Test: XPower Pocket Inverter 175 - Soundings Online

Test: XPower Pocket Inverter 175

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Xantrex, a Burnaby, British Columbia, company known for its advanced power electronics, has created a line of pocket inverters and power packs that can power and charge a variety of mobile devices.

Xantrex, a Burnaby, British Columbia, company known for its advanced power electronics, has created a line of pocket inverters and power packs that can power and charge a variety of mobile devices. Sizable inverters, which convert DC battery power to AC electric current, typically can be found on boats larger than 28 feet where there is adequate room for a large battery bank. But smaller boats usually are limited by their DC power supply.

Although the XPower Pocket Inverter 175 isn’t specifically designed for use in the marine environment, neither are many of the electronic devices that we find on board, such as cell phones, laptop computers, and portable DVD and music players. What this small inverter enables you to do is use the AC adaptors that come with the devices or power their AC chargers. In addition to the typical three-prong AC outlet, the Pocket Inverter 175 has a USB port allowing direct plug-in of iPod, Palm, Blackberry or similar devices.

Inverters are limited by two factors: the quantity of DC current available to power them (battery size) and output capacity, which is how much AC current they can provide. The Pocket Inverter 175 is rated to operate with an input voltage of between 10.5 and 15 volts DC. The important figure here is 15 volts, as this means the unit can be used with the engine running and the charging system putting out its maximum current. The inverter’s output is rated for 140 watts continuous, 175 watts for 5 minutes, and surge or peak capacity of 280 watts. As points of reference, a typical laptop draws around 75 watts, a DVD player 50 watts, and a cell phone around 10 watts.

The Pocket Inverter 175 is considered a modified sine wave inverter, rather than a true sine wave unit. The technical differences are beyond the scope of this review, but you should be aware that modified sine wave inverters can reduce the efficiency of motors and transformers by 10 percent or more, which can cause them to run hotter and reduce their reliability.

I plugged the Pocket Inverter 175 into the 12-volt accessory outlet of my truck, and used it to power a laptop computer for several hours. Input voltage ranged from 12.2 to 14.6 volts, depending on whether or not the truck was running. The unit’s output ranged from 112.9 to 117.7 volts AC on surges — for example, when drives started up — but was not affected by the differing input voltages. I also measured frequency at 62 Hz, which I’ve found is typical of even larger, permanently installed units. All measurements were taken with digital meters, and the readings are well within acceptable limits. The unit was able to power a 3/8-inch electric drill, but the drill speed was measurably slower, as anticipated, and that task isn’t what the Pocket Inverter is designed for. However, a 140-watt soldering gun heated rapidly and maintained temperature without creating issues with the inverter, which measureda continuous operating temperature of 86 F.

The Pocket Inverter begins operating as soon as it is plugged into a power source. There are no switches to operate, and a blue LED indicator confirms power to the unit. The indicator turns red and the unit will shut down if overloaded, which I was able to accomplish several times to confirm proper operation. The unit resumed operation as soon as the overload was removed. The Pocket inverter will shut down automatically to prevent internal damage if the input voltage decreases to 10.5 volts DC, and it incorporates an external 20-amp fuse on the output side. The cable incorporates an airplane connector that allows the device to be used during air travel, as well.

One caution when using an accessory outlet to power the inverter: Be certain the outlet is wired and fused appropriately, as undersized wire will reduce the effectiveness of the unit and potentially overheat the wiring.

The XPower Pocket Inverter 175 measures 5.5 by 3 by 1 inch, and weighs 0.7 pounds. A soft carrying case is included. Suggested retail price is $69.99, but I have found it for $45.99 from electronics distributors. For more information, call (800) 670-0707 or visit www.xantrex.com .