one bay at a time, with 2 batteries the maximum is 2A, and with 3 or 4 the max is 1A each. 

 

Screen and UI

The screen is similar to what other Xtar VC chargers use, you have the 4 dials that display the voltage of each bay, that changes with what type of cell you have charging. On the lower right side, you have the charging speed that it’s currently charging at then at the bottom you have the counter of the energy that has gone into the cell during charging.

New on the VC4 Plus is the ability to change the charging rate. After inserting the cell, the charger measures the resistance and decides what it thinks is the best charging speed to use, however you can override this by clicking the current button. Available options are 250mA, 500mA, 1A, 2A, and 3A. This charge rate applies for all of the bays at the same time. 

Pressing the mode button while charging will also display the to Grading mode where the charger tests the capacity of the batteries that are installed by charging, discharging, and charging again, and then Storage mode which puts Li-ion batteries at an optimal voltage for storage, about 3.66v in my experience.

The charger also offers a couple of other useful features like 0V activation, reverse polarity protection, protection from short circuits, overcharge, and overheating. 

I had no issues with overcharging with the charger. Depending on the cell’s internal resistance you might see slightly under 4.2V at final charge.

Conclusion

I like the VC4 Plus, it’s a nice upgrade to bring the old VC4 into 2022 with the USB-C input which works with both USB-C PD and QC3. For me I ran here almost exclusively in USB-C PD because I really don’t have many QC3 chargers, it was a standard that never really caught on for me once USB-C became the norm. 

Xtar finally addressed the issue many people had with it’s chargers that you couldn’t manually overwrite the charge rate, gone are those problems and now it’s selectable from 3A, 2A, 1A, 500mA, and 250mA all of which are great to see. It also retains the other features to restore cells, grade them, measure internal resistance and finally charge them to a storage voltage. 

 

The two things I don’t love here are that all bays are linked together for the charging speed and that it’s not capable of charing each bay at up to 3A at the same time, or 2A on more than 2 bays at a time. This falls short of other charges I have looked at like the Vapcell S4 Plus that can chare all its bays at higher speed rates without an issue. 

 

The end result I think is a very well-rounded charger that’s affordable and without major issues. For many, I think this could be your one and only charger, or a nice upgrade from an older model you might already have and it should be pretty affordable. 

 

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