River Power Station Review: A Perfect Power Source for Emergencies and More
Author: JASON FITZPATRICK
If you’re looking for a source of clean power that’s easy to use, will power nearly all your gadgets big and small, and works as well during a power outage as it does on a camping trip, the River Power Station is your mega-battery-pack dream come true.
The premise of EcoFlow’s River Power Station is really straight forward: take a huge lithium-ion battery, attach a bevy of ports to it with converters for both DC power (like a USB charger outputs) and AC power (like a wall socket outputs), wrap the whole thing up in a slick case with an easy to read display, throw in a pile of adapters for different kinds of charging, and, boom, you’ve got a use-anywhere Swiss Army knife of a battery pack that people can use for everything from working on their laptop when the power is out to charging their phones and Bluetooth speakers while camping. The end result is a high-yield power source that isn’t a generator—with the River there’s no noise, no gasoline and the accompanying exhaust, and you use it safely indoors or out.
That’s the kind of product pitch that seems too good to be true and, we’ll be totally honest: we really didn’t expect the River Power Station to deliver as thoroughly as it did. Let’s take a look at the specs of the device, how to use it, and the included (and optional) goodies so you can decide for yourself if this little energy-packed wonder is worth the $699 admission price. (Spoiler: if you’re the target audience for the River, we think you’ll find it’s worth it.
Specs: Power, Plugs, and More
There’s very few people for which a $699 product is an impulse purchase so let’s dig right into what you get for your money.
The River is roughly the size of two shoe boxes stacked atop one another, sports a nice big handle on top, and weighs 11 pounds. If you want a rough frame of reference for that the feels like in your hand, a gallon of milk weighs ~8.5 pounds. The bulk of the weight, as you’d imagine, is the beefy lithium-ion battery inside that offers 114,000mAh (if you want to think in terms of how many times you can recharge your portable devices) or 412Wh (if you want think in terms of how long you can run an AC-powered device).
The front of the device features a large and clear LCD display panel four standard USB ports (two of them higher amperage Quick Charge ports), two USB-C ports, and two 12V DC ports. There’s also a power button that powers on the DC side of the device as well as toggles the display on and off.
The back of the device features a cooling vent, a power button to toggle the AC power on and off, a 12V car port for powering devices with a car charger plug, an input port for plugging in the power cable for the device, and two three-prong AC outlets.
In addition to the device itself you also get a wall charger, a car charger, a DC cable (with multiple adapters), and a USB-C cable (it’s up to you to provide any additional device specific cables like a Lightning cable for your iPhone).
Optionally, you can pair the River with a 12V compatible solar panel for totally off-grid charging. There’s a 50W charger sold by EcoFlow, as well as a smaller 21W charger, but you could use your own appropriately spec’d solar panel if you already have one.
Speaking of charging, the River charges in 6 hours when plugged into the wall, 9 hours when charged via your car’s 12V port, and 10-15 hours when charged via the solar panel (depending on the solar panel wattage and the weather conditions). Once charged the River holds its charge for up to year.
Performance: Power Everything But Your Fridge
The hard specs out of the way, how does the River perform? Well, if you’re in the market for a massive battery pack that can recharge your iPhone as easily as it can run lights and small appliances, it performs remarkably well.
When it comes to light use with items that are already pretty power efficient (like your smartphone and laptop) you can get a lot of use time out of the River. While we can’t tell you exactly how long the battery will last with your particular set of gear, we can direct you to this handy guide over at How-To Geek that will help you calculate the load your item(s) will produce and you can translate that into the 114,000mAh/412Wh to estimate how long the battery will power your DC and AC items, respectively.
To put it in perspective, though, here are some rough estimates. With a fully charged River you could full recharge a laptop 5-10 times or a phone 30+ times. You could run a floor lamp for 100+ hours. You could run a mini-fridge for 10+ hours.
In fact the only things you can’t run off the River for a good long while are high-wattage devices like hair dryers, space heaters, large coffee makers, and full-size refrigerators. The River is designed for 500w of total draw spread across the AC ports (300w continuous draw, 600w peak draw) and the assortment of DC and USB ports on the front. You can recharge your cordless power tools and even use most corded tools, for instance, but if you were to plug in a half dozen halogen work lamps you’d trigger the protection circuit on the River.
That brings us to our final consideration regarding the River: safety. Lithium-ion batteries are nothing to sneeze at when it comes to danger (see the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “bomb phone” debacle as a what-not-to-do when it comes to lithium-ion safety). With that in mind, we were really impressed by how well the River stopped us from blowing ourselves up. Despite our best efforts to override the safety mechanisms and push the River too far, it consistently stopped us from seeing our misguided experiment to its flaming conclusion.
The River has two degrees of fail safe. If you just slightly overload it the software fail safe kicks in and it will shut down the AC ports while keeping the USB/DC ports active (and displaying a warning on the LCD display). If you manage to draw enough power to begin to overheat the unit or otherwise abuse it, the hardware fail safe will kick in and it will completely shut down the AC and DC power output to enter into a self-preservation state that prevents user error from damaging the device.
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