Gadling Gear Review: ibattz Mojo Battstation Tough Pro

One 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.

If 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]

Charge your gadgets with or without an outlet – the iGo Charge Anywhere Gadling review

When it comes to powering my gadgets, and keeping them powered, I’m a bit of a freak. See, I have this deep hatred for gadgets that don’t have the battery life to stay working as long as I need them to. There is something sad about a $600 phone that dies halfway through the day, or a media player that can’t last through a long haul flight.

This is where the iGo Charge Anywhere can help. This 2-port USB wall charger has a secret – hidden inside the device is an 1800mAh battery pack. The combination of this AC charger and battery means you can power and charge two gadgets whether you have an outlet or not. The battery is powerful enough to get most gadgets back to 100%, or up to two full charges for smaller devices like an iPod or Bluetooth headset.

The charger is the same size as any “normal” USB wall charger, and comes with a USB to iGo tip cable. This allows you to carry just one cable, and an assortment of iGo power tips. These tips are available for almost every gadget on the market.

Of course, since the charger has normal USB ports, you can also use any USB charging cable included with your gadget.

The charger provides enough power for small gadgets like portable gaming consoles, phones and media players, and obviously does not have the oomph to power and charge your laptop.

The power rating of the iGo Charge Anywhere allows you to use it anywhere in the world as it supports 100V-240V. Of course, you’ll still need the appropriate plug adapter if you plan to use it in a non-US socket.

Operating the iGo Charge Anywhere is as simple as can be – plug your devices into one of the two USB ports, and plug it into an AC outlet. When you don’t have an outlet available, you just plug your devices in and press the power button on the unit.

Because the iGo Charge Anywhere is part of the new iGo Green lineup, it has a built in circuit to eliminate “vampire power”. This means the charger will completely turn off when it senses it has fully charged your gadgets. This means it won’t draw any power at all once it has done its work. The power savings may not be very big, but every tiny bit counts.

Pros: Works on any voltage, double USB charging ports, integrated battery pack, very compact
Cons: Relatively weak battery pack, only one power tip included

The iGo Charge Anywhere costs $49.99 and is available directly from iGo. The purchase price includes one free power tip (worth about $8).

Product page: iGo Charge Anywhere

The Gadling power anything anywhere kit

It is no secret – I love my gadgets, and I love traveling with them. But even the most advanced gadget becomes useless when it runs out of power.

In the past, I’d occasionally arrive at my destination with a dead mobile phone or an iPod that only made it halfway through the flight.

It’s a pretty frustrating experience, so for the past years, I’ve been putting together the perfect kit for powering any of my gadgets on the road.
When it comes to powering gadgets, there are several things I am looking for:

  • Powering and charging my laptop and gadgets on the plane
  • Powering and charging my laptop and gadgets when I am abroad
  • Emergency power for my gadgets and laptop

Here is the kit I put together, with some of the reasoning behind each device:

Callpod Chargepod

The Callpod Chargepod passed through Gadling last year, and it has quickly become of the most important gadgets I carry with me. The device charges 6 things at the same time, which means I can charge 2 phones, my Bluetooth headset, a backup battery pack, a game console and an MP3 player off a single outlet.

The Chargepod itself can be powered off AC or DC (car) sources, and the company has power tips for almost every portable device on the market.

Price: $79.95 for a Chargepod bundle (AC and DC chargers and a selection of power tips)

APC External laptop battery pack

The APC universal notebook battery pack comes with a large selection of power plugs, for most brands of laptop computers. To charge the pack itself, you simply use your existing laptop charger. I’ve always preferred the APC battery packs over the “official” spare battery from laptop makers because I tend to change my laptop quite regularly, and by having a single battery that covers multiple brands, I don’t have to waste an investment in batteries every couple of months. The long cord on the battery means I can leave it in my bag and still have it hooked up to my laptop.

There is one annoying issue with the APC battery pack – APC stopped making them, and the only ones out there are the remaining inventory at local retailers. A good alternative would be a power pack from Tekkeon, who actually produce an external battery pack with more power than any of the APC units.

Price: From $70 (discontinued product)

Proporta emergency battery pack

The Proporta emergency battery pack is a compact Lithium-Polymer power source that can be charged using your computer, an AC adapter or DC (car) charger. The battery pack houses a 2500mAh battery, which provides enough juice to fully recharge most gadgets at least two or three times.

The battery pack has a standard USB out plug for charging your device and a handy button for checking the remaining power.

Included with the charger is an assortment of power tips for most mobile phones and the iPod, as well as a retractable USB cord and an AC adapter. Since it has a regular USB port, you can also use any existing power cable with it.

Price: $56.95

Kensington ultra slim universal laptop adapter

As I mentioned in the description of the APC battery pack, I change my machine quite a bit, so this Kensington ultra slim universal laptop adapter is another wise investment – it comes with power tips for most brands of laptop computers. In addition to being able to charge/power my laptop off AC, it can also be plugged into the Empower power jacks on many airlines. The charger is smaller and lighter than most original laptop power supplies. One oversight with the product is that they did not include a DC (car) plug with the AIR cable, so I had to invest $10 to get one from a different vendor.

As an extra bonus, the charger features a USB charging power port on the side, plus it operates off 100-240V, making it perfect for taking abroad. Along with the slim charger, I also carry the Kensington travel plug adapter with USB so I can plug my stuff in when I am abroad.

Price: $140

The total kit weighs just under 3 pounds, which is not too bad when you consider that it replaces every charger I used to carry, and that I can keep my laptop going for almost 8 hours (longer when I carry the 6 cell battery for my machine).

Every part of the kit fits inside 2 Tom Bihn packing organizers. The whole setup may seem quite extreme, but to someone who carries (too many) gadgets, it’s the perfect way to carry all that crap, and keep it all working. Total price for the kit is a bit over $300.

Do you have a favorite power product, or something you think is better than what I carry? Let me know in the comments!

Product review: Solio Hybrid solar charger

How green is the Solio® Hybrid 1000?

The Solio is so green you could toss it in with some lettuce, croutons and parmesan cheese, drizzle Caesar dressing over everything and eat it raw (right before a big helping of ‘tofurkey’, obviously).

This beautifully crafted bundle of eco-feel-good bliss makes the necessary evil of killing batteries a little less disagreeable. Using the glorious power of the sun, it recharges a multitude of devices such as mobile phones, Bluetooth headsets, PDAs, MP3 players, handheld gaming systems, digital cameras, GPS units and more.

Slim and compact (it’s 198 x 68 x 18mm or 7.7 x 2.7 x 0.7 inches and weighs about 0.5 kilos or 1.1 lbs.), the Solio is surprisingly rugged, complete with an integrated carabiner clip so you can affix it to just about anything.

Showers forecasted for the next week on the Appalachian Trail? Give your Solio a base charge before you leave by plugging it into your laptop. Not as eco-friendly, but hey, your mobile phone won’t judge you when its batteries are dead.

Genius idea, brilliant design, but does it really work? People, it works like a charm – though not quite up to the extents alluded to on the box.

Here’s the lowdown: the Solio is not a concurrent charging solution. It’s a two step process. First the Solio’s own internal storage battery needs to be charged up (“cue the sun”), then you can plug in your device which charges itself off the Solio’s battery. This is actually a good thing, because once the Solio is charged, you can charge your device day or night, rain or shine. Furthermore, once charged, the Solio will hold its charge for up to one year.

Now for the downside: while the Solio’s Quick Start Guide gives the impression that you can just clip the Solio to your backpack and it’ll quietly do its thing while you hike the day away, this is not necessarily true. Lengthy testing on my Solio revealed that not only does the Solio need to be pointing more or less directly at the sun to charge (a given, really), but it must be under clear sunlight (i.e. even slight overcast conditions means no charging occurs). So, even if you leave it stationary on a log all day, it needs a little babysitting. As the sun moves, you will need to adjust the Solio. Unfortunately, this means if wanna do that chic clip-it-to-your-backpack arrangement, unless you walk with your back to the sun all day, the Solio will only charge itself in fits and starts.

Which brings us to charging time… The Solio’s alleged charging time is a little ambiguous. The guide states that it will charge from zero to full in 10-12 hours under direct sunlight and 12-48 hours under cloudy conditions. My testing usually required about 16-20 hours to charge under direct sunlight and I was never able to get the Solio to charge under cloudy/overcast conditions. To be fair, I must confess that most of my testing occurred in downtown Minneapolis, in the dwindling sunlight months of October and November. Perhaps under ideal conditions the Solio will perform better.

The Quick Start Guide (printed on recycled paper!), consisting mostly of wordless diagrams, is clever in theory. I loved that they saved reams of paper by not printing full directions in five languages, but equally I spent much longer than I would have liked puzzling over the somewhat non-intuitive drawings.

That said, once you decipher the directions, the Solio is easy to use. The Solio simply has one button and two LED lights, maximizing its juice to power your device. The short learning curve needed to memorize the array of solid and flashing light indicators is a small price to pay for its durability and minimum wasted energy.

It’s important to note that the Solio isn’t compatible with all handheld items. It comes with three output attachments, that plug straight into many devices/manufacturers (Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, iPod, iPhone), but its compatibility starts to get fuzzy when you get into PDAs, digital cameras, etc. Before you get your heart set on the magic of a Solio, check that your desired device is compatible.

A final minor disappointment is the Solio’s water resistance, in that it isn’t. Admittedly, most devices you’d be charging with your Solio aren’t going to be water resistant either, but the outdoorsy allure drops exponentially when you have to start worrying about keeping your Solio clear of lake/river splash and rain.

Performance and limitations aside, again, this thing is awesome. As a rule, what with its somewhat lengthy charge time, it’s best to only rely on the Solio for one, or maybe two oft used devices. It simply doesn’t have the capacity to keep more things running.