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Lifewire / Nick Jaynes
Affordable price tag
Eco mode switch
Many distinct power outlets
Hard to fill oil pan without spilling
Bogs down under intense power load
Not as quiet as rated
The WEN 56200i is a well priced, compact portable generator. However, with only 1600 watts of rated running power, a spill-prone oiling setup, and louder-than-advertised noise level, it’s clear that you get what you pay for—and not in a good way.
The compact portable generator market, ranging from 1600 watts to 2300 watts, is full of impressive competition. There seems to be a subsegment for every consumer, from entry-level to high-end, and everything in between. Based upon its price tag and spec sheet, the WEN 56200i seems to falls into the former category. In order to see if it was a diamond in the rough or a thorough bargain-basement option, we put it through 18 hours of testing at varying power loads.
The first time you pull the WEN 56200i out of the box, it looks pretty similar to its competitors. It has an arched handle at the top next to the gas tank filler cap and a pull-start cord on one side with the internals access panel on the back.
On the front, there are some distinctive features, however. Along with the standard 120-volt duplex three-pronged outlets, there’s a USB port, a two-pronged parallel port, and a 12-volt port for charging batteries. Unlike some competitors, the WEN 56200i does not have any rubberized covers for its electronics, so it might not be ideal for damp locations.
The setup process speaks volumes about the WEN 56200i. Pull it and everything that comes with it out of the box and a couple of things are immediately apparently. Unlike virtually all other competitive compact portable generators in its class, the WEN 56200i doesn’t come with oil, nor does it come with any tools, and most annoyingly of all, the “funnel” WEN provides isn’t a long, angled funnel like that provided with every other portable generator. Instead, it comes with a normal little funnel wedged into a kinked piece of clear plastic hose.
You’ve not even started the generator and you’re already 40 minutes, a trip to the store, and extra dismantling into the process.
So you’ll need your own screwdriver to open the case, have to run to the store and get the correct 30-weight oil, and if you decide to use the provided “funnel,” you’re going to make a mess, as we did. Due to the size of the kinked clear-plastic hose (it doesn’t seat nicely into the filler neck) and the vertical angle of the oil filler neck, you’ll inevitably spill oil into the body of the 56200i. That means you have to remove the entire side of the generator to clean up the spilled oil. You’ve not even started the generator and you’re already 40 minutes, a trip to the store, and extra dismantling into the process.
The WEN 56200i is rated at a peak surge power output of 2000 watts and 1600 running watts. In the segment, for its 48-pound weight, that’s on the lower side. However, when we filled the 1-gallon gas tank with non-ethanol gasoline, which is available at the pump in our area, we found it performed just about as advertised. We got 1520 watts out of it of prolonged running, around 2 hours, and we got it to run for just shy of 6 hours at 800 watts.
The WEN 56200i doesn’t have a fuel gauge or a power output meter, though it does have a low oil light and an overload light. To know how much fuel you have left, you’ll have to guess, or estimate based on the fuel load and time you’ve spent running it.
We got 1520 watts out of it of prolonged running, around 2 hours, and we got it to run for just shy of 6 hours at 800 watts.
One nice feature the WEN 56200i has is its eco-mode switch. Click it on and the engine will idle as low as it can, until it is put under load. This ostensibly saves fuel, which is always good, since non-ethanol gas is expensive and we live in the shadow of an existential climate change disaster.
WEN rates the 56200i at 50 decibels at 25% load. To put that into perspective, a loud conversation can be anywhere from 60 to 70 at point-blank range. Using an app-based decibel meter, we clocked it at 60 decibels at idle—significantly louder that the manufacturer’s rating. However, that reading is not aberrant for this class of generators—the Briggs and Stratton P2200, for example, clocked in at 64 decibels.
Price is the WEN 56200i’s standout selling point. Of its high-rated competitors, it’s the least expensive of the bunch. For the $430 price point, you get 2000 watts of peak surge power and 1600 watts of rated run power. At 48 pounds, it’s near the lightest in the range, and it’s one of the quieter generators as well. For the price point, despite its niggling issues, it’s a strong value.
As we mentioned, the closest, highly rated competitor to the WEN 52600i is the Briggs and Stratton P2200. The P2200 has an MSRP of $729 but is regularly marked down, like to $495 on Amazon. The P2200 has a 2200 watt surge power rating and a normal running output of 1700 watts. It, too, holds one gallon of gasoline. On that gallon, it can run for 8 hours at 25% load and Briggs rates it at 59 decibels.
Comparably, the WEN 56200i weighs just 48 pounds, can run for 6 hours at 50% load, and churns out a manufacturer-estimated 50 decibels (though, we found the noise level closer to 64 decibels).
The P2200 has more distinctive outlets, like a cigarette lighter-style 12-volt outlet. However, firing it is not as simple as turning a single knob, as it is with the WEN 56200i. A user must turn it on and also adjust the choke separately. Comparably, the WEN 56200i requires just a single knob for choke, on, and off.
Buy it.The WEN 56200i is hampered by some flaws annoying enough that some won’t find it worth the lower price compared with its competitors. However, if saving money is paramount to you, and you can look past the little stuff, like spill-prone oiling and a noisier engine, then the WEN 56200i is actually a pretty strong value. You just need to remember to stock up on 30-weight oil when you buy your generator.