Gadling Gear Review: Satechi Portable Energy Station

I 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.Charging 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.