Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gear Closet: Jackery PowerBar Battery Pack Review

Keeping electronic devices fully charged and functioning while on an adventure can be a real challenge. Whether you're setting off on a weekend camping trip or traveling across Africa for weeks at a time, keeping your smartphone, GPS unit, camera, and other gadgets powered up is a priority. Those items are more powerful and efficient than ever before, but if they don't have a charge, they simply become dead weight.

As someone who travels frequently, I'm always on the lookout for compact, lightweight, and versatile options for keeping my devices charged. I always carry a USB battery pack of some kind with me when I hit the road, and more than once it has saved my bacon. Depending on the trip, I usually have my iPhone, iPad, a rechargeable headlamp, a GoPro, and a variety of other devices with me, so you can imagine why having the right charging solution is important. Recently, I've been testing a new option from Jackery, a company that makes mobile charging solutions that range from small chargers with a single USB port to full-blown generators for that can power small appliances. But, the company's new PowerBar just might be the sweet-spot in-between. 

Currently, the PowerBar is only available for preorder through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.  Jackery is hoping to raise $50,000 to get the battery pack into production, and if they reach that goal, it will begin shipping in November of this year. But, I've managed to get my hands on a preproduction model and have had a chance to put it through its paces. To say that I'm impressed would be an understatement.

So, what separates the PowerBar from other USB chargers? Well for starters, it has a massive battery rated for 20,800 mAh. While that's not the largest capacity that I've come across, it is still much bigger than most other battery packs the market. In fact, it is enough to recharge most smartphones 8-10 times. It can also recharge an iPad 2-3 times, many cameras as much as 8-10 times. The device also features three USB ports, including one standard port, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB Type-C port, which is used for charging the PowerBar and devices that support the format.

As if all of that wasn't impressive enough, the PowerBar also has a standard AC wall outlet as well. This port offers up to 100W of power, allowing it to recharge a laptop or drone, or even run a small LCD screen or projector. The addition of the AC outlet brings a whole new level of versatility to the PowerBar, which when combined with its large capacity battery suddenly becomes a highly portable mini-generator.

The PowerBar is made of rugged materials designed to survive in the outdoors, although it isn't waterproof like some other battery packs I've tested. Still, after using the charger for awhile now, I'm comfortable in saying that it will survive just about anything you throw at it, short of actually immersing it fully in water.

Other handy features include the ability to recharge the PowerBar using a solar panel (something I did not test), and a digital screen at one end of the charger that keeps users informed of how much power is left at all times. That charge amount is displayed as percentage, which is far more accurate than the four or five LED lights that are used on most other battery packs.

My only complaint on the PowerBar is that it is a bit large and bulky, tipping the scales at about 1.5 pounds (.68 kg). This is due in part to the inclusion of the AC outlet of course, which has to be large enough to meet standard requirements. Because of this, the device isn't quite as packable as some of the other battery packs I've used, but it is still fairly easy to carry around. Besides, it is a relatively small price to pay to get the versatility and power that it puts in the palm of your hand.

When the PowerBar launches later this year it is expected to cost $199, although early bird supporters of the crowdfunding campaign can preorder one for as little as $129. That's a great deal on a product that is portable, powerful, and will keep your devices running even when you're traveling off the grid. I'm certainly happy to have one at my disposal, as I know it'll provide plenty of confidence the next time I have to hit the road.

Find out more at jackery.com and preorder one from the PowerBar Indiegogo page

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