A generator with inverter technology is the safest source of power for expensive electronics like computers and televisions. Computers and other power-sensitive equipment need a stable source of AC power without surges. Inverters create this clean power by first generating conventional AC power, then converting it to DC power before inverting it back to a stable flow of AC electricity. They are smaller and lighter than standard generators, but reviews say their performance is surprisingly good. According to CampingLife.com, these compact generators "are incredibly smooth, quiet and fuel-efficient -- and have some amazing capabilities."
Popular Mechanics says the Honda EU2000i (Est. $900) is the best small generator you can buy, and owners tend to agree: This longtime favorite earns nearly flawless feedback. It's fuel-sipping, small, lightweight and easy to carry (46 pounds, shaped like a suitcase with a handle). It's also super-quiet: At 59 decibels under maximum load, it's quieter than a normal conversation, making it perfect for tailgating or campsites where a noisy generator would incur the wrath of your neighbors.
In short, the Honda EU2000i has "revolutionized the small-generator industry," Popular Mechanics says. With its "flawlessly easy pull starting" and "excellent power quality," it earns a perfect 5-star rating. Owners add that it's also rock-solid reliable, with a three-year warranty and excellent customer service should problems arise. Ratings are high at user review sites across the web, capped with a 4.8-star rating based on more than 230 reviews at ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com.
The downside is that the Honda EU2000i is pricey for the limited wattage it produces -- 2,000 watts peak, 1,600 watts continuous. If you need more than that, two of these generators can be linked together via special cables and run in parallel to provide enough juice to start and run most window air conditioners.
The Yamaha EF2000iS (Est. $950) follows close behind the Honda in reviews. On paper, the two generators look nearly identical: same wattage, similar size and weight, same warranty, and same ability to be run in parallel if more power is needed. Honda holds the edge in reviews, partly because owners say that when it's time for service, there are more Honda authorized dealers scattered around than Yamaha dealers. The Honda also has a bigger engine (98.5 cc versus 79 cc).
The Honda "also requires the fewest steps to start, which may not sound like a big deal until you're trying to remember how to get it going outside in the cold wind," say testers at CampingLife.com. Although the Yamaha EF2000iS weighs a couple of pounds less than the Honda EU2000i, owners say the Honda's shape makes it easier to tote around. Under maximum load, the Honda runs just slightly quieter than the 61-decibel Yamaha, though most still find the Yamaha to be plenty quiet.
On the other hand, the Yamaha has a few nice features the Honda doesn't, including a fuel gauge. "Yamaha was the only generator in our test with a fuel petcock, which meant we could turn off fuel flow to the carburetor," say editors of CampingLife.com. "Other Yamaha features we appreciated included a gear-driven camshaft, as opposed to the rubber belt of the Honda [EU2000i], and a 500-hour emission compliance lifetime, which is twice that of the Honda's."
Popular Mechanics calls the Yamaha EF2000iS "indestructible. User reviews might not go quite so far, but durability and reliability are generally well complimented.