Being prepared for emergency events, or just inconveniences, as a techie means you need a lot of stored electricity at your disposal to keep things running. Maybe you're just out camping, maybe your power went out for an hour, but in any event- you're stranded without that juice. So aside from a standard UPS investment at home, there are portable battery generators now available out there that have essentially displaced the need for gas-powered generators by outperforming them in every way, in a similar way to SSD vs HDD technology, or gas vs electric- powered vehicles.
Today I'll be going over two mid-tier, ultra-portable, and very highly rated units that won't break your bank (roughly $320 apiece). These devices can sit in even the tiniest car trunk, but will still run and charge your devices 3 to 5 times as long as you would get from the normal USB battery banks most tech people are pretty familiar with at this point. These devices not only have much more capacity, but can power AC equipment with their built-in inverters, making them useful for wide array of use cases.
I chose a rugged, no-nonsense battery from Jackery called the Jackery 300, and a techie's dream, wifi-enabled, remote-controllable, upgradeable, every-bell-and-whistle unit from Ecoflow called the River to compare against. These both incorporate about the same feature sets (with a handful of key differences) but take drastically different approaches to their designs and user interfaces.
First, let me outline something- I've tested two units of each model for this article- and three of the four total units permanently failed in some way. So there is a clear winner in terms of real-world testing, but as I believe this is due to a temporary (but very real) manufacturing/design flaw that will sooner or later be addressed, I think the paper specifications are important too. I'll be judging these units from both ends (real world and paper).
So let's start with the Jackery 300. This WAS the #1 selling battery generator on Amazon right now, it's rated a full 5 stars, and its petite weight and stature along with a slew of modern features and input/outputs make for an extremely useful generator... on paper. This however, is the model I was able to permanently brick both units I got for testing- and between Jackery's miserable support and manuals/online KB articles that are as close to non-existent as I have ever seen for a piece of tech kit in my entire life on this earth, I have to say it was very disheartening to realize that there is nothing a user can do when these units brick from a troubleshooting perspective without voiding the warranty and tearing the units apart to fix yourself. It is no longer available on Amazon though, which leads me to believe that my issue was widespread and they just quietly recalled the model line.
The Ecoflow however, while it does have quirks, was far and away more reliable and more impressive. It incorporates modern technology (such as a built-in inverter that can charge the unit at 500W and power devices up to 1800W, in a very compact and portable frame for the same price as the Jackery. You can power on and off devices remotely with its wifi connectivity, and upgrade its firmware which usually includes entire feature updates. There's even a neat RGB light strip you can change the effects on if you get the capacity adding 288WHr directly to the unit. Check out the app's UI too, I mean it's pretty slick:
Some of the coolest paper features though, are:
⚡【SPEED UP YOUR RECHARGEABILITY】It takes only 2 hours to recharge 80% battery of the power station through the wall outlet and 60W PD USB-C port simultaneously. You can also recharge your power station with an AC adapator when at home, through the car outlet during a road trip or simply use a Jackery SolarSaga 100.
⚡【SAFE & STEADY POWER SUPPLY】Armed with a 293Wh lithium-ion battery pack, the Explorer 300 features 2 Pure Sine Wave AC outlets that deliver stable and safe 300W power. The portable power station weighs only 7.1 pounds. You can simply rest assured in outdoor off-grid activities.
⚡【POWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS】Featuring 2* AC outlet, 1* PD 60W USB-C port (input/output supported) , 1* fast charge 3.0 port, 1*USB-A port and 1* DC car port, the power station can recharge itself and charge (up to) 6 devices (e.g.Drones, Macbook, Cameras, etc.) at the same time to satisfy your outdoor needs.
⚡【GREEN POWER SUPPLY】The power station is compatible with the Jackery SolarSaga 100 solar panel. The integrated MPPT controller enables the solar generator set to operate at its max power point, so that it speeds up the battery recharge, making them ideal portable power kits for tent camping, overland journey and etc.
⚡【WHAT YOU GET】 1* Jackery Explorer 300 Portable Power Station , 1*AC adapter, 1* car charger cable, 1* user guide
⚡【3 x AC OUTLETS AND 288Wh CAPACITY SOLAR GENERATOR】 The RIVER portable power station can power up to 10 devices simultaneously. With 3 pure sine wave AC outlets, the RIVER can power devices up to 1800W with the X-Boost mode on. With a capacity of 288Wh, the RIVER provides enough juice to run essential devices for hours, depending on the actual output.
⚡【RECHARGE FROM 0% TO 80% WITHIN 1 HOUR】 With EcoFlow’s patented X-Stream Technology, the smart inverter enables a fast rechargeability that takes less than 1 hour to charge from 0% to 80%, and it gets fully charged in 1.6 hours. You can switch to a quieter charging condition by turning on the “Quiet Charging” status on the APP.
⚡【COMPATIBLE WITH 80% of HOME APPLIANCES】 The X-Boost Technology’s advanced built-in algorithm enables most heavy-duty kitchen appliances and tools (up to 1800W) to operate. With X-Boost, RIVER can power 80% of essential home appliances and devices, especially those within 1200W for better using experience. The discharging rates and X-Boost mode can be monitored and controlled through the EcoFlow APP.
⚡ 【FIT YOUR NEEDS, NOW AND LATER】 Double the capacity from 288Wh to 576Wh with Extra Battery, the modular design of RIVER, is the power that grows with your needs. Designed for mobility, the 11 lbs solid yet lightweight RIVER is slightly larger than a toaster, which is perfect to take out. You can easily double the capacity of the RIVER from 288Wh to 576Wh by integrating with an Extra Battery.
⚡【24 MONTHS PRODUCT GUARANTEE】 EcoFlow offers a 24*7 friendly customer service, and a 24 months product guarantee. What’s in the box: 1* RIVER 288Wh portable power station, 3 types of charging cable (1*1.5M AC Charging Cable, 1*1.5M Car Charging Cable, 1*1.5M MC4 to XT60 Solar Charging Cable), 1*User Guide.
The accessories I use are actually from both companies- as my final winner (by technicality and by featureset) was the EcoFlow River... I naturally upgraded it with the extra battery cell to move from 288Whr to 576Whr. But as for solar panels, I actually use the Jackery SolarSaga 100 which is seriously impressive.
Across the board, quite honestly the Ecoflow beats out the Jackery in every single way. With upgradeable firmware, wifi connectivity for remote management of power output (eg. you can turn a port on or off at will, and adjust the amount of power available to any given port), looks, overall power output ability (300w vs 600w- and that's just 600w RMS, with up to 1800w spiked and 1200w max sustained), upgradeable firmware and capabilities in general, there's no comparison. But... I made one anyway, so below is a rundown of the features side by side:
Yes, over wifi app
Upgradeable and incorporates new features with new versions
Peak Sustained Power
Peak Spiking Power
USB-C Max Power
Tie, Ecoflow can provide more power but Jackery supports all PD devices
Max Charge Rate (Input)
90W AC, 60W USB-C PD, 150W Combined
Total USB Ports Available
1 USB (12W), 1 USB w/Qualcomm QC3.0 (20W), 1 USB-C PD (60W)
2 USB (12W), 1 USB w/Qualcomm QC3.0 (20W), 1 USB-C (100W)
Ecoflow (1 extra port plus USB-C
Total AC Ports Available
Yes, 2 units connected in parallel
Yes, with 'Max' add-on battery that boosts to 576WHr
Ecoflow (for convenience of add-on battery as opposed to carrying two separate ones)
Recharge Power Plug Input Port Type
External power brick with barrel connector and/OR USB-C
Internal PSU with standard 3-prong adapter
Tie (Jackery supports USB-C, Ecoflow supports household 3-prong, both common and convenient)
Minimum Recharge Time from 0-100%
LCD Display Information
Basic total input and output rates
Input/Output rates, ETA for charge time and battery life, Wifi, Port Types Being Used (AC, USB, Car)
Compact, rugged, solid
Larger, less rugged feeling, slightly more plastic-y
Jackery (aside from the glaring reliability issue encountered below)
In testing, USB-C port use for recharge causes permanent bricking of battery after ~3hrs. Tested 2 units, all exhibited the same issue and were unrecoverable and manufacturer had no fixes.
In testing, takes everything thrown at it
Overall, there is one very clear winner. The Ecoflow is superior in nearly every single way- aside from the minor issue of its USB-C port not supporting the PD (Power Delivery) protocol. Curiously though, the Jackery 300 is no longer on sale at Amazon as of my posting, leading me to believe that my reproduceable and essentially unavoidable 'bricking' issue from normal use, may have forced them to quietly recall the 300 model altogether. Their support was atrocious and not only did every rep I speak to not seem to care, but none seemed to know (or acknowledge) that there were other people having this issue, which is why I ultimately tested two units because I had thought maybe it was exceedingly rare and I was just getting unlucky. But no, there is a clear and serious circuit design issue with this model.
I spent 2 days recording video and thoroughly explaining my process and operating conditions I put the Jackery under to alert them to the reliability issue, and received not so much as a "thank you for your concern" back. I was simply forwarded to rep after rep, all of which just gave basic scripted troubleshooting steps without even listening to me explain I'd already thoroughly attempted each of those troubleshooting steps. The documentation that comes with the unit is literally one single piece of paper that outlines the barebones operating procedure and specifications of the unit- but does NOT outline any troubleshooting steps, including the really only procedure they have which is holding the power button for 10 seconds to reset it.
Overall, I would not recommend a Jackery unit at all (240, 500, etc) simply because of the company's barely existing customer support. Regardless though, even if the Ecoflow was against a legitimate opponent, I truly say the Ecoflow River is THE best portable battery unit on the market right now for all of the reasons mentioned above. I have not been so impressed by a piece of tech as I am with the Ecoflow in a long, long time.
Ecoflow for the win. If you're in the market for a portable battery solution, go grab yourself one!