Review: EcoFlow River Mobile Power Station
Author: Jesse Hollington
Battery technology has advanced in recent years, pushing beyond simple external USB battery packs into more full-featured power solutions that go beyond just recharging your iPhone, allowing you to also power up higher-capacity iOS devices and even MacBooks and laptops that normally require an AC power source. EcoFlow’s new River Mobile Power Station is the most ambitious of the devices we’ve recently seen in this category, delivering a staggering 104,000 mAh of juice and a wide array of ports from standard USB-A and USB-C to AC and DC power.
While River stretches the typical definition of “portable” compared to most battery packs we’ve looked at, its size and weight is actually surprisingly good considering the amount of power it’s capable of delivering. River measures about 10” x 6” by 8” and comes in at 11 lbs in weight — less than half the weight of a typical car battery. A handle on the top allows for easy carrying. In the box you’ll also find a wall charger, car charger, DC power cable and a set of three DC power tips for connecting to different devices. River doesn’t include any kind of travel case in the standard package, although the company sells a “Travel Bundle” that includes a weatherproof protective case for $50 more, which can also be purchased separately for $60. The company also offers two solar charging options that are sold separately for $160 and $300, depending on the amount of power required. We received the travel case with our review unit but not either of the solar panels. Although River isn’t something you’re going to tossing in your backpack, it’s certainly wouldn’t be onerous to take with you on a more serious excursion, particularly with the travel case, which also includes a shoulder strap.
The front of River includes four USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, and two 12 volt DC power ports. Two of the USB-A ports and both of the USB-C ports are also Qualcomm Quick Charge compatible, but sadly do not yet support the USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) specification, so you won’t be able to use them for fast charging of the latest iPhone models; River notes that a new batch of units coming early next year will support USB-PD on the two USB-C ports. That said, all of the USB ports are capable of putting out up to 12W of power, so they will charge all iPhone and iPad models at full 2.4 amp “normal” charging speeds regardless of which port you use.
The front of the unit also includes a large backlit LCD display that shows remaining capacity in percentage and hours, total power being drawn in watts, an indicators for which ports are in use. Holding the single button on the front will turn the power station on or off, while a short press toggles the LCD display off without turning off the power — a single LED on the front indicates that the unit is on even when the LCD display is toggled off. The rear of the unit features two AC power ports, a 12 volt DC car power outlet, and a power input for connecting the included AC adapter to charge River. A button on the back allows you to toggle the AC power ports on or off. Three status LEDs on the back show the status of the AC power ports,12V car power port, and charging status.
River Mobile Power Station comes with a full charge so you’re ready to go out of the box, and getting up and running is simply a matter of turning it on and plugging in whatever accessories you want to power or charge. All of the USB-A and USB-C ports provide up to 12 watts of power for standard devices, while the right two USB-A ports and both USB-C ports offer up to 28.8 watts (12V at 2.4A) for Quick Charge capable devices. Plugging in an iPhone or iPad to any of the USB ports will show a draw of approximately 11 to 12 watts when the device is actually charging, although you can observe that dropping off on the display once the iOS device nears a full charge. The charging performance is basically what you get with Apple’s 12 watt power adapter, which means that you’ll be able to charge most iPhone and iPad models at maximum possible speed, although as noted earlier the higher-speed Fast Charge rate for this year’s models is not yet supported. That said, if you’re willing to supply your own charger — such as Apple’s 29W USB-C power adapter — you can still use that to Fast Charge your device from River’s AC ports.
The two DC power ports on the front and rear of River can each provide up to 96 watts of power (12V at 8A) for a variety of typical electronic devices, and the DC cable and three tips included with River means that you can probably leave most DC power adapters at home and just plug your device in directly. River also includes two AC power ports on the rear that can each provide up to 300 watts of continuous power (600 watts peak) at 110 volts AC, with an inverter that uses a pure sine wave, making it compatible with a wider variety of electronics than modified sine wave inverters. That said, River still isn’t suitable for powering higher-energy devices like heaters, hair dryers, water pumps, coffee makers, or full-sized refrigerators — although the company notes that mini fridges are okay. There’s also certainly enough power here to run just about any laptop — Apple’s highest-power adapter is only 85 watts, or less than a third of the available power. River promises up to 6 hours of runtime if you’re drawing full power from the AC ports, and 9 hours if you’re drawing full power from the car power port.
The LCD display on the front does a pretty good job of showing the remaining runtime based on what you’ve actually got plugged into River. Plugging in a single iPhone 8 Plus to charge showed us about 32 hours of run time, although once the iPhone was fully charged the power consumption dropped and the runtime increased to about 60–70 hours. Simultaneously charging an iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch dropped the runtime into the sub-20-hour range. While we didn’t go through the effort of testing how many full charges we could get from River, with 114,000 mAh capacity, the math suggests that you’d be able to get well over 30 full recharges of an iPhone 8 Plus, and a little over 10 full recharges of a 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Of course, with a device like River you’re likely to use it to power a lot of different electronics, so your actual milage is going to vary depending on what you use it for. Suffice it to say, however, that this little unit packs in a lot of power for its size and weight.
While River Mobile Power station doesn’t come cheap, on a price-per-capacity basis it’s actually pretty good. For comparison, the myCharge AdventureUltra that we looked at last week provides 13,400 mAh of power for $130 — about 12 percent of the capacity for one fifth of the price, and the AC ports on that unit can only provide up to 45 watts of power output. Of course, not everybody needs the kind of capacity or power output that River delivers, but what EcoFlow has done here is definitely worth a look for anybody who is a serious outdoor enthusiast or just wants the freedom to get off the grid for a while.
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