The PowerGorilla forms the core component of my power-on-the-go strategy (see the page on our Kit List for details of the full setup), so it’s critical that it meets the power requirements for many different devices and performs well. I chose it for its flexibility and storage performance and it has definitely met my expectations in those areas. I’ve used it for over a year now – most seriously tested on our 18 days of trekking and peak climbing in Nepal.
Design and Features
Powergorilla excels in terms of flexibility of power input and output voltages. Output voltages can be selected from the single button on the front of the unit from the following options: USB 5V, 8.4V, 9.5V, 12V, 16V, 19V or 24V. It’s very easy to use. Furthermore it’s possible to both power a device from the USB 5V output at the same time as powering a device from the multi-voltage output at a different voltage – so I can charge my phone at the same time as a laptop. Powertraveller sells a number of standard power adaptor tips (I bought one for my laptop) or it’s possible to make up your own if necessary (I soldered a tip for my Li-Ion battery charger onto an appropriate cable – just make sure you get the polarity correct).
This flexibility enables me to use the unit to charge all of the following:
- 5V: iPhone x 2
- 12V: Universal Battery Charger for AA/AAA and Li-Ion camera batteries
- 19V: Asus Netbook
The unit can accept a charging voltage between 15 and 25V – further enhancing its flexibility – you don’t have to use the supplied AC adaptor – you can just use your laptop AC adaptor (or even better, a universal AC/DC/Auto/Air adaptor) – so you only carry one AC adaptor for all your charging needs (I ditched the AC adaptors for the Universal Battery Charger, Laptop and iPhones to reduce weight and bulk).
The design of the unit itself is a simple rectangular “brick” measuring 220 x 130 x 15mm and weighing quite a reasonable 631g. It comes with a neoprene protective cover and is easy to pack or slide down the back of a rucksack.
At the time of purchase in Nov 2010, this was the most powerful portable (sub 1kg) battery pack on the market, delivering 21000mah of storage at 5V (105 Watt-Hour Wh). Competitive products out there such as the Energizer XP18000 (90Wh) deliver less, and whilst there are some higher capacity options on the market now – such as the Hyperjuice (150Wh option for $350) – these are more expensive and more bulky (and less flexible, Hyperjuice is just designed for MacBooks). Powergorilla provides a good sweet-spot compromise between portability for long-term travel, and energy storage performance for use over a number of weeks.
In terms of charge performance, unscientifically I “reckon” that the powergorilla will charge both of our iPhones every day for 10 days when under heavy usage (say, 60% charge delivered to each iphone each day) – given the iPhones 1400mah battery size, this equates to around 16800 mah of charge delivered to the devices, an acceptable efficiency for a 21000mah battery pack. With careful usage, I reckon the powergorilla could keep two phones going for 3-6 weeks. Likewise, I reckon the pack can almost recharge my laptop twice from 20% to 100% (the laptop has a 56Wh battery) – which is again an acceptable efficiency and an excellent performance for 631g unit.
Charging efficiency is more difficult to gauge – you don’t care when charging from AC, it only matters when on solar. Charging from a 10W panel for 6-8 hours a day in the Himalayas via a universal DC adaptor appeared to store enough charge to deliver 60% charges to both iPhones each day.
The powergorilla handled the extreme cold in the Himalayas pretty well, all things considered, but it was important to have the solar panel to top up each day.
Durability and Reliability
The first Powergorilla that I received in Nov 2010 was Dead on Arrival. Powertraveller support replaced the item, which then worked flawlessly for over a year (only occasional usage one a month or so when travelling), until February 2012 – when after 3 months of heavy usage the pack died suddenly. All credit to powertraveller support – they sent a replacement to me in Singapore no questions asked (and covered the cost of shipping to Singapore), but it was a big hassle to not have it working just when I really needed it in a remote part of Indonesia. Reliability is essential for a travel product like this, because failure when in a remote part of the world could be extremely painful – and especially when it’s the central core of all your power storage and conversion as I use it. A rating of 1.0 has been upgraded to 3.0 due to the good support and hope that they have fixed the issues in subsequent product revisions.
Physically the unit seems pretty durable and the construction solid – the rubber grip and the neoprene case provide some protection – no probems here.
The powergorilla is priced at RRP 150 GBP (235 USD) – but available at some retailers from around 120 GBP. This is expensive for a battery pack – but good value for a product which can charge all of your travel electronics and provide such a high capacity.
Excellent flexibility, performance, portability and good value – but reliability issues need to be fixed. Highly recommended (as long as my 3rd unit doesn’t die in the next 6 months of travel!)