Gadling Gear Review: ibattz Mojo Battstation Tough Pro

http://www.ibattz.com/products_power_battstation.php#prettyPhotoOne of the biggest challenges when traveling today is keeping all of our gadgets charged while on the road. After all, who hasn’t found themselves stranded in an airport, desperately looking for a place to plug in a phone or tablet before their next flight. Even in this day and age, power outlets can be a real challenge to find and more often then not, when you do find one, someone else has already claimed it. Fortunately there are other options for keeping our devices powered up while on the go. Take for example the Mojo Battstation Tough Pro from ibattz, a ruggedized charging station with the ability to power two devices at once.

Small and compact, the Battstation is just 4.3-inches long and about an inch thick. It features two built in USB ports which can be used to power nearly any kind of device, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS devices and more. ibattz offers the charger in both 7200 mAh and 8400 mAh versions, with the only difference being the capacity of the internal battery. I tested the smaller of the two units, which tipped the scales at just 6.4 ounces, and found it to be an excellent travel companion.

We’ve seen similar charging stations in the past and what sets the Mojo Battstation apart from the others is its very durable design. This device is essentially a high-capacity battery wrapped in a rugged shell. An included removable silicon rubber sleeve adds an extra layer of security, protecting against the shock of an accidental drop while also keeping moisture at bay. The sleeve even includes a couple of flaps that protect the Mojo’s USB ports while folding back to allow access when needed. Of all the mobile charging solutions that I’ve seen, this is easily the most durable that I’ve come across.In addition to the protective sleeve and the Battstation itself, ibattz also includes a single micro-USB cable and adapters for older Apple products (30-pin) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the box. The cable can be used to charge both the Battstation’s internal battery and any device that uses micro USB, while the adapters allow it to be used with the other devices mentioned above. iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini users will still need to carry their Lightning cables with them, however, as the included cable doesn’t support those devices.

ibattz Mojo BattstationIf you look at the items that are included with the Mojo Battstation you may notice that there is one thing missing – an AC adapter. ibattz didn’t include any way to charge the battery by plugging it directly into a wall. Instead users must connect it to the USB port on their computer, which can be an inconsistent option to say the least. Many computers, especially laptops, feature USB ports that don’t provide full power to devices plugged into them, which means it can take an awfully long time to charge the battery in the Battstation. Fortunately, I had a USB wall adapter that over came this issue and I recommend anyone who purchases this mobile charger to invest in one as well.

Performance wise, the Mojo Battstation works great and lives up to its billing. The two USB ports allow users to charge two devices at once and the battery provides enough capacity to recharge multiple smartphones multiple times. I drained my iPhone 4S completely and then plugged it into the Battstation and in about 3.5 hours it was back to full capacity and ready to go. You can also use your devices while plugged into the Mojo, which allows it to work like a powerful battery backpack, greatly extending the life of whatever gadget you have connected. A handy blue power level indicator on the outside of the case lets you know how much charge the Battstation still has available, ensuring that you never get caught without a full charge before hitting the road.

It should be noted that the Mojo does work with iPads, but the built-in USB ports are only rated for 1 Amp and .5 Amps respectively. Since the iPad expects a 2.1 Amp port that means that it will take a very long time for it to charge up the power-hungry tablet, making this a less then optimal solution for those looking to keep Apple’s slate running at full capacity. For smaller devices, however, it is a great solution with plenty of power to spare.

If you’re someone who finds themselves burning through the batteries on your gadgets while traveling then the ibattz Mojo Battstation Tough Pro is definitely for you. Its rugged design makes it perfect for road warriors who have a tendency to abuse their gear and its high-capacity battery will keep your favorite tech toys powered up at all times. Best of all, this is a highly affordable solution for mobile power. The 7200 mAh version costs just $29 and the higher capacity 8400 mAh version will set you back a mere $39. That’s actually more affordable than most competing products that aren’t nearly as rugged or don’t perform as well.

[Photo Credit: ibattz]

Gadling Gear Review: Satechi Portable Energy Station

The Satechi Portable Energy StationI think it is safe to say that we now travel with more gadgets than ever. Between laptops, iPods, smartphones, tablets and digital cameras, we tend to hit the road with more technology at our disposal than James Bond. Keeping the batteries on all those gadgets fully charged can be a real challenge, however, particularly when you’re away from a power outlet for an extended period of time. But the Portable Energy Station from Satechi hopes to alleviate those issues, allowing us to recharge our tech toys whenever and wherever we need it.

The Energy Station is surprisingly small and lightweight. Judging from the photos I’d seen before testing it out, I wasn’t sure exactly how portable it would be, but the unit is roughly five and a half inches in length and weighs less than 8 ounces, which makes it easy to slip into a carry-on bag, or even a purse, as you head out the door. I’ve been carrying the review unit in my laptop messenger bag for several weeks and I’ve barely noticed it was there, although it was nice to know I had it on hand just in case I needed it.

The device includes two standard sized USB ports and one mini-USB port. The mini port is used to actually charge the Energy Station’s built in battery, which is rated at an impressive 10,000 mAH. The two regular USB ports provide different levels of power with one rated at 5V/1A and the other at 5V/2A. For the most part, this won’t have any effect on your ability to charge, but if you’re connecting a device that requires more juice, such as an iPad, you’ll want to plug it into the more powerful 5V/2A port. Both ports can be used at the same time, providing the ability to charge two devices simultaneously.The Satechi Portable Energy StationCharging the Energy Station is accomplished by either connecting a USB cable to the included AC wall adapter or by plugging the device directly into your laptop. It took about four hours to fully charge the internal battery using the AC adapter, which is not surprising considering its rated capacity. Charging via USB on a laptop can be potentially more convenient when traveling, but expect it to take considerably longer. Many laptops have low power USB ports and while they can trickle out enough juice to charge the Energy Station, it can be slow process. Charging it from my MacBook Air took about six hours.

Once the battery is fully charged it’s ready to be used with your other gadgets. Satechi has included a set of six interchangeable adapters that will work with most smartphones, cameras, tablets and other electronic equipment. You simply attach the adapter you need to the cable and then plug it directly into the device you want to charge. A set of blue lights on the top of the Energy Station tells you how much of a charge it still holds. Five lights indicate it is at full capacity while one indicates that it is time to plug it in again.

I tested the Energy Station on my iPhone 4S, third generation iPad and a point-and-shoot digital camera and it worked exactly as advertised. My iPhone and digital camera were both recharged rather quickly and it was great to know that I didn’t have to worry about either of them running out of power when I needed them most. On the other hand, the iPad 3 took a lot longer to charge, even when plugged into the more powerful USB port, and the Energy Station ran out of juice before I could fully top off the tablet. This is more of an issue with the iPad itself, however, as its high capacity batteries take awhile to charge, even on its own AC adapter. Owners of the iPad 1 or 2 will see much better performance from the Energy Station as those devices have much smaller battery packs.

Carrying the Energy Station while traveling is a great option, particularly if your favorite devices don’t exactly have the battery life you’d like. Satechi’s device is small, lightweight and highly packable, and I found it very convenient to have it in my bag when my phone started to die. If you’re one of the many travelers who now hits the road with plenty of electronic gadgets, then the Energy Station just might be something you’ll want to have on your next trip. The unit I tested comes with an MSRP of $59.99, which I found to be a great price for the convenience it provides. Satechi offers a lower capacity unit with about half the capacity for $39.99 as well, but if the twenty bucks difference doesn’t break your budget, I’d suggest springing for the larger Energy Station. The increased capacity is definitely worth the money, particularly if you intend to use it with an iPad or other high capacity device.

Cellphone Accessories For Our Mobile Overlords

iPhone Case from G-FormThere’s no device I love to hate as much as I hate to love my iPhone. (You read that right.) Your mileage may vary; you may not feel like both a chump and a devotee while caressing your mobile whatever. Until I attain your Zen-like state, I feel annoyed whenever I find myself buying presents for my phone, even if they are practical and make using my phone a better experience. Here’s the drill on three extras I’ve been using lately.

G-Form Extreme Grid iPhone Case
: Drop your phone one time ONLY on the bus and you’ll wish you’d shelled out for a case. It’s like Apple is intentionally propping up the case market by using that slippery exterior. I used an Otter Box on my iPhone 3, but I’ve come to prefer the weird grippy exterior of the G-Form on my iPhone 4. People keep making fun of the almost tire tread like bumpy black box I wrap my phone in, but the fact is, it stays put in my hand and has enough padding and bounce that my phone didn’t shatter into tiny expensive bits when I dropped it on the 54. There was an audible gasp from the people around me, but I just picked up my phone and went back to listening to vintage sci-fi radio theater and posting pictures to Instagram.

The case comes in black or black and yellow. I kind of wish I’d got the yellow just because it would make the phone easier to find when it’s lost in my backpack. Cost: about $40. That might seem expensive, but it’s going to cost you more than that to buy a new phone.

Mophie Juice Pack PlusMophie Juice Pack Plus: With great addiction comes the endless search for outlets and places to recharge the phone, right? You can buy yourself a lot more time with a spare battery. Mophie builds theirs into an attractive case that allows you to double the use time of your phone. I think this case/battery combo is pretty freaking great. It serves to protect your phone, and gives you all that extra use time, and it comes in a bunch of happy colors. I dropped my phone in this case, too, because apparently, that’s how I roll. The case is a little scratched up, but it still works just fine and my phone is still totally intact. It’s charged via a mini-USB cable. You leave it off until you need the extra juice, then it charges your phone while you use it. It’s great for long-haul flights, especially if, like me, you spend your airtime with audio entertainment.

The Juice Pack is pricey – it’s about $100. Here’s the truth: I like this thing and bring it everywhere.

Able Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation EarphonesAble Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation Earphones: I’ve gone through half a dozen pairs of iPhone compatible earbuds. On my last trip I lost my isolation Sennheisers. The sound was top notch, but I was on my third pair because they kept breaking (while still under warranty, thankfully). I replaced them with a really cheap pair of JVC iPhone compatible headphones, and they broke too.

I like the isolation earbuds because they don’t take up the space of headphones, but I’ve yet to find a pair that reduces external noise the way active cancelling headphones do. I like the Able Planet brand just fine; they’re far superior to the standard Apple earbuds and they stay put, but I’m not totally sold. They sound great, don’t get me wrong, and they do help with noise reduction on the plane or the bus, but that crying baby still found his way into my head while I was trying to doze on the plane. Even with the white noise app I use, ambient sound leaked in through everywhere. Able Planet makes active noise cancelling headsets too, I own a pair, and I wish I’d packed them instead. I await perfect, affordable, noise blocking earbuds.

Able Planet Earbuds run about $170. They’re fine for daily use, but if you’re really looking for noise reduction and you’re going to spend that kind of money, go with active noise cancelling instead.

Gadling Gear Review: Mobius Solar iPhone Battery/Charger

I kind of hate how much I love my iPhone. It’s not right and yes, I’m addicted to it and shut up, don’t you have something else to give me a hard time about? Like my social media addiction, which also, you could leave me alone about because it’s a critical part of how I make a living, so back off already.

Plus, it was super cool when, thanks to the wonders of my phone, a roaming data plan, and the fact that Tanzania is dotted with cell phone towers even though there seemed to be a scarcity of power outlet, I could shoot video of the landscape in the Serengeti or the road to Arusha and then, whoa, upload it so my pals on Twitter could see it, like, right away. That’s just freaking magical.

The thing is, that social media/cell phone addiction keeps me tethered to a power source and that can be kind of limiting. Hey, even when you’re in a highly developed place, sometimes the rental car doesn’t have an outlet and you forgot your car charger and you’ve burned up your battery trying to find directions to the B&B. What I’m saying is this: It’s easy to chew through the juice you’ve got on your phone and not always easy to re-juice it.

I actively disliked the last solar charger I tried, it didn’t work well as a case and it took too long to grab what limited power we get from the sun in the winter at home. I was keen to try out something new, that’s how I ended up with the solar iPhone charger/case/battery from Mobius. I like this one considerably better, but it’s still got some flaws.

First, the good stuff. It works well as a case. It’s got a fairly efficient solar panel compared to the other model I tried. It charges over a standard mini to USB connector so you can use your laptop or that little USB plug thingy that comes with your iPhone to charge it. It’s a little bulky, but because you can use it to hold your phone, it’s not just some random extra gadget kicking around. It doubles the usage you get out of your phone — nice if you’re shooting video, uploading fat files, playing lots of music and podcasts, the “beyond phone calls” stuff that keeps junkies like me handcuffed to our cell phone overlords.Now, the stuff I didn’t love. I keep wanting these things to be smaller — it’s a little bulky. I realize I may be just waiting for the future, I’m aware of that. The phone gets confused if I connect the charger cable while the case is in it and tells me that “charging isn’t supported.” This means if I want to charge the batter via an outlet, I have to remove the phone. I wish it used the connector that Apple uses because man, I am tired of dragging hundreds of yards of connector cables around the planet.

All that said, I think the Mobius charger is a great improvement over my last test run on a similar gadget. And I love that fact that it helps free me from the dearth of outlets that’s a scourge on my power and media addicted soul. If I’ve got the case out in daylight, it’s doing its bit to recharge and keep me connected. I like that. Whether that’s a good thing or not is another issue entirely, but as far as enabling my addiction goes, this device is doing its job.

Shop around. If you buy it directly from the folks that make it, it’s about 80 dollars, but I’ve seen it for 60 in other online markets.

Six Flags employees booted for pounding Porky Pig

Oink. Oink. Ouch.

Two off-duty Six Flags Great America employees were tossed from the park after they were seen beating the bacon out of a female coworker dressed as Porky Pig. According to Gurnee, Illinois Police Sgt. Jon Ward, the two perps posed for a picture with their 24-year-old swine-shrouded colleague before hitting her in the head between 10 and 15 times.

Park security pinched the punchers and held on to them until the real police came on the scene and issued local ordinance citations for battery. The alleged pig-poppers maintained their innocence but eye witnesses said otherwise.

The porcine victim was stuck with a stiff neck, headaches and something to post on fmylife.

[photo by bmayzure via Flickr]