The YETI 500X vs 400 – Which Solar Generator is Better?
The best solar generator from these choices (Yeti 500X, Yeti 400, Yeti 400 Lithium) is the Yeti 500X. It has the highest battery capacity and is the lightest at 12.9lbs. It also has an MPPT charge controller (the Yeti 400 Lithium has a PWM controller) as well as USB-C and USB-C PD ports, whereas the other models only have standard USB-A ports.
Read on to learn more about each generator and even skip to a section that you want to know more about in the table of contents below…
In recent times, solar generators have been magnificent sources of power. Also, they are very efficient technologies for outdoor energy and even emergency power outages. Amazingly, solar generators and solar systems provide clean energy and can even save lives…
Sidenote: For example, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, their territory suffered an island-wide electrical grid shut down… for 11 months. To solve this issue and to prepare in case an event like this were to happen again, from September 2017-2018, 10,000 solar systems (panels + battery) were installed on residential rooftops across the island. (Second source: The Freeing Energy Project)
… However, there is a constant increase in the number of solar generators produced today, increasing the competition in the market. These factors can cause a bit of confusion and overwhelm in deciding which solar generator to choose from. As a buyer, you need to know certain specifications and terminology about these different solar generators and their makers in order to make a satisfying, informed purchase.
In this article, we will be comparing two major Goal Zero products. Technically, we will be considering three. That is because we will just be comparing two versions of one ‘release’. Goal Zero is a company that produces portable power solutions to improve the human experience. Examples of products from Goal Zero are solar panels, power stations, and other accessories.
As stated earlier above, we will be comparing two products from Goal Zero. These products are the Yeti 500X, and the Yeti 400. Technically, the Yeti 400 has two different models/versions. So, we will consider the two versions of the Yeti 400, which are the Yeti 400 and the Yeti 400 Lithium. As of March 2020, Goal Zero released the Yeti 500X. This system is a mid-sized rechargeable solar generator. On the other hand, the Yeti 400 Lithium came about four years after the Yeti 400.
When choosing to go for the Yeti 500X, Yeti 400, or the Yeti 400 Lithium, you should know basic facts. So, we’ll be comparing these three models based on certain specifications and features. Also, there will be verdicts/conclusions to summarize the entire points. These verdicts will help you see clearly what each one has to offer in just a few words.
Interestingly, the Yeti 400 supplies about 396W. The wattage of this generator is good enough for certain home appliances and specific devices. Also, it might interest you to know that this is why the generator is called the Yeti 400. Thanks to its battery capacity, it can power a list of devices. For instance, the Yeti 400 can power a 32 LCD TV, a mini-fridge, and desktops. Also, the battery capacity gives it the ability to charge up devices like smartphones over 20 times.
YETI 400 Lithium
Impressively, the Yeti 400 Lithium has a peak capacity of about 428Wh (10.8V, 39.6Ah). The battery capacity of the Yeti 400 Lithium makes it capable of powering a wide range of devices.
The Yeti 500X has quite an impressive battery capacity. Its peak capacity is about 505Wh (10.8V, 46.8Ah). The battery is lightweight and it even has an MPPT charge controller, which is a great improvement from the Yeti 400 Lithium’s PWM charge controller.
From the above battery capacities, it is evident that the Goal Zero Yeti 500X has a slightly higher battery capacity than the other two. Also, each generator has gotten lighter with each iteration. The Yeti 400 weighs 29 lbs, the Yeti 400 Lithium is 16 lbs, and the 500X is 12.9 lbs. This improvement is by far due to the batteries’ weight being reduced significantly.
These iterations of Goal Zero’s small-to-mid-range solar generators show the progression the company has made since the release of the Yeti 400. Some might see the battery capacity of the 500X as a small increase, but it adds up to be a lot when you consider that the 500X is also three pounds lighter than the 400 Lithium.
Most importantly, you should hold on to the fact that the higher the battery capacity, the longer you can use it. So, for that fact, the Goal Zero Yeti 500X wins this category.
UNDERSTANDING BATTERY CAPACITY
The battery capacity of any device is critical. However, this importance is based on certain facts. First of all, what exactly does battery capacity mean? Battery capacity, in simple terms, is the amount of energy that can be extracted from the battery.
That being said, in the product specifications of solar generators, you’ll see each one has the specification simply listed as ‘Battery Capacity’. This figure is displayed to you in either watt-hours (Wh), ampere-hours (Ah), or milliampere-hours (mAh).
For instance, when searching for specific solar generators, after you see ‘Battery Capacity’ listed in the specifications section, you might see figures like ‘20000mAh’ or ‘400Wh’.
The higher the number, the bigger the battery. But make sure to understand the difference between mAh and Wh before deciding what to buy. This is because the value that precedes mAh may look to be more powerful than Wh if solely basing off of the numbers themselves, however, the opposite is usually true.
How to Convert Milliampere-hours (mAh) to Watt-hours (Wh) in a Lithium-ion and Lead-acid Battery
The nominal voltage of a lithium-ion cell is between 3.6-3.85V depending on some internal factors within the battery.
There could be multiple cells in a solar generator, but in portable power banks they usually only consist of one lithium cell. For the previous example in the screenshot above, the EcoFlow River Bank is listed at 12,000mAh.
Since this is a portable power bank and is relatively small, we can assume that it only has one lithium cell. To convert to watt-hours, we divide the 12,000 by 1,000 to get ampere-hours (Ah) and we get 12Ah. Next, we multiply by 3.7V and get 44.4Wh.
Whether you multiply the ampere-hours by 3.6, 3.7, or higher, you will get a good estimate of the watt-hours within your lithium battery. Now, let’s look at the Yeti 400 Lithium and 500X. Pictured below you can see the Yeti 400 Lithium battery details:
The Peak Capacity is listed at 428Wh (10.8V, 39.6Ah). Now, you can see that mAh were already broken down into Ah (39.6Ah = 39,600mAh). If we multiply the 39.6 by 3.6, we get only 142.56Wh. Why? This is because there are three lithium cells in the battery.
You can tell this because it lists the peak capacity at 10.8V. Since the nominal voltage of a single lithium cell is 3.6-3.85V, we can multiply this (3.6V) by three to get 10.8V. So, we will start at square one to get the correct watt-hours. 39.6Ah x 3 (lithium cells) x 3.6 = 427.68Wh.
And there you have it! We have just converted the mAh (or Ah, in this case) to Wh. You can use this math with any of your future batteries you intend to use.
Using what we just learned, we can apply this to the Yeti 500X’s battery. Peak Capacity is listed at 505Wh (10.8V, 46.8Ah). Let’s take the 46.8Ah and multiply by three and then by 3.6 to get 505.44Wh (46.8 x 3 x 3.6).
Since the Yeti 400 uses a lead-acid battery, it has a different nominal voltage because it is a completely different type of battery. The nominal voltage of a lead-acid battery is two volts per cell. The Yeti 400 has six cells because it lists the voltage at 12V as seen below:
The Peak Capacity is listed as 396Wh (12V, 33Ah). The Ah are already broken down from mAh (33Ah = 33,000mAh), so we can multiply 33Ah by two and then by six to get 396Wh (33 x 2 x 6 = 396). We got to the number six from dividing the 12V (listed in the Peak Capacity – See image above) by 2V, which is the nominal voltage of a lead-acid battery.
It’s imperative to be sure of how long your generator takes to charge. Being confident in the charge time of your generator goes a long way and will prepare you for any situation when you’ll need it.
Typically, a solar generator charges in three ways. One of the methods is by using solar panels or just a wall charger. However, charging with solar panels usually takes a much longer time compared to using a wall charger. Although, it doesn’t take too long to charge solar generators when you combine solar panels the right way. Asides charging via panels or wall chargers, you could also use a car charger.
Goal Zero specially manufactures solar panels for its solar generators. Examples of the Goal Zero solar panels are the Nomad 20, Nomad 50, Boulder 50, Nomad 100, Boulder 100 Briefcase, Boulder 100, and the Boulder 200 Briefcase.
Interestingly, the Yeti 400 charges relatively fast compared to other solar generators. Typically, it only takes five hours to charge this device with a wall charger. Also, charging the Yeti 400 with a car charger only takes 13 hours.
Using the Nomad 20 solar panel takes 31-62 hours. Also, Nomad 50 takes 12-24 hours. Charging with the Boulder 50, Boulder 100, and the Nomad 100 takes about 12-24 hours, 6-12 hours, and 6-12 hours respectively. The Boulder 100 Briefcase and the Boulder 200 Briefcase only take 6-12 hours and 3-6 hours, respectively.
YETI 400 Lithium
The Yeti 400 Lithium solar generator also makes use of wall chargers, solar panels, or car chargers. Interestingly, it only takes seven hours to charge up this solar generator using a wall charger. On the other hand, if you’re making use of the Nomad 20, Nomad 50, or the Boulder 50, it takes about 31-62 hours, 12-24 hours, and 12-24 hours, respectively.
However, the Boulder 100, and the Nomad 100 can charge up your generator for 6-12 hours. Also, using the Boulder 100 Briefcase and the Boulder 200 Briefcase will charge your solar generator for 6-12 hours and 4-6 hours, respectively.
Interestingly, Goal Zero’s charging times are impressive, especially for its battery capacity. It takes about three hours to charge this generator up with a maximum input of 180W. This is done by using the USB-C input port combined with either the car charger or solar panels.* Also, using a car charger only charges it up for 4.5 hours.
It only takes 8.5 hours to charge this solar generator up by using a wall charger. However, charging them up using the Nomad 20 and the Nomad 50 takes about 29-58 hours and 12-24 hours, respectively. Usually, charging the Yeti 500X using the Boulder 50, and the Boulder 100 takes only 12-24 hours, and 6-12 hours respectively.
Also, Nomad 100 takes just 6-12 hours. The Boulder 100 Briefcase and the Boulder 200 Briefcase takes the panels 6-12 hours and 3-6 hours to charge this generator
*Max solar input is 120W
Overall, it’s pretty amazing that the Yeti 500X has one of the best charge times on average. Compared to the Yeti 400, which takes 31-62 hours to get charged up by the Nomad 20, the Yeti 500X proves to be better. As seen above, it only takes the Yeti 500X 29-58 hours to charge up with the Nomad 20 solar panel.
So, if you’re going to make a choice based on charge times, go for the Yeti 500X. Also, the Nomad 20 is just being used for charge time purposes. In my opinion, I would go with a larger solar panel (100-200W) because this will drastically reduce charge times and allow you to use the generator more frequently.
The battery type of a solar generator is the single most crucial factor to consider. Usually, most solar generator manufacturers try to offer the best batteries. There are lithium-ion batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries, nickel-metal hydride, and lead-acid. Popularly, solar generator manufacturers focus on only the lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries.
Goal Zero, for instance, produces lithium-ion batteries primarily now, although they were once known to produce lead-acid batteries. Due to significant improvements in the area of battery technology, lithium batteries provide several advantages over lead-acid ones, which we will get into next.
The Yeti 400 solar generator is one of Goal Zero’s first solar generators, and it was the last to use the lead-acid batteries. That being said, a couple of significant disadvantages of using lead-acid batteries include that they have a low volumetric energy density (aka they’re heavy), and they have a limited depth of discharge. Lead-acid batteries have several shortcomings compared to lithium-ion batteries in the field of solar generators, but this does not mean that they are useless. They are still very useful in modern times. The Yeti 400 actually has one of the best lead-acid battery types, called an Absorbed Glass Mat Battery (AGM). AGM batteries have a low self-discharge rate, meaning they can last longer when stored than other types of lead-acid batteries.
There are several great lead-acid batteries that can be used for solar generators in not only the Yeti 400 but several other models. The main idea here is that lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more powerful than lead-acid, but lead-acid batteries are cheaper, which may be an incentive to purchase them over lithium-ion.
YETI 400 Lithium
The Yeti 400 Lithium is an upgrade of the Yeti 400. Basically, Goal Zero worked on an upgrade that was released years after the previous one (the 400).
As you can tell from the title, this solar generator makes use of a lithium-ion battery. Thanks to this upgrade, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium lasts much longer compared to the Yeti 400. Also, the lithium-ion battery makes the generator practically maintenance-free.
Similar to the Yeti 400 Lithium, the Yeti 500X performs very well thanks to its battery type. This solar generator makes use of a lithium-ion battery as well, which requires limited maintenance, and lasts much longer.
So, unlike the Yeti 400 Lithium battery, they are more stable than the lead-acid batteries. Moreover, Yeti 500X also has high charge retention, meaning the battery can be stored at full charge for a significant period of time (3-6 months) and yet still retains most of its battery life.* Also, they have a high energy density, meaning it has more power stored in a smaller battery.
*This is if the battery is stored in a cool, dry environment.
Overall, the best of the generators remains the Yeti 400 Lithium and the Yeti 500X. Obviously, this is because they both have power-efficient and stable batteries. Unlike the lead-acid battery in the Yeti 400, these two generators have a low discharge rate. Based on the battery type, the Yeti 400 Lithium and the Yeti 500X have the higher hand.
The importance of quality and multiple ports is underrated. Several criteria make ports useful. Most importantly, to charge up your solar generators, you need ports. Also, you need ports to charge other devices like smartphones and the likes. However, there are different types of ports you can find in Goal Zero’s solar generators. Typically, the Yetis have one or more of the following ports:
- USB-A port
- USB-C port
- USB-PD port
- 6mm port
- 12V car-port
- 120V AC inverter port
- Charging port
- Power Pole Chaining Port
- Expansion Module Port
These ports allow for flexibility in usage. For instance, the 12V car ports will enable you to charge even in the comfort of your car. Moreover, these ports go a long way in making your outdoor activities more fun and backed up with electricity if needed. Below, we compare the number of ports in each of the Goal Zero Yetis and see what their capabilities are specifically.
The Yeti 400 has six ports. The inclusion of the Power Pole Charging Port is a special feature that is only included in this model. Below are all of the ports in this solar generator.
- USB port (output): 5V, up to 2.1A (10W max), regulated
- 6mm port (output, 6mm, green, hexagon): 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- 12V car port (output): 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- AC inverter (output, 60Hz, pure sine wave): 110V, 2.6A (300W continuous, 600W surge max)
- Power Pole Charging Port: 12V, up to 33A (400W max)
- Charging port (input, 8mm, blue, circle): 14-29V, up to 10A (120W max)
YETI 400 Lithium
This solar generator doesn’t have a lot of ports, but still functions seamlessly for outdoor activities. Below, are the input and output ports in this generator.
- USB port (output): 5V, up to 2.4A (12W max), regulated
- 6mm port (output, 6mm): 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- 12V car port (output): 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- AC inverter (output, pure sine wave): 120VAC 60Hz, 2.5A (300W continuous, 1200W surge max)
- Charging port (input, 8mm): 14-22V, up to 10A (120W max)
Unlike the other two Yeti generators, this generator has more input and output ports. Invariably, the number of ports helps flexibility and improves functionality. Below, you’ll see the ports used by this generator.
- USB port (Output): 5V, up to 2.4A (12W max), regulated
- USB-C port (Output): 5/9V, up to 3.0A (18W max), regulated
- USB-PD port (Input/Output): 5-20V, up to 3.0A (60W max), regulated
- 6mm port (output, 6mm): 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- 12V car port (Output): 12V, up to 10A (120W max), regulated
- 120V AC Inverter: 120VAC 60Hz, 2.5A (300W, 1200W surge) (output, pure sine wave)
- Charging port (input, 8mm): 12-22V, up to 10A (120W max)
Overall, the Yeti 500X favors more essential ports. However, the Yeti 400 allows for a power pole chaining port. Essentially, the power pole port allows you to chain your Yeti 400 to a second Yeti 400 if desired for more power. Still, if you were to choose a solar generator based on its ports, the Yeti 500X would still be the best choice because it has updated USB ports.
The price of Goal Zero solar generators various mainly because of the battery, inverter, and input/output port quality and versatility, among other factors. So, this is why we will be analyzing the cost-effectiveness of each of these Yetis.
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 is relatively affordable, probably because it has a 400Wh battery capacity and uses a less expensive lead-acid battery. Moreover, the price makes it a good generator for outdoor activities.
YETI 400 Lithium
Interestingly, this solar generator also comes at a reasonably affordable price. Although, it is a bit costlier than the Yeti 400. Click here to view on goalzero.com
Apparently, the Yeti 500X also comes at a reasonable price (considering its functions). However, it is also costlier than both the Yeti 400, and the Yeti 400 Lithium solar generators. Click here to view on amazon.com.
Out of these three Goal Zero products, the Yeti 400 is the cheapest. This is because it features a lead-acid battery and is the oldest design out of the three. As we all know, other Yeti generators have better features. Consequently, you may decide to go the cheaper route if your budget is on the low-side or if the 400 suites your standards appropriately.
YETI 400 vs 400 Lithium vs 500X - What Can They Power?Certain factors influence what a generator can power or charge, and for how long. As a matter of fact, the battery capacity controls this category.
|YETI 400||YETI 400 Lithium||YETI 500X|
|Smartphone: 20+ times||Smartphone: 40 times||Light-A-Life: 80 hours|
|POV Camera: 70+ times||POV Camera: 70+ times||Camera: 70 times|
|Headlamp: 70+ times||Headlamp: 70+ times||Phones: 40 times|
|Tablets: 10+ times||Tablet: 10+ times||Tablet: 10 times|
|Laptop: 3-5 times||Laptop: 3-5 times||Laptops: 8 times|
|Light-a-Life: 130 hours||Light-a-Life: 130 hours||Medical devices (CPAP): 10 hours|
|Mini Fridge: 7 hours||Mini Fridge: 7 hours||Pellet grills: 9 hours|
|32 LCD TV: 3 hours||32 LCD TV 3 hours||TV’s: 3 hours|
Overall, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 does the least amount of work here. For instance, both the 400 Lithium and the 500X can charge your phone 40 times.
On the other hand, the Yeti 400 will only power your phone 20 times. In conclusion, this factor alone clearly determines the difference in the battery types, and as you have seen, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 is not the best choice of the three.
But in the Yeti 400’s defense, it was the first iteration of these three models featured in this article, so there you have it.
In conclusion, the 400 Lithium and the 500X are massive upgrades to the Yeti 400. In actual fact, the Yeti 400 is quite inefficient when compared to the others. Basically, its inefficiency arises from the use of the lead-acid batteries. So, asides from the price, the Goal Zero Yeti 500X is the best choice because it has the best battery and also features the most up-to-date ports that will serve as the new standard for a lot of devices.