Every year we seem to receive a new Xtorm product with solar panel integration and the efficiency of the panels has usually improved. So this year we have their €99/£99 Evoke model with a large dual 4.5W solar panel setup. It's a model stacked at the top of the pile of all current Xtorm portable solar charger offerings - for avid travellers and solar enthusiasts. We’ve been testing how well it harvests the energy from the sun and charges devices in the sporadic UK weather.
Design & Build Quality
From our use of the reasonably lightweight 366g Xtorm Evoke there’s one thing that we’re sure of; it’s truly suitable for outdoor use. The rubberised hard shell is rugged, durable and doesn’t mind being rinsed off with water. The solar panels appear to have a coating too, making them less prone to damage when left open in the wilderness where stones and tree branches are its enemy. We could get away with transporting the Evoke around in deeper jacket pockets, but the 16.5x10x2.1cm dimensions made tucking it into trousers generally not possible or really cumbersome. However, if you’re trekking and exploring the outdoors for the weekend, or perhaps even just half a day, there’s a hook point on the corner of the Evoke which you can use to attach and hang it from a backpack to collect energy from the sun as you're walking.
A design element we favoured within the preceding Xtorm (AM114) Lava Charger was the ability to retrieve an easy to read large LED backlit screen readout of the charge level, whereas the Evoke only has an incredibly small blue LED light strip to signal this - although at least they stand out in bright sunshine. But a glaringly obvious flaw with this one is the red LED light, featured on all the Xtorm solar chargers as an indicator of how strong the charge from solar is, which has been placed on the outer casing so we can no longer see this status easily when it is open and we are positioning it for maximum benefit.
The 4.5 Watt Solar Panel & Charging Results
So the Xtorm Evoke is the successor to the Xtorm (AM114) Lava Charger which we reviewed a while ago and we were mostly impressed by its dual solar panel design that could draw a maximum of 3.5 watts in optimum conditions to charge its built-in 4,000mAh battery. The Evoke uses a newer and more efficient style of solar cells from SunPower and can draw a whole watt more to total 4.5 watts of sun harvesting potential. Furthermore, its battery is massively upped, with a 10,000mAh built into this slightly chubbier package to make optimum use of the sun's energy. It can also be charged via a 1A micro USB cable if needed.
To test how well the Xtorm Evoke reaps the energy of the sun within the UK, we flipped it open (the top panel can be angled via the hinge) and left both panels fully exposed to the upward sky on both cloudy and blue sky days with an abundance of sunlight. Like all previous Xtorm solar products we have reviewed, the Evoke doesn't refuse to capture energy on duller cloudier days and these new panels are far more efficient in such scenarios. This makes it worthwhile getting the Evoke out at nearly all times when away from mains on walks and camping trips. In the worst condition we’ve left the Xtorm Evoke in, that being on an overcast and slightly foggy day with a temperature of 15° Celsius, it topped the battery up by 25% in 4 hours - not too shabby!
In contrast, after leaving the Xtorm Evoke on a bench for 4 hours facing the sun all day with temperatures peaking 24° Celsius and nothing but clear skies, the depleted battery was showing 50% charge after this period and a repeat the next day charged it fully. Our iPhone 6s 1715 mAh battery could be charged from 1% to 100% twice and have a fair bit of top-up power remaining afterwards. Of course, you don’t have to charge via the battery (albeit from our past experience it’s the most sensible route), but if both the charger and phone are depleted and you’re stranded and need desperate energy, it's possible, in generous weather conditions, to power an iPhone from solely solar energy. Turning the brightness down and having energy saving mode enacted on an iPhone makes it an easier task. It’s worth pointing out that from our extensive testing the battery appears to be very efficient - only expending about 15% additional energy in the process of charging primarily our tablets and smartphones over the summer months. Added to this, reasonably fast charging is available via a 5V/2.1A USB port and there is also a slower 5V/1A USB port featured. Dual charging is functional and our favourite feature is that the charger shuts itself off when it detects it has charged a said device to 100% - thus not wasting energy keeping it topped up at that level.
The €99/£99 Xtorm Evoke earns the high accolade of being the most powerful portable solar charger we’ve reviewed yet. That 4.5W dual SunPower panel setup works well within this compact foldable design that can be stored away and used again in a flash. As an outdoors and off the grid charging solution, with intentions of keeping smartphones and smaller devices topped up, it’s indispensable!