Review: Suaoki USB or crank charged light/lantern

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boskone
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Review: Suaoki USB or crank charged light/lantern

Post by boskone » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:01 pm

Yea, it's a cheap Chinesium do-it-all wonder products. However, I wanted something multipurpose for my GHB that would give me a bit of independence from batteries, and for $14 I was willing to risk it.

I'm going to start with the pros and cons, then address a few things because I'm too lazy and ill-equipped to do a lot of testing and picture-taking

Pro
Puts out a surprising amount of light in high mode, low is still useful in the immediate area
  • High: 65 lumen for 40 minutes
  • Low: 15 lumen for 4.5 hours
Timing seems about right for both max charge and one minute of cranking
Reasonably small size for a lantern thing, smaller than the "dalek" (to steal a phrase from bigclivedotcom) style.

Con
While it feels solid enough, I have to question the durability of a $14 wonder light
Micro USB port; it's an increasingly rare thing to use elsewhere, in favor of type-C

Untested
No idea how well this thing actually charges a separate USB device
Might be actively dangerous if two devices are plugged in.

Caution!! ¡¡Precaución!! Vorsict!! Mise en garde!! 警告!! 注意!!Rhybudd !!
These type things have a nasty habit of not being designed to be charged while charging another device, and may in fact deliver mains power straight from the incoming charging port to the outgoing charging port. This may fry your device, and depending on construction (e.g. metal-bodied phones) might well fry you. I've asked the manufacturer for clarification.

I will note, as majorhavoc does below, that a USB charger should be limited to 5v and (depending on spec) no more than 3A. This isn't exactly human-killing levels of electricity. I still would avoid plugging anything into it while it's charging, though, just to avoid any possibility of harm to yourself or your device.

Ugly
See that ludicrous warning above? I didn't know that when I bought this little doodad, and probably wouldn't've bought it if I'd known. Unfortunately, I don't have a way to test that without risk to myself right now, so I ain't gonna. If I can find a USB extender, a USB-A port should be large enough to safely take my multimeter to.

But hey, let's roll forward with the review of this potential mini-electric-chair anyway.

Lighting
In flashlight mode, squished down into a puck, this thing is actually a pretty competent flashlight. On bright a fence 40ft away is well-lit, though a tree 100ft away isn't notably lit. On low it'll barely light the fence, but my pecan tree (25ft) is pretty well lit.

Lantern mode is set up by pulling the halves of the puck apart, leaving them connected by an accordion-like tube of some kind of translucent white plastic. Low is sufficient to light even my living room to navigable levels when hung from the ceiling fan, high is enough to read if facing with the text towards the light.

It doesn't have any levelling circuitry: the light's fully bright for about the listed period, then slowly dies. I left it on yesterday starting around 1900, and the LED was still desperately trying to put out light this morning at about 1000.

Charging
Charging from an external source (battery, wall, whatever) is via a basic micro-USB connector.

Cranking is a stiff dynamo that folds out of the bottom, with a claimed runtime of 4/11 minutes (high/low) per minute of cranking. This seems pretty spot on, and in fact is one reason I bought the thing.

Construction
Overall, seems pretty good. The plastic seems nicely stiff, and is a clean casting. There's a good bit of heft to it, which I attribute to the charging dynamo. The lens plastic is nice and clear, and seems pretty hard (I can't press it in with hand-force). The lantern diffuser is some kind of flexible plastic, and I won't even hazard a guess at the cycle (open-stretch-close) count it'll survive. The power button and port cover are something rubbery, probably the ubiquitous butyl polymer.

Overall
If it weren't for the safety concerns, I'd recommend this. While it's primary utility is probably as a lantern it's still a decent flashlight, and I like having at least one device that can be self-charged (just in case). It's not tiny and ultralight, but neither is it a monstrously large or heavy device.

I would like something that's water-sealed (instead of "splash resistant"), but I wouldn't expect that given the price.

I've asked on Amazon how the outgoing port handles current while the device is plugged in. If I get a useful answer I'll update, or if I remember to snag an extender cable so I can check myself.
Last edited by boskone on Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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majorhavoc
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Re: Review: Suaoki USB or crank charged light/lantern

Post by majorhavoc » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:01 pm

Thanks for the review. I have what I strongly suspect is the same lantern, rebadged under the Thorfire brand. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00 ... UTF8&psc=1

I've had it for over two years now and have used it mainly for camping. But it's been also pressed into service during a few winter power outages. I've found it to be a good performer, although I've never really relied on the hand crank capability. I treat it as a rechargeable lantern/flashlight. Although like you, I like the idea that it can be recharged via hand cranking if the power goes out longer term.

Regarding your caution about the potential to fry another chargeable device. It would never occur to me to connect this lantern to mains power while at the same time using it to charge another USB device. If I have mains power, I'll use that to charge the lantern or another device as I see fit. Or just charge both straight from mains power, as I have multiple AC/USB charging adapters. In any case, it charges via USB, so I'm not following how it could pass through household current to another USB chargeable device when it's only receiving 5 volts via USB. Maybe I'm missing something about your multi-lingual warning?

At any rate, I took a chance on this when it was on sale on Amazon for considerably less than the current price and have been pleasantly surprised by how it's performed. As you say, it's a surprisingly functional mini lantern/flashlight. The one thing I was worried about is that translucent plastic diffuser that accordions between the collapsed/flashlight and expanded lantern modes. I was worried it might split apart or otherwise wear out. So far at least, its endured countless open and closing cycles with no signs of fatigue.

boskone
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Re: Review: Suaoki USB or crank charged light/lantern

Post by boskone » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:55 pm

majorhavoc wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:01 pm
Thanks for the review. I have what I strongly suspect is the same lantern, rebadged under the Thorfire brand. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00 ... UTF8&psc=1
Probably; I saw several that looked essentially exactly the same. I just bought the cheapest.
I've had it for over two years now and have used it mainly for camping. But it's been also pressed into service during a few winter power outages. I've found it to be a good performer, although I've never really relied on the hand crank capability. I treat it as a rechargeable lantern/flashlight. Although like you, I like the idea that it can be recharged via hand cranking if the power goes out longer term.
Well, that longevity is reassuring. I don't anticipate using the crank charger much but, as you say, it's a nice backup option.
Regarding your caution about the potential to fry another chargeable device. It would never occur to me to connect this lantern to mains power while at the same time using it to charge another USB device. If I have mains power, I'll use that to charge the lantern or another device as I see fit. Or just charge both straight from mains power, as I have multiple AC/USB charging adapters. In any case, it charges via USB, so I'm not following how it could pass through household current to another USB chargeable device when it's only receiving 5 volts via USB. Maybe I'm missing something about your multi-lingual warning?
It shouldn't be an issue if everything's actually built right, but that isn't always the case. I had a car charger that fried a (freebie) USB battery. Benson Leung (a Google engineer that tests USB type-C stuff on Amazon) found a cable that--when plugged into a compliant supply--ruined both his tester and the ports on his Pixelbook. While maybe (probably) not human-killing mistakes, it's at the very least something that really needs to be kept in mind. Even if it's not a hazard to people, it might save someone's device.

It's a fair point, though, and I'll update my review to reflect it.

To be honest, though, I'm not sure I'd ever think to try and charge something off of it anyway. I'm sure I'll occasionally be surprised to see the type-A port, remember that it can be used to charge USB devices, then immediately forget again.
At any rate, I took a chance on this when it was on sale on Amazon for considerably less than the current price and have been pleasantly surprised by how it's performed. As you say, it's a surprisingly functional mini lantern/flashlight. The one thing I was worried about is that translucent plastic diffuser that accordions between the collapsed/flashlight and expanded lantern modes. I was worried it might split apart or otherwise wear out. So far at least, its endured countless open and closing cycles with no signs of fatigue.
Also good to know, coming from a longer-term perspective.

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Re: Review: Suaoki USB or crank charged light/lantern

Post by Beowolf » Mon Nov 12, 2018 8:09 pm

Thanks for the review! Haven't put much thought into something like this, but it's good to hear some firsthand experiences.
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