With the news in the UK reporting stark warnings about the fragility of Britain's power supply this Winter, it's of perhaps of little surprise that some of the most popular posts on this blog relate to external battery packs.
When I was young, the village I grew up in had frequent electricity blackouts, but to a four year old, these were novel and fun. These days, with our dependence on electrical gadgets being so much greater, I doubt 21st century children will be quite so amused!
I've been really pleased with the Expower battery that I reviewed this summer. It makes for a great travel companion that can keep a smartphone running for a few extra days away from the socket, but what if your needs stretch beyond running one or two smartphones?
Let's say you're a power user, in both senses of the word. Perhaps you don't just want to keep the smartphone running, but a tablet device too. Or you have a family who also have phones, Kindles, tablets, cameras and so on that they want to juice up when the mains power isn't available.
Well, then the Expower may fall a little short. If you want to really be able to avoid the electricity-grid and enjoy more of your gadgets, then you should consider the Xtorm Portable Power Bank!
Finished in a gloss white plastic with a silver band around the edge, the Xtorm is free of designer showiness, but feels solid and well made. It's a similar size to your typical pocket hard drive, but quite a bit heavier, as it's all battery cells inside.
Where the smaller, more pocketable external batteries, like the ExPower (or my previous favourite, the Veho Pebble) typically have 5000mah of capacity, the Xtorm has a whopping 11000mah!
To put this into context that's enough to give you an extra 50 hours of usable smartphone time.
As is becoming more common, the Xtorm will charge two devices at the same time. On the front, there are two full-sized USB sockets. USB 1 is labelled 1a ('a' for 'amp') for smartphones. This matches the output of the smaller pocket batteries and will charge your typical smartphone several times over.
The second USB is more interesting, as it's labelled 2.1a for iPad/iPhone. iPad owners will know that a charge from the wall will take hours, and connecting to a computer's USB socket does not usually deliver enough juice for it to charge and run at the same time. But the Xtorm takes this in its stride and will charge more demanding tablets and other gadgets, as well as the smaller items like phones and e-book readers.
When it comes to needing a top up of its own, the smaller micro-USB in the centre can be connected to any phone charger. This is probably best done overnight, as it'll take several hours to fill this large capacity battery back up.
Fortunately, you'll always know whether the Xtorm needs a boost itself, as you can simply press the silver button on top and up to four green bars will show up through the top of the battery, indicating how much energy is left. It's quite a nice effect, as the lamps are hidden just beneath the surface of the Xtorm and are completely invisible when not lit.
So, are there any drawbacks? Well, it's not cheap at £60 and it's not a device you'd carry around with you every day in your pocket. However, if you travel regularly and want to keep several gadgets going, or you are looking after the family's toys as well as your own, the Xtorm is much easier to manage than buying several smaller capacity solutions. Its ability to fully charge more demanding gadgets such as iPads and Windows tablets also means that it's doing something that the smaller gadgets cannot. The weight and four small rubber feet keep it firmly planted on any flat surface whilst in operation, though I did note it gets rather warm, so best not to run it in a bag or pocket.
Whilst Britain may be doing a fine job of mismanaging the national grid, you can at least ride out the occasional blackout and keep Angry Birds going whilst the rest of us go back to cards by candlelight.
Credit - Thanks very much to Insurance2Go for providing the Xtorm unit for review.
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