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Review: the ChargeUp Pro portable battery unit

Simon Parker's picture
ChargeUp Pro Powerbank Cygnett 11000mAH portable battery

A key concern for us before setting out on our latest long-distance cycling adventure was how best to power the plethora of electronic devices we'd need to take with us to map the routes.

The devices includes two smartphones, tablets, DSLR camera, a Magellan Cyclo 505 GPS computer, two Garmin GPS units and a Sony Action Cam. It's a lot to keep powered and when you factor in the draining effects of the cold weather, the task becomes even harder. We rely on much of this equipment to update the website, accurately track our journey, and keep in touch with family and friends, so it's critical we can power at least a few of these devices at key times – for example, when using one of the GPS devices, we simply can't afford for it to stop working out on the road as we need accurate records for The Australian Bicycle Route Project.

When investigating energy supply options we originally considered a dynamo hub for our front wheels. While this was a seemingly viable and medium to long-term solution, there were a number of drawbacks. One was the cost. For our preferred choice, the Schmidt SON 28 unit, we were facing a $500-plus cost per bike to have the hub and coupled with a Supernova Plug III. There were cheaper dynamos available, but the power ratios on these units weren't as high. We also weren't confident about the impact drag would have on our cycling when using a cheaper dynamo - the thought of having to pedal harder to generate the necessary power whilst maintaining a good enough average speed wasn't so appealing.

I can see us eventually going with the dynamo hub at some point, but at least in our particular situation, it just didn't seem the best option.

Another popular option for cyclists are solar chargers like the Goal Zero range. These are great if you're going to be out in very remote places for weeks on end, but as that isn't the case for us, we didn't think carrying around a bulky object that needed to sit out in the sun for long periods of time was necessary. (As it turns out, the first nine days of this trip have been overcast and rainy!)

While dynamos and solar chargers can produce their own power, they can often take hours to charge a single device.

Portable battery

A compromise was the ChargeUp Pro Powerbank Cygnett 11000 mAH portable power unit, which cost us $89. There are plenty of portable batteries on the market and this just happens to be the one we picked up at our local store. Portable batteries may not produce their own power, but they do have the ability to maintain a charge for days and power your devices fully and much faster than the alternatives.

We've been using the ChargeUp Pro for just over two weeks now, and while it takes a long time to fully charge – up to 16 hours overnight – the result has been worth it. On the one charge we've managed to fully power up a smartphone or GPS unit five times, or an iPad once coupled with a smartphone or GPS unit twice.

According to the JB Hi-Fi website (the retailer we purchased the unit from), the unit can charge your smartphone seven times. We haven't managed that feat, but we do have a bad habit of using our devices while they're plugged in to the battery, zapping a little bit of extra power.

I've even managed to get enough charge on a dead phone in order for me to quickly transfer cash from one bank account to another as the cashier was processing my card, all by simply plugging the phone into the unit.

The unit comes with two USB ports, allowing for two devices to be charged at the same time – one is a 2.1 Amp output, the other 1 Amp. It also has a short USB to micro USB cable and comes in a thick rubberised casing.

The battery maintains its charge well and was still full after two days of not using it. We haven't gone a longer period without using it than that as we generally need to use it by that point.

One catch is you need to use the unit regularly in order to ensure it performs at its best, although since we're travelling, this is not a problem. We noticed that the battery didn't reach its peak capacity until it had been through about three full charging cycles (for example, the very first time we used it, we could only charge our phone three times).

Bottom line

Overall we've been impressed with the portable battery option and it has been very useful and easy to use backup power source on the road. It's important to state that for us, the battery is not our main source of power. We charge our devices when in town. But it is an important backup for making sure we can continue to record our GPS waypoints and maintain phone contact for the few remote stretches in between.

Portable batteries are affordable and do not take up much space in your pannier (it is about twice as thick as an iPhone and a little bit longer). They are a good option for cyclists who will be coming into regular contact with towns every few days and have access to plugging it in to recharge overnight. They won't be as useful if you'll be in remote regions for longer periods, and this is where solar power chargers and dynamos start to earn their value.

Comments

Next time you need to buy a battery backup, you might have a close look at this 12000mAh external battery. It is almost half of the price of the ChargeUp Pro, has 3 USB charging ports, as well as a longer life. Well regarded by people that I know who use them.

not very happy with the design. the charge port to charge the unit is to far recessed and most chargers do not click in properly. they fall out or struggle to make connection. over time the unit just stopped charging with only a dozen uses. even when using a charger long enough to reach into the recessed port made the unit would flash showing charging but never actually charge.

Alia Parker's picture

Just an update about our experience with this unit as we wrote this review after using the device for two weeks. In the end, we relied on this portable battery for seven months of cycling around Australia, and it did a great job. It continued to charge our devices multiple times so that we never found ourselves in a situation with a flat mobile phone or GPS device.

In response to the previous comment, it sounds like you had a dud unit as we didn't experience any of those issues while using this particular portable battery. It continues to charge well today (a full year later) and our cables always plugged in properly without falling out.

Having said that, there are plenty of good portable batteries on the market, so no need to rush out and get this particular one. But it's worth noting that this one did the job for us.

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