18 May 2013

REVIEW: Panasonic Portable Power Pack

Perfect pocket pal for providing plenty of power

Anyone else need a pee? No, just us? Okay. Well, we've previously reviewed a portable USB power pack - the tidily one from Proporta. But this meaty offering comes straight from electronics giant Panasonic, and by crikey does it pack a powerful portable punch (we'll stop with the Ps now).

Apparently around 80% of mobile phone and tablet users now carry their device's charger around with them, in case they ever need a boost of power. As we all know it's a major faff hulking around wires and AC adapters, and not to mention the issue of finding a convenient socket to plug into (don't get us started on the socket-less Grand Central trains. We're pretty certain even Stephenson's Rocket had them). That is the reason many tech companies are leaping to release a portable, rechargeable USB battery. Panasonic is no exception.

There are three different models in the new Panasonic range; the QL-102 for the occasional user, the QL-101 for the frequent user and the QL-201 for the heavy user. We got to grips with the daddy bear of the group, the powerful QL-201 with a whopping 5400 mAh capacity... and we were very impressed.

The first thing that struck us was the look of the unit, which although is sleek and black, it looks pretty dull. This isn't a gadget you'll be happy to wave around, nor will it start any conversations with interested passers-by. But who cares about looks anyway? Yes, it looks like the battery pack of a Black & Decker drill from 1990, but with something as functional and handy as this it's surely performance that counts? And performance certainly wins out here.

The pack charges via USB itself (either from wall socket or by trickle charging via your laptop). We found it took around 5-6 hours to fully charge the first time. It didn’t get hot which meant we were very happy to plop it into our bags without fear of catching fire. When we needed it (the first time being a top-up of an almost flat e-reader), we simply plugged into one of the power pack's two full-sized USB ports and switched it on. Charging started straight away and with the speed and efficiency of actually being plugged into the wall. After just 45 minutes connected to the QL-201 the reader (a Kobo Touch) was fully juiced up. But it didn't stop there.

Seeing that the pack's battery light indicator was still pretty confident that the device was not spent, we hooked up one of our mobile phones (a HTC Desire S) and watched in amazement as the handset was also fully charged. An impressive feat indeed and far better than any portable charger we seen before.

Although the battery light was now staunchly red and the QL-201 was threatening to give up the ghost at last, we tried with something else, connecting it to another phone that had completely died (an iPhone 4). Would you Adam and Eve it, the darn thing sprang to life, managing to reach 7% of a full charge before the power packed was totally drained. Still, 7% is more than enough for a call, a few texts or several minutes of Angry Birds - and all this after fully charging two other devices.

As we've said before gadgets like these need to be bought, charged, popped into your bag and then forgotten about. Having it there, biding its time having replaced plug heads and wires, is a great comfort. No matter where you go your phone or tablet will never be without juice.

So now there is no excuse not to call your mum.

£29 (QL-102)
£39 (QL-101)
£49 (QL-201 – the one we tested)

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