Which one stands out above the other? — Jackery Explorer 500 vs Goal Zero Yeti 500X
For several years now, the Jackery Explorer 500 has been one of the most acclaimed and popular 500W lithium portable power stations. Goal Zero is another top brand in the battery power station business. In January 2020, Goal Zero announced upgrades their Yeti range, with the new X-series of battery power packs. This review will test these two industry titans, by comparing the enduring Jackery Explorer 500 vs Goal Zero Yeti 500X.
There is a huge demand for portable battery power stations, and for good reason. Unlike bulky gas generators, that are noisy, belch fumes, and are not that portable, a battery pack with an inverter provides reliable, clean electricity without any hassles. Environmentally conscious consumers are first in line for lithium ion battery power stations, as an emission-free source of portable power. Both the Jackery Explorer and Goal Zero Yeti are perfect for off-grid living and camping, with the option to charge the batteries using solar panels.
These are both compact, lightweight power stations. The versatility of a power source that can be carried in one hand, and can be charged from multiple sources, makes them ideal for home emergency power, camping, even backpacking. Power is supplied by a pure sine wave inverter and will not damage sensitive electronics.
A quick comparison seems to suggest that the Jackery Explorer is the better value for money option. With a saving of about $100, the Explorer will immediately have most folks leaning toward the Jackery power station over the Goal Zero. In addition to a more attractive price, the Explorer 500 produces more continuous power (500W) vs only 300W from the Goal Zero Yeti.
Both battery power stations provide similar battery time at around 500 Watt-Hours (WH). The Goal Zero Yeti and Jackery Explorer are just as versatile when it comes to charging the battery, using an AC wall charger, 12V car auxiliary port, or solar panels. They are both perfectly portable and lightweight.
So what’s the real difference between the Jackery Explorer 500 and the Goal Zero Yeti 500X, apart from power output and price? I’ll be providing a detailed review of each power station. There are number of technical details that differ, and I’ll explain this, in detail, as I review the two products. The Yeti 500X is certainly the better option for solar charging, as will be revealed in the review.
Review ► Jackery Explorer 500
It’s plain to see why the Jackery Explorer power station range is so popular. They are very reasonably priced and provide quite a bit of power. Yet the Explorer 500 is compact and lightweight enough to be carried around, pretty much like a portable radio.
The Explorer 500 is their mid-sized option, neatly between the 240 and 1000 models. These model numbers are based on the size of the lithium ion battery. The Jackery Explorer 500 is supplied with a 513 WH battery, hence the designation 500. This is sufficient to charge a phone approximately 53 times, or 7 charges for the average laptop. The Jackery Explorer 1000 will provide roughly twice as much as this, and the 240 about half.
For such a compact unit (11.8” X 7.6” X 9.2”) the Jackery Explorer 500 packs a mean punch, with 500W continuous power and a pretty impressive 1000W surge capacity. At only 13.32-pounds, the power to weight ratio is equally awesome. This little bombshell has the power to run a small refrigerator and is a big favorite for CPAP machines. Using the 12VDC outlet, the Explorer can run a 12V CPAP for up to 40-hours, wonderful for travelling and power outages. I’m sure most of you know that the term “up to” is seldom realistic and will require the lowest power settings for a CPAP, meaning lowest pressure with the heater and dehumidifier switched off. Even then, you’re probably looking at around 20 – 30 hours battery time for most CPAP machines.
Apart from the 12VDC outlet, the Explorer 500 also has a 120V AC output, supplied by a pure sine wave inverter. For charging devices, there are 3 X 5V USB ports (2.4A). It would have been nice if they included USB C ports. This would have made for much more efficient use of the battery when using laptops and other devices that can accommodate higher wattage and voltage USB charging, provided by the “C” format USB.
The Li-ion NMC (Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide) battery is quite remarkable. This is a 518 watt-hour battery with a rated lifespan of 500 cycles or more at 80% average discharge. This means you can use up to 80% of the battery charge and recharge it at least 500 times before it needs to be replaced. The battery can be stored for 3 – 6 months without the need to charge it.
The Jackery Explorer has a sophisticated Battery Management System (BMS), ensuring that the battery is protected from over voltage, high temperature, and short circuit. You have several options for charging the battery. A 120V AC charge adapter is supplied with your purchase and this will fully recharge the battery in about 7.5 hours. You can also hook the Explorer up to your car battery, via the auxiliary outlet, this will take approximately 16-hours. A cable to supply the 6MM (10A) 12VDC input from a car aux outlet is also supplied with the Explorer.
If you want to use solar panels to charge the Jackery, this is also a simple plug and play setup. Jackery supply the SolarSaga (60W or 100W) solar panel kit as an optional extra. Though you can use most solar panels with a voltage range of 12 – 30V, up to maximum of 100W. The solar input is an 8mm Anderson connector. While this is all fairly standard for a solar generator, it’s not the best. Jackery has chosen to use a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) solar charge controller for Explorer series. While this is cheaper than the alternative, Multiple Power Point Tracking (MPPT), it is not as efficient. In full sunlight, a 100W solar panel will take about 14-hours to charge the battery.
The Jackery Explorer 500 has a cool digital display screen with easy to follow icons. A large image of battery in the center has 5 bars for a quick view of the battery charge status, with percentage displayed as well. It also displays the input (charge) wattage, and output watts. The inclusion of low power consumption, built-in, LED flashlight is a really nice extra feature. This can come in handy on a camping trip or during an outage. All the input and output ports a clearly marked to avoid any chance of confusion. Overload protection for the outlets is an automatic reset digital system.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a wonderful portable power supply for camping and hiking. It is just as useful at home, to supply basic power during an outage, or for outdoor activities. I would consider this a valuable addition to an emergency prep kit for hurricanes, storms, and earthquakes. You’re guaranteed pure sine wave, low HD power for basic lighting and all manner of electronic devices up to 500W with an extra surge capacity up to 1000W. For this level of sophistication and reliability, the Explorer 500 is pretty inexpensive and has a 2-year warranty.
Review ►Goal Zero Yeti 500X
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The New 2020 Goal Zero Yeti “X” series has a number of upgrades. Not that the previous generation Yeti power stations were inferior to other market competitors. Apart from expanding the model range, there have been significant improvements to all the Yeti models. Solar charging is enhanced, using an MPPT solar charger. Upgraded USB ports make the Yeti X series the best for high-speed charging USB-C. The 12VDC regulated output has also been improved, providing a more stable current for 12V equipment. I’ll be unpacking these upgrades as I review the Goal Zero 500X. In the end, we want to know if it’s worth paying more for this portable battery power station when the Jackery Explorer 500 provides more watts for less cash.
Personally, I prefer the general design of the Goal Zero Yeti 500X compared to the Jackery Explorer 500. It looks and feels more robust. Moreover, it is a more practical shape with a handle that folds into a molded slot at the top of the unit. It is little lighter than its Jackery competitor at 12.9 pounds. General dimensions are similar: 7.5” X 11.25” X 5.8”.
The improved lithium ion battery used for the Yeti 500X makes it more capable than its 400 predecessor. The 500X is equipped with a more powerful 505 WH battery. Technical specs for this battery match that of the Jackery point for point. Okay, the Jackery battery offers 8 extra watt-hours, but this won’t really affect the user. For the rest, this is also an Li NMC battery, which is generally considered the best. Battery lifespan is the same – 500 cycles at 80% and it has the same safety features, preventing over charging, short circuit, and damage from high temperatures. This battery can be stored for 3 – 6 months without the need for top up charging.
In line with consumer expectations, the Goal Zero Yeti 500X can be charged using a 120V AC wall charger, a 12V input for car charging, and an advanced solar charger. Unlike cheaper PWM solar chargers, the Yeti 500X MPPT charger offers the best in terms of solar efficiency. This can be up to 30% more efficient than less accomplished chargers. Charge input is also above average at 180W. This almost doubles the 100W solar charge capacity of the Jackery, allowing for rated 200W panels.
Using the Boulder 100W solar panel kit (or equivalent 13 -22V 100W panels), you can charge the Yeti 500X in as little as 6-hours. This time can be lowered to 3-hours using a 200W solar panel. The 60W 120V wall charger takes 8.5 hours to fully charge the battery. The 12V charger is quite remarkable with a maximum 120W capacity, providing an impressive charge time of 4.5-hours. In terms fast battery charging, the Goal Zero Yeti 500X is really impressive.
When we start comparing output wattage for the Yeti 500X vs Explorer 500, the picture changes quite dramatically. This is where the Yeti falls short. But there is a paradox in all this. With an AC supply capacity of only 300W, the Yeti cannot match the Explorer (500W). Ironically, the Yeti has a much higher peak (surge) capacity of 1200W. On the face things, this may seem insignificant. There is little practical use for a surge capacity four times the normal running wattage. You will never be using all that extra power, considering that the inverter can only deliver this surge for about 1-second. However, this is an indication of a hidden advantage.
In order to produce such a high surge, an inverter needs larger capacitors. The transistors will also need to be more robust. Even though the high peak wattage is not in itself a real advantage, it does mean that the inverter should last much longer and can handle more abuse than most. This makes the Yeti pure sine wave inverter just about the best you can get in a portable power station.
The regulated DC outputs are another area where the Goal Zero Yeti 500X displays a good deal of superiority. The USB-C technology makes it compatible with every type of USB device. There is a standard 5V 2.4A USB port with a rated maximum output of 12W. An 18W, 5V/9V 3A USB-C port is provided. The cherry on the top has to be the 5V-20V 3A USB-C port with a maximum of 60W output or input. That’s right, the latter is not just a USB charging port for high speed charging of external devices, it can also be used as an input to charge the Yeti battery. There are 2 X 12VDC 10A outputs, one is a 6MM port, the other is a standard car outlet. An 8MM 10A 12V input is used for car and solar charging, rated for a voltage range of 13 – 22V, maximum 180W.
The front panel and LCD screen offers all the same stuff as you’ll find on the Jackery power station. There are 2 X 120V AC outlets, along with all your DC ports neatly clustered and well-marked. The screen has a large battery icon, with a numeric display for battery percentage. Input and output wattages are also displayed on this screen. Automatic computerized safety features provide overload and temperature protection.
The Goal Zero Yeti 500X is no ordinary lithium battery power station. From this review, it’s clear why the Yeti is more expensive than the Jackery equivalent. Despite the lower power output, it is superior in just about every other aspect. If you require more watts, there are many other options in the Yeti-X lineup, up to a 2000W inverter with greater battery storage. Naturally, the larger Goal Zero power stations will cost considerably more than the 500X. The brand has earned much recognition and is known for sound quality. This product carries a 2-year warranty.
Important considerations when comparing portable battery power stations
This review has compared two portable battery power stations, the Jackery Explorer 500 vs Goal Zero Yeti 500X, but there are many more to choose from. While these are certainly two of your best options, you may need something entirely different. When looking for a battery power station, you’ll be considering your individual needs vs the multitude of models form various brands.
In this section of the article, I’ll be providing some insight on how to go about comparing portable battery power stations. I know these are extremely popular devices for RV owners. Though this is not the only market for battery power stations.
They are also great for emergency power in any situation. Portable battery power is the only way to keep devices charges if you’re backpacking. With most of the top manufacturers offering portable, lightweight solar panels that can fold into a compact unit, this is the only full solution portable power source that can fit into a backpack.
Obviously, basic camping or hiking needs will differ from that of an RV owner or off-grid home. You’ll need to start by forming a clear idea of how you intend using the portable battery power station. More power means less portability, and you may want to use it for multiple applications.
What is a portable battery power station?
The Jackery Explorer 500 and Goal Zero Yeti 500X are both perfect examples of a portable power station. This means a compact portable device that can be taken anywhere. It consists of a battery. These days, lithium ion batteries have become the norm for this type of application, because of their low power to weight ratio and discharge versatility. Lithium ion batteries are perfectly suited to variable discharge and recharge rates. In other words, the battery won’t be damaged if used or stored at less than full capacity.
Lead acid, leisure batteries are the alternative and are often used for larger battery and inverter systems. However, these batteries are heavy and need to be kept at full charge, using a trickle charger when not in use. Generally, lead acid is the cheaper options, making them more affordable when bulk power storage for larger applications is needed.
While most portable power stations include an inverter to supply 120V AC power, some of the smaller options only provide DC charging for USB devices. The method of charging the internal battery used for the power station may vary.
The best models will offer three types of battery charging: 12V DC charging is perfect for charging on the go using an outlet in your car. An AC wall charger is the most common, it is plugged into a conventional 120V outlet and will typically charge the battery in about 6 – 8 hours. A solar charger will allow you to connect solar (photo voltaic) panels to the battery power station. This means that you can charge the battery when no other power supply is available, provided there is sufficient sunlight. Solar battery charging can take anything from around 6-hours up to several days. This will depend on the size of the battery vs solar panel wattage, the efficiency of the panels and charger, and how much sunlight is available.
Power outlets should include 120V AC receptacles, supplied by an inverter, 12VDC for appliances like camping refrigerators and lighting, as well as USB outlets for charging devices like phones, laptops, and cameras. Using a USB outlet directly from the battery power station is a more efficient form of charging these devices. Connecting an AC USB charger to the AC outlet of a battery power station will mean a power loss through the inverter conversion process.
Choosing the best size portable battery power station
When it comes to batteries and inverters, the term portable is open to interpretation. If you want the type of power to run an RV, with all its AC electrical equipment, you’ll need at least 3000W of power and enough battery storage capacity. While it’s possible to buy battery power stations to deliver this type of power, even more, portability takes on a different perspective. In this case, portable will means the battery power supply can be transported by the RV it is supplying. A large (high wattage) power station, with numerous heavy batteries, is not something you want to carry.
As a weight comparison, the 3000W Yeti 3000 weighs 68.6 LBS with a single 3075WH built-in battery. If you’re going to use the Yeti 3000 for high-power equipment, like a refrigerator, air conditioner, or microwave, you will be using additional batteries. Fortunately, the 3000W Yeti allows for additional batteries, but the extra batteries will obviously add weight. For a system that will supply an RV for about 4 – 6 hours, you will end up with a total weight exceeding 100 LBS. By contrast, the smaller Yeti 500X 300W power station weighs just short of 13-pounds.
Generally, when we use the term portable power station, we’re looking at a range from around 100W – 700W output. The battery and inverter used to supply this level of power output is light and compact enough to be carried by one person very easily. Small portable power stations are used mostly to supply low-watt electronic equipment, LED lighting, and possibly a small camping refrigerator or similar equipment. The battery will provide around 300 WH to 600 WH. This has its own limitations when supplying high-watt equipment.
Using a 500WH battery to run an energy star plasma TV (± 80W) will give you around 6-hours viewing time. For a standard 40” plasma TV, expect around half this time or less. Small portable power stations, like the Jackery and Goal Zero models in this review, have no option for external batteries. You cannot extend your usable time by using additional batteries. Furthermore, the battery charger is limited to around 10A, meaning that the input current is only sufficient to charge the battery and not to supply power to the outlets. This means that you cannot use the power station to supply electricity whilst charging the battery.
Brand and Quality
Since there is no such thing as a cheap battery power station, you want to be sure you’re spending your money wisely. I believe this starts by choosing a brand that you can trust. These days, that’s no easy decision. In the end, it’s best to rely on trustworthy professional reviews, like this one, and customer reviews. This gives you an idea of what to expect before parting with your coin.
A good brand should offer a reasonable warranty. The Jackery and Goal Zero power stations that we’ve just reviewed both offer a 2-year warranty. This is a good starting point in providing some peace of mind. Furthermore, you want to know that the warranty is actually going to be honored, and you’ll receive reliable technical support for the lifespan of the product.
An established reputable brand, with a good presence in the US, is essential when buying a sophisticated electronic device, like a portable power station. Even the best technology and quality control is not foolproof. When you need the support of the brand, you want to be sure that you get what you’ve paid for. Beware of trying to save a few bucks, buying from an unknown brand. This usually comes back to haunt you when you need technical support.