Review: PhoneSuit’s 8200mAh Primo Power Core
As any true iPhone power-user knows (a “power-user” being defined as any iPhone user who owns both Angry Birds and Tiny Wings), having an extra battery’s worth of juice these days is a must. And where having ONE extra battery’s worth of juice is good, as you can imagine, having FIVE battery charges is just awesome. Enter the 8200mAh Primo Power Core from PhoneSuit.
The PowerSuit is an external power supply along the lines of the Zagg Sparq, in that it is not a Mophie-JuicePack-like “battery and case” combo, it’s just a big old battery. Actually, it’s not even that big really, as you can see in these pictures comparing it to an iPhone and iPad. Now, while you may not want to walk around daily with it in your pocket, it should fit in most oversized pockets, and certainly for any camping trip or long plane/car ride where you expect you’ll be away from a power source, something like the Power Core would be ideal.
While battery/case options like the Mophie JuicePack have their benefits, they also have their drawbacks. First, they only fit the device they were designed for. If you buy a Mophie JuicePack for an iPhone 3GS, then get an iPhone 4, guess what you’ll ALSO be buying? That’s right, an iPhone 4 version of the JuicePack. And forget about trying to charge an iPad off it. But the other drawback is that since those cases are meant to be carried around on your iPhone, they are relatively light and weak, usually supplying just again as much extra battery life as the original iPhone’s battery.
By the power of GraySkull! I HAVE THE POWER!!!
Now yes, for most people, that should be more than enough to get them through an average day, but there are times having a monster like the Primo Power can be a blessing. First, it is the only external battery so far that can fully charge an iPad. That’s right, thanks to the whopping 8200mAh capacity and the “charge anything” mentality behind its design, the Primo can charge pretty much anything that supports USB charging. That means the Primo can charge not only your iPad and iPhone, but also your loser friend’s Galaxy Tab, Blackberry, Android tablet or Smartphone. And it does it FAST, (up to 2.1 Amp / 10 Watt output) thanks to its automatic Amp switching technology that supplies the correct amount of power to each device.
The Primo Power Core comes with 1 multi-purpose USB cable, and a wide assortment of interchangeable tips that will fit pretty much any device that supports charging, from eBook readers to smart phones and tablets (see my comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s charging tip and the iPad’s). Unlike other battery chargers, the Power Core does not itself charge from USB, instead it uses a standard AC wall charger that can completely recharge the Core in about 4 and a half hours.
How it works
Using the Power Core couldn’t be much easier: Simply attach the appropriate charging tip to the included USB cable, plug it into the Core, plug in your device, and turn on the power switch (a small silver switch located on the side of the unit). Assuming you fully charged the Power Core first, you’ll see its three, circular blue LED’s light up and begin slowly flashing as the charge your unit. These are fairly bright, so if you are planning on doing nighttime charging, you might want to lay the Power Core face down on a nightstand or something to block the light.
PhoneSuit claims you can get about 4 to 5 full iPhone charges out of a fully charged Power Core, and we found we did manage to get just under 5 full charges, while still listening to podcasts on our iPhone (I first set my iPhone to Apple;s original power saving settings). Charging the iPad worked similarly well. We started charging an iPad with 3% battery left at bedtime, and awoke to find it at a full 100%. However, there was not much left in the Primo to do any other charging, but that’s still pretty damn impressive.
One final trick the Primo has up its sleeve is a 12 Volt out port for higher powered products such as Netbook computers. This doesn’t really help all of us Magsafe users, but if you have the need to charge a netbook while out in the field, it’s a nice option. However, if you ARE looking to use the Power Core to do so, you’ll need to order an optional cable to fit the port.
I love external batteries so much it’s hard to find much bad to say about them, but I’ll try. First, while PhoneSuit touts the fact that the Power Core does not charge via USB and instead only uses AC power, The AC power cord isn’t nearly as portable as a USB cable (of which I routinely have 40 in my computer bag), so in most situations, I might prefer to have the option of a USB charger as well. Also, one nice feature of the Zagg Sparq (which costs the same $99 but only has 6000 mAh of power) is it has TWO usb ports for charging. Given both my wife and I have iPhones,and both our kids have iPod touches, it might be nice to have the option of simultaneous charging. In reality, it wouldn’t be a big deal given the amount of times we would ever need to do that, but hey, I like to nitpick.
My only other issue is one I have with pretty much every battery charger ever made, namely, the LED lights really give you a HORRIBLE idea of just how much power is left in the Power Core’s battery. Much smaller single-use chargers sport 4 or sometimes 5 little LEDs, which while not great, at least gives a slightly better idea than the mere 3 that the Power Core has, especially considering how much more power it potentially has. So 1 lit LED circle COULD mean it is about to die, or it could mean you could still fully charge two iPod touches. I’m not sre what the solution is, as I usually find all LED lights annoying, and have no better ideas, but I guess the idea here is charge it fully before your trip, and you know you have a good 4 or 5 iPhone charges to go on your trip.
Until internal battery life improves, external battery chargers are a must-have addition to most mobile device users. While many can get away with the svelte battery/case combos, there are some (like me) who are usually carrying so many other gadgets around with them anyway the extra weight of a battery brick like the Primo Power Core is not an issue. If you are someone who routinely finds themselves “getting away from it all” (meaning reliable power sources) but doesn’t want to get away from their gadgets, then the Primo Power Core from PhoneSuit is a great choice.
Pros: Best-in-class 8200mAh is enough juice to power 5 iPhones, or an iPad. Versatile – can charge just about any USB device, as well as Netbooks (with optional cable)
Cons: 3 LED’s don’t give a great indication of how much power is left in the Power Core, ability to charge TWO USB devices would be great.