Review: NewTrent PowerPak Xtreme powebank

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If there is one thing you learn to appreciate when you are dependent on mobile technology, it’s battery life. It is the lifeblood of any connected lifestyle, and without it, you will quickly find yourself dead in the water. The more you do with your devices, and the more devices you have, the more dependent you become on battery life and power.

I know this all too well, as I have several devices spread across my family of five. I have an iPhone 5S an iPad Air, and for a little while longer, a 2nd Gen Nexus 7. My wife has an iPhone 5, an iPad Mini, and a Kindle. My oldest son has my old iPhone 4S, and my younger children have two 4th Gen iPod Touches between them. And there are a few other odds and ends around the house that require charging, as well. With all of these electronic devices hanging around, and many of them getting near constant use, extra juice is always a concern. As such, I have tried all sorts of backup batteries and battery cases.

Earlier in the year, I took a look at the New Trent Travelpak. Not only did I give it a positive review, but it quickly replaced all of my other batteries outside of my Mophie case. I loved the fact that it had an integrated wall plug, and the two 1 Amp USB ports made recharging multiple devices a snap. In a household full of devices, that is an essential feature. The 4000 mAh capacity also greatly helped to make that possible. All things considered, it was a perfect backup battery for smartphones, media players, and other small accessories.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of weaknesses with that particular model that kept it from being the perfect for for every situation. Because of the lower capacity and lack of a 2 Amp output available, the New Trent Travelpak is not well-suited to use with tablets. It could pull off spot duty recharging a 1st Gen iPad Mini and get it back to around 50%, but that was it. A full size iPad would eat it alive.

It also isn’t the most rugged of accessories. It doesn’t feel cheap, especially compared to the numerous cheap generic battery packs out there, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend using it extensively outdoors. Unfortunately, with my kids involved in sports and my work occasionally taking me outdoors and into other unfriendly environments, that limited the Travelpak’s usefulness somewhat. With those limitations in mind, I was eager to try out the NewTrent PowerPak Xtreme when I heard about it. It addresses all of them quite effectively.

 

Video Review

 

Features

First off, the PowerPak Xtreme packs a big punch, with 12,000 mAh of power available at full charge. That’s enough to tackle a new iPad Air (8,820 mAh), with room left over. Well, at least in theory, but we’ll get back to that. It is also good for up to 500 recharge cycles, so it doesn’t just have raw capacity. It is designed to maintain it over time, as well.

Another key feature of the PowerPak Xtreme is its 2.1 Amp USB output. This is a big one, because without it, it almost doesn’t matter what the capacity of the battery is.

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Recharging an iPad or other 10″ tablet would just be an exercise in frustration. In my testing, I have tended to use the 2.1 Amp port all of the time because it will top off or recharge a smartphone much faster than the other 1 Amp USB output. However, having that second output is definitely handy when you need to charge two devices at once.

The other big feature of the PowerPak Xtreme is its rugged design. As you can see from the photo below, this definitely isn’t your average battery back that rattles around when you shake it or has plastic that bulges or creaks when you squeeze it.

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The outer shell is thick thermoplastic, with metal screws holding the top and bottom halves together. This is far superior to the glue you would typically see holding a cheaper alternatives together. The matte finish on the exterior also makes the pack easy to hold, and keeps it from standing out unnecessarily.

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Another plus in the design department is the water resistant door that closes over the PowerPak Xtreme’s two output USB ports and one micro USB recharging port.

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The PowerPak Xtreme does feel a little like a brick in the hand because of the durable construction, but that’s ok with me. This accessory is built to last. It is made to withstand drops of one meter, and can even survive being submerged in three feet of water for an hour. Considering the capacity and durability, it is absolutely worth the extra size and weight.

As you can see below, New Trent molded openings in the plastic body at the opposite end from the charging ports.

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This is perfect for tethering the PowerPak Xtreme to the outside of a backpack or bag, which allows the user to more easily recharge devices while on the go. Considering its rugged, water resistant outer shell, this makes the Xtreme and ideal choice for hikers, backpackers, hunters, and other outdoorsmen.

 

Battery Performance

With a 12,000 mAh capacity, the PowerPak Xtreme’s performance easily outpaces anything I’ve ever used. However, one thing I’ve discovered is that you can’t depend on those mAh numbers to add up exactly. Just because this battery pack should have enough juice to charge your new iPad Air, with enough left over to catch your iPhone 5S, doesn’t meant that it will.

The first thing to point out is that if you are primarily interested in using the PowerPak Xtreme to recharge smartphones and media players, you will be absolutely thrilled with its performance.

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It does such a good job and has so much capacity that you will hardly have to think about recharging it. I’ve spent two of the three weeks I’ve been testing this device using it to keep my iPhone and the iPhone 4S and two 4th gen iPod Touches that my kids have charged up on the go. It performed very, very well in that role.

If you only have one device to charge, the PowerPak Xtreme does it very quickly using the 2.1 Amp USB output. It delivers the same kind of performance you would expect if recharging any of the above smaller devices with an iPad charger. If you have two devices to charge, the 1 Amp port is a little slower, but it does the job.

Using a multi-connector cable on the PowerPak Xtreme’s 2.1 Amp port, I was even able to charge three devices at once.

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This obviously puts a LOT more strain on the PowerPak’s battery, but it will work in a pinch if you need to top off multiple devices quickly.

The most natural use that comes to mind when you have a battery pack with this much capacity, as well as a 2.1 Amp output, is to charge an iPad or other large tablet.

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The PowerPak Xtreme does well enough in this role, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little disappointed in its performance. In the month that I have had this battery, I have set up four tests with my iPad Air that completely emptied the battery pack. In each of these tests, the PowerPak Xtreme was fully charged, and I connected my iPad Air to the 2.1 Amp USB output using the stock Apple Lightning cable.

Test 1
In this test, I charged my iPad Air while in use. When I plugged the battery in, my iPad was at 30%. The screen was probably around 80% brightness, I had WiFi on, and I had Bluetooth enabled and my ZAGGfolio connected. I was just working on an article draft, so the iPad’s processor wasn’t taxed. While the PowerPak Xtreme sports 12,000 mAh and the iPad Air’s battery capacity is 8,820 mAh, the battery gave out with the iPad Air only back to 90%. Just bear in mind that the battery isn’t just recharging the battery in this scenario, but that the iPad is steadily using its battery power at the same time.

Test 2
In this test, I charged my iPad Air while not in use. It was powered, but in sleep mode. It started at 20%, and the battery pack gave out with the iPad at around 90%. I say around because I charged it overnight, so it may have been slightly higher before I woke up and checked it.

Test 3
This time, I took my iPad down to 1% and shut it down. The PowerPak Xtreme got it back up to 97% before it tapped out.

Test 4
In this test, I plugged my iPad Air in while in use, with the exact same conditions as in Test 1, including the iPad’s battery percentage being at 30%. I also plugged my iPhone 5S into output 1 this time. It was at 70%, and was in sleep mode. It’s battery recharges back to 100% within an hour. Then I plugged in my daughter’s iPod Touch, which was at 20% and also in sleep mode and recharged it to 100%. About half an hour after that, my iPad Air topped out at 84% when the battery died.

All I can say after these tests is that, while I don’t doubt the capacity of the PowerPak Xtreme, its efficiency while charging the iPad Air leaves something to be desired. Even with the iPad Air completely powered off, it still doesn’t match up with the performance that the numbers would suggest. While this battery pack will do just fine topping off an iPad Air or extending its life during heavy use, it isn’t going to take it from 0 to 100% with room to spare like you may think.

 

Recharging

If there is a negative with high capacity battery packs, it’s that they inevitably take much longer to recharge. While this is understandable, it can still be a limitation. The PowerPak Xtreme is no exception to this, as it takes somewhere between 8-10 hours to fully recharge it. However, unless you are constantly trying to fully recharge your iPad all the time, the battery should hold out for a while at full capacity.

Recharging is done via a micro USB cable (included) connected to either a computer (really, really slow), or a power brick of your choice (still 8-10 hrs, but manageable). The battery pack has blue 4 LEDs underneath the top cover that show through to indicate battery charge status. Status indication is triggered with the lone button on the PowerPak Xtreme, located on the left side. This same button is also used to turn the battery pack on for charging.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of drawbacks with recharging when compared with the New Trent Travelpak that I previously reviewed. First off, the Travelpak’s integrated AC Outlet plug was a big plus. However, with the PowerPak Xtreme’s extra size and weight, that’s probably not a practical solution here.

Another useful feature of the New Trent Travelpak is the fact that you can charge two devices while you are charging the battery, as well. Just plug the Travelpak into an outlet, and it can pull double duty. While the PowerPak is capable of simultaneous battery and device charging, it only works if the battery has already been charged to a certain level. I found that mine had to have at least 2 LEDs lit to allow pass through charging.

 

Conclusion

You might think that my opinion of New Trent’s PowerPak Xtreme may suffer because of it performance recharging my iPad Air. However, taking everything into account, that is not the case. At only $59.95, this battery back is a very strong value. I see cheap generic packs that boast similar numbers and have a 2 Amp or greater output on sale for $25-$40 all the time online. However, for a little bit more, you get guaranteed battery performance and rock solid, water resistant construction. That definitely is worth the extra cash.

As for charging performance, the PowerPak Xtreme does a spectacular job with smartphones, media players, and other small accessories. There’s no doubt about that. It charges them up fast, and it has the capacity to last a long time before a recharge. Performance with the iPad isn’t as good, but for a $59.95 battery pack with this kind of construction quality and performance elsewhere, I’m not going to complain. It does well enough with tablets to be useful, but if there is a second version of this battery pack, a little extra capacity and more efficient power discharge would go a long way toward improving on the original. As it stands, though, New Trent’s PowerPak Xtreme is definitely a solid value for those who own multiple mobile devices, especially if they use them outdoors or in situations where the elements can be a factor.

 

The New Trent PowerPak Xtreme is available from New Trent for $59.95.

 

The New Trent PowerPak Xtreme was provided by New Trent for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.