The Powerness SolarX S120 is an ideal travel companion: easy to carry and convenient design. The built-in USB-C output and additional USB port are great for charging your smart devices without using a heavy backup battery, or it can do all three at once.
It is on the pricey side though, so consider if you truly need that portability before purchasing.
- Built-in cabling for all kinds of batteries, plus USB-C
- Simulatenous charging of smartphone plus battery, and another USB port
- Convenient design with rigid carry handle
- Good efficiency (measured as around 90W in full sun)
- USB-C cable and USB-A port are limited to 5V, not PD
The Powerness SolarX is a convenient take on the portable solar panel design, allowing you to charge both a battery, smartphone, and other device simulatenously with its multiple outputs. The 120W rated output is a cut above the competition with up to 23% panel efficiency, and it even has an LCD display to show current outputs.
If you’re in the market for a portable solar panel, we think there are some compelling reasons why it should be this one.
Design and Specifications
The Powerness SolarX S120 model (also available in 40W, 80W, and 200W models), is a folding, 120W portable panel, featuring a rigid handle and a built-in pocket to keep the cables and ports safe. It’s IP65 waterproof, which means a splash of water is fine, but not complete submersion or continued rain. That said, I’ve left it out in light showers with no problems so far, so you needn’t be too precious. You should be more worried about the devices you have it plugged into.
When folded for carrying, it measures 555 × 410 x 32 mm and weighs 10.14 lbs (4.6kg). When the four sections are unfolded, it extends to 1940 × 410 × 8 mm. On the back of each section is a fold-out leg, secured with velcro. You should use these to angle the panels as directly to the sun as possible for the best performance. If the sun is directly above, it’s fine to lay it on the floor.
Hidden inside the securely zipped pocket, you’ll find lots of good stuff. For a start, there are two built-in cables.
The first is a DC cable for directly charging a backup battery or other DC device. It’s a 3-in-1 cable with 4,6, and 8mm (7909) DC plugs. This outputs with an open circuit voltage (VOC) of 21.6V. In my experience, this will be compatible with any battery, as they nearly all operate on either 12-60V, or 12-120V.
If your battery isn’t compatible with that plug type—MC4 is more commonly found on solar panels—you’ll find readily available female DC8mm to MC4 adaptors, though one is not included in this set.
Secondly, there’s a built-in USB-C cable. This lets you charge your smart devices even if you’ve forgotten your charging cable, so it’s a really convenient option.
In addition to this, there’s a full-size USB port for yet more devices. Both the USB port and USB-C cable are limited to 5V/2.4A (12W) though, so you can’t use Power Delivery for things like a laptop, but it should still charge smaller devices.
That should cover every charging opportunity you need—all from a single solar panel.
Uniquely, there’s also a small LCD screen that shows the current output going to each cable and socket. It’s an interesting feature that I’ve not seen on other panels, but it’s of debatable utility. Presumably, the devices you plug in will tell you if they’re charging or not, so I’m not sure what you can do with this information on the screen other than simply confirm the charge rate (which is admittedly quite useful for this tech reviewer during testing). It’s quite awkward to read though, given that the panel needs to remain angled back and facing the sun, so reading it requires kneeling down and bending your neck.
My only concern with any kind of built-in cabling on a portable panel is that of durability. They tend to get pulled around a fair bit—perhaps you forget to take it out of the battery when you fold it up, or a gust of wind blows the panel down. Once the cabling has been stretched too far or pulled out, the panel is useless. That hasn’t happened to me and they seem sturdy enough, but it’s a reason to be cautious. While the USB-C cable is appreciated, I’d be inclined to mostly use the USB port and my own cabling, purely because that’s easily replaceable.
To compare the performance of the Powerness SolarX S120 panel, I tested side-by-side against a Jackery Solarsaga 100 panel in the same conditions—a warm autumn day, with full, midday sun.
The Powerness was producing 80W into a battery (confirmed as 18.3V @4.5A according to the built-in display, and 80W on the battery input display), and around 8.5W to a smartphone. Since we’re comparing a 120W panel to a 100W one, in the interest of fairness we should normalize this value. 90W output from a 120W rated panel could otherwise be called 75% efficient.
The 100W-rated Jackery SolarSaga meanwhile produced only around 40W in the exact same conditions, so a 40% performance. I’d forgive a 10-20% difference because it’s an older panel and could do with a wipe, but otherwise, it’s fair to say the Powerness performed much better.
In truth, I’ve rarely been able to get more than half of the rated output from a portable panel, so I’ve certainly been impressed by what the Powerness SolarX 120 can produce.
Price Per Watt, and the Portable Premium
While convenience and performance are the most important factor when picking a portable solar panel, it’s worth talking about value as well, because the Powerness SolarX does sit at the premium end.
You can currently buy the SolarX S120 on Amazon for $250 (that includes an on-page $30 coupon, bringing down the $280 base price). That works out at just over $2 per Watt of power. That compares favorably to the Jackery SolarSaga 100X at $280, or $2.80 per Watt. However, you’ll also find no-name competition from the likes of Twelseavan 120W panel for less than $200 (again, there’s an on-page “coupon”).
As ever though, you should consider if you really need a portable panel, because there’s a massive premium to pay for portability. If you buy a static panel, prices are closer to less than $1 per Watt. If you’re looking for something to use both at home and a remote cabin, it would be cheaper to buy two bulkier 100W panels and put one at each location. Static panels are also more durable, as they don’t get folded in half each time they’re used. Constant folding action eventually wears down the wires inside that connect each section.
The Best Portable Solar Panel Yet?
Around 100W tends to be the goldilocks size of portable panel, in terms of convenience and function. You can certainly find higher-rated panels—typically up to 400W—but they’re naturally bulkier and harder to carry, as well as more awkward to unfold and set up. In my experience, they can also get caught out by a gust of wind easier.
The Powerness SolarX S120, therefore, is an ideal efficiency-to-weight ratio for portability. The built-in USB-C output and additional USB port are great for charging your smart devices without using a heavy backup battery.
Ultimately, if you could only carry one or the other, a small battery backup is going to serve you better on a short hike or camping trip, as it won’t rely on the sun shining. But for longer-term use, if you can’t take a battery, or yours has broken, in an emergency, the SolarX will at least mean you still have a way to recharge whatever device you may have.
If I could only take one portable solar panel into the apocalypse, it would be the Powerness SolarX S120.