When I first saw the Powermonkey eXtreme listed in the ‘coming soon‘ section of the Powertraveller website I got a little excited. I had previously seen they had a larger battery called the Startmonkey200 and thought this could be a backup power consideration for campers but I somehow thought they must be developing a dedicated mobile high power solution; they were.
The Powermonkey eXtreme is a high capacity battery and a solar panel (the Solarmonkey).
I had seen that this combined unit was generating a lot of interest on twitter in the hiking circles (SocialHiking.org.uk) and noticed that@PilgrimChris was arranging a bulk deal to help others save through crowd sourcing. I knew that this was certainly a unit that I needed to get my hands on. With a little help from my friend Christian Payne I was contacted by Powertraveller and asked if I wanted to do a review.
The Powermonkey eXtreme (battery)
The battery is called the Powermonkey eXtreme it has a massive 9000mAh Lithium Polymer battery. It quotes DC OUT USB as 5V 700mA and DC 5V 2.1A via the round DC socket (now 12v, please see 2013 update below). It comes with a little adapter lead to turn this into a USB female for charging an iPad. This is pretty impressive as not many mobile batteries have the amps to charge an iPad.The battery has dust and waterproof protection to level IP67 (whatever IP67 means?).
The ‘switch’ on the battery takes a little getting used to – there is no physical switch, just a pressure pad that you swipe and tap to turn on. I imagine this is to aid the batteries waterproof qualities. I have had a couple of issues where I have struggled to turn the unit on and one morning after the battery had fully charged my iPhone I couldn’t get it to charge anything else. I got in touch with Powertraveller and they identified the unit as faulty and swiftly sent a replacement battery to the campsite within a day. This is great service and something worthy of a mention when investing in technology (think China and eBay).
The battery includes an LCD screen with a graphical charge indicator which will light up with one tap. Another indicator of the charge status is an LED bulb just at the side of the LCD screen. This starts out red and turns to green when fully charged. This can hardly be seen on the grey unit but because of the plastic density of the red unit, the outer actually glows red and I think this is a better indication at a glance.
On tests the battery fully charged the iPhone 4 in two hours and I managed to get five full charges from the unit.
The solar panel is called The Solarmonkey and kicks out a maximum power of 5V 600mA and is variable depending on light levels. Please note, this is a different model to the Solarmonkey previously on the market.
The panel folds in half and easily slots into my ‘manbag‘ it feels solid with a rubberised coating and rubber side grips. There is an elasticated velcro strap across the back of the panel making it easy to hang on the outside of a tent. You can fold the panel into any angle without it toppling over to obtain the best angle for the light – this is a nice design feature as the base must be slightly heavier.
I was blown away by the quality of the panel. It charges in fairly low levels of light and certainly does not require sunlight to directly charge an iPhone 4. On a cloudy, rainy day it was still powering the iPhone. However, once the light levels do drop the iPhone will display the ‘unsupported’ message and stop the charging. This is not great if you are leaving the iPhone unattended (not recommended) as charging will not resume until you remove and replace the power cable.
This isn’t a big problem as I would always recommend using an inline battery, then you will be assured that every drop of energy from the sun is being harvested. I wouldn’t want to leave my iPhone directly connected to the panel anyway, and especially not in the sun.
I tested the charge times of the SolarMonkey in cloudy conditions. There was literally no sun all day with solid grey cloud cover. The panel took nine hours to fully charge my Kensington 1800mAh backup battery. This is actually really impressive as in the past the small panels I have tested require direct sunlight which is somewhat limiting in the UK.
It all comes in a semi-ridged zipped case which neatly holds all the items. When packed, It’s not far off the size of a house brick, so don’t think you’ll be able to slip it into your back pocket.
This is pretty serious kit that would suit people camping away from mains power. I confess I have a love for solar so the panel apeals to me more than the battery. I would love to see the Solarmonkey sold separately as I feel it is the shining star of the outfit. At over 400g both units make it a slightly eXtreme mobile power solution for backpackers and walkers while the 200g panel is worth the extra payload when combined with a lighter smaller capacity battery. If you are using a bicycle or kayak then weight may not be such a problem, and this will surely be the product to buy in 2011.
I was sent this unit for testing and review purposes but it can be purchased from the Powertraveller website for £120 inclusive of VAT and delivery and although It may seem a hefty price just to re-charge your mobile or iPad, the quality of the kit and service levels from the company make it a worthwhile investment.
The most important improvement for 2013 is the change to the powermonkey extreme’s DC output option. The standard 5V USB socket remains but the DC port has been upgraded to output 12V (previously 5V), meaning that the powermonkey extreme is now capable of charging SLR camera batteries, portable DVD players and much more directly from the unit. The updated model also includes a female in-car socket so if users only have an in-car charger for their device, they can now recharge it directly from the powermonkey extreme.
Which is another reason to ensure you are buying the latest model!
Try this USB battery …