As we Gadgeteers become more and more laden with gear that requires power, rather than batteries, we become much greener for the planet. But this positive has with it a negative – we also are constantly, whether consciously or not, scanning every place we pause for a few minutes for power outlets. And it only gets worse as we use our gadgets more. I used to always sit at a power outlet when traveling with my MacBookPro, but stopped doing that when I first got an iPad. But now, I use my iPad constantly, so that huge 10 hour battery starts getting a bit thin late in the day, and the search begins again. Same with the iPhone. The more I use apps that help in navigation, music search, or voice recognition, (or, on occasion, play a graphicly intense game), the less time I get from it, and the more I want to park in front of an outlet.
I’ve reviewed several cases that have batteries for various phones over the years, and late last year, got a chance to review a new piece of tech for me: a pocket-sized power unit that can fully charge various items not once, but several times on a single charge. This is a great category, and I think until battery technology gets an order of magnitude or two advanced, this will be the prefered way to keep our devices slim and light. If you can stash a few top-offs in a bag or pocket, why weigh down your gadget with the weight of a huge battery?
Tekkeon, Inc. has this as their main guiding mission. They make “innovative accessories that enable customers to take full advantage of today’s high tech world.” Other companies, such as Mophie and Choiix, do this as well. The current unit under consideration is the Teekeon TekCharge Pocket Power Pack MP1820. (Wow, that’s a mouthful! What is it with naming things in such a manner?) Let’s take an overview of this device before comparing to others in the category.
The TekCharge is just over 3 inches long, 2 inches wide, and an inch thick. It’s curved a bit on the bottom and bows in a bit on the long edges, which makes it easy to hold. On the top side, there is a three-position slider switch and a single LED that indicates the level of charge. On one small edge, there are two ports, clearly marked as IN and OUT, both of which are 5V. The input is a miniUSB port, and the output is regular USB.
This is intentional for two reasons. First, most devices, from phones to tablets to cameras come with some way to charge from USB, and include a cable. By having this as the main output, you can use the cable that came with your device, if it’s an odd one, without having to find a tip to convert. Second, since all phones in the EU and many other places are starting to be mandated to use miniUSB as the charging port, you can get by with a single USB-to-miniUSB cable! If you’re going for a longer time, take that cable and the charger that came with your device as well, and you can charge both the TekCharge AND your device by plugging the charger into the input, and your device to the output of the TekCharge. Talk about lowering the amount of junk in your gear bag! On the opposite edge, there is a single white LED which can be turned on as a flashlight. This is a nice touch, in that you can find things in the dark recesses of that gear bag.
The three positions of the switch are clearly marked on the track the slider travels: OFF, ON, and a bright bulb. When in any position other than OFF, the LED glows, indicating amount of charge. The lamp glows green if charge is above 80%, and orange if it’s below that mark and nothing is connected. If there is a device connected to the OUT port, the lamp will glow green until 20% of it’s power is left, and be orange if less than 20% of capacity remains.
Also in the box are a retractable cable (USB to a round pin) and two adapters which change that round pin to miniUSB or microUSB. The thin ribbon cable pulls from either end, and clicks into a locked length at several places over the entire 3-foot length.
The rated power of the MP1820 is 4800maH, which is enough to charge an iPhone 4s twice, theoretically. Tekkeon states the useage this way: “up to 6 hours web surfing on iPad or 22 hours on iPhone, or 20 hours of talk time on a mobile phone.” The MP1820 retails for $50. Those are solid specs for a small device, and a reasonable price.
In practice, I found the Tekkeon quite easy to use. The clear “on/off” switch means I don’t have to worry if I disconnect for a second or two – the device I’m wanting to charge will still be charging when I plug it back in. But, it there’s nothing connected, I’m not sure if it’s losing charge or not. I wouldn’t think it would. (Electricity doesn’t “leak out” of a wall socket, right?) But having that glowing reminder is a nice touch. I topped off my iPhone and iPad several times over a few days, and found that a full charge from 15-20% to full for iPhone was about the same time that it takes with the wall adapter. On the original iPad, charging took longer, but I could use the iPad while charging and have it stay at pretty much the same charge, even while watching a movie. Charging the TekCharge seemed to take a while, but I was never really sure it was “full”, since the single LED doesn’t give much granular feedback.
All in all, I loved this little brick. It’s easy to toss in a bag, easy to charge, carries a good bit of power, and is reasonably priced. Quibbles I have: the cable’s tips, while a nice idea, could be improved. Ending in a miniUSB plug with a miniUSB-to-microUSB adapter would mean one less tip to keep up with, and also mean there are no loose tips during travel. If I could improve anything, it would be the power meter LEDs. Having one or two more, or even another color, would let users know that the device is fully charged.
I give it four and a half stars out of five.