In today's world, just about anywhere you go, you see kids, adults, friends, and family members with some kind of electronic device. Whether you're in the mall or at your favorite camp spot by the lake, you'll probably spot some kind of tech. It might be a cell phone, laptop, MP3 player, or even a portable game system or DVD player. Energizer has a new product that will help keep you up and running should you find yourself too far away from an outlet.
Yes, it would be nice to leave the world behind when we go out into the wild. There's a certain enjoyment to having complete peace and quiet without the beeps and whistles of email and phone calls or other siren calls of the electronic world. But, it's getting harder to do. Parents certainly understand the preferences of their children and letting them bring along an MP3 player on a long trip in the car or a gaming system for those hours trapped in a cabin is just the price of having even more peace. Just like today's younger generation, we find ourselves being drawn in as well. It's a competitive market out there right now and we don't want to be too far away from our cell phones and laptops so we can stay in touch with our workplace and not be overwhelmed when we return. I guess that's just the way things go.
We've done a few reviews on Energizer items the past year, but I've got to say this is one that's probably got me the most excited. It's hard to fathom that a Power Pack like the XP18000 is all that sexy, but for me, tech is a permanent fixture in my world no matter where I am. The little hiccup in the plan is that it's tough to keep personal electronics charged while you're out in the field. We've talked about solar solutions for those long-term adventures that are longer than a week or so, but you've got to do a little planning with that to set aside times for charging your personal tech items keeping in mind the sun's schedule as well. That's really the only way to go currently if you're going to be out more than 5-7 days (especially if you have more than one personal electronics item). But, what about those times when you're just going to be out for a few days to a week? Well, Energizer has stepped in with a great solution that will keep you steaming right along, and I think I'm in love.
The XP18000 Power Pack is just one product in a whole line designed to give you extra juice to keep your electronics humming when you don't have access to a power outlet. The Power Pack houses a Lithium Polymer battery which is charged at home or the office. Once charged, the Power Pack is then used to charge all of your electronic devices via the three different charging ports in the housing. The three ports are:
- A 16-20V Output Port
- A 9-12V Output Port
- A 5V USB Output Port
With those three output ports, Energizer has just about 95% of your personal needs covered. You can charge items like laptops, netbooks, MP3 players, GPS devices, DVD Players, Video Cameras, Digital Cameras, E-books, and gaming products like the Nintendo DS or the SONY PSP. And, the list goes on and on...
The power rating of the XP18000 is pretty impressive. The battery stores 18000 mAH of power at the 5V USB standard. To give you an idea of what this means, my cell phone's standard battery is 1500 mAH. So, I can charge my phone 12 times with the XP18000. I bought a 3500 mAH battery for my phone a while back to keep it running longer and I can charge it 5 times with the XP18000. Apple doesn't make it easy to find the true specs of their batteries for things like the Iphone or Ipod Touch, but the factory battery for the 1st Gen Ipod Touch is right around 1100 mAH and the Iphone battery is right at 1400 mAH. That means you can charge these items with the XP18000 16 times and 12 times respectively. That's pretty strong!! When you consider that the Ipod Touch offers 30 hours of music play time, that translates to about 510 (30+480) hours of music on the trail. That's fifty-one 10 hour days! And, remember, as we pointed out in an earlier article, the Iphone and Ipod Touch are good for much more than just music and audio books. They can also be used to store lots of great outdoors and surival information as well.
Another item taking the tech world by storm (especially with the Baby Boomers) is the new selection of ebook readers on the market. For those folks who still enjoy reading, but don't like the weight and bulk of books when out packing, the ebook readers are a viable solution. The new Amazon Kindle and Kindle 2 both sport a 1530 mAH battery which will allow you to read for a couple of weeks (with wireless off) before requiring charging again. With the XP18000, you could recharge the Kindle almost 12 times to give your self months of reading enjoyment, say, if you wanted to through-hike the Appalachin Trail.
As I've mentioned in other articles, I've tried to standardize on electronics that use the USB power standard. Doing that makes it much easier for me to keep the number of cords and charging accessories to a minimum. My cell phone and Ipod are charged via USB and I've also included a USB charger for AA batteries in my kit as well (more on this later). Unfortunately, there are some things that just won't work with the USB format like my video camera, digital camera, and my laptop. That's where the XP18000 really shines.
Included in the package of the XP18000 are the AC charging adapter, 3 charging cables, 6 cell phone tips, 3 media tips, and 6 laptop tips to cover your needs. Didn't find what you need in the package? No worries, the goodness doesn't stop there. Energizer guarantees that they will find whatever tip you need to work with the XP line of Power Packs and ship it to you. Even better, Energizer is going the extra mile to offer you two free tips a year for life, so as you add to your personal electronics collection, you'll stay up and running. In my opinion, that's an excellent program especially since the two tips a year are absolutely free! I went ahead and tried out their tip finder for my Dell PDA. For some reason, Dell decided to use a proprietary connector so I've always had to keep it's charging cord with me along with my other charging stuff. Not anymore! I checked their available tips and my Dell X51V is listed, so I can ditch that extra cord now. After a little more digging, I also found tips for my Canon Digital Video Camera and my Garmin 60CSx GPS unit as well. With their current tip selection and their Tip Finder Guarantee, it seems to me that no matter what type of personal electronics device you have, you'll have a charging solution available for it with the XP line of power packs.
Using the XP18000 is a breeze and I'm glad of that point because the instruction manual was less than helpful as far as operation goes. But, it's farily straightforward. The first time you charge the XP18000 with the included adapter, you'll want to charge it for about 8 hours to get the battery correctly conditioned. After that, it takes about 4 hours to get a complete charge. Once the lithium polymer battery is full and ready to do its job, you simply plug in your accessory to the appropriate charing port and hit the Power Pack's On button. The On button actually serves two functions. First, you can use it to check the charge level of the power pack. This is done with four blue LED bars to give you a rough idea of how much charge is left. Personally, I'd like to see Energizer incorporate a smart battery meter to give you a percentage of charge left to make things a little more precise, but the illuminated bars are better than nothing. Besides checking the power levels, the On button is also used to start the charging process once you have plugged in your personal electronics item.
That's it! That's all you need to know about using the XP Power Pack. Of course you'll need to make sure you know a little something about the item you are charging to make sure you plug it into the appropriate charging port, but that's relatively simple information to gather from the item itself and the cords and tips are color coded as well. Once done, you just pick the right tip and get busy! Which is exactly what I did over the past 45 days that I had to play with the XP18000. It takes a while to run out the batteries in things like my cell phone and MP3 players and the like, but I was able to get a good feel for how much the Power Pack could handle. After the initial 8 hour charge, I charged my cell phone (3500 mAH extended battery) 3 times, my iPod 4 times, and a pair of rechargeable AA batteries 3 times (both batteries). Even after that, there was still a little power left. It may not sound like a lot, but I was very impressed considering I was using my extended capacity battery in my cell phone and that's almost 2.5 times more capacity than Verizon's factory battery.
And, it's not always about gadgets and gizmos on the trail either. Sometimes, pure utility is the order of the day and the XP18000 helps out here as well. As I mentioned earlier in the article, I've incorporated a USB charger for AA batteries in my kit as well. I did this originally because I was using a solar charging solution (see our SP2000 review) that could charge items via the USB format and I wanted to have a way to charge my AA batteries for my GPS and my LED flashlights. In my current wilderness pack, I've got a LED headlamp that uses two AA batteries as does my Garmin 60CSx GPS unit. Additionally, my favorite pocket carry LED light is a Fenix L1T that puts out close to 100 lumens of light on just one AA battery. So, as you can see, I needed a way to keep my AA's charged up as well, but I wanted to stay with the USB format that I mentioned in order to keep the number of cords and tips to a minimum. I'm glad I did, because it's a simple matter for me to plug my compact USB AA battery charger straight in to the XP18000. Once done, I've got a fresh supply of power to help me keep on navigating and illuminating the trail!
As far as form factor is concerned, the XP18000 Power Pack really has a fairly small footprint for what you're getting in return. It weighs just a bit over a pound at 17.9 ounces. The dimensions are 7.1x2.9x.9 inches, so there's not a lot of bulk either. It's a pretty slim package that can be tucked away easily into your rig. There are no movable parts, hence the chances of damage go down quite a bit. It feels like it's constructed sturdily and I don't have the same trepidation about it being used on the go like I did about the SP2000 with its fold out solar wings. Even so, I'd still wrap it up in a shirt or something for that little extra bit of protection, but that's just me.
For this review, I didn't go much into its ability to charge your laptop. Part of that is that I'm usually not going to have my laptop with me if I'm doing true backpacking or hiking. The laptop will get left at home when the MP3 player or the cell phone is still on my person. But, the upside of the XP18000 is that it can be used closer to home or in a more "urban" setting when you aren't on the trail, especially during those times when your laptop is going to see more action. A great time that the XP18000 would have come in handy was when I was working in the Media Room at the SHOT show in Las Vegas. The convention center offered a wireless connection for media folks to jump on and update information on their websites, but the wall sockets were few and far between. That would have been an ideal time to set the XP18000 on the conference table right next to the laptop to keep it chugging along for a whole twelve hour day.
One thing about this review is that it's written from my perspective for use in the outdoors with small devices, and it met my needs just fine, but I'm not really factoring a laptop into the mix too much. There are a couple of things that some people would consider a negative with this package. First, there is no laptop connector for the Apple Macbook. They are currently working on a solution, but at present, it's not available. Second, the supplied laptop charging/power cord is pretty short. If you've got plenty of space on a table or work area, then you'll be okay. But, if you're in a cramped area where you need to put the Power Pack on the floor or other location, it might be a bit tricky because of the short cord length. This is one thing that should definitely be corrected. Doubling or tripling the cord length would add to the convenience factor quite substantially.
The only other negative that I could comment about, more from a theoretical standpoint, is the number of tips supplied with the package. On one hand, I would like to have seen them quite a few more to make sure that most of the cell phones and laptops out there were covered the moment you opened the box. On the other hand, I can see why every possible tip isn't included as the consumer would open the box to find a hundred tips they'll never use and that's extra cost that would have gone into the price of the Power Pack without any real benefit. I can see both sides of the argument. As I mentioned, I found the tips I needed on Energizer's site and they would need to be ordered, and I don't have any real issue with that process. I've done some research on the web, though, and have seen comments where the shipping costs are from $3.95 to $6.95 even for the free tips. Since I don't own the unit, I haven't ordered any tips yet because I can't register it in my name to get the pricing information. But, I would be okay with the $3.95 price for shipping even with the free tips. If the price is $6.95 for shipping, then I think that's a bit of an overcharge. It doesn't cost $7.00 to mail something that small and light even if you use Priority Mail.
That said, I'm not one of those folks who are searching for Nirvana when it comes to size, weight, cost, and every other spec related to a product. People will want a hundred tips, but then complain that the whole package is too bulky or heavy to pack around. They will want twenty extra feet of laptop cord, but then say it's too hard to mange or pack away easily. Just like everything else in life, there's a tradeoff for any type of compromise. Quibbles can be found with just about everything and there's no way to hit 100% in every possible category of satisfaction. Yes, little things do make a difference, but each person is unique and so is their perspective. For example, when I opened the box, I found the correct tip for my Dell 1505 laptop included, so you gotta figure I was pretty happy. For me, the XP18000 checked off all the boxes I needed checked when it comes to have a ready power supply for my electronics gear in the great outdoors.
Technology is here to stay, even in the most remote corners of the world. I have seen several instances where adventurers rowing across an ocean or through hiking a distant trail have used their electronics devices to keep them entertained and to connect to the world via text or the internet to update their friends, family, and followers on their latest exploits. You might want to so the same during your own adventures as well. The XP18000 is a great intermediate solution for you to do just that. I say "intermediate" because, depending on your electronics collection and usage, you're going to need to charge up your XP18000 again. For most people, the XP18000 is going to keep you going with a few devices for a week to two weeks. Any longer than that, your best solution is still probably going to be a solar charging device. But, Energizer has that coverd as well.
Right now, you can get the XP18000 for a little under $135.00 with some savvy shopping. And, if that's still a little pricey or you don't need all that capacity, Energizer makes 5 other products in the Power Pack line that will be smaller and/or have less battery capacity. If you're not a power user, then one of these might be a better fit for you.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the build quality, capacity, and the versatility of the Energizer XP18000 Power Pack. Right out of the gate it covers every personal electronics device that I have and it's able to be expanded even more with the use of the USB AA battery charger I mentioned earlier. It has a three year warranty (6 months on the battery and 1 year on the tips) and a lifetime program that will get you two tips a year for free (plus shipping). All in all, it's a great package for a pretty reasonable price. For me, it's truly a one size fits all solution to my consumer device power needs.
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