TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and Power Bank Review

TP-LInk LogoThe TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and 5200 mAh Power Bank (M5360) combines two of the handiest portable accessories – a 3G wireless hotspot and a USB battery pack – into a single unit. Sounds good on paper, but convergence doesn’t always work out. Let’s take a look.

3G Wireless and Power Bank

The M5360 comes neatly packaged in a slide-out box. Included with the 3G Mobile WiFi are instructions, a charger, USB-to-microUSB cable and some SIM adaptors which hold the smaller SIM sizes. The 3G Mobile WiFi itself is larger than the average mobile hotspot but this hardly unexpected given that there’s an additional 5200 mAh battery stashed in there. Overall, it’s 44 x 29 x 100 mm and while the weight isn’t officially given, my kitchen scales say 150g.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi

As you’ll see, the 3G Mobile WiFi is white with a clear plastic cover over the OLED screen. Moving round the unit, at the top there is a microUSB socket to charge up the Power Bank. On the right side, a power button turns the unit on, off and toggles between charging only and simultaneous 3G sharing and charging. There’s a reset button (that I never had to use) and covered slots for the SIM and micro SD cards. Finally on the bottom is USB socket that can be used for charging other devices. It’s only rated at 1A, so it’s more suited to charging smartphones and media players than 10″ tablets.

Getting going is simple – slip a SIM in and power the 3G Mobile WiFi up. As the unit is not network-locked you can use whatever SIM you choose, and helpfully on the rear of the device is all the information necessary for connecting to the WiFi network, including SSID and password. The 3G Mobile WiFi generally self-configures, but if you need to change anything, you can log on to the unit via a web browser and make changes.

Profile Management

With a 3 SIM everything went smoothly but I also tried the unit with a SIM from MVNO Giffgaff, which actually uses the O2 network. In this instance, I had to log on to the 3G Mobile WiFi and make some changes to the profile. To be perfectly clear, this reconfiguration is needed because of the MVNO nature of Giffgaff and illustrates the flexibility of the 3G Power Bank.

The small screen gives the usual information about the 3G Mobile WiFi side of things, including signal strength, connectivity, client number, battery and SMS messages. The download rate, upload rate and data volume are shown too. The unit supports the usual GSM protocols up to HSPA+ so in theory the max download rate is 21.6 Mb/s with 5.76 Mb/s upload, but local conditions are likely to significantly reduce this. With respect to WiFi, it’s 11b/g/n and up to 10 clients can connect at once.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi Screen

Now for the best bit….using the internal battery, the M5360 will run for over two (working days) without recharging. TP-Link quote 16-17 hours under heavy use by a single person and up to 26 hours will lighter use. I’m inclined to agree with TP-Link as I was able to use the 3G Power Bank for two and a half working days of relatively light use before recharging. Sweet.

In addition to powering the 3G Mobile WiFi, the battery can be used to charge another device as well. There are two options, wireless sharing and charging, and charging only; a quick double press of the power button toggles between the two modes. The 5200 mAh battery is roughly double the size of a smartphone battery, so expect to fully recharge your phone twice from the Power Bank.

Any problems? No, not really. My only feedback is the the positioning of the charging USB port on the top seems a bit odd as it simply looks funny when the 3G Power Bank is standing on its end. I would have preferred the socket on the side towards the bottom, or even on the bottom with an optional charging dock. Minor points, I know.

Overall, the TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and 5200 mAh Power Bank is a useful combination of the two. The ability to run the hotspot for a full working day (and then some) with several connected clients is attractive. The only downside is that the M5360 is heavier than a normal WiFi hotspot but that’s the price you pay for a bigger battery, but if it’s sitting on a desk, there’s no issue anyway.

Speaking of price, expect to pay somewhere around GB£70 for the M5360.

Thanks to TP-Link for supplying the review unit.

Lenmar shows off the Chug Plug for your MacBook

lexmar

Jenny Simpson of Lenmar stopped by TPN in Las Vegas recently to talk about the company’s new battery pack for your MacBook computer.

The new Chug Plug can provide up to four hours of additional batter life and connects via the computers existing cable. It is Apple specific, so don’t expect to get one for your Windows PC. It has built-in smart technology that can detect how much power your Macbook needs and push extra if necessary. The Chug Plug will be available for $159 starting in March. You can check it out over at Lenmar.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and Chris Davis of Health Tech Weekly

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Mugenizer N11 Qi Charger with Battery Review

Mugen Power Batteries LogoHere on GNC I’ve reviewed a succession of USB rechargeable battery packs and I’ve tested a couple of Qi chargers for my Nexus 4. Now for the first time I can review both at the same time with the Mugenizer N11 Wireless Charger Power Bank. Fundamentally, it’s Qi charger with a built-in rechargeable 4800 mAh battery. Genius!

Mugen kindly sent me an N11 as soon as it was released and I’ve been using it for about a week or so. First impressions were good as it came in an attractive card box which smoothly slid open.

N11 Box

The box holds the N11, a USB-to-microUSB cable and a power supply, all in matching white.

N11 in Box

The N11 is made from a hard shiny plastic with a rubber ring in the centre to help hold the charging smartphone over the Qi charging spot. There’s a row of charge lights on the top surface and one end has the on/off switch, charging USB port and recharging microUSB port.

N11 End View

If you are wondering how big the N11 is, it’s almost exactly the same size as a Nexus 4. Here’s mine but note the Nexus is sitting back on the charger a little bit.

N11 and Nexus 4

Enough of how it all looked, how well did the N11 work? Frankly, it worked great. Unlike some of the other Qi chargers I’ve tested, it’s easy to spot where the Qi charging coil is. This makes aligning the phone with charger really straightforward and there’s a beep from the N11 to let you know everything is lined up. Here’s a screen shot from Battery+ showing the excellent charging rate.

N11 Charging

The N11 worked equally well with devices that needed a USB cable to charge. The battery is 4800 mAh which means you could recharge most modern smartphones twice from flat. Generally I was able to recharge my Nexus 4 three times from around 20%. The N11 supports charging from the USB port and the Qi charger at the same time, which can be handy. The port is rated at 1 A.

My only criticism of the product is that it was sometimes difficult to pick out the exact charge level on the blue LEDs as the light bled from one to the next. Is it fully charged or 90%? As the power level fell, it was easier to make the level out.

Charging lights aside, this is great product and it’s now my main charging device for my Nexus 4. It’s pricey enough at a nickel under US $70, but the combined Qi charger and battery pack make this essential for anyone who has a Qi-equipped smartphone such as the Nexus 4 / 5 and  some of the Nokia Lumias. You can use the N11 on your desk or on the go. Recommended.

Thanks again to Mugen Power for the review unit.

Mugenizer N11 Pairs Qi Charger with Battery Pack

Mugen Power Batteries LogoMugen Power are no strangers to innovation but their latest product is genius. The Mugenizer N11 equips a USB battery pack with Qi wireless charger to provide charging on the go. As a user of both types of device on a regular basis, I think this is an excellent idea. It’s also going to be a big win for people who hotdesk and can’t be bothered with plugging and unplugging chargers each day.

image

As you’ll see from the picture, the unit looks much like any standard USB battery pack, albeit a fairly good looking one, with a charging port and power level indicator. The battery has a capacity of 4800 mAh which will fully recharge the average smartphone about twice. The Qi charging plate is on the top and should work with any Qi-enabled smartphone like the Nexus 4. According to the spec, you should be able to charge from both the Qi plate and the USB port at the same time.

The N11 is priced just under US$60 which includes a $10 early adopter discount and free world-wide shipping. It’s pricey enough and you probably could buy a battery and a charger separately for less, but the sheer convenience of a single unit makes it worthwhile. The N11 will be available in early November and I’ll try to get one for review. More information then.

New Trent Easypak NT70T External Battery Review

New Trent LogoIf you like your gadgets black and shiny, then the New Trent Easypak NT70T is going to be the external battery pack of choice. With a polished black top surface and a matte back, it looks great but won’t slip out of your hand either. It’s perfect for travelling too, with built-in connectors, dual USB ports and a substantial 7000 mAh battery.

NT70T

Physically, the Easypak is about 7cm x 12cm x 1.7cm, and is easily mistaken for a slightly fat smartphone. The shiny top surface has single button which when pressed either shows the current charge level of the pack or starts charging any attached devices. Four green LED lights across the top of the surface show the battery level, and they flash while charging. Personally, I would rather the LEDs were blue or white, but that’s just my taste.On one side there are two standard USB ports, but the cool trick is that on two other sides, built-in cables peel out for recharging the NT70T and charging a device via a micro-USB plug. This device charges only via USB which again keeps the weight down when travelling: simply plug the Easypak into your laptop and it charges. A USB extension cable is included in the box.

(Apologies for the less than perfect photo – the autofocus on my camera struggled with the reflections from the top surface.)

NT70T

The two USB ports are rated differently, with one at 2.1A for tablets and the other 1A for smartphones. The micro-USB connector is also rated at 1A and while it might seem that three devices could be charged at once, in practice only two can be charged. In my testing, it seemed that the current draw was the limiting factor but I’m not 100% sure.

USB Ports

Unlike the New Trent iCarrier, the USB ports can’t be used while the Easypak itself is charging, though the micro-USB plug can recharge a smartphone while the Easypak is charging. I note that in the device FAQ, New Trent suggest not to charge while charging, so perhaps best only used in an emergency.

Galaxy Nexus ChargingDevice charging rates are excellent. With both a Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a Motorola Xoom 2 tablet connected, the Easypak charged the phone from 18% to 75% in an hour and the tablet went from 27% to 50% in the same hour (as measured by Battery+). That’s no different from plugging either device into their manufacturer supplied chargers, so a good result there.

Overall, the Easypak is almost the perfact battery pack and I would choose it over the New Trent iCarrier, even though the iCarrier has a larger battery capacity and can charge while being charged. The neatness, the clean design, built-in cables and lower cost make the Easypak the overall better solution for me.

Available from the usual online retailers for around less than £30 or a little over $40.

Disclosure – the Easypak NT70T was supplied by New Trent for review.

New Trent iCarrier IMP120D External Battery Review

The fast processors and large screens of modern day smartphones draw power like it’s going out of fashion. A battery that would have lasted several weeks in the Nokia 6210 now struggles to get through a day of calls, email and web surfing. And that’s before starting to play Ingress.

Desktop chargers have their place but sometimes it’s not possible to get back to a power outlet to plug in. External battery packs and chargers fill this space and on review here is the New Trent iCarrier IMP120D external battery and charger. With a 12,000 mAh battery, it’s roughly 6 times the capacity of a smartphone battery and 3 times the size of a 7″ tablet’s. Physically, it’s around 9 x 9.5 x 2.5 cm and there’s bit of weight to it at 280g / 10 oz but it fits comfortably in the hand, especially with the soft curved edges of the iCarrier.

New Trent IMP120D

As the pictures show, it’s not unattractive for a battery pack and gets away from the standard rectangular brick. The black plastic enclosure has a blue central band with just four features – an on-off button, a power input socket and two USB ports. The on-off button lights up when charging  and a short press of the button briefly shows the iCarrier’s charge level using three blue LEDs for low, medium and high.

New Trent IMP120D - front

Two USB sockets obviously allow two devices to be charged at once. One socket is rated at 1 A and the other at 2.1 A, which practically means that you can charge a phone and a tablet at the same time. In the box along with the iCarrier, there’s an AC wall charger, a USB to microUSB charging cable, a charging cable for Samsung devices and a soft carry pouch. Contrary to the “i” moniker, the iCarrier will charge anything that will charge from USB, not just Apple devices.

Unlike some other devices, it’s possible to charge both the iCarrier at the same time as it charges other devices, which means that when travelling, only the iCarrier’s charger needed to get everything charged up overnight – the battery pack plus two other devices. The iCarrier does take a good few hours to get itself charged up, which given the larger than average battery isn’t to be unexpected. There are some other handy features too. For example, the iCarrier automatically shuts off once attached devices are fully charged.

In use, the iCarrier can be simply used as a backup battery pack to recharge phones or other devices when their internal batteries get low. More usefully, the iCarrier can be used to extend the life of portable equipment such as personal wireless routers. My MiFi can run for a couple of hours on its own battery, but connect it up to the iCarrier and I can get a whole day of use out of the hotspot without any trouble at all.

Overall, the iCarrier is a very handy gadget, essential for any heavy smartphone user or frequent traveller. It’s competitively priced at around $70 in the USA or £40 in the UK. Recommended.

Disclosure – The iCarrier IMP120D was a personal purchase.

Vivick’s Latest Gadgets

Vivick HeadphonesCanadian firm Vivick produce a wide range of gadgets, covering everything from iPhone cases, laptop accessories and AV gear. Andy and Scott look at three of the latest products.

On show from Vivick is anLED desk lamp speaker that can be driven via Bluetooth but wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a 70s sci-fi movie. Continuing the theme, they had a Bluetooth headset which looked a bit more up-to-date but I can’t comment on the sound quality. Finally, they showed off a combo-laptop / USB rechargeable battery which had some really good design ideas. It seems to be a brand new product as it doesn’t yet feature on their website, but if you are a battery hogging traveller, keep an eye out for it.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live for the TechPodcast Network, who should be commended for keeping the interview going.

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SpareOne Emergency Mobile Phone at CES 2013

SpareOne Emergency PhoneModern smartphones are expensive, relatively fragile and battery-hungry. Consequently, they’re pretty much useless in any tough emergency situation. Todd talks to Christian Scheder of SpareOne about their solution to the problem.

The SpareOne emergency phone is a mobile phone that runs off a standard AA battery rather than a rechargeable one more usually found in a mobile phone. While this gives 10 hours of use from a single battery, the benefit in an emergency is that the battery can simply be swapped for another. Further, Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries have a storage life of 15 years so this phone can be stored with batteries for up to 15 years, ready to go. The SpareOne is supplied in a waterproof bag that further protects the phone during storage and any wet emergencies.

The phone takes standard GSM SIMs for ordinary calls but the SpareOne can also call the emergency services even without a SIM card. If you are interested, the SpareOne is available now for $99 from the website.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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More Juice for your Apple iPhone

All smartphones drain batteries like electricity is going out of fashion but many external battery are bulky, fiddly or both. Gosh!‘s new Parallel battery for the iPhone 5 might be the first that’s both sleek and convenient.

The Parallel comes in two parts, the battery pack itself, and a matching iPhone case that makes connecting the phone to the battery an absolute doddle. The iPhone 5 can stay in the case when you don’t need the extra power, but as soon as the main phone battery starts to fall, whack in the extra battery and it’s good to go. The additional 2,500 mAh is a huge increase over the iPhone 5’s standard 1,440 mAh.

The Parallel battery has smooth lines that fit the iPhone 5’s taller size and the case comes in a choice of 5 colours too.

Gosh! Parallel iPhone 5 case and battery

The Parallel is on show at CES, North Hall, iLounge Pavilion, Booth 6723.

 

IOGEAR provides 11,000 mAh of portable charging

Do you have a big camping trip planned? Are you preparing for the next big storm? IOGEAR has released it’s new Ultra Capacity Mobile Power Station to get you ready for those and other events. The GMP10K packs in an incredible 11,000 mAh capacity to keep all of your devices alive when you run out of other options.

The new device has built-in short-circuit and over-charge prevention, temperature regulation, a carrying case, 2 USB ports, built-in short-circuit and over-charge protection and includes a wall charger and micro USB cable.

Micro USB makes the device compatible with almost any smartphone or tablet. Those with iOS devices will need to supply their own cable. The GMP10K is available from Amazon now for $63. It’s not particularly cheap, but for what you get it”s probably worth the expense.