REVIEW | EcoFlow - Power your gaming studio during loadshedding
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The hassle of load shedding, or blackouts as I like to call them, is all too real these days and with no signs of easing up, we are all forced to make alternative plans to keep our lights on when stage 2 hits. I’ve been slowly building up a few key elements in my house to keep me comfortable during load shedding.
For most of us, a full battery system to power a house is not a feasible solution. Setups like this can reach upwards of R100,000 with variables like power draw requirements, solar panel needs, and the quality of the battery you choose playing key factors in the cost.
I would wager a bet that most gamers like myself have simple needs when it comes to load shedding. First up, we need to keep the internet router and accompanying WiFi satellites powered. This is an easy fix, there are many DC power banks that work very well to keep a router or two powered for a couple of hours. A good friend recommended the Omnipower Ratel 860p to power my Netgear Orbi and the satellite units for the mesh network. They work well and keep my internet up for the duration of load shedding, and then some.
Lights are another straightforward problem to solve. I find the rechargeable Magento LED Lantern works like a charm around the house or outside but better yet are LED light bulbs with batteries in them. There are a few brands around that do the job and once most of your house bulbs have been swapped out, you’ll have light when the power goes out…easy.
The most difficult things to power for more than 2 hours are your computers, speakers, streamer lights and ambient RGB LEDs. Now, I won’t go into the intricacies of wattages and battery capacities in this review. That will be covered in an upcoming video, but I’ve found a product that has been able to run everything in my studio when load shedding hits, and it’s simply blown me away in terms of performance.
I’ve been holding off on buying an inverter battery system for a while now as I try and find the product that will suit my content creator and gaming needs. I’ve identified a few really good solutions that range from the Ellies and Mecer branded Inverter trolleys you can find almost anywhere these days, to a good ‘ol fashioned generator that I could stick in my garage and crank up when the power goes out.
While both are solid solutions and all in the same ballpark, price-wise, neither has that x-factor I was looking for. The generator is noisy, needs petrol and requires servicing, while the inverter trolleys are big, really heavy and usually have loud fans that spin up. Both require long power cables (so you can keep the noise far away from you) and neither are solutions that I can use in my studio while recording video or even streaming a game.
Then I stumbled across EcoFlow, a company that makes portable power stations aimed at adventurers, general contractors, and of course, home users. When I saw a YouTuber power his workshop tools with an EcoFlow battery system I knew I had to try this out for myself. My main requirement is to power my studio for at least 4 hours and let me game without any issues for the duration of the two and a half hours that the power is out.
About a month ago I finally got my hands on the Evoflow River Pro, a super portable, all-in-one system with 720Wh battery capacity. I also got the optional River Pro Extra Battery that doubles this system’s capacity to 1440Wh. On paper the specs are impressive and based on my calculations should do the job but what worried me was the size of this system compared to larger battery setups with the same ratings.
Each battery housing is about the size of small drinks cooler box and weighs just over 7Kg. The main unit features an LCD panel with a number of sockets and outputs. The secondary battery is connected with a chunky power cable has no LCD panel, and cannot function on its own.
What impressed me about the setup process is that it was very simple, everything is labelled properly and even the LCD panel has easy to understand function indicators. But, what really got me excited was the fact that there is an app you can use that offers a much nicer interface to your EcoFlow and allows you to monitor and manage everything remotely.
For my installation, I placed both batteries under my desk and connected all my electronics to it. The EcoFlow, in turn, is then plugged straight into the wall so that the switch over to the battery happens without any downtime when the power goes out. There is no switch over lag either and this happens seamlessly.
Both the LCD panel and the app give you a readout of the power draw and indicate the battery time remaining on the current load. As you switch devices on and off, you instantly see the updates reflect on the screen.
The EcoFlow bundles with a short extension lead that converts the US plug type to South African. I then connected both my surge-protected multi adapters to the EcoFlow. On these, I run most of the electronics in my studio, including two 27-inch LCDs, a desktop PC with 700w PSU, and two notebooks with a 100w and 200w PSU respectively. I also run two Godox ES45 esport LED panels for video and ambient lighting, each of these requires about 47w at full brightness but I run them at about 60%.
With everything in place to tackle load shedding, I was eagerly awaiting a real-world test of the kit to see how well this really works when I need it the most. As luck would have it, it only took a few days after installation for eishkom to announce a few rounds of load shedding.
It is strange how your demeanour changes when load shedding gets announced and you know you’ll be able to work or game when the power is out. It’s a life-changer.
The first few load shedding days were pretty standard, it was during the day and I just needed to power my three PCs for the time the power was out. It was really great not to have to anticipate the switch-off time or to manually switch over to a generator. A simple beep (which you can disable) alerts you that the power supply has dropped and from there it’s just you and the chemically driven electronic boxes under your desk.
When I’m not gaming or rendering video, the EcoFlow River Pro with the Extra Battery can power my desktop and two notebooks for around 7 hours at a power draw of about 240w. When I start gaming on my desktop and draw more power from the battery, the timer drops to about 3 hours with a power draw of around 460w.
Of course, when under load there is an audible fan noise from the EcoFlow but it’s not particularly loud and I can barely hear it over the PC standing on my desk. I’ve even recorded video and audio in my studio during load shedding without any noise issues in editing.
While your usage may vary, I’ve been absolutely blown away by how much the EcoFlow has changed the way I’m able to work and play when the power is out. I’m not worrying about having to plan for load shedding anymore.
I even managed to record and edited some videos straight throughout load shedding once and did not even realise. It was only when I wanted to go and make some coffee that I realised the power was out. Even here the EcoFlow was able to power my beloved bean grinder, espresso maker, and milk frother.
Watt for watt the EcoFlow battery inverter solution is more expensive than the larger inverter trolleys that is popular among gamers but it all comes down to your usage requirements. Being a fully portable system is what really sold me on the EcoFlow River Pro. I’ve also used it with great success on a few video shoots to power the cameras and notebooks needed. This is where two other features on the EcoFlow River Pro come in handy, solar panel charging and car charging. If you have a 200w panel (or you can buy the official EcoFlow panel) you can charge the EcoFlow River Pro from anywhere. Similarly, you can also charge this portable power station using your car’s 12v socket – the cables are supplied.
For just under R20,000, the EcoFlow River Pro with extra battery offers an impressive array of features and usability scenarios. I love the small form factor and the fact that I can leave it under my desk.
There really is no one-size-fits-all with batteries when choosing something to suit your needs but the EcoFlow manages to fit into my crazy lifestyle rather comfortably. If you are into camping or contract work, the EcoFlow will also add immense value due to the portable nature of the product.