Review of the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station
Josiah is a long-time outdoorsman/adventure seeker, whenever he's not doing his day job
as a structural engineer. Read More
When it comes to off-grid or outdoor power needs, most consumers are faced with two choices. Either opt for a pocket-sized battery pack you can only really use for smartphones, or, go for a cumbersome power station with AC power output for larger electronics.
This is where the Jackery Explorer 500 comes in.
When looking for a portable power station, it has to actually be portable. A lot of larger power stations put 'portable' in their name but in reality, are far from it.
Enter the Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station.
Containing a beefy 518Wh battery, all-purpose output ports, and solar panel support, the Jackery 500 does everything larger and more expensive power stations do and more, at only 13 lbs.
The Jackery 500 promises true portability at a price far below its competitors. In this review, we will be looking in great detail at all of its features, so be sure to stick around if you are considering purchasing this power station.
What is the Jackery Explorer 500?
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a highly portable power station that can be used for powering larger electronics such as fans or TVs with its 110v ac outlet, but weighs only 13 pounds and comes with a built-in handle. It manages to do all this for notably less money than its competitors.
The low price point and low weight allow it to do more than larger and heavier power stations.
Going on a road trip and need to charge your laptop on the go? Simply connect it to the AC outlet.
On a winter camping trip and want to power a heated blanket? Plug it in and it'll run all day.
Or maybe you're just at home, but want the reassurance that if the power goes out you have a reliable back up supply. In all these cases, the Jackery portable power station promises to have you covered.
There's no doubt that the Jackery Explorer has been built for the great outdoors. After all, no camper wants to drag around a heavy power supply that gives up when they need it the most! What we need is versatile outdoor power, and it is here that the Explorer 500 really shines.
The numerous output ports should meet any electronic need, and the ability to charge the station with solar panels as an optional extra means that outdoor enthusiasts can effectively become self-sufficient for their power needs.
Let's start by looking at the main specs and features of the Explorer 500, as listed on the Jackery website. Hopefully, this will give you a good overview of its uses and help determine if it's the right product for your needs.
Solar panel support: Comes with integrated MPPT technology for more efficient charging. The Jackery SolarSaga 100w solar panel is sold separately, though like the Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station it is also built to be convenient as it can also be folded in half.
LCD screen for charge and discharge status. Does what you need, no frills attached. Shows input and output Wattage, as well as battery level.
Integrated flashlight for when the lights go out at home, or out in the country without much light.
Four different ways to recharge: AC outlet, DC carport, and solar panels (SolarSaga 100W sold separately)
Operating temperature from 14-104F so you should be able to use it in all but the most extreme temperatures
A Life span of more than 500 cycles to 80%
The Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station boasts some pretty impressive performance specs for its size. If you intend to use it for more power-hungry electronics it should keep you running for most of the day. A TV and blender, for instance, will both run for about 7 hours.
When compared to a handheld battery pack, the Explorer 500 will absolutely destroy the competition. For instance, according to Jackery, it is capable of charging an iPhone 8 a whopping 53 times. Because of the numerous ports on the Jackery Explorer, you will also be able to charge multiple devices at the same time (if you're wondering how to calculate the amount of solar power you'll need, check out our guide to choosing the right size solar panel for camping).
Thanks to the 14-104F operating usage, it is versatile enough to cover your needs in hotter and colder temperatures. As an example, when the weather gets a little colder and you need some comfort you could use an electric blanket or a heated travel cup. It may struggle to power some larger space heaters, which typically require more than 500W.
You can also keep it in your trunk when it gets hotter. Here, you might prefer to power a fan to keep the air moving in a stuffy camper. Or if you want some chilled drinks, the ability to plug a mini-fridge into the AC port means you should even be able to quench your thirst during hot summers.
At this point of the Jackery Explorer 500 review, we'll take a deep dive into some of the more important features of the unit.
For a smaller power station, the Jackery Explorer 500 still has enough ports to remain functional for most needs. You are also able to power multiple devices at the same time.
The Sine Wave AC outlet is the main feature of this power station that sets it apart from handheld power banks. Not only can you charge delicate electronics like smartphones, but are also good to power anything under 500w that requires an AC power supply.
The Explorer 500 also comes with USB A ports, which will charge most smartphones, cameras, and many other small electronics. There are three of these USB ports, meaning you'll be able to charge multiple devices at once. The Explorer 500 does lack USB C support, so bear this in mind.
The power station also comes with a 12V car output. Fortunately, this output is regulated and so provides a stable voltage. This means it will run devices that operate within power limits and require a regulated power supply.
The ability to charge the Jackery Explorer 500 via solar panel is going to be a big selling point for anyone who intends to take it camping or on an extended road trip. The power station itself does not come with solar panels, though also available from Jackery is the SolarSaga 100W solar panel. Like the Jackery portable power station, these are also built with transportability in mind as they are able to fold in half.
Solar charging times are quicker than a lot of competitors, as the Jackery Explorer 500 comes with MPPT technology. What this does is make the conversion from solar energy to the battery much more efficient, and hence it will charge faster on less light. This may also be a selling point for those of you who don't have the luxury of super-bright sunlight but still want a solar generator.
The power station is able to charge in 9.5 hours in optimum solar conditions. This is perhaps one of the features that impressed me the most, especially considering this is only two hours longer than charge time through the AC adaptor.
Having a power station that can turn into a solar generator isn't just appealing for environmental reasons. After all, no matter how long the battery life of your power station is, it's gotta run out of juice at some point. If you've got support for solar power charging, you're good to go as long as the sun shines.
And of course, this is great for those of you who are looking for a clean power supply! Getting off-grid solar power for large devices is typically expensive, and requires a time-consuming setup. However, both the Explorer 500 and SolarSaga 100w solar panel are very affordable and take only minutes to get going.
If you're in the market for a portable power station, it's gotta have a pretty beefy battery. The Explorer 500 boasts a 518Wh lithium battery, which should be big enough to provide charge to most small electronics. The battery contains an array of 18650 lithium-ion battery cells with a built-in battery management system to improve safety and performance.
The battery size means the Explorer 500 is more than capable of powering a mini-fridge for 37 hours or a TV for 7.5 hours, and a smartphone around fifty times.
The ability to charge the power station in three ways is also much appreciated. You never know when you might need that flexibility, especially if out on the road or camping off-grid. All of the charging options are speedy, with recharge taking 7.5 hours through the AC adaptor, 9.5 through solar, and 16 hours through the car adaptor.
Ultimately, the battery size you need depends on the usage you want to get out of the battery. If you need an absolutely massive power station that will last days, there are batteries with higher capacities than the Explorer 500.
However, for the needs of most people the Explorer 500 strikes a pretty good balance between weight and capacity. Sure, it won't last forever, but if you're a camper using it for a few days I would much rather go with the lower weight option, especially considering its solar panel support.
Pros and Cons of the Jackery Explorer 500
This buyer's guide will give you a good overview of some of the most important features that any potential purchaser will want to be well informed of. We will look at value, design, power, and transportability.
The Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station is in a nice position, both for those with demanding outdoor needs and those who just need a backup power station that won't break the bank. It is notably less expensive than larger power stations. While it has a smaller capacity, this is also reflected in the price.
When considering value, you've also got to think about the use you get out of something. Even if you buy a larger power station, you aren't going to get much value out of it if it's just sitting at home because it's too heavy to move. The low weight and handle of the Explorer 500 really increase its value in this sense.
Value also includes how long a product will last. The Explorer 500 will last more than 500 cycles to 80%, so should satisfy your needs for a long time. This is helped by the battery management system which gives the power station a longer life.
All in all the Explorer 500 does what it needs to without the distraction of excessive features. You will find that the front contains all the ports you may need, all of which are easily accessible and clearly labeled. This allows it to do a lot at little weight.
Weighing in at 13 pounds, the power station should be light enough for most people to carry. The handle is actually one of the best parts of the design, as it makes carrying the Explorer 500 very easy. The handle is comfortable to hold, as it has a grooved underside that makes it easier to grip. This gives the power station the overall appearance of a heavy-duty briefcase or sturdy tool case.
The front of the unit has an LCD display that shows battery life status, as well as input and output wattage. In our usage, we found that it did what it needed without any distracting graphics and gave accurate readings, which is all you really need the screen to do.
At 11.8 inches long and 7.6 inches wide it should be compact enough to fit in any trunk, even if competing for space with other gear.
With a 518Wh/144,400mAh battery, the Jackery 500 packs quite a punch, and should be more than capable of powering most small electronics through its ports. This is enough even for devices that need a lot of power such as a blender or a TV, which it can happily run for hours. Output power is limited to 500W after which an automatic cut-off will take effect, so be mindful of this.
It also has enough power to run more than one device at the same time. If you need to charge your laptop, camera, or phone at the same time this is going to be a very convenient feature.
Nobody wants to hit the road and get held back by technology that's hard to transport. Unlike other power stations that call themselves portable, the Jackery 500 can be brought almost anywhere with ease. This is going to be the main selling point for many potential buyers, as it is a great companion for fans of camping or road trips.
This is because it weighs just 13 pounds, which is about three times less than many other lithium battery power stations. The handle is an integral part of the design and makes it that much easier to take it from the car to camp. Thanks to its small dimensions it should fit in any car with ease.
In addition to the low weight, the fact that it is quick and easy to charge the Explorer 500 adds to its transportability. If you know you're only going to be able to charge it using solar, or that you can only charge it through your car, the multiple ways to charge help massively.
Also to consider is the temperature range. The 14-104F temperature usage range means that you are going to be able to use it almost anywhere in the country, in almost any season.
What can a Jackery 500 power?
Thanks to the AC outlet, the Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station is able to output stable power to most of your mainstream gear and small electronic devices, as long as they are below 500w. If they exceed this, the unit will automatically shut off.
One of the more useful features is the inclusion of a built-in pure sine wave inverter. This means it's fine to use the power station to charge delicate electronics such as smartphones or laptops without the risk of a sudden surge damaging the hardware. You are free to use the pure sine wave AC port for this, or one of the three USB ports.
Jackery claims the power station is capable of charging a MacBook Pro13 roughly four and a half times, and this has been pretty in line with our experience using the device.
To give some examples of larger electronics, you'll be able to run a 60 watt TV for seven and a half hours, a 60w mini fridge for approximately 37 hours, and a blender for 7 hours. Additionally, because the power station has more than one port, you will be able to power multiple devices simultaneously.
How long does Jackery 500 last?
As with all lithium battery generators, there is a limit to how many charges can be outputted, and how many cycles they can endure before the battery deteriorates. Firstly, let's talk about how long you can keep devices powered.
If you use the USB ports to charge an iPhone eight, you'll get 53 charges, at least according to the Jackery website. To put this in everyday terms, you can expect to have a fully powered iPhone for well over a month; more than enough for any outdoor expedition. Of course, if you turn it into a solar generator, it will last much longer.
When it comes to the total number of cycles, the Jackery 500 is capable of at least 500 cycles to eighty per cent, as listed on the Jackery website. Going off the above two measurements, this is equivalent to much more than 26,500 iPhone charges, a massive figure that shows you really will be using the Jackery Explorer for years.
Is Jackery the best?
This really depends on what you want to use the device for. In terms of bang-for-buck, both in terms of price and Watt-hours to weight ratio, the Jackery Explorer 500 is one of the better power stations on the market, especially for people looking for a budget-friendly option.
Sure, you can go for a power station with two or three times the capacity, but you're also going to be looking at two or three times the price and weight. If you're a fan of the outdoors or camping, the Jackery Explorer 500 is definitely worth considering.
There are some situations in which you might want a power station with a larger battery, perhaps if you only mean to keep it at home for emergency power. However, when you need power outdoors for your devices, another important consideration is green power; because of the lightning-fast solar charge speed with the optional solar panels, battery life becomes less significant as long as you have sun.
Convenience is going to be a big consideration for a lot of people, and it's something the Jackery Explorer 500 has deliberately optimized for. When you're outdoors, the last thing you want is more heavy equipment along with pans, water, or bedding. The handle helps here, as it is surprisingly comfortable and solid.
Another convenient feature of its design is the compatibility and versatility of the ports. Firstly in terms of output, you have the three USB ports, the 12v car output port, and the AC outlet, which should let you charge most of your devices.
Also to consider is that it can be recharged in three different ways. Depending on where you want to charge it, you might find it reassuring that you are less likely to be caught out when you need to recharge.
To wrap up this review in a sentence, the Explorer 500 is a truly portable power station that is more than worth its price tag. A portable power station can be assessed by three criteria; Its battery size, its transportability, and its versatility.
The battery size means that the Explorer 500 can be used as an emergency power supply at home to support large electronics in an emergency.
You can also be content knowing that smaller electronics will be powered for a long time off-grid. If camping or on the road, it allows you many of the comforts you would normally only expect at home like TVs, blenders, or heated travel cups.
Transportability is where the Explorer 500 comes into a league of its own and is likely the main reason you will want to purchase it. The station is built for ease of transport; from the comfortable handle to light overall weight. Unlike larger power stations, it really is portable and you won't break your back moving it.
Including but not limited to transportability is the station's versatility. Here, we can thank the large operating temperature, solar panel support, multiple port options, and three ways to recharge for the power station's wide versatility. In particular, efficient solar charging means you can run it as long as there is sunshine, in effect giving you a very compact and transportable solar generator. The unit's large number of port options means you should be able to charge most electronics.
In conclusion, if you want a power station that you can take anywhere at a reasonable price, the Jackery 500 is your best bet currently on the market!