Until our toys, gadgets and electronic thinga-majigs can be powered by magic fairy dust, we’ll continue to be slaves to batteries. I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where one of our favorite devices ran out of juice. It seems like every time this happens, a battery charger is no where to be found. What if you could remove the battery from your device, pull off one end and stick it into a USB port to charge? Sounds farfetched doesn’t it? Well guess again, because Moixa Energy is bringing you the USBCell.
Packaged by the pair, these are NiMH (Nickel Metal Hyrdride) 1.2v 1300mAH AA cell batteries. At this time only AA sized batteries are available from Moixa, but AAA, 9V and even cellphone battery sized cells will be available in the future.
At first glance, the USBCell doesn’t look all that much different from AA batteries that we’ve all used at one time or another to power our gadgets. There’s a positive (Green end) and negative end just like typical AA batteries.
The difference is immediately noticeable when you remove the positive end of the battery to reveal a full-sized USB connector.
The cap at the end is made of plastic with a metal contact ‘button’ protruding from the top.
The cap is tethered to the body of the battery by a short Black elastic band. This band keeps you from misplacing the cap, which would render the battery useless.
Plug the USBCell into an open powered USB port to charge it. While the battery is charging, a Green LED will glow. The LED will begin flashing when the battery is 90% charged and will turn off when fully charged.
You can also charge USBCells using a regular battery charger like the one seen in the picture above. You just need to be careful not to charge them in chargers that are rated for over 600mA. The recommended charging current is 250mAh.
Once the batteries are charged, you can use them like you would any other AA batteries. The only issue that you might have with these USBCells is that they are every so slightly larger in diameter when compared to other AA batteries. I only ran into this problem when I tried to insert a USBCell into a narrow barreled flashlight. The fit was very snug. So snug that I was afraid to fully insert it, for fear that I would not be able to remove it. I had no problems with other devices (radios, external camera flash, old gameboy, game controllers, etc.) that I tested the batteries in.
These AA USBCells batteries are 1300mAH. I have also been using Energizer AA NiMH rechargeable batteries that are rated at 2500mAH. They are almost twice the capacity of the USBCells. The higher the capacity, the longer the batteries will power your devices. That’s not to say that a capacity of 1300mAH is bad. It’s just lower. I also want to caution that you never want to mix USBCell batteries with alkaline batteries or other NiMH batteries.
The advantage of using USBCell batteries is that you don’t need a separate charger to charge them. You can also recharge them over and over, which will save you money over buying non-rechargeable AA Alkaline batteries. A disadvantage is the price: $20 for two cells. Another disadvantage is that to charge these batteries, you need open powered USB ports. The ports must be powered in order to recharge the batteries. For example, USB ports built into a keyboard are probably not powered and will not charge the USBCells. If you have a device that uses 4 batteries and you need to charge them all at once, you will need 4 open USB ports. I don’t know about you, but I have 3 USB ports on the back of my iMac and a 7 port powered hub. Guess what? ALL of my ports are full. If I need to charge 4 USBCells at one time, I would need to unplug 4 devices, or daisy chain another powered hub into my system. That makes me wonder just how convenient these batteries truly are when compared to using higher capacity non-USB charging NiMH cells. USBCells have a fun novelty appeal going for them and they do work as advertised. But for your money, I think you are better off going with regular NiMH’s and a regular charger.