Gooloo GTX 280 Compact Power Station – CleanTechnica Review

Most of the power stations and solar generators we review are quite large. The bigger ones are something you can’t really carry more than a few feet, but give massive amounts of power. In one case, I was able to operate a small electric toaster oven to cook potatoes for over an hour. At the smallest, the power stations I’ve tested before could run a CPAP machine or nebulizer and charge some mobile devices. But even these tend to be quite bulky and don’t fit well in a backpack with other stuff.

Recently Gooloo sent me their GTX 280 Portable Power Station (there is a $120 discount code at this link for the next few days). Unlike others I’ve tested, this one focuses on compactness above everything else, while still offering a useful amount of battery storage. Although it’s the smallest powerhouse I’ve tested, it still has 280 watt-hours of storage, which is enough to do quite a bit.

The station comes with several accessories and cables. Most importantly, it comes with a separate inverter for US-style 110-volt household power. This separate unit keeps the unit compact. It also comes with two USB cables and a set of jump leads that the device can use to jump start a car.

Gooloo GTX 280 Compact Power Station

Fixing the inverter is quite simple. Just plug it into the 12 volt cigarette lighter style socket on the side of the unit, then plug something into it. The separate inverter also has two USB ports, including a 30-watt USB-C connection. In a car, you can use the inverter to charge the battery part of the device.

Gooloo GTX 280 Compact Power Station

When you don’t need to plug anything into the UPS, there are still plenty of power options. The main battery has a bi-directional 100-watt USB-C PD plug. This allows you to charge the device with a typical laptop charger or use it to charge that same laptop. It also has a 12 volt socket and a connector for jumper cables. Finally, there is the cigarette lighter socket that the inverter plugs into, but you can also use it directly.

Gooloo GTX 280 Compact Power Station

I tested the USB-C port, and it works fine. Not only did it power my laptop, but I still had plenty of power output left for other things.

For this review, I did my usual ham radio test to see if there were any spurious emissions or other issues, and it also gives me the opportunity to test multiple power outputs at once.

As with the other promised features, it works well too. It kept my laptop running at 100% while providing plenty of power for my QRP ham radio. I played around on the HF bands a bit (connected to a big, long antenna in my backyard) and managed to get a signal all the way to Hawaii and all of North America. Although I’ve done better in the past (I didn’t go to Europe or Asia this time), it’s more a function of space weather than power.

In other words, the plant worked very well. It provided plenty of power for the computer, my digital interface, my radio (receiving and transmitting) and the radio’s internal battery charger. There were no weird noises on the air or other issues with this PSU.

One thing I noticed was that the unit supplied 15 volts instead of 12 or 13. This is fine for just about anything designed to run on 12 volts, and in some cases a little better. But, if you have one of the few devices that can’t handle 15 volts, make sure you don’t plug it into that device. Again, this is fairly rare, but if you’re concerned, check with the manufacturer of any 12 volt device you’re concerned this might be too much.

If you’re going to use this device in an emergency, it has another great feature: a built-in lantern. The light comes from a small diffused area on the opposite side of the device from the outlets. To turn it on, long press the power button. Subsequent presses put it into flashing and SOS modes if needed.

The light was much brighter than I expected and didn’t seem to use much battery power. You’ll probably want some other light for emergencies (like the biolite lights I recently reviewed), but if that’s all you have, it would work fine.

A problem I encountered

As for the power output of the 110 volt inverter, the hard limit is 120 watts. That puts it behind larger powerhouses like the Jackery 300 that I tested, so if you need more power, definitely go for a larger powerhouse with a bigger built-in inverter. But, even for things that don’t draw a lot of power, sometimes it just won’t work.

When I tested the device with a larger fan that I have in my house, it does not start the fan. Plugging it into the larger Jackery units I have, it started without issue and the fan only draws about 60 watts. The problem with trying to run it on the GTX 280 is that the initial jolt of power needed to spin the fan briefly exceeds the 120 watt limit, then levels off at 60 watts. Thus, devices equipped with an electric motor will sometimes cause problems for this device.

I also tested it with a nebulizer, which draws around 80 watts. This device had no problems starting up, so it could power most nebulizers, CPAP machines, and other medical devices that are under the 120 watt limit. Don’t expect to run larger electric motors, like in a fan.

Conclusion

This power station is going to end up rolling around in my emergency bag, or “bug out bag”. It’s small and light enough to give me portable power options without having to add a lot of bulk and weight to the bag. This leaves room for important things like a solar panel, food, water and communication equipment that I have in the bag.

The only thing I would like to see is compatibility with more solar panels, like the Jackery units. The only way to charge this device is via USB-C PD, so if you want to turn this powerhouse into a small solar generator, you’ll need to find a solar panel kit that can output to USB-C PD to charge this up. It’s probably not included because a solar charge controller would take up more space, and this device had to be small, so that’s probably not a bad thing if you plan ahead.

All images by Jennifer Sensiba.


 

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