The BLUETTI AC200 Max marks a turning point in the electric generator market. The huge 2048Wh of power lets you set up a fully functional studio out in the field. With plenty of power with you, you can leave behind the need to rush through the day to get back to the studio to edit and upload content as you’ll now have the studio with you.
Computers, drives and even monitor speakers can be attached to a true workstation and created to check and edit photos and video on-site. Batteries can, of course, be charged, and many other devices can get a top-up; phones even get the wireless charge treatment by being placed on top.
There are, of course, limitations; a home kettle is just too power-hungry, as is an iron, so fashion shoots may need the larger AC500 model, and in winter, a power-hungry Dyson Cool + Hot will also trigger the alarms; however, for a good standard selection of photographic kit, the AC200 Max provides more than ample power.
2,048Wh of portable power
AC and DC output
Fabs can be noisy
Not suitable for power draw over 2,200w
What is BLUETTI AC200 Max?
The BLUETTI AC200 Max is a portable power station with 2048Wh of power that can be delivered in either AC (Mains) or DC (USB and other). This means you can power almost all your photographic and video equipment away from the studio.
In this test, we coupled the BLUETTI AC200 Max with the PV350 solar panel to enable a top-up charge of the panels while working on-site.
The BLUETTI AC200 Max shouldn’t be confused with a simple power pack on a large scale; it’s far more advanced.
Inside are the batteries that store the power. What makes the AC200 Max more than a simple battery pack is that the battery storage is connected and managed by an inverter which converts the stored power into AC or DC. This means that USB devices can be plugged in and powered directly as you’d hope but so can many standard household appliances.
There are some limitations with the AC200 Max offering a maximum power draw of 2000Wh with a 4,800Wh surge protection, either from single or multiple devices.
Ultimately the AC200 Max is a valuable asset to any photographer or videographer working on-site and enables the set-up of a fully-fledged studio away from the comfort of home.
AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter : 2,200W (4,800W Surge)
Battery technology: LiFePO4 Battery with 3,500+ Life Cycles to 80%
Expandable Up To : 6,144Wh with 2×B230, or 8,192Wh with 2×B300
Ways to Recharge: AC/Solar/Car/Generator/Lead Battery/Dual AC/AC+Solar
Solar Input: 900W Max
Fast Dual Charging (Solar + AC Adapter): 1300W Max
BLUETTI App: Smart Control & Monitor
Build and Handling
I’ve now looked at a good range of power stations, and BLUETTI has consistently come out on top regarding build quality and aesthetic design.
The BLUETTI AC200 Max is the smallest in the AC range with the AC200, AC300 and AC500. Each takes a step up with more power outputs, capacity, greater power draw and surge protection.
The first thing that stands out about the AC200 Max is the quality of the outer that is made from a solid; premium finished dark grey plastic with textured finish. Designwise it again stands out with the sky blue logo adorning the front along four AC plug sockets, 4 USB-A ports of different varieties, one USB Type-C and four varied 12v DC. On top are the two wireless charging bays, then on the side is the solar and mains input and two battery expansion ports.
A nice touch is that all ports and sockets are covered by protective rubber covers. These covers protect against moisture if the worst happens. That’s not to say that this unit is weatherproof by any means.
For the most part, these flaps do the job they were designed to do, protect the sockets; however, the four that cover the AC sockets can be annoying. Many items of the photographic kit feature longer plugs with built-in adapters that point up rather than down. This means that it can be difficult to insert one, let alone two plugs into the BLUETTI AC200 Max without using an extension cable.
Unless the sockets are placed in a line, as with the larger capacity BLUETTIE AC range, this issue is unavoidable and, frankly, however, a relatively small one. To get around the problem, all you need to do is attach an extension cable and then plug in all your devices.
On the front of the AC200 Max is the large LCD touch screen that lets you see the AC200 Max’s status, check settings and the unit’s overall well-being. The interface is extremely easy to navigate, with the main use being to switch on and off the AC and DC power when needed.
As well as being able to delve into settings on the AC200 Max itself, there’s also the option to control and monitor through the APP. Compared with the touchscreen interface, this is a little more limited but enables you to operate the main functions and check on the unit’s status. If you have expansion batteries, these can also be monitored through the app.
As the AC200 Max weighs almost 30kg, two large carry handles feature on the edges. Without these, the unit would be extremely difficult to move.
Regarding charging, the BLUETTI AC200 Max gives you several options: AC/Solar/Car/Generator/Lead Battery/Dual AC/AC+Solar. It is extremely unusual to be given so many options, but it certainly makes things easier when away from a mains socket for charging.
Through this test, I charged using the PV350 Solar panels, which are well designed if the heavy option for everyday use. While all charging options are solid, the solar connector on the connection cable is a bit of a weak point. The DC Input: 10-145vDC.15A socket features a protective screw-in lock. While this works, it feels far weaker in design than the rest of the unit.
The BLUETTI AC200 Max has been designed as an all-in-one power source away from and at home. The design of the AC200 Max means that it can be used to power most household appliances such as fridges, microwaves and coffee machines, all away from a mains power source. This makes the AC200 Max an ideal solution for anyone with a camper who wants to take some of the home comforts with them.
As photographers, we can pack the Van/Car with our kit and set up a mobile studio anywhere we want. While only a touch over 2Kw in capacity, that’s more than enough to run most of our audio and visual equipment.
Before I get stuck into the main review, here is a quick run-through of what this power station and generator offers. First, it provides a 2,200W AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter (4,800W surge). This means that at any point, you can draw up to 2,200w of power from the batteries; however, as some devices require a little extra power to get started, the AC200 Max has some flexibility with up to 4,800w of surge power. This is available for a short period before the power draw drops below 2,200w.
Regarding capacity, the battery holds 2,048Wh, which is more than double most of the other power stations I have looked at. The MacBook Pro with a full charge would enable 20 hours of continuous use with an average of 100w power draw.
This power is stored in LiFePO4 Battery cells with 3,500 plus Life Cycles to 80% of the original charge. This is exceptional compared with many on the market.
What makes this power station stand out is the fact that it is expandable. While this feature is becoming more common, with the ECOFLOW Delta 2 offering a similar but not quite large capacity option, it’s still not a mainstream option. This means that the AC200 Max is expandable to 6,144Wh with 2×B230 or 8,192Wh with 2×B300.
With a power station of this size, it will take a while to charge it to its full capacity. Here, the battery has seven charging options: AC/Solar/Car/Generator/Lead Battery/Dual AC and AC+Solar.
An interesting addition to the charging options is the ability to exceed far the W input of the portable panels with up to 900W Max solar input. This means that third-party solar panels can be used with the AC200 Max as part of a true off-grid system for your home studio or office.
The charging speed is also a major factor, and if you have both Solar and mains power, you can increase the power input to 1300w Max with both solar and AC adapters combined.
In this test, I split the use use of the BLUETTI AC200 Max three ways; the first to see how long it would take to charge through pure solar and then the AC, then to check it out in use as a portable power option and finally as an off-grid power source for the home studio. Using the AC adapter, the AC200 Max was fully charged in around 6 hours from very low; you shouldn’t run the station down to 0% for battery health reasons, but it was close. After fully draining the power station again, it was time to test the charge times using the PV350 panel.
The PV350 solar panel is huge and weighty but well-designed, and a systematic approach to unfolding and putting down the legs makes the set-up of the panel one of the easiest on the market. The cable that connects the panel to the power station is of a decent length and utilises standard MC4 connectors to adapt to the power adapter required by the AC200 Max. This screw-in connector is a little cheap and weak compared with the rest of the design, so it’s well worth ensuring that it’s in place and tightened correctly from the outset to avoid mishaps.
Once connected, the panels instantly kick into life, with 50w being produced without effort in the shade and going up to 300w in the bright late summer sun. In total, it took between 10 and 14 hours for the power station to hit 100%. During the summer’s height, I think you’d get a full charge in less than nine hours and in the UK winter a week! However, the potential to plug the unit into a permanent solar array opens up the use and potential of the AC200 Max power station.
Ultimately however you decide to charge the AC200 Max, it’s simple. Through the mains, it’s a no-brainer; plug it in, and you’re done until it’s at 100%. When it comes to solar, you just have to wait and shift the panels around the garden as the sun changes position. Living in a house with a south-facing garden helps!
At the end of the first part of the test, the multiple options for charging gave this power station a huge advantage. I found that plugging the AC200 Max into the cigarette lighter port in the car when driving to a destination pumped in around 100-150w of power; then, the Solar enabled me to charge whilst I was busy with the shoot. If stopping overnight, the AC200 Max could be smuggled into the B&B and plugged in or linked into the power hook-up on campsites.
However, as the weight of the AC200 Max is around 30kg, lugging this and the rest of the kit isn’t an option, especially if stairs are involved.
When camping, lifting isn’t an issue. The AC200 Max also doubles quite nicely as a stool, although after several weeks of using it for this purpose, it has started to creek a little when I sit down, so maybe not the best idea!
Used as an in-the-field power source
The next test was to see how it performed in a portable studio. For this, I used the following kit, 1 x MacBook Pro (100w), 1 X BenQ BL2711U monitor (50w), RotoLight ANOVA x 2 (72w), Canon EOS R5 C (10w) chargers x 3 (50w), phones and other kit (50w) the total worked out at about 500w an hour. Lights and camera are of course not running for all that time so that amount does vary. The fully charged AC200 Max in ideal conditions provide 4.3 hours of use if everything ran at full capacity.
However, in a more real-world scenario but still trying to max out the use with a shoot that started at 8 am and finished at 3 pm, the AC200 Max made it through the day with 5% left in the bank. This test was essentially maxing out the AC200 Max without relying on the internal or V-Lock batteries from the lights or cameras.
Repeating the test in a more real-world use with the Solar panel set up and connected, the AC200 Max stayed topped up for most of the day. The 350w panel provided a near-constant 300w of power input which retained an 80-100% charge for the day, leaving plenty of power for the evening.
Throughout the day, the main AC ports worked as they would with the mains, the only issue being that the rubber socket covers were a little fiddly, and some adapters wouldn’t plug in due to the design of the flaps. In the end, it was far easier to use an extension cable, and the AC200 Max has more than enough juice to enable this.
The USB ports were all well-positioned and easy to access, and using a spare MacBook Pro USB Type-C power cable, I could plug the Canon EOS R5 C directly into the AC200 Max to utilise PD power.
The only real issue is the noise of the fans. When recording audio, I had to switch off the AC200 Max as the fans under load became noticeable. However, using the extension lead in the later test and utilising the built-in power supplies for the camera and lights did mean that the AC200 Max could be moved out of hearing distance when needed.
I’ll be going more in-depth into the off-grid photo studio in a separate article soon, as there’s plenty of interest in this area of power supply area at the moment; however, covering it fully in the review would be a little limiting. The AC200 Max is a great option for going off-grid, with a built-in inverter and maximum power output of 2200w with a 4800w surge. While these specs won’t enable you to use everything you can on mains electricity power, it does enable about 90% of appliances and devices.
Simple off-grid power supply
This test sees the Power Station being used as an off-grid power supply. The AC200 Max was charged through solar for roughly two days, and, once fully topped up placed in the corner of the studio with lots of items plugged into it; computer, camera chargers etc. Once drained, its lugging back outside, plugging into the PV350 solar panel to charge before repeating the process. The whole process is labour intensive but rewarding as you start to see your electricity bill fall, also the ability to move your workstation outside and really to anywhere you want. However, setting up the solar panels every day is a little time consuming.
The other option is to do something a little more drastic: purchase some solar panels that match the spec that’s compatible with the AC200 Max, drill a hole in the roof, feed a cable through and plug the third-party solar panels into the AC200 Max to see if the system works.
Surprisingly it did, even if the initial construction of the solar panels to the roof and hole were a little messy I’m now in the process of developing something a little more permanent.
Ultimately, two JA Solar 375w panels giving a maximum of 750w of input power enabled the charging of the AC200 Max in around 4 to 5 hours. At the same time, the power from the AC200 Max can power the lights and MacPros in the studio along with a 1000w heater.
The 2200w max power draw, when switching to a home rather than a portable studio, takes a little juggling. After a week of unplugging some devices to plug in others, a switch of lighting types etc., you realise that the AC300 or AC500 with expansion batteries is probably the best way to go due to the additional headroom you have on output power draw. This is especially relevant if you need to iron backdrops or covers, as this instantly sets off the overload alarm.
However, for everyday use, in smaller studios, the 2200w output should cover your needs with ample left over. If you’re running a vintage stereo, monitor speakers, dual monitors, Wifi network and two to three machines, you’ll start to push the system’s capabilities, but it will still cope.
What is amazing is how this small system affects your power use. Firstly, how you work and use your kit starts to adapt; you become more focused on how much power is being drawn; the garage fridge, for example, is no more. With the permanent solar panels linked, this gives you more than enough power to happily work through the daylight hours and with the storaged power in the BLUETTI AC200 Max you have a good amount of power that will see you into the night before the power goes down.
There are also energy saving steps to prolong the power of the AC200 Max, such as making sure that you switch off monitors, use the power-saving features of your machines and switch off lights. An additional battery such as the B300 would certainly expand what would be possible with the AC200 Max.
The AC200 Max is an excellent place to start as the first step to an off-grid studio.
When the AC200 Max arrived, I had several preconceptions about what it would enable me to do. In reality, being used as the power source for a portable studio has changed the way and pace that I work; its presence takes out much of the stress knowing that there’s a full backup of power in the van ready to go when I need it. Unlike the smaller power stations, I can hook up several devices almost without fear of overloading it. Only twice did the alarms go off; once, when we tried to iron some clothing for a friend’s clothing shop shoot and another time in the morning when it was chilly, and I tried to warm up the van with a Dyson Hot and Cool. Otherwise, it coped with everything I threw at it.
Used at home as a backup power source and again, the AC200 Max performed without a hitch. I’ve now been using the power it gains from solar charging to fully charge all cameras, laptops and lighting with a daily routine that sees my garden turn into a small solar farm.
However, my interest has peaked with the more permanent off-grid solar studio. The first set of panels has been removed, and I’m re-wiring, drilling holes and finding a more permanent position for the panels to connect to the BLUETTI AC200 Max. The panels cost a few hundred pounds, but connection and set-up are all relatively simple and enable a true off-grid power source with little effort.
At the base level, two panels can connect directly to the AC200 Max to keep the power station topped up, 900w is the max, and I’ve been running 750w. Extension cables can then be plugged in, one for a low-power lighting LED lighting system, one for the computers and the other for more generic devices. I’ll still need to keep an eye on the AC200 Max’s power output, but the surprising thing is just how simple connecting up all the parts are, as the tricky bit of larger systems doesn’t exist.
As a starting point for an off-grid studio or home office, the AC200 Max is an ideal solution; coupled with the expansion batteries and some third-party solar panels, you have an ideal DIY power solution for in the studio as well as on location.
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