In my ongoing research for the new book project, I began looking for portable power options that could help in situations where phone or tablet batteries are running low and you’re not close to a wall outlet. There are a few such options out there. Mophie makes a line of portable travel chargers as does Veho. A little more digging and I found a Canadian company called Ecosol with a unique product. Being Canadian, the idea of a product from a Canadian company is, of course, appealing. What sets this one apart though is that it also can be configured with storage and has a unique charging feature. Thank you to the folks at Ecosol for agreeing to send me one to evaluate.
The PowerTrip is small, about the length and width of a deck of cards and about the depth of two smartphones stacked on top of each other. It’s also quite lightweight. It’s got a 6000mAh battery and can be had with no storage or in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB variants. It comes with three cords for different devices: one that fits the various Apple iDevices; a mini-USB; and a micro-USB. The Powertrip has a full size USB port and a mini-USB port. It can be charged in three ways. Via a swivel wall plug, by USB connected to a computer and by the sun! That’s right, it has a small solar panel on the one side that allows you to charge it by putting it in the sun. Stick it on a windowsill and it will charge back up. Now that’s cool! It’s such a cool device that it won the Innovation Award at CES in 2011.
It’s very simple to use. Charging via the wall plug is the most efficient method. In my experience it takes about 10 hours to fully charge from empty so it’s something you’ll want to do overnight. With any of the three methods, you press the power button and it begins to charge. The status window will read full when the eight bars are static, the bars blink when charging with the number of bars indicating how full the charge is. When you want to charge a phone, e-reader or tablet, simply plug into the PowerTrip, press the power button and the device will begin charging.
I can get nearly two full charges of my phone (HTC One X Android phone) or about a 55% charge to my tablet (Asus TF-700 Android) when the PowerTrip is fully charged. How your results may compare is difficult to say. It will depend on the size of the battery in the device as well as what you may have running in the background when the device is charging. For example, if your phone or tablet are still set to check email even when sleeping or wifi isn’t turned off in Sleep mode this will affect the charging results. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to charge my phone vs. about 2 hours with the wall charger directly. The tablet takes about 3 1/2 hours to reach the 55% mark and it would normally charge in about 3 hours plugged into the wall.
The Powertrip can also be a temporary power source to continue to allow using the phone or tablet until you can get to a wall outlet.
A couple things that I’d like to see with the PowerTrip. If it were able to reach a full charge more quickly, that would be a plus. Also, the status window can be difficult to see in low light. The inclusion of a backlight that could be turned on when the power button is pressed would be a really nice feature. Either that or the use of LED status lights that sequentially turned on or off as the device is charging or discharging. It comes with a small, nylon carry bag. Personally I don’t use that. I use one of the same neoprene cases that I use for the Gauntlet WiFi discussed in an earlier article.
As noted above, the PowerTrip can be configured with up to 16GB of storage as well. This provides an excellent source of secondary storage for documents or other data. The USB connection is 2.0. I’d like to see this upgraded to the current 3.0 standard. When plugged into my tablet via the OTG USB adapter, the storage on the PowerTrip is recognised and available.
The PowerTrip with no storage is $99 and prices go up to $139 for the version with 16GB of storage. It feels quite solid in the hand. The case is plastic but doesn’t feel cheap. The white top cover will likely get dirty and smudged pretty quickly but that’s not something that I’m going to worry about. The swivel wall plug is a good idea to both save space and prevent damage – to it and other things in the bag. My biggest concern is the solar panel and whether it will become damaged over time. Photographers aren’t known to treat equipment with kid gloves so I’ll have to see how that panel holds up over time.
The one caveat, but there’s no way around it, is that if you’re using the phone or tablet to drive the camera via USB, you’re not going to be able to continue shooting and have the PowerTrip connected as a power source at the same time. That’s not a fault of the PowerTrip, it’s just the logistics of the USB connections. You can use the PowerTrip to give a quick hit of juice to the phone or tablet to continue or finish shooting, which is better than having to abandon entirely.
Overall, I think this is a really good product. Size and weight are good for tossing into the kit bag. It does what it’s billed to do and does it well. The few, small improvements would make it just that much better.