A few weeks ago I was contacted by TeckNet to see if I’d like to test one of their products. Power Banks (or portable chargers) have become vital pieces of gear to ensure that mobile phones, GPS’s and cameras can be charged in the field. Since adopting my iPhone as a GPS, being able to keep it charged has become an important consideration.
TeckNet were kind enough to send me two power banks: the iEP900 and the iEP360. Before doing a review and comparisons, I’ll give a quick outline of the two products. Link to TeckNet Website.
The iEP900 is a bit of a beast! It’s waterproof and shockproof to standard IP67. The access flap to the USB ports has rubber seal. The device itself is very solid, although I’ve not done a drop test. The capacity is 9000mAh and it weighs 230g. It comes with a USB lead which can be used to both charge the power bank and any USB compatible device. There’s an old style Apple adaptor, but not a new style Lightning one. It also comes with a strap and a mini karabiner and a small compass. The compass is really a toy and not properly functional. The picture above shows the USB ports (input, left; output, right) and an LED bulb, which functions as a torch.
The on/off switch is at the base of the power pack. Pressed once it starts to charge and twice switches on the torch. The last feature is four small LED charge indicators above the USB flap. Overall the package is quite neat and robust (dimensions 10.1 x 6.4 x 2.7 cm).
I didn’t take this on my Deepdale Daunder as it seemed overkill. However, I’ve used it to charge both my iPad and iPhone at home with no problems. The output rating is 2.1A, which means charging is noticeably faster than the more usual 1A USB outputs.
However, there is one design flaw, that I’ve drawn to the attention of TeckNet. The flap that hides the USB ports is very secure. In fact so secure, that I can only open it by using the screwdriver on my Swiss penknife. I can’t open it unaided.
Strangely, this product is not on the TeckNet website but is on Amazon. While this is a perfectly good product, I think it’s a bit overkill for me. If you need waterproof protection for kayaking or sailing, then this might suit. It’s a shame the USB door is so awkward.
When I was offered the chance to review the iEP900, I countered with the product that I thought looked most interesting for my purposes, which is the iEP360. This is NOT waterproof, but is more compact (9.8 x 2.2 x 3.8 cm) and at 130g, weighs 100g less. However, the charging capacity is 6000mAh. Effectively you are getting you are getting 67% of the capacity for 57% of the weight compared with the iEP900.
The iEP360 comes with USB charging cable that can be used for input and output. The cable also has three adapters (Apple 30 Pin, Mini, PSP). Again, there’s no Lightning adaptor.
The charger is switched on by a recessed switch on the side of the pack. Pressing the button twice turns the torch on and off. Making the on/off button recessed is a good move as it makes it less likely that the torch can be switch on unintentionally when it is rattling around in your bag. Personally, I would prefer a sliding switch, but this is the next best thing. On the top left of the picture, you can see four blue LED lights (not illuminated) that show the charging level. Output is 2.1A for faster charging.
I did take this on my Deepdale Daunder and was very pleased with it. Compared with my Power Monkey Discovery, it charged noticeably faster. On such a short trip, I didn’t test the capabilities to the full, but I think the iEP360 is in the sweet spot in the weight to charging capacity trade off. More on that later. You can check prices on the TeckNet website for yourself. However, Amazon does seem to be very price competitive!
Here’s my collection of battery charger/power banks. Below is a table giving key metrics of them plus some other TeckNet models taken from their website.
Let’s do a quick run through. The Olixar Power Slider is very handy to take as a compact backup power supply for a day. It doesn’t really have enough capacity for longer trips, but is a useful little device.
The Power Monkey Discovery is a nice robust device, which I took on the TGO Challenge. It worked well but has some draw backs. For charging it uses a Power Monkey specific USB lead, which can’t be switched round to charge other devices, unlike the TeckNet power banks. Although robust, it is quite heavy compared with others. Output is 1A, which means it is slower than 2.1A devices.
The Power Bank 5600 was bought from Amazon and is no longer available. A slightly different 5000mAh is available. This is so nearly a great device BUT I found that the torch switch was badly designed. The torch kept being switched on in the pack. Admittedly, the loss of charge might be small, but it was irritating. Output is 1A, so, again, the charging rate is slower than some competitors.
The TeckNet iEP360, I’ve already covered. The TeckNet iEP387 has been useful, except I haven’t used it that much as it’s heavier than the Power Monkey Discovery. Mine is the old version with 1A outputs, whereas the new version has a 2.1A rating. It does have two output ports, which is useful. I’ve given my views on the TeckNet iEP900.
The chart above shows the trade off between weight and mAh charge per gram. Although the iEP1500 is the most attractive, for most trips, having a 15,000 mAh is going to be massive overkill. It seems to me that the Power Bank 5600 and the TeckNet iEP360 give the best combination of charge capacity and weight.
An iPhone 5 has a battery capacity of 1,440 mAh and a iPhone 5S has 1,570 mAh. In theory, that equates to around four charges for the iEP360. In practice, it’s likely to be around three. That should be easily enough for most trips.
The iEP360 wins over the Power Bank 5600 as it has a better design of torch button and with a 2.1mAh output, has a much faster charging speed. It wins over the Power Monkey as it has a better power charge to weight ratio and faster charging speed.
For my purposes, the iEP360 is more suitable than the iEP900. The iEP900 also has the drawback of a badly designed USB door which needs a screwdriver to open. I don’t really need the waterproof feature as all my electrical stuff goes into a waterproof roll top bag. I’ve also discovered that I can use the TeckNet USB lead to charge my camera, saving me another bit of gubbins.
Looking at the options available to me, I think the TeckNet iEP360 has the best combination of charging capacity, charging speed and weight. It seems to me, that it’s in the sweet spot for backpackers. It provides enough charge for multiday trips without being overkill. My one suggestion for improvement is that I would prefer a sliding on/off switch.
Disclosure: TeckNet provided the iEP900 and iEP360 free of charge for review. TeckNet agreed that I have total editorial freedom to say what I wanted about the products. I have no formal or financial relationship with TeckNet. The other products in the review were all purchased with my own funds.