Power stations are becoming a more common sight. Whether it’s out of fear of power outages, for off-grid solar systems, or simply for outdoor power supply, they are gaining popularity. Personally, I prefer models with LiFePO4 batteries. This battery technology is more durable and reliable than traditional lithium-ion cells. Unfortunately, power stations with these batteries are still quite rare and, above all, expensive. An exception is the CTECHi Portable Power Station 518Wh/500W.
It is available for under €500 and offers a 518Wh LiFePO4 battery, a USB-C PD port, and a 500W AC outlet. But how good is this power station? Let’s find out in the test!
Average Build Quality
Both the design and the build quality of the power station are unfortunately rather average. The CTECHi is made of very basic plastic. While it does have a convenient handle on the top, lifting the power station produces noticeable creaking sounds.
Don’t worry, nothing is going to break, but at first glance, the CTECHi power station doesn’t look particularly high-quality. This is somewhat surprising because its little brother, the 240Wh version, was very well-built.
The design of the CTECHi Portable Power Station can certainly be a matter of debate, but I think it can be described as unique with confidence.
Extensive Range of Ports!
While I had some complaints about the build quality, I must praise the power station for its wide range of ports!
- 3x USB-A 5V/2.4A
- 1x USB-C PD 60W
- 1x Car DC output 8A
- 1x 500W AC outlet
- 2x wireless charging pads
Perhaps an additional DC and AC output would have been nice, but for a power station in this price/size range, this is a very good selection of ports!
You don’t want to connect too many devices to a 500Wh power bank anyway. The USB-C output allows you to charge laptops directly from the power station without the need for a separate laptop charger, which only reduces efficiency. The car DC output, on the other hand, is ideal for devices like coolers.
On the front of the power station, you will find a very simple display, which is nonetheless helpful! It shows the current battery level, as well as how much power is being input and output from the power station.
What is the actual capacity?
CTECHi advertises a capacity of 518Wh. In practice, the capacity is naturally slightly lower. The manufacturer usually specifies the capacity of the built-in battery cells. However, the energy goes through various converters during discharge, which can result in a significant energy loss. What capacity can you expect from the CTECHi Portable Power Station 518Wh/500W in practice?
In my tests, depending on the output and load, I measured a capacity of 416Wh to 463Wh. You should not overestimate or underestimate this capacity! With 463Wh, you can power a device that requires 463W for one hour. A good compressor cooler can run on the power station for 3-4 days, and you can fully charge an average notebook (MacBook Pro 13 M1) 6-7 times, and so on. However, a high-powered PC or game console would drain the power station in 1-2 hours.
500W AC Outlet
The CTECHi Portable Power Station has a 500W AC outlet. However, you should avoid using it if possible. Not because the outlet is bad! On the contrary, it worked flawlessly in the test. It even provides a pure sine wave, which is important for running switching power supplies. However, AC outlets on power stations are generally inefficient. If you have a notebook that can also charge via USB-C, it is preferable to use that option.
The CTECHi Portable Power Station has a built-in fan. It is moderately loud. The fan kicks in when the power station reaches around 100W load, both during charging and discharging.
When the power station is empty, you have four options to recharge it:
- Using the included charger
- Via solar panels
- Using the car plug
- Through USB-C
The power station comes with a 120W power adapter, which charges it in about 4-5 hours. Alternatively, a solar charge controller is also included.
The power station accepts up to 24V solar panels. A suitable adapter cable for the typical MC4 connectors is included, so you can use any solar panel you like. A 100W panel would make the most sense here. Interestingly, you can also charge the CTECHi power station via USB-C. This makes sense primarily if you have misplaced the proprietary charger.
The design and feel of the CTECHi Portable Power Station 518Wh/500W may be debatable, but from a technical standpoint, we have a great power station at a fair price. This is mainly due to the use of LiFePO4 batteries, which are safer and more durable than traditional lithium cells.
The capacity of the power station, with a maximum practical capacity of 463Wh, may not be gigantic, but it is certainly more than sufficient for many applications. A good compressor cooler can run on it for 3-4 days, and an average notebook (MacBook Pro 13 M1) can be fully charged 6-7 times, and so on. Furthermore, the power station offers a good variety of ports. USB-A, USB-C, car output, AC outlet, and wireless charging pads provide everything you could wish for! In short, for under €500, I’m not aware of a better power station than the CTECHi Portable Power Station 518Wh/500W.