The Jackery Explorer 500 and the Bluetti AC50S (or PowerOak AC50S in the UK) are two similarly priced portable power stations, with massive 500Wh batteries and AC outlets that you can plug in anything from your smartphone to a laptop charger, to a power tool and much more. They’re perfect for camping, travel, festivals, emergency use and pretty useful around the house too, when you don’t have a plug socket nearby.
I’ll be putting these two popular models head to head, comparing their features and performance. And they both have optional solar panels that can charge them – the Jackery SolarSaga 100 and the Bluetti, or PowerOak in the UK, SP120, that I’ve also been testing.
Their prices tend to vary, so please check the links below, but even discounted they are not cheap. So I hope this article will help you make the right choice. Let’s take a closer look.
Both units cost about the same price and have a similar battery capacity, with the Jackery having a slightly bigger 518Wh Lithium battery versus the 500Wh capacity of the PowerOak. This UK version is branded PowerOak, rather than Bluetti so I’ll refer to it by the UK name. But they’re the same, apart from the AC outlet voltage.
The Jackery comes with a 24V, 3.75A or 90W charger and a car charger cable, both in a neoprene zipped case. And a well presented and written instruction manual.
The PowerOak also comes with a 90W charger, this time 27.5V, 3.25A, and a car charger cable. There is a user manual which isn’t quite as user friendly as the Jackery’s, but contains more detailed information for the more techy user. There’s also two additional cables: a USB-C to USB-C cable and an MC4 to DC 7909 cable for connecting to a solar panel.
Both chargers have the DC 7909 plug which is 7.9mm with a 0.9mm pin.
They weigh about the same – the PowerOak is around 100g lighter at 6.1kg, which isn’t noticeable. But the PowerOak is a little more compact and has foldable handles. You can see here how they compare in their dimensions.
The handles do make the unit more compact, but it’s an extra step unfolding the handles to move it around compared to the Jackery.
They both feel well made and fairly rugged, but the PowerOak has a rubberised bumper and an IP21 rating which offers at least basic protection against “vertically falling drops of water”, basically condensation.
The Jackery has no rating, but I imagine would offer similar protection. The bumper on the PowerOak is replaceable and you even have a choice of blue, orange and grey.
By moving the charging port around the back on the PowerOak, there’s more room to include an extra AC outlet and additional USB ports.
And there’s a floodlight around the back too.
The Jackery has a focused torch on one side. I’ll discuss both lights shortly
Both power stations have cooling fans and cooling vents on either sides of their enclosures.
The Jackery has a basic LCD display that shows battery remaining both graphically and as a percentage. Charging input power is displayed, as well as output power which shows exactly how much everything that’s plugged in is using. Pressing the display button turns on the backlight, which times out after 15s.
The display on the PowerOak is easy to read indoors at least, and shows much the same information, but is lacking a battery percentage so you only know the approximate charge level of the battery.
When the display times out after 30s any of the buttons will reactivate it, but it’s so dim without the backlight it’s completely unreadable, whereas the Jackery is quite clear in decent light even without the backlight.
They both have a 12V, 10A regulated cigarette lighter style DC output, although the cover is far more substantial on the PowerOak and may help achieve its IP rating.
Both also have 2 x 12V, 3A DC outputs, but the PowerOak uses the more standard 5521 or 5.5mm external, 2.1mm internal ports.
The Jackery uses obscure 6.5mm, 4.3mm ports that I had a lot of difficulty obtaining. But the Jackery ports are regulated, unlike the PowerOak’s which I’ll come back to in my testing. In my experience these ports have fairly limited use anyway for most people.
The PowerOak has two Pure Sine Wave AC outlets which are 220-240V in the UK and 110V in the US. With the built-in inverter these can deliver up to 300W with a 450W peak. In the UK this is at 50Hz, but you can change it to 60Hz. Turn on the unit and press the DC and AC buttons together to display the current setting. Press and hold the DC or AC button to swap frequency. I’m really not sure why you’d do this, and would recommend checking your unit is set to 50Hz in the UK and 60Hz in the US.
The Jackery has only one Pure Sine Wave AC outlet which is 230V in the UK or 110V in the US. But this outlet can deliver 500W with a 1000W peak which is a very significant step up from the PowerOak. Depending on how you intend to use the power stations, this in itself might simplify the decision for you. I’ll cover this further shortly with some real examples of what both units can power.
The Jackery has 3 x 5V, 2.4A USB ports with no fast charging and more disappointingly there’s no USB Type-C power delivery port to charge newer more power hungry devices and laptops.
The PowerOak has 4 x 5V, 3A USB ports and a 45W USB Type-C Power Delivery port, which even puts the Jackery 1000W model to shame.
And the PowerOak has a standard 10W Qi wireless charging pad on the top, which is quite handy. Something also missing in the Jackery range.
Both units have a light – the Jackery opts for a focused beam, and the PowerOak has a more useful and brighter flood light.
Neither are that bright though , considering what they could include and how useful a bright light would be on a unit like this, for camping or emergency use. You have to turn the power on first to use the light on the PowerOak. The Jackery’s button works independently of the rest of the unit.
If you press and hold the light button on the Jackery, it enters a flashing SoS mode. The PowerOak button cycles from high power, to low power, to flashing with each press.
The Jackery has a separate power button for DC, USB and AC. The PowerOak has to be powered on first which seems like an unnecessary step, and then you can turn on either DC which includes the USB ports or AC for the power sockets.
You can charge both units with their included wall and car chargers. Both included wall chargers are only 90W which makes charging pretty slow. The Jackery’s 518Wh battery takes around 7 hours to charge with its wall charger at around 85W.
The PowerOak 500Wh battery took a little under 7 hours with its included charger charging at around 87W but I was able to charge it at its maximum 120W with the beefy Jackery Explorer 1000’s 180W charger.
This brought the charging time down to just over 5 hours so a faster charger might be a worthwhile investment.
Disappointingly, the Jackery is limited to 90W DC input so charging with the 180W charger made no difference.
The fan on the PowerOak turns on when charging and it’s pretty noisy – I measured 47dB one metre from the unit, 10dB louder than the room noise. The fan didn’t turn on charging the Jackery in my testing.
You can hear the fan noise in the video.
Once the PowerOak was fully charged, the display was slightly corrupt or didn’t come on straight away when I pressed the power button. This wasn’t a one off – it happened repeatedly. If I unplugged the power and turned it on it was fine.
The PowerOak also charges faster in the car, at around 105W with the engine running, compared to around 85W with the Jackery. So 6 hours or thereabouts for a full charge of the PowerOak and 7-8 hours for the Jackery. The Jackery does have the advantage of a 2 metre car charging cable, almost 3 times the length of the PowerOak’s.
Both power stations have optional solar panels that can charge them. I’ll discuss both their offerings shortly.
I also tried charging both units with a third party USB power delivery lead I purchased separately. This is convenient on the move, if you don’t want to carry any of the included chargers.
This worked with the PowerOak and I got just over 60W from a 65W USB-PD charger and was even able to top up the battery with the RavPower Power House I reviewed a while back with its 30W USB-PD output.
Unfortunately this didn’t work reliably with the Jackery, even though it works with the smaller Explorer 240. It would sometimes work if I disconnected and then reconnected the adapter but I wouldn’t want to rely on it. The adapter’s 20V output is within the Jackery’s supported 12-30V input range so I’m not sure why it doesn’t work as it should.
Both units display the input power from whatever’s charging them. This is particularly useful when charging via solar panels, since it will vary hugely depending on the amount of sun. Neither display provides an estimate of time remaining for a full charge, which would have been useful.
Both units also support pass-through charging, so you can still use the outputs while you’re charging them – which is particularly useful when using the solar panels.
Both Jackery and PowerOak have a built-in MPPT controller for more efficient solar charging, and have optional foldable solar panels to charge their power stations. Jackery has the SolarSaga 100 – a 100W panel, and PowerOak has the SP120 – a 120W panel.
The SP120 looks more compact at 411mm by 427mm by 60mm when folded, but is a fair bit heavier than the Jackery at just over 4.5kg. The weight includes the MC4 to DC 7909 cable that comes with the power station, since you’ll need this. It’s a four fold design and opens up to 1708mm by 411mm by 20mm.
It’s not exactly difficult to set up, but more fiddly than the Jackery, with four feet that have to be un-velcroed and positioned. You’ll have almost 4.5m of cable to connect to the back of the AC50S. There’s no waterproof rating, but it feels well made and the zipped pouch that holds the cable and its connection to the solar panel look like it’ll cope with condensation or a splash of water.
The SolarSaga 100 weighs just over 3.8 kg and although larger at 610mm by 535mm folded, it’s only 35mm thick, and much quicker to set up with a two fold design and magnets in the integrated carry handle that hold it closed and quickly pull apart.
There are then just two velcroed feet to position. Unfolded, the panel measures 1220mm by 535mm by 20mm. The cable is a little shorter at just under 3m, but it’s less unwieldy than the PowerOak’s since it already has the correct 7.9mm plug on the end so you don’t need an adapter. This does make it a little less flexible though if you want to use it with a device that requires an MC4 connector. It too comes with no waterproof rating, but also looks like it would survive similar exposure to water as the PowerOak.
Inside the zipped pouch that stores the cable, there’s also two USB charging ports, one standard USB-A port which can output 5V 2.4A and a faster charging 5V, 3A Type-C USB port – although it doesn’t support the USB Power Delivery standard. I tested these ports and could get around 15W from the USB-C port and 12W from the USB-A port as spec’d. It’s a handy feature if you wanted to use the solar panel without a power station to charge your smartphone or tablet and is something missing on the PowerOak.
Both panels have eyelets if you want to hang them somewhere.
Although some power stations, like the bigger Jackery Explorer 1000, will charge off multiple solar panels, both Jackery and PowerOak suggest one is sufficient, and it’s a simple affair to plug in the 7.9mm jack into their charging ports.
On a sunny day in August here in the UK, the SP120 was able to supply up to a very impressive 97W charging power – more than the included wall charger, but a little less than spec’d.
In the same conditions, the SolarSaga 100 was able to charge the Jackery at 75W which was a little disappointing. This seems to be a limit on the Jackery itself, because the SP120 also max’ed out at 75W with the Jackery.
I tested the SolarSaga 100 with the PowerOak and got just over 100W – the SolarSaga’s maximum rated output. The output of both units will of course vary with the amount of sunshine, position, time of day and even time of year. But it’s good to see that both units can deliver around 100W in decent conditions.
Both units have a single 12V, 10A or 120W cigarette lighter outlet for plugging in DC devices like car fridges. These outlets are regulated on both units, so the output will remain constant as the power station loses charge.
They both measured around 13.5V with a multimeter.
I tested the output on both units with a 12V air pump and also used the Jackery output to charge the PowerOak.
The Jackery showed 100W as its output – not far off the port’s maximum 120W.
To test the PowerOak closer to its maximum output I used it to charge a Jackery Explorer 1000 which can charge at up to 180W, since we know the Explorer 500 has a 90W limit. It output 80W – which might be a limit on the Jackery’s input rather than a limit on the PowerOak itself.
Both power stations also have the two 12V, 3A or 36W DC outlets. As I mentioned briefly earlier, the PowerOak uses the more standard 5521 or 5.5mm external, 2.1mm internal ports. But these ports aren’t regulated like they are on the Jackery, so as the battery starts draining the voltage will drop off. At full charge, the output measures around 12.3V. This had already dropped to 11V at approximately 60% charge. I can’t find an awful lot of uses for these ports as I mentioned in my review of the Jackery Explorer 240, but at least the PowerOak does mention one use – LED lighting.
There’s no included lead but I made up a lead with some jacks I purchased off Amazon. I plugged this into a 12V, 16W, 5 metre LED strip, which is well within the 36W maximum output and it worked fine, displaying around 13W output power on the display.
It was extremely hard to locate the correct plug for the Jackery but I did eventually find a 6.5mm plug on eBay which I soldered to a short cable and a 5521 plug.
I connected this to the LED strip which worked fine and showed a slightly higher 18W output on the Jackery’s display.
These ports are regulated and measure the same as the car outlet 13.4V, which explains the slightly higher output.
The Jackery has 3 USB ports which don’t support any fast charging standards like Qualcomm Quick Charge. They deliver standard 5V, 2.4A, and all ports can be used simultaneously at their full output. I tested this with two ports connected to USB load testers at 5V, 2.4A and the third port charging an iPad Pro.
Since I rarely use the cigarette lighter port, I permanently leave a relatively cheap USB adapter in this socket which has a USB Type- C 30W USB power delivery port and a 30W Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging USB-A port.
The PowerOak is much more competent in this department with 4 USB ports that support faster 5V, 3A output and Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. And there’s a very useful USB-PD port that supports fast charging at 45W, which could fast charge an iPad Pro and would even charge a laptop like a MacBook Air or the Lenovo Chromebook in the photo above. I got just over 45W of output charging the Explorer 1000 with the USB power delivery adapter.
You can use all the ports simultaneously, but the total output of all the USB-A ports seems to be limited somewhat. The ports are quite close together so it’s difficult to use them all at once to test this precisely.
The main reason you’d buy these power stations is for their AC outlets. As I discussed in my review of the Jackery Explorer 240, you need to be aware of the power requirements of anything you plug in. You can normally read this off the device’s label, but if you want to be sure an energy monitor is a handy gadget to have. It will also have a maximum power measurement, which is important since a lot of these devices – especially if they have motors, will draw a lot more power when they start up. Both devices will shut off if they are overloaded, but it’s still a good idea to understand what you’re plugging in.
Although the PowerOak has similar capacity to the Jackery, it has a less powerful inverter and you are limited to a maximum output of 300W which can peak at 450W for a short period of time. There are two outlets which both deliver a pure sine wave output, which is important for more sensitive electronics. I confirmed this pure sine wave output with a graphical multimeter.
You can see how this compares to the modified sine wave of the RavPower Power House.
The Jackery just has one AC outlet but has a much beefier inverter with a maximum output of 500W, which can peak to a 1000W. This also delivers a pure sine wave output which I again confirmed with a graphical multimeter.
The 300W output of the PowerOak will be fine for most items you’ll typically want to power, such as a laptop or a TV. But you will need to pay more attention to what you plug into the PowerOak.
I tested both units with a range of power tools to really stress them. And making a corded power tool almost cordless is quite appealing, to me at least. You can estimate how long you could run one of these devices or any device, by dividing the displayed output power into 500Wh for the PowerOak and 518Wh for the Jackery. You should multiply this by around 0.8 to take account of conversion losses.
Starting off with a Dremel 4000 rotary tool rated at 175W, both units could happily power this unit drawing around 110W, around 160W under load. And a Bosch 180w multi tool didn’t cause any problems for either unit operating at around 100W.
Only the Jackery could power an old Skil 310W sander which ran at about 290W. I could get the PowerOak to power it, but only if I started at a slower speed and ramped it up. This is a good tip for any tool that overloads one of these portable power stations if they have variable speed. When the PowerOak is overloaded there’s an error code E36 on the display. Turning the AC off and on again cleared the error and I was immediately able to use the unit again.
I then tried a Festool ETS 150/3 310W sander. This has a soft start so I was hoping both units would run it. But again only the Jackery ran it at full speed straight off at around 180W, ramping up to 250W under load. Festool has just launched their own power station – the SYS-PowerStation, that costs almost £3000 – so if you don’t need to run power hungry tools, this is a cheaper alternative! The PowerOak could also power it, again only if I started it at a s lower speed.
And same again for a Skil 550W drill which ran at 230W or around 260W under load with the Jackery, and only with the PowerOak when started off at a slower speed.
A Ryobi 650W SDS drill was too much for both units, even starting off slowly. As was a Bosch 720W grinder, but I’ll test them both with the 1000W Jackery Explorer 1000 when I review it.
When the Jackery overloads, there’s no error code, just a small warning symbol at the bottom right of the display. The AC turns itself off and again you can immediately turn it back on again.
There are so many use cases for these portable power stations, and most will be specific to your needs, but I also found it useful being able to run my Saris Hammer cycling turbo trainer when out and about which both units ran without any difficulties.
They could both run a 3D printer quite happily for at least 5 hours, if you want to move it out the way for a print, and don’t have a power socket nearby.
I loaded both units to their maximum rated power output to check for overheating.
The fans on both units came on and neither unit overheated, which you can see from the Flir thermal imaging camera. The fans on both units are fairly noisy but the PowerOak fan is noisier by around 2 or 3 dB. You can listen to a comparison in the accompanying video.
Finally I tested the rated capacities of both units. I used a constant load – two 100W incandescent light bulbs. I charged the power stations to 100% and then plugged them in via an energy monitor and let them run until the power stations shut off. I’ve tried a few of these energy monitors, and I’d say they are only accurate to around 10% – so I’m more concerned with the relative differences between the two units.
The PowerOak ran for two hours and 28 minutes at around 180W before shutting off. The energy monitor measured a total capacity of 463Wh.
The Jackery displayed around 172W and ran for two hours and 57 minutes, with a measured total capacity of 549Wh.
That’s very impressive results from the Jackery considering it’s only rated at 518Wh and there will be conversion losses. I ran this test twice and got pretty much the same results, so even if the energy monitor isn’t 100% accurate the results are repeatable and the Jackery has almost 20% more capacity than the PowerOak. The result from the AC50S is still decent and pretty much what I’d expect from a battery rated at 500Wh.
The PowerOak is more feature rich with extensive USB charging options, wireless charging built in, 2 AC outlets, a more useful light, and it can charge faster too. But the Jackery has a far more powerful inverter – 500W versus the fairly modest 300W of the PowerOak. Depending on what you’re going to power this may not make any difference to you, but I found 300W a little limiting considering the price of the PowerOak. And I measured the Jackery to have almost 20% more capacity than the PowerOak, which is also significant. And it’s generally quieter than the PowerOak too. But I’d really like Jackery to modernise their USB charging ports with at least one fast USB Type-C USB power delivery port. And a second AC outlet would be nice too,
The theoretical output of the PowerOak SP120 solar panel is higher than Jackery’s SolarSaga 100, but in practice I found they both provided similar output. It’s disappointing that the Jackery Explorer 500 wasn’t capable of charging faster than around 75W in my tests, regardless of the solar panel.
The SolarSaga 100 is a little bigger folded, but overall I found it more convenient to use than the SP120. It’s lighter, easier to carry and very quick to unfold and set up. It only has the 7.9mm plug which isn’t as flexible as the SP120, but when used with both these power stations it’s actually easier to use. And the SolarSaga has the added benefit of the integrated USB charging ports if you want to use it stand alone.
I would have liked both the power stations and solar panels to have at least an IPX4 weatherproof rating, especially the solar panels. And charging these units is still very slow, particularly the Jackery which can’t charge any faster than 85W. The bigger Explorer 1000 can charge at 180W with the same battery technology, so I’d like to start seeing these smaller units charging at a similar rate, halving their charging times.
If you’re only using these power stations occasionally they should last a very long time but Jackery state their units will start deteriorating after 500 cycles and PowerOak quotes 1000 cycles. If Jackery and PowerOak were to move to Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, the batteries should last at least twice as long.
Overall I’d imagine most people would be very happy with either unit.
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Jackery Explorer 500, 500W 518Wh power station: https://amzn.to/3zM86lx
Jackery SolarSaga 100 100W solar panel: https://amzn.to/3Byt5bY
Bluetti / Poweroak AC50S 300W 500Wh power station: https://amzn.to/3kU5GuK
Bluetti / Poweroak SP120 120W solar panel: https://amzn.to/3DFEqZT