Regular readers will know how much I like big power banks and power stations. Being a part time photographer, videographer, and drone operator, I get to spend a fair bit of time working in places that don’t have a convenient power outlet to charge things up.
This means that I have to bring the power with me.
For short journey, nothing beats a power bank or even some V-mount batteriesor for heavy duty charging, I take a power station with me.
Also: These mini V-mount batteries are better than power banks for photographers and drone pilots
But what happens on longer, multi-day trips when the power station runs out?
This is where you need a solar panel to keep your power station charged up.
And if you’re looking to grab as much power from the sun as you can, the bigger your solar panel is, the better.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing Zendure’s new ZD400SP 400W solar panel. This is Zendure’s biggest panel to date (previously I’ve looked at a 200W panel as part of the amazing SuperBase Pro 2000 power station).
Hands on: Zendure SuperBase Pro 2000: All the power you need
The 400W panel absolutely dwarfs the 200W panel, in both size and output, and is part of the SuperBase V home energy system that Zendure is rolling out on Kickstarter.
All the testing I’ve done of the 400W solar panel has been with the SuperBase Pro 2000 power station.
- Output: 40W ± 5%
- Voltage: 40V ± 5%
- Current: 10A ± 5%
- Efficiency: 22%
- Operating temperatures: 14 – 149°F / -10 – 65°C
- Weatherproofing: IP54 (solar cells are IP65 rated)
- Folded dimensions: 21.5 x 39.4.x 2.2-inch / 547 x 1000 x 57mm
- Unfolded dimensions: 39.4 x 88.2 x 1-inch / 1000 x 2240 x 25mm
- Weight: 29.1lb / 13.2kg
This is a huge panel
OK, straight away, recognize that this solar panel is not something you’re going to want to be carrying a long distance. This panel is big folded up and massive unfolded. You’re going to need a truck or campervan or RV to carry it around.
This panel, even in the unfolded state, makes the Superbase Pro 2000 look small (and that thing is not small!).
And at close to 30lbs, this is too heavy, although it’s some 30% lighter than comparable alternatives that are out there.
How well does it work?
When it comes to solar panels, there are four things that I test:
- Is the rated power output realistic?
- Does the stand system work?
- Are the connections watertight and secure?
- Does it stand up to long term use?
Here in the UK, the sun can be something of a rarity, but this year has been an exception. I’ve tested this panel under a variety of conditions, and was able to get just a bit over 350W out of the panel in bright sunshine, about 130W in partial overcast conditions, and around 50W when it was overcast.
As with all solar panels, the output depends very much on the weather conditions and how the solar panel is positioned.
Given good weather and a clear, unobstructed view of the sky, I’ve no doubts that this panel could hit the rated 400W output.
Since I only have the one panel I have not been able to test linking multiple panels together.
Does it fall over easily?
There’s nothing more annoying than a solar panel that falls over as soon as you look at it.
The fold-out legs on the ZD400SP are robust enough to keep the panel standing and pointed at the sun. I tested it in winds close to 30 mph and had no problems whatsoever. In fact, the weight here is an advantage in keeping the whole thing anchored down.
What about the connectors?
In a word, they are great. The MC4 connectors are strong, feature a weather-sealing O-ring and they lock in place with a reassuring click.
Everything you want from a good connector!
In order to connect this panel with the SuperBase Pro 2000, I used an MC4 to XT60 cable, and that worked perfectly.
How well does the solar panel stand up to use and abuse?
This is one tough panel.
I’ve had this panel for just under a month, and I’ve made a point of pulling it out, setting it up, and taking it down several times a week to simulate regular use. It’s also been thrown in the back of my truck, and bounced around on trips into the wilds. I’ve left it out several nights where it’s been exposed to fog and dew and even rain.
Bottom line, apart from a bit of dirt on the outside, it’s still like new. I could see this panel giving the user years of use.
The Zendure ZD400SP is currently available as an add-on to the SuperBase V home energy system that’s now on Kickstarter. And priced at $699, which is a 46% reduction on the full retail price of $1,299, this is not a cheap bit of kit.
But it doesn’t perform like a cheap bit of kit either. This is a premium, heavy duty, well-made and superbly constructed panel that’s been designed to give the owner a good service life.
Also: Best solar lanterns
If you’re serious about grabbing some of that power that’s shining down at you every time the sun is out, this is an excellent panel for the job.
Alternatives to consider
For many looking for a solar powered power station, it’s hard to beat the combination of Zendure SuperBase Pro 2000 and the 200W solar panel. Priced at $2,250, this is a more affordable way into off-grid power.
If you’re looking for a solar panel alone, Zendure’s 200W panel is hard to beat, coming in at $599. Again, not cheap, but this is a panel that delivers on what it promises, and will do so for many years.