An optimal performance analysis of an internally and externally irreversible solar driven heat engine has been carried out. A Carnot-type heat engine model for radiative and convective boundary conditions was used to consider the effects of the finite-rate heat transfer and internal irreversibilities. The power and power density functions have been derived and maximization of these functions has been carried out for various design parameters. The optimum design parameters have been derived and the obtained results for maximum power (MP) and maximum power density (MPD) conditions have been compared. The effects of the technical parameters on the performance have been investigated. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.