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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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.
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.
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.
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.