EVALUATION

Nitecore NES500 Power Station and FSP100 Solar Panel Review: A Perfectly Portable Power Pair

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Nitecore NES500 & FSP100 Solar Panel

9.50 / 10

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Nitecore's NES500 and FSP100 solar power combination offers the perfect balance of portability and power delivery. All at a fair price.

Key Features

  • 518Wh capacity
  • 1000W surge output
  • Overcharge, over voltage, over discharge, thermal, short-circuit protection
  • Realtime LCD display
Specifications

  • Brand: Nitecore
  • Weight: 12.46
  • Size: 9.33 (h) x10.31(w) x 6.06 (d) inches (237 x 262 x 154 mm)
  • Capacity: 518 Wh
  • Maximum Discharge: 500W / 1000W surge
  • Maximum Charge: 160W Max
  • Solar Controller: No
  • Output: 3 USB-a ports, 1 USB-C PD power port, 1 12V car charger port, 1 110V/220V AC output port
  • Intput: Single DC18 barrel input
  • Maximum Recharge Count: 500 cycles to 80%
Pros

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Rugged, stylish exterior
  • Reinforced handle
  • Rubber contact points
  • Easy operation
  • Great for weekend trips
  • Packable (both solar panel and power station)
  • Solar panel will support USB-C and USB-A devices without power station
Cons

  • Solar panel cable is short
  • Limited power output doesn't support high wattage devices
  • Won't replace larger units
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Nitecore NES500 & FSP100 Solar Panel Other

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Nitecore is a well-respected brand in both the lighting and power station realms. Recently, we reviewed one of the company’s flagship flashlights, the T4K, and found it to be an exceptional EDC unit.

Today, though, we’re digging into Nitecore’s newest power station, the NES500. So named, as it offers 500 watts of AC output and 518 watt-hours of capacity. And, as a bonus, we’ll also be checking out the FSP 100, Nitecore’s newest and first solar panel offering.

So, what makes these items different than other offerings on the market, and should you consider picking up one or both? Let’s find out.

Meet the NES500 and FSP100

For some, the name NES500 might be misinterpreted as the next generation of Nintendo video game consoles. That’s not the case, however. And after several weeks of testing, you can rest assured that the NES500 isn’t here to play games. Instead, it’s a serious power station for campers, backpackers, weekend warriors, off-gridders, and road-trippers.

If those things appeal to you, then you’re who Nitecore built this unit for. Like other power stations in this class, the NES500 lets you bring power to the campsite. With this unit, the days of dead laptops, tablets, iPhones, and small electronics are over.

NES500 on the ground

Where the NES500 differs, however, is in the fact that it’s an exceptionally designed, award-winning unit. Just in the past year, it’s received an iF design award, a Good Design Award, an ISPO Award, a Red Dot design award, and an outstanding outdoor gold award from Outdoor by ISPO.

In addition to the NES500, Nitecore has added a unique foldable solar panel, the FSP100, to its portable power lineup. It’s a first for the company and quite an impressive venture into the solar power space.

NES500 Features

NitecoreRearLogo

The reason Nitecore dubbed this power station the NES500 is because of its 500W AC output. You can use this station to power devices needing up to 500 watts of continuous power. In addition to this output power, the unit also offers a 1000W surge capacity. That means you can even accommodate higher-powered items to some degree.

The battery capacity here is 518Wh or 144000 mAh. That capacity will allow up to 29 charges for your Nintendo Switch, 12 charges for your 38W drone, 34 Charges for your iPhone 12 Pro, five charges for your MacBook Pro, and even 13 charges for your iPad Pro.

It’s a lot of portable power in a package that fits nicely in the corner of your car trunk or your daypack. Of course, part of that portability is due to the small size and weight of the NES unit.

Weight here is 12.46 pounds (5.65 kg), and the NES500 measures 9.33 inches tall, 10.31 inches across the face, and 6.06 inches on the sides (237 x 262 x 154 mm). So, while it’s not exactly pocket-sized, the NES500 is a minuscule unit for the power output. As for ports, there’s a USB-C PD power port at 60W, a 220V/110V pure sine wave AC output port (voltage depends on the regional variation you get), three USB-A ports, and a 12V car charger output port.

FSP100 Panel Folded Against Rock

On the input side of things, you have a single DC18 barrel connector that can be hooked up to the included charger. For optimum charging, though, it’s best to use a solar panel like the FSP100. Using the FSP 100 will cut charging time from 10.5 hours to 5.5 hours, which is excellent news for impatient outdoor enthusiasts.

Inside the NES500, there’s a cooling-optimized modular battery pack with a battery management system to prevent overcharging, and all cells are UL certified. The external casing of the device is hard fireproof ABS plastic. There are also rubber additions in the handle and on the “feet” of the unit for added comfort and protection. Finally, the display on this unit is a monochrome LCD that shows input and output wattage, charge time, and battery percentage remaining.

The suggested retail price on the NES500 is around $499, which is consistent with other power stations across the board. Usually, you can expect to pay about $1 per output watt for the best power stations.

FSP100 Monocrystalline Solar Panel Features

FSP100 panel logo and TPU

Aside from being the first solar panel in Nitecore’s lineup, the FSP100 is super foldable and packable. It’s clear that Nitecore designed this unit with portability and a broad feature set in mind.

First, it offers 100W fast charging and multiple output ports. Additionally, the panel weighs an ultralight 4.6 pounds and boasts high-density waterproof fabric construction. The panel also comes with eight hook-and-loop fasteners so you can attach it to various surfaces.

As for ports, it has the standard DC 18-barrel connector plus a 45W PD USB-C and two 15W USB-A ports for plugging in devices directly. These three ports can be used simultaneously. The panel also has smart voltage stabilizing technology which regulates the output voltage, so you get safe charging.

The FSP100 runs $349 on Nitecore’s website, which brings the total for both devices to around $849.

What’s in the Box

Inside the box of the NES500, you are going to get:

  • The NES500 portable outdoor power station
  • An AC charger
  • A 12V DC car charger
  • The owner’s manual

And for the FSP100, you’ll get:

  • The FSP100 foldable solar panel
  • 8 hook and loop straps
  • Instruction manual
  • Build Quality and Design

NES500 Design and Build Quality

Right Side Vent plus ribs

One of the most extraordinary things about this little power station is its ABS fireproof shell. Not only do you get the fireproof aspects, but you get a shell that is tough and rugged, and it’s going to keep the battery pack from corroding or breaking down due to temperature. Obviously, you don’t want to leave this in a baking hot car, but it will handle somewhat higher temperatures.

On the front of the unit, you’ve got four yellow buttons, one of which is the power button. The other three operate the power outputs. Press the button, and an LED illuminates to indicate the device is now supplying power. You’ve also got not one but two cooling fans—one on each side—to help dissipate heat.

Nitecore Handle Logo

Then you’ve got the easy-carry handle that has been constructed from carbon steel and wrapped in velvety soft rubber, so you don’t hurt your hands when you’re lugging it around. Finally, there’s the backlit, real-time LCD that can easily be seen in the day and nighttime environments.

From a design standpoint, the NES500 is cool-looking. From a build quality standpoint, the device also seems sturdy, with no rattles or jingles to speak of. The all-black shell also gives it that “John Wick” sort of aesthetic.

FSP100 Design and Build Quality

FSP100Logo Detail

As for the FSP100, the primary material used here is TPU, which gives the panel a durable construction. While not as flexible as some other materials, TPU does fine for this application.

The panel is also about the same size as a standard automotive windshield, making it easy to place when car camping.

When folded, the panel measures a packable 11.9 inches by 13.4 inches and has a carrying handle built-in for easy transport. There’s also a pocket on the side of the panel that houses the USB connections, the cable, and the hook-and-loop straps.

Unlike most big, bulky panels, the FSP100 is the perfect size for tossing in your camping backpack. It also feels as though it will stand up to years of use.

Surge and Stress Testing the NES500

Port Detail

I used my standard 1800W hairdryer to test this unit, which always gives my power stations a decent workout. I also attached the device to one of my e-bikes to see how it would hold up to something that drew a bit less power. Finally, I tested the NES500 using my 1000W tea kettle to see how that might stress the unit.

The hairdryer didn’t last long, which was expected due to the high wattage, but the NES500 surged a few times before shutting down completely. The tea kettle was a similar story but didn’t shut off, and I could boil water. The output wattage for the kettle ramped up to the 800W range and then lowered slightly before holding around the 700W output range. Additionally, both internal fans turned on immediately, and the unit’s temperature increased below the handle.

The charge level, which started at 34%, also dropped several percent in a matter of minutes. Based on this performance, I don’t know that I would recommend using it to power higher-wattage devices.

Left side fan

For the E-bike, the draw was around 136W, which stayed steady during a few hours of charging. It looks like smaller electronics with lower wattage demands are what Nitecore had in mind when designing this power station.

I also hooked up two iPads, an iPhone Xs, an Apple MacBook Air 2015, a Viltrox LED light, and an Apple Magic Trackpad to max out the ports. However, even with all these devices attached, the unit only pushed around 90 watts. That means for powering smaller electronics on the go, you really can’t go wrong with the NES500’s combination of portability and power output.

FSP100 Testing

Nitecore FSP logo detail

Despite not getting the maximum wattage from the FSP100, I achieved between 60 and 70W in full sunlight. It’s well-known that monocrystalline panels won’t reach 100 percent of the claimed power output—that means you won’t get 100W of solar energy even with the sun high overhead. But 60 to 70W is still quite a bit of power for a unit this compact and lightweight.

Overall, the FSP100 performance was acceptable, and the lightweight makes it more portable than other solar panels in this class. The ports also allow you to charge devices directly, which is helpful if you’re looking to minimize the load in your pack.

Warranty and Repairability

There are a few segments to this warranty, including a 15-day exchange through an authorized Nitecore dealer, a 12-month free repair period, a 6-month warranty extension, and a limited warranty covering labor and maintenance.

You also don’t want to try and repair this power station yourself. For that, I’d recommend you ship it back to Nitecore. Neither the unit nor the solar panel is designed to be taken apart and doing so can void the warranty.

Why We Recommend the NES500 and FSP100

FSP100 Focus Both Together

To me, this unit is the perfect balance of portable power and weight. While there are bulkier units for extended car and camper van use, 500W output and 500Wh storage is sufficient for weekend camping trips, small electronics, and light emergency use. At only 12 pounds, the NES500 is daypack friendly. But it also provides enough juice to charge your phones, computers, and tablets several times before needing a recharge.

Couple that portability with the lightweight FSP100 solar panel, and you have a winning combo to fit the needs of a small group. While this pair will not power higher wattage items, it will come in handy for keeping the essentials charged. It might even power things like a CPAP for a few hours.

The NES500 is also a good-looking unit. If Batman had a portable power station hidden in the Batmobile, this would be the one he’d choose. While looks always come secondary to performance, it is nice to see a unit that would be at home in the back of your camper or as backup power on the rack of your favorite e-bike.

Finally, there’s Nitecore’s reputation. This brand is well-known, and its products are consistently produced with high quality in mind. That alone should steer you toward the NES500 as opposed to generic brands in the same price range.

Why You Might Want to Consider Other Options

Panel and Station on rock

The only downside that I have found in my experience with the NES500 is the output limitations. If you want a power station to serve as a portable generator in a natural disaster, or you want something to power all the electronics in your modded camper van, then you’ll be disappointed with this unit alone.

The NES500 also has a limited number of ports, so large families might need something more substantial. Additionally, high-wattage devices won’t work with this unit. That means don’t expect to power fridges, microwaves, or AC units. It just doesn’t have the ability. There’s also no onboard MPPT controller according to the specs and no Anderson Powerpole inputs or outputs.

As for the FSP100 solar panel, there isn’t much to condemn, save for the DC18 cable being a touch short. However, Nitecore sent an extension with the demo unit, so that seems to be something the company is aware of.

Should You Buy the NES500 and FSP100

Size, output wattage, surge capacity, weight, and durability all make this power station a winner from my perspective. Compared to other power stations in the same category, this Nitecore power station brings both a stellar reputation and outstanding performance to the table.

The NES500 unit can power small electronics with ease, and when combined with the FSP100, becomes an excellent way to charge your favorite handheld device. It’s a remarkable unit and one you can buy with confidence.

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