My Powerbag by Greg Wesson (@lombaki) Written exclusively for Berryfication.com
At CES 2012, Crackberry.com took a look at a new accessory for the tech world- The Powerbag. I was intrigued to say the least. In my life as a tech junkie, I’m often carrying an “office bag” or “executive bag” full of my gadgets.
I never know what I’m going to want to use, when I’m going to need it, and often worst of all, what its current state of battery life might be.
The Powerbag is an evolutionary step in tech. They didn’t create the man purse, they perfected it. It’s one of those, “Smack my head! Why didn’t I think of that?!” type of inventions. It’s genius. Here’s the basic idea: Take a typical nylon/leather carry bag and throw a Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery in it with standard charging cables attached so a person can make sure their devices can always have juice. Simple. Brilliant.
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll know I’m functionality over form guy. I want whatever I spend my money on to work for me rather than look good. This review will go into the Form first and the Functionality second. Before that, though, here’s how I ended up with the Powerbag in the first place. The Purchase
On January 19, 2012, @MyPowerBag sent out a tweet asking if anyone was interested in obtaining a coupon code for their product. Being the frugal individual that I am, I hadn’t previously considered picking up a Powerbag, but when coupons show up, I get weak. So, with 15% off and some Christmas cash still burning a hole in my pocket, I hopped online and searched through the variety offered, which is substantial.
Powerbag offers many styles and options in their line. There are backpacks, messenger bags, and briefcases, including rolling versions. All In all, they offer 10 different options ranging from $140 to $250. The differences in price are due to size of bag and size of battery. I won’t go into describing all 10 versions here; rather I’ll focus on the product I purchased called the Instant Messenger Bag.
The reasons I purchased the Instant Messenger were based on price, style, and my personal usage. I knew what I had to spend. I knew what I previously used to carry everything around and wanted something similar in style. With the coupon code and my preferences, I found the item that caught my fancy and dove in.
Powerbag is able to charge almost any USB-powered device including most smartphones and many tablets. AC powered devices such as laptops and some tablets are not supported. The following tablets are compatible:
• Amazon Kindle™ (All generations)
• Barnes & Noble NOOK™
• Samsung Galaxy Tab™– The Galaxy Tab requires a unique USB power source to charge at full speed. Powerbag will supply only 500mA (similar to computer charging) to your tablet. During this time, the Galaxy Tab may state that it is not charging, when in fact it really is.
• *Tablets must be charged with their own USB cable through Powerbag’s on-board USB port.
The following Apple® products are compatible:
• iPad® and iPad 2
• iPod touch® (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation)
• iPhone® 4, iPhone® 3GS, iPhone® 3G, iPhone®
• *iPod nano® and iPad® may be charged with their own USB cable through Powerbag’s on-board USB port.
Interior dimensions of compartments in bag:
• Laptop – 11″ x 15.5″ x 1.5″
• Tablet – 9.5″ x 9.75″ x .5″
• 18.2” x 6” x 12″
• Weight: 2.74 lbs
• Dedicated tablet compartment
• Holds up to a 17″ laptop
• Battery: 6000mAh Lithium Polymer, weight: 0.4 lbs
• Input: 12VDC, 1.2A
• Micro-USB, Mini-USB Output: 5VDC, 800mA combined
• Apple Connector Output: 5VDC, 1A• USB Output: 5VDC, 1-2.1A
• AC wall adapter
• On-board battery system: Removable Powerbag 6000mAh battery; built in Apple, Micro- and Mini-USB connectors and USB port
• Owner’s Manual
My Instant Messenger Bag arrived on January 25th. That’s some quick shipping; less than a week. Below you can see my unboxing video in all its BlackBerry PlayBook recorded glory.
The First Usage
Once I had the bag opened, I wanted to find out how user-friendly it was, so I skipped the instructions to see if I could figure it out. I’m no stranger to working through things without instructions, but I didn’t get it right as none of my devices would charge. In short, read the instructions before using it. The reason being, the bags have a very sequential process for setting them up and getting your devices charged. From one techie to you all- Read the directions before operating your Powerbag!
After reading the directions and not trying to be a know-it-all, I had it set up and I took my new Powerbag on a short vacation down to Reno. I had found an inexpensive three night stay at one of the hotel/resort/casinos down there and figured it a great chance to check out my new toy on the road. Reno is an 8 hour drive for me. It gave me lots of time to use up battery on many of my devices.
Truth be told, my Reno trip wasn’t the best way to test out my Powerbag. I have car chargers for everything I own. The bonus with the Powerbag, though, is that if the car charger outlets are all filled, you can still charge other devices! Also, I had outlets in the room to charge things at night. The problem there was finding enough outlets to plug in the six gadgets I had with me. That was a stretch. I had to unplug some amenities such as the alarm clock I knew I wouldn’t use. What did end up being a good test for my new bag is daily use. I take my bag of goodies everywhere, including work.
Daily Use- The Real Test
One thing about my work is that I’m never in one place and I’m not necessarily granted access to an outlet, so the ability to charge a device whenever necessary is highly appreciated. For me, that’s where the Powerbag shines. I don’t have to worry about being able to find an outlet for each of my devices anymore. One outlet for the Powerbag will let me charge 4 devices (one two devices twice, or one device four times or…). So while I’m at work, if I have a device I’m noticing needs a boost, I can plug it into my PowerBag and not worry about having to deal with outlets. That’s always a win in my book.
Form- The Look of the Instant Messenger Powerbag
I’m not a big fashion type person. Outside of work days, I wear jeans and a zip-up hoodie over a t-shirt most days. So when it comes to the bag I carry, it really doesn’t have to have brand name, a certain material or anything like that. Much like art, I know what I like and that’s what matters to me.
The Instant Messenger bag is black nylon with black zippers and a white/grayish seam along the envelope-style cover. It’s pretty understated, which I love. I’m not looking to have my bag stolen, so I’d rather people not easily detect what it is. Truthfully, it looks like a standard carry bag and that’s great.
The envelope cover on front contains a sideways pocket that easily fits a 7” tablet such as the Kindle Fire or BlackBerry PlayBook, even in a case. I doesn’t fit my netbook and I don’t think it would 10” tab, but I don’t own one at the moment to test it. Don’t expect to charge anything in there though, it’s not one of the pockets with a charging contact.
At the top of the bag is a zipper that stretches 90% of the width of the bag. It will fit most any laptop. Now, your laptop isn’t something you’re going to be charging with the Powerbag, but most likely you’re going to be carrying it with you in the same bag.
On the back of the bag is the one area I wasn’t really sure about. There’s a pocket of sorts that, at the top center has a small Velcro closure but then has another small Velcro closure at the bottom center. Why the Velcro at the bottom? The bottom portion also has an opening. Anything too small place in the pocket can fall out. If it’s meant to be a pocket, why have an open bottom to it? I reached out to @MyPowerbag and found out that, sure enough, there’s a design reason. You can slide the Instant Messenger bag over the handle of a rolling bag and it will stay there securely. Super smart!
Sitting on top of a piece of luggage. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into designing the Instant Messenger Powerbag!
When you fold back the front cover, you’ll notice a small Velcro attachment on both sides. Those keep the cover from just flopping around in normal use which makes a lot of sense.
Once open, you’ll find a ton of pockets, small, medium, and large, to hold anything you can dream up. Some are held closed by Velcro, some are just open. One of the pockets is already used and is the main point of any PowerBag. It houses the battery and full-sized USB port. That pocket is not Velcro closed, but rather is zipped partially closed leaving the USB port available. The brilliance behind that is hiding the battery. Again, I’m not looking to get the bag stolen, so the less attention I can draw to it, the better. I’d rather not have the battery easily accessed to passers-by.
Lastly, the very front of the bag houses a centered set of left-side and right-side accessed pockets. Those are the gold and reason for buying a Powerbag. The left pocket contains a two-headed port- both Mini- and Micro-USB. While those are the standard for the industry and many use them, Apple has a proprietary charging port which you’ll find a cable for in the right side pocket.
Diving the right from the left of the pockets, dead center are the PowerBag LED and power button. Both are hidden and if you don’t know what a Powerbag is, you’ll never know the two are there. The LEDs are behind a slightly sheer fabric allowing them to show through when the bag is charging or when you check the battery charge of the bag itself. The power button is built into the logo; another brilliant design. Super understated and entirely discreet- I love it!
Believe it or not, there’s more storage. Both the right and left side of the bag have small zipped pockets. Basically, if you run out of room in the bag, you may need to limit what you haul with you on any given day.
Last design point- closing the front cover. I’ve never understood it, but I’ve seen it plenty of times. The plastic clasps on the nylon straps, like a backpack. If you click them in place with the strap flat, it’s hard to tighten them down; awkward at best. If you put a twist in the strap, you can tighten the flap down easily, but you have a twisted strap and while I’m no type-A personality, that bothered me. It basically felt to me like the clasps were put on backward. In fact, they just may have been, because when I reversed them (that’s how much it bothered me), they work just as I expected them to. They snap in and tighten down nicely and the straps are flat.
Functionality- But What Does it Do?
A nice looking carry bag is fairly easy to find, and certainly can be found for less than the price of a Powerbag. Look is not the point here. The Powerbag is about what it does, and what it does is keep you in the juice.
I’m a bit of an anomaly in the tech world. As far as smartphones go, I’ve only ever owned BlackBerry phones. BlackBerry phones are generally regarded for their battery life and, truth be told, with my Bold 9780 and my personal use, I go a full day on a charge and don’t even think about battery life. Even when I’m up at 5:30 AM and gone until 10 PM, I’m still in the green; occasionally yellow if I’ve been unusually busy with it. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to charge it during the day. Same goes for my PlayBook and my Kindle Fire. However, my Gen2 iPod Touch and my girlfriend’s Android-based phone often see red before the end of a day (her phone is a battery hog…).
The way I used to resolve any charging issues was to carry any and all charging apparatus I owned. Now that has all changed. One charge of my Powerbag allows me to forego all those cables (which many people dislike carrying anyway) and charge most any mobile device I carry.
There is a small issue however; a glaring issue that I’m not sure most people would consider when ordering a Powerbag. When you charge a device with the bag, it’s in the bag. Don’t go thinking that you’ll be charging your phone with the bag while using the phone. That’s not going to happen. The same of course goes for tablets, iPods, etcetera. Charging your device with a Powerbag means just that- charging it. How long that takes will vary based on your device.
Now, that said, there are a couple of workarounds you could use. One, use the full-sized USB port and a long USB cord or two (think extension) so your charging item can be used during that time. Two, carry s spare battery and a compliant charger to charge one battery while using the other in your device. To be fair, I don’t believe that the Powerbag was intended to be used as the sole charger for any gadget. I see it as the emergency backup. Hopefully, you’ll be charging every night at home or whatever dwelling you happen to sleep in.
My Overall Take
Honestly, the Powerbag is a luxury item. Most of us have chargers at home, a car charger, and other ways of taking care of our power needs. What the Powerbag does offer is a convenient way to charge a device you aren’t using at the moment but might want later, or something you forgot to charge at night and are not going to be near an outlet anytime soon. That’s why the Powerbag works so well for me; I’m a tad forgetful. There are days where I come home, zonk out, and completely forget to plug in one or more of my umpteen electronics. As long as I have kept up on charging my PowerBag, I’m good to go. Now, if I forget to charge my PowerBag, well, I’m no better off.
One of my favorite pieces of the Powerbag, and I’m not kidding here, is the AC wall adapter. I don’t know who designed it, but they aren’t paid enough. The cord is intended to wrap around the box and has a clip to connect it to the cord once it’s wound. It’s pretty slick.
I would suggest the PowerBag to “Power Users” for certain. Being able to charge that spare battery on the run is a fantastic option! With the full-sized USB port, you can charge most anything today from a Powerbag. For the casual techie, such as me, the Powerbag is a toy or luxury item. It could be something to show off. For me, it’s more of a convenience and a security blanket for my forgetful brain. Knowing that I’ll be okay when I forget to charge one or two or more devices is worth the cost to me. To the typical Joe-on-the-go, I don’t see them needing a Powerbag. Wanting one; well, that’s a different story.