As much as I love switching off and getting away from it all, I often find myself needing to work while camping. I do have a leisure battery in my van, but since it already powers a fridge, I’m out of luck if I need to charge my laptop. The Bluetti EB3A Portable Power Station has proven to be a worthy addition to my camping setup, allowing me to charge my laptop, phones, and cameras simultaneously.
Bluetti has a whole range of power solutions, from solar generator kits and home backup batteries to their portable power station range, of which the EB3A is their entry-level model.
Each of the Bluetti Portable Power Stations can be charged by solar panels, which Bluetti sell separately or bundled. The EB3A can be bundled with a 120W or 200W solar panel (with 200W being its maximum solar input). It’s worth noting that I don’t have a solar panel to test the device with, so anything I have to say about charging the EB3A with a solar panel is based on my research.
Bluetti have been bringing portable power stations to market since 2019 and are making a name for themselves for providing a notable option, especially at this low price point.
I’ve had a little over a month to put the Bluetti EB3A through its paces and ensure that I can provide the most detailed perspective possible. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at this impressive power station’s features, performance, and overall value. So, let’s dive in and see if this is the right power station for you.
Design & Durability (Rating: 97%)
The Bluetti EB3A’s dimensions are 25.5 x 18 x 18.3 centimetres (LxWxD), and it basically just looks like a grey plastic box. Naturally, being a battery, it’s quite heavy at just over 4.5 kilograms.
I love this thing far too much to do a drop test, but the grey plastic casing feels really sturdy. Chances are that the battery won’t take well to being dropped regardless, but, in this case, the battery seems as well protected as could be. The only part of the EB3A that does feel a little fragile is the foldable carry handle on the top. However, it’s held up perfectly well to all my use so far.
On the top of the unit, beside the carry handle, there’s an in-built wireless charging platform. Each of the ends has an air vent for cooling. A fan inside automatically activates during heavy load or when the device is hot.
The front face of the EB3A is where all the magic happens – there’s a LED lamp, an LED screen, a 12V DC cigarette lighter-style outlet (protected by a rubber stopper), a 100W USB-C port, two USB-A ports, two DC5521 outlets, a 240V AC outlet, and then your charging inputs for 240V AC and MPPT solar panels. The outputs and inputs are grouped into circuits, which can be switched on or off independently.
I’d be amiss to talk about the durability of the Bluetti EB3A Portable Power Station without mentioning its overload protection. The device’s battery can handle loads of up to 600W (with a surge limit of 1200W), but the in-built circuit protection means that when you accidentally plug in too many things or try to plug in your electric heater, there’s no danger of damaging the battery or waking up to a fire in your tent or van.
You’ll quickly realise that you’ve tripped the circuit breaker and all power has cut, so you can just unplug the device(s) and press the circuit protector button, then adjust what you’re loading it with accordingly, and you’re good to go again.
Functionality & Ease of Use (Rating: 95%)
Let’s start with the Bluetti EB3A’s specifications, as the manufacturer lists them:
- 600W AC pure sine wave inverter (up to 1,200W surge).
- 268Wh Capacity.
- Bluetti smartphone app for control and monitoring.
- 8 Outputs for simultaneously charging multiple devices.
- 430W Max dual charging (meaning via solar and AC power).
- 200W Max solar input.
- LiFePO4 Battery with 2,500+ life cycles (to 80% charge).
Functional? I’d say it’s pretty functional, yep.
I’ve used it to charge our two phones, my laptop, my SLR camera batteries, torches and lanterns, and to run LED strips. I’ve even made campsite beats on my Maschine+ standalone production and performance instrument.
Using the EB3A’s various outputs simultaneously, within the aforementioned 600W limit, of course, pushed its utility to a whole other level.
Your utility will probably differ from mine, and I’m sure I’ll continue finding new uses. Not long before sitting down to write this, our house lost power, and my first thought was, ‘I hope I’ve charged the Bluetti’. It turns out it’s just the damn oven tripping the safety switch, but I digress.
The bottom line: it charges quickly, is safe, reliable and portable, and the price tag is reasonable. It’s not perfect, but from what you’ll find that pretty much every portable power station has its drawbacks.
Interestingly, Bluetti’s specifications (above) don’t mention the included light, which has low and high brightness options and a flashing option for emergencies. I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t excited by its inclusion, but there have already been a couple of occasions when I’ve used it because it was the closest light at hand when packing up before bed or brushing my teeth. It’s proved handier than I initially gave it credit for.
I cannot tell you how long it will last or how many times it will charge your laptop since there are too many variables. I’m sure the maths brains among you will do your own calculations – eg. 268Wh at 85% efficiency should get you 22.78 hours out of a 10W light – but for the rest of us, let’s say the fully charged Bluetti EB3A will get you a few full laptop battery charges, or more than ten full charges for two average smartphone batteries (did I mention you can do that simultaneously?).
The Bluetti EB3A can be charged via your regular wall socket (240V AC), a solar panel (via the in-built MPPT controller), or from your vehicle’s cigarette lighter (12V DC) while you drive. Better yet, you can charge it even faster using the wall socket and a solar panel at the same time.
Though I haven’t tested the solar due to my lack of a spare solar panel, I need to get my hands on one because being able to charge it while you’re using it at camp is an obvious major benefit. The fact that it can be charged while in use also means that the listed maximum Capacity of 268Wh is sort of irrelevant.
I also haven’t tested charging in the car because, disappointingly, the required 12V cable is an optional extra. I’m planning to buy one because I have zero doubt that I’ll use it regularly.
It does, however, come with the MPPT cable and the 240V AC cable included in the box.
How long does it take to charge? I’ve charged it from 18% to 100% via my wall socket in not much more than an hour. My research tells me that with full sun, it will charge in around 2 hours from a 200W solar panel.
The LiFEPO4 Battery
I don’t want to repeat myself – I’ve already talked about the battery and will talk about it more – but I’m including a section here to discuss what I’ve learned about the LiFePO4.
I’ll never understand how battery technology still seems so far behind our society’s other technological advancements, but going into that further would be another digression. The LiFePO4 does have a few advantages I’ve not previously been aware of (not that I’m any kind of battery expert, but I presume you’re not either – if you are, please correct any errors in the comments).
Firstly, they are better at remaining cool in high-temperature environments or under heavy load, and therefore they degrade less under these conditions. They also don’t explode when they overheat or overcharge – neither of these will be a danger due to the EB3A’s design, but it’s a bit of extra peace of mind, all the same.
They’re also more environmentally friendly because they last longer and don’t contain the more harmful metals that other types of batteries do.
The only negative I can find is that they don’t perform well at low temperatures compared to some other battery types.
The LED Display
As someone who has only used my van’s leisure battery with its pointless LED percentage indicator and basic voltage indicator, the Bluetti Power Station’s LED display is a godsend. The device’s LED display gives you a remaining power estimate in hours and minutes (as well as percentage) based on the devices you currently have plugged in. When charging up the EB3A, you’ll also see an estimate of how long it will take until it’s fully charged.
The display will show you how much power is being drawn and from which outlets, allowing you to manage your remaining power really effectively. If you happen to overload, you’ll see a warning on the display so you can be sure of why everything has been cut.
The Bluetti App
The Bluetti app can be downloaded via either Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. It connects to the EB3A via Bluetooth while your phone is within about 10 metres of the power station. In testing at home, its connectivity didn’t do well with walls in between (but it isn’t that useful at home, anyway).
The app allows you to:
- Monitor the output or charging of the power station from its specific inputs/outlets.
- Switch the unit off, or switch its individual circuits on or off.
- Turn the device’s LED light on or off.
- Switch between the charging modes – standard, turbo and quiet.
- Change a number of the EB3A’s other settings.
It’s easy to see why an app for a portable power station might seem like a gimmick – my van’s fridge has an app, and I’ve never even installed it – but I’ve quickly discovered how handy the Bluetti app can be.
On a cold night, there’s nothing worse than getting out of bed to turn off my van’s fairy lights, but if they’re plugged into the EB3A, I can do that from the app. If a few devices are charging and the power station’s cooling fan kicks in and keeps me awake, you bet I can put a stop to that noise with the app. Or if I’m drifting off to sleep and I suddenly panic that I’m going to flatten the battery but need it in the morning – yep, I can just cut any or all of those devices from charging.
I did have one unfortunate experience with the app that I should mention, though. The first time I opened the app and synced up the Bluetti EB3A using the QR code on the bottom of the device, it worked without issue.
My only problem came the second time I opened the app (after a week or so of not using it, in case that’s relevant). The My BLUETTI screen showed no devices despite my having previously connected the EB3A. I could open the scanning function, but a message appeared in Chinese when I scanned the QR. I double-checked the settings and had already set the language to English.
After troubleshooting for longer than I’d like to admit, I eventually screenshotted the error and used Google Lens to translate it, only to find that the error was telling me to log in. I was already logged in, so I logged out and back in again. Lo and behold, the EB3A was connected without any further scanning. At worst, though, this was a minor annoyance. It hasn’t happened since, and if it does, I’ll know what to do.
NOTE: Bluetti have already responded to this review to say that their team will address these issues as soon as possible.
What I Like
- Fast charging
- Variety of outlets (usable simultaneously)
- Detailed on-unit display
- Handy App (despite the minor issue I had with it – see above)
- Excellent value for money considering its battery capacity, size and general versatility
What I Don’t Like
- 12V Cable (for charging the EB3A from your cigarette lighter) is AUD $19 extra (at the time of writing).
- The app obviously has some bugs, but note that I’ve still listed it as one of my ‘likes’ above.
- Though it’s yet to be a problem for me, I’m concerned by the battery’s poor low-temperature performance.
- The handle feels like it might be a weak point, eventually.
The Bluetti EB3A Portable Power Station is available directly from Bluetti online.
Disclaimer: Bluetti provided me with an EB3A for review. This has no influence on the opinions presented in my review.
Have you tried the Bluetti EB3A Portable Power Station? Got any questions or comments? Let us know by commenting below.