Review: Technocel Battery Boost

In our neverending quest for the best way to keep your gadgets powered, we came across the Technocel Battery Boost. This compact battery pack can hook on to your key chain, and includes a 600mAh battery pack, a retracting USB plug and a MicroUSB card reader.

The charger cord is MicroUSB – which means it’ll work on almost every recent mobile device with the exception of anything from Apple.

Obviously, 600mAh is not a huge amount of power, but it is enough to provide an hour or two of talk time on most phones, or several hours of music.

The charger plug is on a flexible cable, and stores neatly inside the unit itself. To charge the Battery Boost, you simply plug it into any USB power source or one of the USB ports on your computer. Its card reader slot is the perfect place to store important files, or as a place to keep a backup of photos you made on a trip.

The Technocel Battery Boost is one of the most innovative power products I’ve seen all year – and at just $29.99 it is also one of the cheapest. Better yet, Sprint is currently selling it for just $23.99! At this price, you’ll have a great stocking stuffer for anyone that travels with their smartphone.


Photo of the Day (3.21.2010)

It’s amazing something as boring as a run on the beach could look so beautiful. Flickr user NigelDurrant captured this masterful shot of a few runners in Barbados. I love the sense of movement, the symmetry and long pencil-thin shadows stretched in the sand. Wonderful.

Have any great photos you’d like to submit for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best shots here.

Product review – CradlePoint PHS300 personal wireless hotspot

Let me open with a warning; this article is full of buzzwords and acronyms, but I promise to try and keep things as simple as possible.

The CradlePoint PHS300 is a pocket wireless internet router. Unlike other routers, that get their Internet access from your cable company or DSL provider, it connects using a cellular broadband modem.

Still with me?

To get access to the Internet using your mobile operator, you have several options; you can purchase a phone with Internet Access built in (like an Apple iPhone). You can also use a mobile phone with “tethering” capability, which involves physically connecting your mobile phone to your computer, or you can purchase a stand alone “cellular modem”.

If you need mobile Internet access on your PC, and you are not within range of a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you’ll have to go with tethering, or a cellular modem. However, both methods have several disadvantages:

  • You usually need to install special software on your computer.
  • The (often expensive) connection can only be used by one person at a time.
  • Reception is often lacking, as your modem will be away from the window, where the cellular signal is usually the strongest.
  • Battery life of your computer is severely impacted when you use a 3G modem card plugged into it.

The Cradlepoint PHS300 fixes these issues by moving the wireless connection away from the PC. To connect to the Internet, you simply plug your compatible phone or cellular modem into the router, turn it on and you instantly turn the combination into a portable battery powered wireless hotspot. Brilliant.Connecting to the Internet is as easy as turning on your laptop (or Wi-Fi enabled smartphone) and connecting to the wireless network name being broadcast by the Cradepoint router, just like connecting to any other Wi-Fi hotspot. Since this is a regular WI-Fi connection, more than one person can connect to the signal, but you’ll of course have to share the speed with anyone else online with you.

The CradlePoint PHS300 router weighs just 4 ounces. The device has 2 connectors, one switch and a couple of LED light indicators. The 2 connectors are for power and for your USB cellular modem/phone. The switch powers the device on (or off) and the LED’s show the power,charging status and the connection status of the Wi-Fi and the cellular modem connections.

In this day and age it is a rarity when I come across a device that really delivers on the whole “plug and play” promise. In my first test, I plugged my modem card into the PHS300, turned the device on, and 30 seconds later I had my laptop connected to the Internet using AT&T. There were no settings to mess with, and I was even able to skip reading the manual.

Your connection is secured using 2 methods; with a common (shared) password, or with regular Wi-Fi security (WEP or WPA). Changing the settings on the device is done through your web browser, but fear not, most of these settings are only for advanced users, if you just want to get online, you won’t have to deal with them. When the situation requires it, you can create a password that can be shared by others, which is perfect if you need a quick and dirty Internet connection for more than one person in a meeting room or airport lounge.

The PHS300 is powered by an internal Lithium-Ion (user replaceable) battery pack, extra batteries are $29.99. Battery life is rated at around an hour and a half with a USB modem, or up to three hours with a tethered phone (which of course has its own battery). Included in the package is a regular AC adapter. A car charger is available directly from CradlePoint for $24.99.

The speed of your connection will of course depend on your modem and the network you are using.

In my first test, I connected to AT&T Wireless, using a Merlin XU870 modem card. In this test, my download speed was a comfortable 1281 kbps. In my second test, I connected to AT&T using a tethered smartphone (an HTC Touch Dual). This time the speed shot up to 1427 kbps, which is faster than many people have on their home broadband connection. I then used the Merlin card with a T-mobile subscription, and only reached 152kbps (T-mobile does not have 3G in my area yet).

For my final test, I connected to Sprint using my HTC Mogul smartphone. Let me say up front that CradlePoint fully admit that this phone is not the most reliable option for tethering, as Windows Mobile is considered too buggy to always keep a connection active. Despite the warning from CradlPpoint, I did not experience any loss of connection. The only difference between using a modem card, and tethering, is that I had to manually enable the tethering setting on my phone.

Here are the speeds I reached when using the CradlePoint PHS300 with my various phones:

  • AT&T 3G with an HTC Touch Dual: 1427kbps
  • AT&T 3G with a Merlin XU870 card: 1218kbps
  • Sprint EVDO Rev.A with a Sprint Mogul: 831kbps
  • T-mobile EDGE with a Merlin XU870: 152kbps

Of course, these numbers are fairly meaningless to most people, so let me just say that the speed on AT&T and Sprint was perfectly acceptable for most Internet applications, on the AT&T connection, things just felt much faster, pages loaded almost instantly and I was even able to view a couple of Youtube video clips, albeit with a slight delay at the beginning where the player buffers the clip.

CradlePoint offers several other models of cellular broadband routers including the CTR500 which has an internal Expresscard slot for the modem card as well as a network port for connecting your laptop through a wired connection.

All in all I am immensely impressed with the CradlePoint. At $179 it is the perfect solution for anyone who has dealt with the buggy connection software from their mobile operator, or who has watched their laptop battery die in an hour when they were surfing the web from the airport lounge. With most mobile operators charging between $60 and $80 per month for a wireless broadband connection, frequent users of paid hotel or airport Wi-Fi will easily be able to save a substantial amount every month. The biggest advantage of course, is being able to turn this device on, and have instant wireless Internet access for more than one person.

Dear Gadling Readers: Best Solution for Internet on the Road?

Dear Gadling Readers,

I am going on a two-week road trip across the U.S. this summer, and I’d like to find a way to keep myself connected to the Internet. I have a Dell Inspiron 640m (e1405) and a Samsung SPH-A840 with Sprint service, so getting a data plan on my phone — along with the proper dongle to connect to my laptop — is an option. But…BUT! Is there anything better? Is there some new fangled technology I should be trying out — something that doesn’t rely on Sprint’s coverage area? The idea of satellites aligning to feed me data sounds romantic.

I’ll be camping almost every night in areas where Sprint won’t have coverage, and I can think of nothing more beautiful than sitting in the remote countryside, checking my email and downloading torrents of the TV shows I’ll be missing.

So, Gadling readers. Help me out. What options do I have?


P.S. As much as I’d like to unplug for the duration of the trip, I cannot. Reliable Internet access is a must!