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BigBlue 3 Review

This speedy solar charger handles multiple devices and offers reliability at a reasonable price
bigblue 3 solar charger review
Credit: Big Blue
Editors' Choice Award
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  • 5
Price:  $100 List | $72.96 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, efficient, user-friendly, great charging speed, excels in partly cloudy conditions
Cons:  Bulky, lacks portability, and the storage pouch is only semi-secure
Manufacturer:   BigBlue
By James Lucas and Matt Spencer  ⋅  Nov 4, 2022
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86
SCORE

RANK
#1
of 10
  • Direct Solar Charging Speed - 35% 8.0
  • Indirect Solar Charging Speed - 35% 10.0
  • Portability - 15% 5.5
  • Multiple Device Charging - 15% 9.5

Our Verdict

When buying a solar panel charging efficiency and dependability become crucial factors and the BigBlue 28W stood out as one of our top contenders. This 28-watt model converted approximately 24% of the solar power into energy, proving to be one of the most effective models in the review. It also scored well in dependability due to its auto-restart function, which allows the panel to continue to deliver a charge in partially cloudy conditions. Additionally, this solar panel comes at an affordable price. Simply put, we love this panel for its effective charging, its durable and straightforward design, and the fact that it is reliable even when the sun is not!

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bigblue 3 solar charger review
This Product
BigBlue 3
Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $100 List
$72.96 at Amazon
$65 List
$64.98 at Amazon
$63 List
$62.99 at Amazon
$42 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
86
77
73
31
Bottom Line This speedy solar charger handles multiple devices and offers reliability at a reasonable priceThis low-priced, incredibly efficient solar panel converts the sun into charges while saving on costsA powerful, fast charging machine, capable of charging multiple devices, complete with a reasonable price tagWhere this device lacks in its ability as a solar charger, it makes up for as an affordable battery pack
Rating Categories BigBlue 3 X-Dragon 20W Ryno-Tuff 21W OEUUDD 25000mAh
Direct Solar Charging Speed (35%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
1
Indirect Solar Charging Speed (35%)
10.0
8.5
6.5
1.5
Portability (15%)
5.5
5.5
6.5
7.5
Multiple Device Charging (15%)
9.5
7.5
8.0
7.5
Specs BigBlue 3 X-Dragon 20W Ryno-Tuff 21W OEUUDD 25000mAh
Panel Size (watts) Power Output? 28W 20W 21W <5W
Weight (measured) 21.8oz 21.1oz 17.5oz 18.6oz
# of USB outlets 3 2 2 3
Max USB Output Current (amps per port) 2.4 amp 3 amp 2.1 amp 2 amp
Size folded 11.1" x 6.3" x 1.3" 12.1" x 7.2" x .51" 5.9" x 11.8" x 0.8" N/A
Size opened 33.1" x 11.1" x 0.2" 23.3" x 12.1" x .12" 18" x 11.8" x 0.1" 7" x 3.75" x 1.25"
Battery? No No No Yes
Charge capacity (mAh) N/A N/A N/A 25,000mAh
Charge tablet? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charge laptop? No No No No
Charge iPhone/Smartphone Yes Yes Yes Yes
Panel outside material PET Polymer Fabric PTFE PET Polymer Fabric PET Polymer Fabric
Panel type Mono-crystalline Mono-crystalline Mono-crystalline Mono-crystalline
Battery input (Volts / Amps) N/A N/A N/A 5V/2A
Direct USB Plug? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Daisy Chain? No No No No
12-Volt connection No No No No
DC Output No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

We were impressed by this panel's design, as well as the results we saw in our testing. BigBlue has created an inexpensive, highly efficient product that charged our electronic devices with ease. Though it is a bit large and bulky, the extra size didn't matter because this panel got the job done. For car camping or a backcountry base camp where weight is not a huge concern, the 28W from BigBlue is an excellent choice. The positive features outweigh the negatives, as this panel will charge your devices quickly and effectively. It comes with a nifty auto-restart feature that comes in handy when the sun is intermittent, which occurred more often than we liked. During testing, we had multiple devices that required a charge; this panel acted as a base camp charging station for our satellite phone, high-quality external battery, and two phones, keeping them charged for two weeks.

bigblue 3 solar charger review - the updated bigblue has three usb ports.
The updated BigBlue has three USB ports.
Credit: Jane Jackson

It performed consistently well in a range of conditions, catching the most sun when it was out and still performing well when clouds filled the sky. The BigBlue is just a solar panel though and does not have the ability to store electricity so charging devices required some level of sunlight, which the device captured well. When it lost the sun, the ammeter value went down and when there was no sun, we replugged the device and reopened the solar panels to reset the power control. This worked well to get the panel back to speed. Even if you are not a gadget-obsessed adventurer, this panel is an excellent option if you want a quick charge for a single device (and again, it's hard to beat the price).

bigblue 3 solar charger review - both the bigblue 28 and the ravpower 24 have four segments, but the...
Both the BigBlue 28 and the RAVPower 24 have four segments, but the RAVPower has less capacity by 4 watts.
Credit: Jane Jackson

Performance Comparison



Direct Solar Charging


The BigBlue performed exceptionally well with its direct solar charging, outdoing the other solar panels in our test due to the four strong solar panels linked together. The panels captured and retained up to 24% of the solar power, making it an extremely effective model.

At 28 watts, the BigBlue falls in the middle of the road when it comes to wattage. We've added larger panels over the years, as the technology has improved, and companies can get powerful panels into smaller packages. The four panels each delivered a strong 7 watts for a combined total of 28 watts. This is all just to say that the BigBlue did well in terms of its power output especially considering its size.
bigblue 3 solar charger review - the updated bigblue is as consistent as its predecessors.
The updated BigBlue is as consistent as its predecessors.
Credit: Jane Jackson

It's right in the middle of charging speed scores, with some larger capacity panels slightly surpassing it. In 30 minutes, the panel charged our Pixel 3 nine percent. This is impressive, though not the highest increase we saw from any panel. That said, its consistency across the board keeps it at the top of the list.


Indirect Solar Charging



One of the coolest features that the BigBlue has is the ability to recover from an interruption. Whether you are charging on a partly cloudy day or the sun angle changes to cast a shadow over the panel while charging, the BigBlue has an auto-restart function that makes reconnecting to your device a smooth affair. Though the charge was slow with interruptions, this design avoids the constant vibrating that occurs when a phone is disconnected and reconnected from its power source. The built-in ammeter measures the current real-time value and easily displays that information.

One thing worth noting is that all of the solar panels have to be in the sun because of the device's parallel wiring. If one panel is in the shade, the charging dissipates significantly.


Portability


Efficiency and ease of use are a trade-off for portability and weight. The larger the panel, the faster it will charge your devices, and the more difficult it might be to fit into your backpack; the BigBlue is no exception. As one of the large panels in the review weighing 21.8oz and coming out 33.1" x 11.1" x 0.2" when unfolded, it should be no surprise that this product is also one of the bulkier options out there. If you're after a larger, heavier panel, it makes sense to go with the BigBlue since it will deliver the most charge to your devices in the least amount of time.


The BigBlue folds well, compressing down to 11.1" x 6.3" x 1.3, about the size of a thick magazine. This made the device a bit more portable and easier to slide into a backpack. The built-in ammeter adds some bulk to the profile of the BigBlue and our testers wished it'd had a slightly slimmer profile. The panel also comes with rings and carabiners so you can hang it in the sun or off a backpack while hiking.

bigblue 3 solar charger review - the bigblue is an impressive panel with a reasonable price tag.
The BigBlue is an impressive panel with a reasonable price tag.
Credit: Jane Jackson

Multiple Device Charging Speed


Though the BigBlue panel is equipped with three USB ports and offers all the charging capacity that one could need while outside. One thing to note is that the panel lacks DC charging so it plugging in your laptop or larger device won't work. The panel charged nearly the same as when it was directly in the sun as it did in the shade meaning that the devices received juice fast and for a long time. Though the charging rates diminish with multiple devices plugged in from 1419 mAh in the first port to 1120 mAh in the second port, this panel provided the most charge to multiple devices. The ability to provide such a strong secondary charge makes the BigBlue a force in the solar panel game.


Should You Buy the Big Blue 28W?


The other incredible aspect of this panel is the cost, as it's one of the lower-costing panels of its size. It delivers almost 30W of power and comes at an excellent price. Many panels we've reviewed are more expensive and have a lower capacity; you do the math! The BigBlue is one of our favorites; it humbly charged our gadgets quickly, with no extra frills or features. The simplicity makes it less expensive to produce, and in turn, keeps its price tag relatively low.

bigblue 3 solar charger review - partial cloudy conditions are perfect for testing the bigblue&#039;s...
Partial cloudy conditions are perfect for testing the BigBlue's ability to recover after being shaded.
Credit: Jane Jackson

What Other Solar Panels Should You Consider?


We love the BigBlue. It provides a consistent charge to our electronics in numerous situations, no matter if it's a partly cloudy day or if there's a tree branch interrupting the continuous delivery of sunlight. Time and time again, it kept chugging along, effectively charging our devices. Though the panel has three USB ports, it performed at its best when a single port was in use. It wins our top choice, as it's efficient and fast-charging. Its incredible qualities trump weight and portability, as it is one of the larger panels we reviewed, and the price is just right.

The Big Blue takes the cake in terms of the solar panels we reviewed. The X-Dragon 20W would be another less expensive option though it doesn't charge quite as well in indirect light and doesn't do as well with multiple devices.

James Lucas and Matt Spencer

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