Greatest product name ever? That’s easy – the powermonkey eXtreme (yes, mostly lower case) from Powertraveller. Besides having a name worthy of awards, the powermonkey eXtreme earned an Outdoor Industry Award in 2011, and has racked up plenty of positive press in distinguished media outlets around the world. It was only after the mainstream press had their say that they approached our prestigious digital publication, and offered us the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe they were worried we’d break their sample? Anyway, we jumped at the opportunity to put it to the test.
Powertraveller makes portable batteries and chargers for everything from a single phone or GPS to ones that run your laptop or even start your car. They know their DC voltage. For the powermonkey eXtreme, they combined a pair of 3 x 5″ polysilicon panels that can output up to three watts, with a lithium polymer battery that offers an astounding 9,000 mAh capacity. Yes, 9,000 mAh. For those readers that prefer a more real-world measurement of capacity, that’s two full iPad or tablet charges, 4-6 recharges of your GPS, iPhone or Android (I suppose Windows phones too, if anyone actually uses them), and 8-12 charges of a plain old, “just for emergency” type of cell phone. It’s got juice to spare. Output is via a standard USB port, or a 5V, 2.1Amp (max) outlet for iPads and other 5V tablets.
Enough math, let’s get to aesthetics and applications. The 214 gram panels are encased in hard plastic that’s pretty durable, and on one end you’ll find the port for the output with a rubber cover, plus there’s a handy green LED that lights up to let you know it’s collecting rays. But the real sexy bit is the battery unit. Only 242 grams, and measuring 6 x 2.35 x 1.1 inches (152 x 59.5 x 28mm), it’s all flat black, velvety smooth hard plastic that somehow manages to look far more expensive than it actually is. By that, I mean it’s very fairly priced (under $200) for what you get. As expected, there is an input to charge it via the solar panel, USB, or wall outlet. On top is the cool part. Swipe your thumb across the friction pad, and the blue LCD panel lights up and displays the level of charge via six bars. No moving parts in that switch, yet swiping in the opposite direction turns it off, and a double tap leaves it on until another single tap turns it back off. Easy to operate, easy to remember.
The shock resistance and waterproofing has already been tested, so I found no reason to go out of my way to try and break it. Unfortunately, our budget doesn’t currently cover multi-day expeditions to anywhere exciting, so my review consisted of carrying it around for a week, and charging my phone when it died. From Monday morning, it held out until Sunday afternoon, at which point it had a single bar displaying. A typical day sees my phone battery around 30% or less by the time I hit the pillow, so 4-6 full charges on an Android seems about right. If I was actually on vacation for week, my phone would see less use, and the GPS might see more. In that case, the solar panels can top it all the way up in abut 15 hours of sunlight. That’s probably twice as long as every other device we have tested, but it’s also four times the capacity. Even in Utah during the winter, we should get 15 hours of sunshine over the course of a week.
So what’s the verdict? The powermonkey eXtreme has the capacity to keep more than one device topped up over extended forays, and can recharge via the sun at a rate faster than you can deplete it, unless you have several power-hungry devices. That makes it ideal for families, emergencies, or some serious traveling on or off the grid. It ships with an AC wall charger that includes a generous amount of plug adapters to accommodate 120-240 volts in most countries, plus several “monkeynuts”, which are mobile device tips for popular devices. My only complaint, which is pretty much invalidated by the capacity of the product itself, is that you can fit the cable and tips, but not the wall charger, into the included travel case. The truth is that the wall charger wouldn’t even be required on shorter trips, and not used at all when camping. Other than that, you’d be hard pressed to beat the durability, versatility, and especially capacity, at anywhere near the price. The engineers at Powertraveller got it right, so enthusiasts like us can have our toys and lifesaving gadgets wherever we go. powertraveller.com