Portable Solar Briefcase Review – ACOPower PLK 100w

Portable Solar Briefcase Review - Featured Image

My portable solar briefcase review highlights the ACOPower PLK 100w with built-in controller. Weighing up its pros and cons. Looking at what other briefcases there are in the range. And comparing it with the Newpowa and Renogy 100w portable solar panels.

Product: ACOPower PLK 100 Watt Solar Briefcase With Solar Controller
Price: $315.99
Dimensions Folded: 24.21 x 20.27 x 1.97inch/615 x 515 x 50mm
Weight: 14lbs/6.53kg
Warranty:
25 year 85% power output
18 month workmanship
Accessories: 12 month material 

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The ACOPower 100w Portable Briefcase Solar Panel
The Built-In Solar 20A Charge Controller
ACOPower V Newpowa V Renogy 100w Head To Head
Pros And Cons
Other Portable Solar Panel Products In The Range

The ACOPower PLK 100w Portable Solar Briefcase With Solar Controller Review

A bit about ACOPower

Aco Power was established in 2011 and is based in Los Angeles. They produce solar panels, generators, controllers, inverters, batteries and accessories. They invented the world’s first portable battery powered fridge/freezer.

Portable solar panels have an advantage over panels permanently mounted on a roof

I know what you are thinking. Why would I use a portable solar panel. Instead of mounting panels to my recreational vehicle, boat or outbuilding roof? The answer is free standing portables are more flexible and convenient in their use. “How so?” I hear you say;

  • Roof mounted solar panels can only be used to charge batteries housed in your vehicle.
    Portable solar panels can be used to charge many kinds of batteries. Such as a portable power station as well as leisure and starter batteries.
  • If your vehicle becomes shaded you will have to move it to carry on collecting sunlight. This can be really inconvenient if you have found the perfect spot. A portable can just be picked up and moved back into the sunlight. Leaving your peace and tranquility undisturbed
Solar Briefcase - Motorhome
  • Mounted panels collect the best sunlight for 4 hours per day on average. This is because the sun needs to be directly above the panels for maximum exposure. But portables can be pointed directly at the sun all day. This means your batteries will charge faster especially if they are seriously depleted.
  • Installed panels need constant maintenance like cleaning and wiring checks. Whereas portables need only a 6 month checkup. So much less hassle than getting up there with the sponge.
  • The cost of mounting panels can run into many thousands of dollars. Not to mention the time it takes to install them. Are you any good at DIY? Plus it might mean drilling holes in your very expensive vehicle. Portables are relatively inexpensive compared to an installation. Leaving your wallet heavier and a smaller hole in your bank account. 

How Does The ACOPower PLK 100w Portable Solar Panel Briefcase Work?

This video isn’t about the PLK 100w. It features the 100w 12V Portable Solar Panel being expanded to a 200w. It is very similar to the PLK but is heavier with different legs
What is the ACOPower 100w solar briefcase?

The portable solar panel is actually two 50w panels joined together. They are wired in parallel, this gives the panel its 100w power rating. They are held together with metal hinges and latches that fold like a past table.The PLK designation signifies it is a lightweight panel. 

The monocrystalline solar cells are encased in a metal frame with corner protectors. With an attached handle, 2 built-in fold out metal stands and 20A solar controller. The whole unit has an exterior protective case that makes it look like a briefcase. 

SpecsACOPower PLK 100w Briefcase
Solar CellMonocrystalline 
Module Type2 X 50w
Wattage100w
EfficiencyHighly Efficient
Solar Charge Controller20A
Dimensions24.21 x 20.27 x 1.97inch/615 x 515 x 50mm
Weight14lbs/6.53kg
Operating Voltage19.8V
Operating Current 5.05A
Open Circuit Voltage22.4V
Short Circuit Current5.35A
Durable

The 100w solar panel is encased in metal, with metal hinges and latches. This makes it highly durable. The portable panel can withstand most weather conditions barring hurricanes and tornadoes. The corner protectors will help with small knocks and bumps. Dropping it from height or standing and jumping on it may damage the solar cells. Damaging the solar cells will ultimately reduce its performance.

All other normal weather conditions will have little effect because the solar panel itself is waterproof. But the electrical connections may not be. For example where the electrical wires meet the controller to attach to your battery. This means you need to be careful around liquids. But this shouldn’t cause any problems under normal working conditions. It may be worth buying separate rubber masks to cover the wire terminals. If you want to be super cautious about it. 

Portable Solar Briefcase Review - ACOPower PLK 100w

Remember the casing, hinges and latches are made of metal and can be prone to rust. If it isn’t in its protective case. never leave the briefcase outside for prolonged periods of time.

The briefcase comes with a protective soft bag to keep it in. With a 25 year 85% efficiency warranty. You will be enjoying the 100w portable solar panel for many years to come.

Efficient
Monocrystalline cells

Solar panels are made from Photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells react to sunlight and convert its energy into usable Direct Current (DC) electricity. The cells are encased in a metal or plastic frame to form the solar panel.  There are generally three accepted types of solar panels:

  • Monocrystalline
    Are single (mono) solar cells manufactured from the purest silicon. The solar panels are recognizable by their dark colour
  • Polycrystalline
    Are manufactured from multiple crystalline solar cells. The solar panels are recognizable by their blue speckled colour
  • Thin-Film
    Made by covering a material with one or more thin layers of PV cells. Thin-Film solar panels are recognizable for their extremely thin and lightweight characteristics.

The portable briefcases solar cells are monocrystalline. So its efficiency is of the highest rating. And the higher the efficiency rating the better it will convert sunlight into electricity. Currently the solar industry standard is 17% to 19%. 

Portable ACOPower PLK 100w - Solar Cells

But as a guide most portable monocrystalline solar panels have a rating between 20% to 23%. ACOPower has not released the 100w solar suitcases official efficiency rating. So erring on the side of caution I have given it a rating of 20% to 23% (approx). In line with most other portable monocrystalline solar panels. Making the solar briefcase highly efficient.

Portable

The 100w solar briefcase is highly portable and the carry handle makes it easy to move around. You should be able to find a place for it to live. Because it’s dimensions are 24.21 x 20.27 x 1.97inch/615 x 515 x 50mm . It will fit easily into a smaller campervan, motorhome or trailer/caravan for transportation.

Portable Solar Briefcase Review -Portable

When you arrive at your destination, all you have to do is point it at the sun. Pull the support legs down so the solar briefcase is standing up on an angle. And not lying flat on the ground. Hook the solar panel to your battery bank with crocodile clips. And all that free power from the sun is yours to enjoy.

Weight

I mentioned earlier that the PLK designation signifies it is a lightweight panel. To illustrate this there is another 100w briefcase available and we can compare them.

PLK 100w Briefcase100w 12V Portable Solar Panel
Solar CellMonocrystallineMonocrystalline
Solar Controller20A20A
Dimensions24.21 x 20.27 x 1.97inch/615 x 515 x 50mm27.17 x 19.88 x 2.36inch/690 x 505 x 59mm
Legs2 x Built-In Fold Out Metal Stands2 x Built-In Legs With Adjustable Guide Rail
Weight14lbs/6.53kg33lbs/15kg

The PLK 100w is a much lighter portable solar panel. This is because the PLK is made of metal and fiberglass. And the leg supports are much lighter too. This is what makes the PLK 100w significantly lighter than a glass fronted panel.

Expansion

The system can be expanded to 200 watts by adding the 100w expansion solar briefcase. This is a unit that is supplied without a solar charge controller. And is added to the system via MC4 connectors. But a 1 x 100w panel is the maximum expansion. This means you are unable to create a solar panel bank with 3 or more panels. As a portable solution would you really want to extend beyond this anyway?

Buy From ACOPower

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What Is The Built-In Solar Charge Controller

Portable ACOPower PLK 100w - Charge Controller
Proteusx 20A Charge Controller

The 100w portable solar panel  comes complete with a waterproof PWM 20A solar controller.

In case you didn’t know

Pulse-width modulation (PWM), or pulse-duration modulation (PDM). Is a method of reducing the average power delivered by an electrical signal. It effectively chops it up into discrete parts. And is one of the primary methods of reducing the output of solar panels. So that it can be utilized by a battery. (Source: Wikipedia)

What Are The ACOPower Proteusx 20A Solar Charge Controller Specs?
Charge Current20A
Nominal Voltage12V/24V DC
Maximum Input Voltage50V
Dimensions5.59 x 3,7 x 1.06inch
Weight1.1lbs
Unit RatingIP65
Warranty 12 months
What batteries will the Proteusx Controller charge?
Portable ACOPower PLK 100w - Batteries

It will charge 8 types of batteries via the Anderson connector:

  • Lithium-Ion
  • LiFePO4
  • LTO
  • Gel
  • AGM
  • Flooded
  • Crystal
  • Calcium
Charging portable solar power stations

Portable solar power stations like the ACOPower 400wh can be charged via the MC4 connector. It will charge most power station makes and models, as long as you have the right adaptor.

Display

The display is a blue backlit LCD display and is easy to use. The screen shows which battery type you have selected to connect. This is done through a push button clearly marked battery type. Cycling through them is pretty straight forward. It also shows the amount of volts charging the battery. 

Portable ACOPower PLK 100w - Display

The LED icons on the front of the unit light up when a solar panel is attached. Red when a panel is attached and blue for incremental states of charge.

Not MPPT Enabled

Although the Proteusx PWM 20v controller will do a great job. It may well be worth considering swapping it out for an MPPT controller. If you are any good at DIY that is. This is because it will make the solar briefcase more efficient. This means it will charge your leisure batteries faster and more efficiently.

In case, you didn’t know;

Maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Optimizes the DC match between the solar panel and the charging 12V battery. This means the MPPT keeps the power transfer between solar panel and battery, at its highest efficiency.

Buy From ACOPower

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What other Portable Solar Panels Are There In The Range?

Portable Solar Briefcase - Range
SpecsACOPower PLK 120w BriefcaseACOPower 60w Briefcase
Solar CellMonocrystalline Monocrystalline 
Module Type2 X 60w2 X 30w
Wattage120w60w
EfficiencyHigh EfficiencyHigh Efficiency
Solar Charge Controller20A10A
Dimensions24.2 x 20.3 x1.97 inch / 615×515×50mm13.8 x 25.6 x 2.9 inch/351 x 650 x 74mm
Weight13.9 lbs/6.3kg21.2 lbs
Operating Voltage19.8V17.8V
Operating Current 6.06A3.38
Open Circuit Voltage23.4V22.3V
Short Circuit Current6.423.64
Price$379.99$169.99

As I mentioned earlier there is also a heavier 100w solar briefcase. And an expansion solar briefcase without controller creating a 200w system available.

See the ACOPower solar briefcase range

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ACOPower Versus Newpowa Versus Renogy 100w Head To Head

Portable Solar Briefcase - Comparison
SpecsACOPower PLK 100w BriefcaseNewpowa 100w Portable Solar Panel Renogy 100w Solar Suitcase
Solar CellMonocrystalline MonocrystallineMonocrystalline
Module Type2 X 50w2 x 50w2 x 50w
Wattage100w100w100w
EfficiencyHighly efficientHighly efficientHighly efficient
Solar Charge Controller20A10A20A
Dimensions24.21 x 20.27 x 1.97inch/615 x 515 x 50mm25.59  x 19.88  x 1.18inch/650 x 505 x 30mm19.9 x 27.2 x 2.8 inches/505 x 691 x 71mm
Weight14lbs/6.53kg19.64lbs/8.91Kg26.6 lbs/12kg
Warranty25 year 85% power output efficiency
18 month workmanshipAccessories: 12 month material
25 year 80% power output efficiency2 year workmanship.25 year 80% power output efficiency5 year-95% efficiency rate.
10 year 90% efficiency rate.
3 year material and workmanshipAccessories: 12 month material
Price$315.99$309.00$259.99
Performance

None of the manufacturers have published the official efficiency rating of their panels. This suggests to me that the portable solar panels do not have an advantage over each other. When it comes to efficiency and performance. They are all monocrystalline which are the highest rated solar cells currently available. 

Solar charge controller 

The ACOPower and Renogy portable solar panels have a higher rated built-in charge controller. This is so that more than one 100w portable solar panel can be used in an array. This means using more than 1 x panel will speed up charging. 

Portable Solar Briefcase - Amps

If you don’t know what that means;

The number of amps of a solar charge controller. Signifies the number of watts that can be inputted into it from solar panels. This is calculated by multiplying the number of volts (e.g. a 12v leisure battery). By the number of amps (e.g. the solar charge controller) therefore; 

10A Solar Controller20A Solar Controller
12v system12V battery x 10A controller = 120w solar input12V battery x 20A controller = 240w solar input
24v system24V battery x 10A controller = 240w solar input24V battery x 20A controller = 480w solar input

I am not sure if a wattage increase would be important to you. Because everybody’s situation is different. But adding more solar panels kind of defeats the object of a 100w panel. Given that more panels are going to take up more space. And the hassle of setting up 2 panels. When it would be easier to buy a 200w portable solar panel. Like the Newpowa 200w Sunwanderer or Renogy 200w Solar Suitcase.

Size

In terms of size and thickness the Renogy seems to be a larger panel than the other two. This might be a consideration for you if transportation space is limited. Those extra inches might be the deal breaker.

Weight

If weight is a problem for you then the ACOPower 100w is going to be the best choice. The Renogy is nearly twice as heavy and the Newpowa sits in the middle.

Warranty

All three have a decent warranty. But for extra peace of mind, Renogy takes the biscuit. Although ACOPower is offering a 25 year 85% output warranty. Compared to the other two’s 80%. That certainly gives you something to think about.

Price
Portable Solar Briefcase - Price

The ACOPower is the most expensive and the Renogy the least expensive. The $55.00 is justified in my opinion due to the weight and size difference. Because after all if you have a smaller camper or trailer/caravan. You will want the portable solar panel to be as small and lightweight as possible. 

The pricing ultimately makes little difference anyway. Because you will soon recoup it on fuel savings.

Buy The ACOPower
Buy The Newpowa
Buy The Renogy

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What’s Good About The ACOPower 100w Portable Solar Panel 

Lightweight

The big score with the PLK 100w briefcase is its weight. Although I will say that there are different weight values attributed to it on different websites. Between 11lbs/5Kg and 14lbs/6.53kg. I think this is because some give the weight without the controller and some with. So I went with 14lbs/6.53Kg. For such a top quality 100w mono portable solar panel it is very good. I doubt you will be left struggling for breath after carrying the panel around. 

20A Solar Charge Controller

Tha 20A controller is dead easy to use. Ok the icons may be a bit hard to remember. But the overall reviews for it are really positive. I could only find one bad review. And I think that was down to a faulty unit. Plus if you really want to. It will allow you to add a 100w expansion portable solar panel.

Battery Types

The PLK 100w can charge 8 different battery types including lithium and LiFeP04. The best part about this is that you will have few worries if it will charge your battery. After you have opened the box to start charging your leisure or vehicle batteries. 

Portable ACOPower PLK 100w - Types

What’s Not So Good About The ACOPower 100w Portable Solar Panel 

Legs

Rather than use a leg each side with a rail for adjustability. ACOPower has opted for 2 x built-in u-shaped swing legs. They do not look as sturdy as heavy duty legs. And have a limited angle adjustment. But they are able to adequately do the job of standing the panel up. And are really a compromise to help reduce the panel’s weight. 

Terminal Wires

The portable solar panel is billed as waterproof along with the controller. They both are. So no worries there. But as discussed earlier in the post. The terminal wires at the controller are a little exposed to the elements. So be careful around liquids and rain.

LED Icons

The solar controller has an array of icons. But it can be difficult to remember them all. So don’t lose the manual !! And the display itself can be difficult to see from an angle. Try to look at the display head on especially in the sun.

What’s in the box
Portable ACOPower PLK 100w - Box
  • 1 x 100W Portable Solar Panel
  • 1 x 20A Charge Controller
  • 2 x User Manual

Buy From ACOPower

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Solar Power Has Some Limitations

Solar power is fantastic, because it provides an environmentally friendly energy source. Let’s be honest. Without solar panels the world would be relying on smelly, noisy gasoline generators. You just need to be aware of a few things.

Dark clouds

When it is overcast, the PV cells will receive less light. Reducing the rate of charge, meaning it will take longer to charge your batteries. This isn’t a major problem. Until full sunlight returns, limit the number of devices you are planning to power or charge .

Shade will stop charging altogether. Keep an eye out for this now and again and move your ACOPower 100w solar briefcase back into the sunlight if necessary. This is important if you are near an overhang or obstruction such as in and around a forest. You will need to check for shade more often. 

Is The ACOPower PLK 100 Watt Solar Briefcase With Solar Controller Any Good?

If you are looking for a lightweight compact portable solar panel. You could do much worse than the ACOPower PLK 100 Watt Solar Briefcase With Solar Controller. I know some of you will think it a bit on the expensive side compared to similar panels. But they cannot match it’s weight and size to achieve the same quality and output.

Just before I leave you. If you have read any of my other product reviews I try to be balanced in my opinions. And say the facts about the products as I find them. And I never gush about one company over another. But looking around at customer reviews about ACOPowers products. I have to say the overwhelming majority of customers. Say that the products are of the highest quality. Just something for you to think about.

Buy From ACOPower

I hope you enjoyed this review and have found it helpful. If you have any questions about the ACOPower PLK 100 Watt Solar Briefcase With Solar Controller. Or want to leave your own personal review, please feel free to leave a comment below.

ACOPower PLK 100 Watt Solar Briefcase With Solar Controller

$315.99
9.2

Is It Worth Buying

9.5/10

Value For Money

9.0/10

Overall Quality

9.4/10

Support

9.0/10

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • 20A Solar Charge Controller
  • Battery Types

Cons

  • Legs
  • Terminal Wires
  • LED Icons
Spread The Solar Love

7 Comments on “Portable Solar Briefcase Review – ACOPower PLK 100w”

  1. I think it is amazing that we can now get portable solar briefcases. So it is great to find this review on the ACO power PLK100 watt solar briefcase. Could it actually be mounted on the roof of a recreational vehicle? And can the panels then be charged while one is driving? Or is that not advisable?

    1. Hi Lin

      Yes it can be mounted on a vehicle. But because it is a foldable briefcase not while it is moving. It can be mounted when you reach your destination.

      A better solar panel for permanent mounting to a vehicle would be a flexible panel like the ACOPower 110 Watt.

      You would then be able to charge your batteries while driving.

      If you have any further questions feel free to ask me

      Regards

      Steve

  2. I was a bit worried about the legs. Yes, they are limited concerning the angles they enable the solar panel to be in. But most importantly they don’t look sturdy enough. I appreciate that this type of legs was put into the solar panel to favor lighter weight. However, do you feel a women could carry this solar panel? I am wondering if I could carry it?

    1. Hi Ann. 

      The decrease in weight is a big advantage. This means it is much easier to move around. So yes you would be fine with it. 

      The legs are sturdy enough for normal use. I was trying to point out that they are not as sturdy as other portable solar panels legs. Normally associated with this kind of monocrystalline portable solar panel. 

      And the reduction in angle adjustment won’t make that much of a difference. Because it is known that standing a portable solar panel up makes it more efficient. This is for 2 reasons

      1. If it were lying flat on the ground it would capture the best sunlight. Only when the sun was directly overhead. Were as stood it it can be pointed directly at the sun. This means you can capture the best available sunlight all day.

      2. It creates an airflow behind the solar panel keeping it cooler. This is advantageous on a baking hot day. Because all solar panels lose efficiency if they overheat.

      If you have anymore questions. Please do not hesitate to ask

      Regards

      Steve

  3. The need for alternative source of energy cannot be overemphasized especially for those of us from developing countries where power supply is epileptic. I very much agree with you on the advantages of the portable solar briefcase. They are easily movable and can be used to charge any battery at any location. Top of its is its encaesment in metal guaranting its durability

  4. I’ve been looking at portable solar panels for an upcoming camping trip and really like the. look of the ACOPower PLK 100w. Your article is very thorough and I appreciate the comparison tables. I’m not very technical though and was wondering whether this could generate enough power to run a Macbook Air that had run out of juice? 

    1. Hi Matt. A good question. This type of portable solar panel is meant for charging leisure batteries. Housed in an RV or boat.
      To charge a MacBook effectively you would be looking for a solar panel power station combo. Take a look at this one  Allpowers 100w Suitcase it has a power station on the same page. 

      If you need further help. Drop me a line here

      Regards

      Steve

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