Oukitel recently sent me a power station (aka “solar generator” if you add a solar panel) to review. I’ve seen a lot of power stations, so I figured I wouldn’t see anything special this time. But, Oukitel proved me wrong with its take on the concept.
Specifications & Features
This P501 power station isn’t the most powerful station I’ve ever tested, but it’s got more power and capacity than many of the cheapest stations (and this one doesn’t cost much more than they do!).
The station can put out up to 500 watts of power. That’s not enough to run larger electric griddles or a space heater, but it’s enough to run most essential things, and even some fun things, like a TV, during a power outage. You can also run medical devices, like a nebulizer or CPAP machine, and probably for 8-10 hours (depending on how much power yours pulls).
It’s also got the ability to run or charge a broad variety of low-power devices. The USB-C port can provide up to 100 watts of power to something like a laptop computer or tablet. It also has 5 other USB ports for phones and tablets. Finally, it has a 12-volt “cigarette lighter” style outlet. It won’t light cigarettes, but it can run things that the USB ports can’t. You’ll need to get cables to do any of this.
What Makes The Oukitel P501 Great
The biggest thing I like about this power station is its stylish looks. Its two-tone design with a black outer case and a gray front panel has nice, rounded corners like many household appliances. On top is a leather carry handle with stainless hardware. Instead of a basic LCD display like an old Game Boy, it has a nicer black-and-white display, with the information in white. This helps greatly with visibility in all lighting conditions. Plus, the display is relatively big, which makes it even easier to read.
All in all, it’s a very aesthetically-pleasing device that looks good in a house or camper instead of being something you’d hide in a cabinet or closet. One extra feature it has, which many other stations do, is an LED light. While it’s not a fancy diffused multi-LED lantern, it’s well integrated into the front of the display and gives enough light to figure something else out during a power outage.
For many buyers, the #1 reason to pick this station up is the price. It’s presently $350 at Amazon, and that’s a steal when you consider that power stations with only 300 watts of power and around 300 watt-hours often go for $300. You’re getting a whole lot more, and in an attractive package, for only $50 more.
Where The Competition Beats It
There are a few things the unit is missing, but it’s cheap enough and good looking enough that I don’t think these are a big deal. But, it’s important to know its limitations.
For one, the USB-C port is not bidirectional. That means you can draw power from it to charge up a laptop, phone, or tablet (if you provide your own double-ended USB-C cable), but you can’t use it to charge the power box from your laptop’s charger. That is more convenient that I thought it would be, and I use it all the time on one of my Jackery power stations, but it’s something that typically comes on smaller 300 watt, 300 watt-hour stations. But, you can plug it into a normal outlet, or charge it with a compatible solar panel, so it’s not a big deal.
Another feature it lacks is the ability to tell you how much time you have left before it runs out. Higher end stations will tell you what time you have left at your current power consumption level. You can do this with a little bit of math, though. Take the unit’s capacity (500 watt-hours) and multiply it by the percentage left (for 50%, you’d do 500*0.50, which equals 250 watt-hours). Then, take what the unit says it’s putting out and divide the remaining watt-hours by what you’re using. For 250 watt-hours remaining, and something using 50 watts, you’d have 5 hours of power remaining. Having a unit that gives you that number is nice, but it’s nothing you can’t figure out on your own with a smartphone’s calculator.
The Radio Test
One of my favorite things to do is hook up my QRP (low power) ham radio and power it using a power station. Why? Because it both tests the 12-volt cigarette lighter port and tells me if the power station is making nasty radio interference. It also lets me know what happens to the voltage when there’s a load placed on the 12-volt system.
The Oukitel passed the test well. There wasn’t any nasty radio noise, so we know it isn’t some cut-rate junk put in a pretty box. It also did a good job of keeping the voltage up. With a small load (the computer plus the radio receiving), it stayed over 13 volts. With the radio transmitting and putting more of a load on the box, it dropped to 12.5 volts, which is still great and better than some of the other units I’ve tested.
I had pretty good luck playing around with radio, too. How far away you can get your signal depends on the vagaries of the ionosphere and space weather, so this doesn’t reflect well or poorly on the power box either way. I just share these results for fun, but conditions were pretty good last night and my little 4-watt radio with a crappy antenna got a signal out as far as Japan and Hawaii, including two-way contacts via digital signals.
All in all, the Oukitel P501 power station is a good power station, and if you get a solar panel, would make a good solar generator.
All photos by Jennifer Sensiba.
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