The Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium solar power station is a portable solar generator that has been specifically designed to tackle light things: smartphones, digital cameras and occasionally, something higher up like a laptop or LED TV.
It’s also light and super portable – making it a favorite for those who must power things on a hike, camp or generally, when on the move.
Sadly, there are those who sincerely think that the unit is nothing more than a glorified battery pack, tied to an inverter for the purposes to DC to AC power conversion.
My job here is not to either affirm or deny any of this (at least not yet).
Instead, I have something much more solemn and realistic to present: to offer you an unbiased review of the Yeti 400 lithium and at the end, leave you to decide if the entry level Yeti lithium is something worth your while as a portable power station or is simply a glorified lithium ion battery paired with a pure sine wave inverter.
Without much ado, let’s begin.
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First Impression Of The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station
On first look, the identity of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium is shrouded in mystery – all thanks to the universal Yeti lithium freshened design that sees to it that the hitherto boxy nature of the Yeti 400 is smoothened and replaced with strategic finishing that gives the unit, I dare say, a royal feel.
This is especially true if the unit is looked at from the back or sides – or from any other angle that does not betray its elegantly placed buttons, ports and LCD.
In my test, first timers (and non-initiates) were quick to ‘guess’ that what was before them was a large radio – or some sort of electronic, capable of working with electricity. None guessed correctly, not until the front of the unit was shown and the power ports, revealed.
In this rendering, I got the best close guess: a large sort of power bank!
However, to the trained eye, the Yeti 400 lithium solar power station is one solar power station that is difficult to miss – looking at it from any angle whatsoever.
The reason is simple: Goal Zero has deployed some design uniformity across its lithium series and the overall design structure of the Yeti 400 lithium is what is obtainable in the higher end lithium options, the yeti 1000 lithium and the top of the line Yeti 3000 Yeti lithium included.
The chiseled edges are familiar – so is the handle and importantly, its ‘dashboard’. On the LCD, one who has prior experience with the Yeti 1000 lithium, the Yeti 1400 lithium and the top of the line 3000 lithium will notice that the similarities are more striking than passing.
Overall, the first impression one get – whether professional or not – is that of a nicely chiseled portable unit that it used as a portable solar generator, will certainly work awesomely and importantly, fit the all important tag of ‘portable’.
Luckily, the Yeti 400 lithium power station is exactly that: a portable solar generator.
What Can The Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Solar Generator Power?
The Yeti 400 lithium from Goal Zero is powered by a lithium ion battery – one of the very smallest battery type available to solar power stations at the moment.
However, the size of the battery – is what fools many: it packs a punch type that is disproportionate to its size. And for its price and weight point, the battery in the Yeti 400 lithium delivers, well beyond all expectations.
However, ‘expectation’ can be quite a vague term: in the world of numbers, the units or electronics a generator can power is simply all that matters.
So, what can the Yeti 400 lithium power station keep on in real life?
- Mini fridge for about 7 hours.
- Digital camera for about 70 recharges plus.
- Regular smartphone for about 40 recharges.
- iPad for about 10 recharges.
These are the electronics that I actually tested and individually verified. However, it is worthy of note that there are options that the unit can power as well: laptops, LED TVs etc.
However, the runtime and how well the Yeti 400 lithium from Goal Zero will handle each is largely dependent on their power demand and importantly, how long you intend to run each of them using the solar power station as a means of either keeping them on, powered or charged.
Key Specifications And Features
For the experienced tech mind, the specifications of a portable solar generator (or anything at all for that matter), remain the best thing about such a unit or piece of tech.
Here, one gets to see the core basics of a unit as it truly is with its major characteristics and potentials clearly highlighted.
For the none tech inclined mind, the features of a unit also present something close: what the unit can be used for and importantly, what to expect from it when one finally buys same and begins the process of everyday use.
Let us now take a very close look at our option here and see what it speaks of in terms of key specifications and features.
- Weight: 16.3 lbs (7.4 kg).
- Dimensions: 7.5 x 11.25 x 7.0 in (19.0 x 28.6 x 17.7 cm).
- Operating Usage Temp: 32-104F (0-40C).
- Chainable: No.
- AC inverter (output, pure sine wave): 120VAC 60Hz, 2.5A (300W continuous, 1200W surge max).
- Cell Chemistry: Li-ion NMC.
- Peak Capacity: 428Wh (10.8V, 39.6Ah).
- Lifecycles: 500 cycles to 80% (discharge rate: 1C, full charge/discharge, Temp 25C).
- Warranty: 12 Months.
- Triple charge reality: AC, solar and the 12V vehicle inspired DC.
- An LCD display that ensures all important stats at a mere glance.
- Fair shelve life of up to 6 months.
- A plethora of power ports (USB inclusive) capable of taking on any compatible device that is plugged to the generator.
- Reasonable light weight – largely inspired by the internal lithium ion battery of the power station.
- Ultra-portable reality that is super perfect for easy mobility and realities such as camping and general truck life.
- The unit can be used while it is being charged. This setup, used smartly, can see to it that you use the generator non-stop, for ever!
Weight, Noise And Runtime Analysis Of The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium
By the very nature of the Yeti 400 lithium, it is designed to tackle light weight options and light weight options alone. It thus does not make sense that the unit itself, turns around and winds up being heavier than necessary.
A light weight reality, I have always held, will also endear the unit to upwardly mobile users and those who camp and hike for the greater part of either the year or their lives.
However, this position is mere assumption: I had to test things out to be certain of what I had suspected all along.
I had to physically weigh the Yeti 400 lithium and be dead certain.
As weighed and tested, the unit pulled about 17 lbs (7.7 kg) on the scale.
This weight is fair enough and I could actually run while grasping the generator with both hands or by the provided handle on the unit. This test proves that a healthy adult will have no problem transporting the unit at all, even for long distances.
However, that being said, I was a little dissatisfied with the overall weight of the unit, especially given the fact that Goal Zero is currently leading in the business of the manufacture of portable power stations.
To put things into perspective, a close competitor, the Audew 500Wh solar power station produces about 500Wh (which is better than the 428Wh this unit cranks) and still manages to weigh way less: a mere 14 lbs (6.3 Kg) – a difference of 3 lbs (or 1.4 kg).
I sincerely believe that Goal Zero would have still done something about the weight of this unit, given the fact that it is primarily intended to be used in the most mobile of fashions.
Noisewise, Goal Zero (as a company) is known for making library quiet solar power solutions and this unit is no exception.
When I tested the 400 lithium, sure enough, it complied with what I have already known and suspected to be true for the unit.
Usually, when testing, I keep the unit close to my bed (during the night – and make it power something that will keep it busy all through the night).
During the day, the testing procedure is more or less the same: I keep the unit on the table where I work and see if it will bother my work or concentration.
In both circumstances, the Yeti 400 lithium performed more than I expected working with a certain grave yard quietness that only a pure sine wave inverter coupled with a superior manufacturing process can ensure.
Runtime wise, the solar generator is in the average league at best.
The reason for this is that, the unit is meant to tackle light devices like phones and tablets and occasionally, something like a laptop.
I did not thus see any impressive power from the 428Wh capable 12V battery. This will even be more so when you take the solar generator away from its comfort zone and into the realm of light-medium devices like laptops – and LED TVs.
However, for the intended purpose of the unit, it serves brilliantly and performs wonderfully.
What You Should Understand Before Considering The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Solar Generator
Usually, the power a portable solar unit ensures is quite appreciable. However, with this power comes the desire to ‘stretch up’ such a unit and see how it truly stands.
If this is you, you have no future with the Yeti 400 lithium from Goal Zero: the unit is understandably a small one and must be used and judged from that standpoint.
Closely related to the power of the unit is its (in) ability to fully take up backup capacity.
If you’re considering an option that will stand the test of your purchase during challenges like a storm, you’re better off with a higher end model such as the Yeti 1000 lithium or the top of the line Yeti 3000 lithium.
Charging Means & Times Of The Yeti 400 Lithium
Today, the primary attraction of a portable solar station remains its hybrid charging reality; the ability to seamlessly charge your power station by means of more than a single charging option.
Accordingly thus, a solar unit that isn’t capable of being charged by more than one means isn’t generally taken serious – and is far less desirable. Afterall, who doesn’t appreciate options?
Fortunately, the Yeti 400 is a lithium portable solar generator that is a true hybrid (by all standards). The unit can be charged via 3 channels:
- Solar power
- AC and
- 12V DC of your car.
It does not take genius to figure out that, I naturally prefer the solar charging option and accordingly, had a take on it first.
In my tests, the Boulder 200 solar panel, in powerful tropical sunlight gets the unit charged up from a flat state to 100% in about 7 hours. No more, no less. Of course, in instances where the sun isn’t shining brightly, this time would certainly be higher.
The Boulder 100, in our tests, took about 10 hours and the Boulder 50, about 17 hours – all under ideal tropical conditions; with a flat battery at 0% that I was hell bent on seeing to 100%.
It is also worthy of note that unlike the larger lithium series, this particular model is actually capable of being recharged by means of the smaller (and more flexible) nomad series of solar panels. According to Goal Zero, a typical nomad solar panel will charge the portable solar generator between 6.5 and 16 hours, all other things being equal.
However, due to the vulnerable nature of this panel type, I did not test and instead, relied on Goal Zero’s figures (which are decent enough, by the way).
These figures are quite decent and leave nothing more to be desired. From, my tests, solar charging alone can be used to keep this unit up and running when it is desired, be it in an emergency, camp or trail where power is of the essence and the grid cannot help.
This is especially true since the unit can, while it is being used, recharge its battery if plugged in.
AC wise, the included wall charger that came standard with the portable solar generator charged the generator in about 7 hours.
As a matter of fact, the exact time was a little under 7 hours at 6:52 hours.
Why this charging time for the AC isn’t the most impressive across both model and brands (the Yeti 400 lead acid recharges from the wall in under 5 hours), I find it passably okay and at least, capable of getting the job done (and on time too).
The solar power station could also be charged with the 12V DC of a vehicle. However, due to the extremely long time this takes, I have always held it to be a waste of time and usually, do not bother with this impractical charging method.
Accordingly, this review of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium was no exception.
Special Feature(s) Worthy Of Note
Many portable solar generators today cannot be used when they are charged. Once plugged in, you simply have to wait till they are fully charged or if you must use them, unplug and be content with whatever charge you have (until you decide to plug in again).
Not the Yeti 400 lithium.
This portable power station, though not capable of true pass through power, can be charged while you use the already stored charge.
This way, you could technically never go out of juice and keep using the unit for as long as your energy needs exist and the unit is still in one piece.
Pros And Cons
Like everything in the world of electronics (in general) and portable solar generators (in particular), there exist the advantages of this portable generator.
However, with its advantages, also come a myriad of disadvantages you must take note of.
At the end, what ultimately matters is what is important to you and how you see each of what matters in relation to how your challenge is tackled.
- Light weight reality and super easy to carry around – even on a challenging trail.
- The generator, though not capable of true pass-through power output, can still be used while it is being charged. This creates room for use almost indefinitely or as power needs actually arise.
- Standard lithium-ion battery that comes with all the good such a modern battery presents.
- Pure Sine Wave inverter output.
- Hybrid charging reality: solar, AC and 12V of a traditional car.
- Up to 6 months of shelve life.
- This portable power station cannot be chained with another similar unit for increased run-time.
- Charging with the standard 5 Amps wall charger takes a little longer than desired.
It has been held in some quarters that the Yeti 400 lithium is nothing but a glorified lithium battery. This was what prompted me to take a closer look and publish this in depth review article.
I looked for the truth of this accusation – and the truth I got: the 400 lithium is not a glorified lithium battery or any other battery at all.
Granted, the unit is a little bit underpowered – especially when compared to other close competitors and is slightly heavier (all of which are mild cons that should not deter a seriously interested person).
To make up however, the Yeti under review here is solidly built, intelligently designed and has enough quirks and features to otherwise, rival the competition any day or time; the greatest being its ability to take a charge while actively being used.
If you’re looking at a small solar generator to take around, use on a camp or power light electronics when the grid fails, you will be pleasantly surprised that the Yeti 400 lithium will brilliantly perform – well beyond expectations.
The generator is not an ordinary lithium battery with connection ports and an LCD screen.
If however you still have some doubts, kindly take to Amazon and see what others who have used the Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium power station have to say.
A solarful day is my wish to you!