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This review has been updated with the benefit of 6 months regular usage.
In the last few years smart phones and tablets have made huge inroads with most people who are even somewhat tech savvy having some form of smart device in their pocket or house. This has produced another quieter trend among heavier users – carrying around spare batteries as smart phones are rarely renowned for their lasting power.
There are three real approaches to batteries. Get a case that is also a battery, get a small external battery that contains part of a charge that can get you through the day or get the biggest battery that you can for the most recharges available.
The Kit Universal Portable Power Bank Emergency Charger 15,000mAh falls squarely into the third category and is designed less to be carried in your pocket but more for your travel bag or in the car.
The Power Bank is a small but heavy rectangular block with a single button on top. It has one charge point on the back for itself and two charging points on the front for other items. It comes with a single USB cable with changeable tips – microUSB, miniUSB and an Apple 30 pin but not a more modern Apple lightning connector.
Probably the most important part of any external battery is its capacity and this one has the very impressive 15,000mAh. To put that in context the Nexus 5 has a 2300mAh battery (6.5 charges), the Nexus 6 3220mAh (4.5 charges), and the Nexus 9 6700mAh (2.5 charges). On the Apple side the iPhone 6 has 1810mAh (8 charges), the iPhone 6 has 2915mAh (5 charges) and the iPad Air 2 has 7340mAh (2 charges).
In actual use I found the Power Bank very similar to what is implied by the figures – I use a HTC One with a 2600mAh battery and was able to get just under 5 full charges (10% to full) before the Power Bank ran dry. If you are careful with your phone use those 6 charges could get you through a week away from convenient mains electricity.
The Power Bank claims to retain charge for 6 months which also makes it viable as an emergency charger for the car or similar. I had no way to test this but I would point out that electronics in general do not handle extremes of heat and cold which you might find in a car’s glove box or similar so be cautious if you plan this. Perhaps the best emergency use would be for if you have intermittent power supply problems. Charge it when there is power and let it charge your phone when there is not.
Size: 3 x 8 x 18 cm
Battery: Lithium Ion 15,000mAh
Charge Time: Around 10 hours from a complete drain on a 1A charger
Output: Dual USB 2.1A and 1A
The Power Bank does not ship with a wall-wart charger. To charge it you need to use your own charger or the USB port on a computer. Be aware if you choose to use your PC or a wall charger with a low-wattage that the already long 10 hour charging time can get significantly longer.
Features and Accessibility
Design & Visual Accessibility
The Power Bank is an around six-inch brick with rounded edges. It has a single button on the top which a short press of lights some of the four blue LEDs below it to give an idea of the charge available. On the front edge are two USB ports which put out 5v 2.1A and 1A. If there is device plugged into one or both ports the button starts charging. Charging stops either when all devices are unplugged for 30 seconds or with a long press or around 5 seconds on the button.
On the back of the Power Bank is a single Mini-USB port labelled “In” for charging it.
The Power Bank comes with a single USB cable with three changeable heads for micro-usb, mini-usb and a 30-pin Apple connector. When the cable has a head attached it makes a fairly long and delicate connection. Whilst charging my phone in my bag somehow managed to get enough leverage to bend mine to a near 90 degree angle. It still works but I would recommend not using the supplied cable in any situation where pressure could be put on it. This is not necessarily a major problem as most of us have a number of USB cables lying around but it is a shame that more durable cables could not have been supplied instead of the interchangeable system. It should also be noted that the Apple connector is the older style 30 pin connector – if you have a iPhone 5 or later you will need your own lightning cable.
Audio & Accessibility
There is no audio element to the Power Bank. It has no speakers or microphone and is totally silent in operation.
Input and Touch
The single button on the Power Bank is slightly recessed and this has the advantage that it is far less likely to be pushed by accident in a bag. It does make it more difficult to press deliberately as well. I had no difficult with the short press required to check charge or start charging a device but had much more difficulty with the press and hold needed to turn it off. This is not an insurmountable problem as if you remove the device being charged the Power Bank powers itself down after 30 seconds.
The USB ports all seem of good quality and are not looser or tighter than you would expect plugging in cables. After another six months use the ports are still perfect.
The whole Power Bank is made of a smooth shiny black plastic that does not feel particularly good to hold. It also collects fingerprints and is somewhat slippy. This is not a product that you will usually be carrying in your hands but a little grip or cross-hatching on the plastic would have been helpful. After some experimentation I found that if I put a couple of rubber bands around it it was much easier to grip and it gave me somewhere to attach the cable when not in use.
The Power Banks weighs around 375g, not including the cables to connect to your smart device. This is a factor of the size of the battery and something that you will need to consider when choosing a spare battery – the larger the capacity the more it will weigh. This product weighs a reasonable amount for is capacity.
Ease of Use
The power bank is as simple as it could possibly be. Press the button with nothing attached and it tells you its charge level. Press the button with something attached it will charge it. Unplug the thing being charged and it switches off.
It includes no tutorials or setup information but little is needed. Mine shipped with around half charge in it which was a pleasant surprise as it was usable straight out of box.
Price: RRP£49.99, currently £30.49
If you are after a good emergency back up battery for the car, travelling, camping or if you experience regular power cuts the Kit Universal Portable Power Bank Emergency Charger is a reasonable choice. Its RRP of £49.99 is however steeper than the average cost for a similar battery and I cannot recommend it at that price. It’s usual Amazon selling price is around £30 and if you are able to get it in a sale or at a discount it is a solid, well specced battery and a good choice.