Stuck in the back of a cab or at the airport or in a client's office with a dead phone or PDA? Power Monkey swoops in to the rescue by charging up just about any mobile device you have with you. And a solar panel for the tree huggers too!
This is not our usual forte’ of coverage so we are going to classify this as an “experience article” for the [H] pages. This product is one that was brought to a sister company of HardOCP’s, User Experience Experts. UEExperts does private end user-centric experience evaluations of computers and other consumer electronic devices. The Powermonkey family of devices was brought to UEExperts in December for evaluation by some friends of mine that have been in “the business” for a long time. After spending some time with the Powermonkey products we wanted to pass our thoughts along to HardOCP readers as well. We know that many of our readers are of the mobile/ traveling variety and the Powermonkey is likely something that would interest those folks.
The Powermonkey is a mobile device charger. It is basically just a battery that you take with you. It really is that simple of a concept. Your phone, PDA, or MP3 player starts to get low on power; you can plug it into the Powermonkey and charge up your device. Really, that’s just about it. The real kicker is that I can plug it into my phone, then my PDA, and then my iPod and charge all three. The battery inside is extremely powerful and can hold a full charge for up to a year. There are some more benefits we found as well and we will hit on those below.
Above you see the two “Powermonkey”devices. The silver unit is the Powermonkey now referred to as the Classic. The nifty blue rubberized Powermonkey is the eXplorer. It comes in more than a few colors, but not in a solid black for some reason. My wife likes the pink one, whodathunkit?
The difference between the two Powermonkey devices is very simple. The Classic, looking somewhat like a sex toy I saw in a video one time, has a sleek smooth hard plastic casing with little more than an off and on switch. We are assured however that this device is for external use only. It has a light on it that tells you when you have it in the “on” position, ready to charge your low powered device, and it also has another LED that will confirm to you that you are charging the Powermonkey itself. Real simple stuff.
The eXplorer on the other hand has a much more rugged feel to it. Its exterior is a rubberized plastic and has a texture to it that makes it very easy to hold onto. The eXplorer also has a display screen on it that is backlit with a glowing blue color. The screen will tell you what charge level your eXplorer holds, whether it is charging a device, or if it itself is being charged. When full, a green LED comes on letting you know that you are good to go. The eXplorer also comes with a solar panel that can be used to charge the Powermonkey eXplorer or it can be plugged directly into another device to charge it, say a phone.
The obvious question is, “What devices can I use my Powermonkey with?” And we have to admit, it comes with an impressive array of adapter options. The wall socket unit that you get also comes with wall socket adapters for something like 130 countries. But for most of us, we will be worried about what devices we can charge with our Powermonkey.
The pictures above show the wall socket formats as well as the adapter tips that come with both the Classic and the eXplorer. The packaging shown is what comes with the eXplorer. The Classic adapters are bit more jumbled, but they are included just the same.
With the adapters included we were able to successfully charge our Blackberrry, iPod Nano, iPod Photo, Garmin GPS, Motorola RAZR, Motorola V551, and Sony PSP. With the supplied adapters we could not charge our Microsoft Zune, Fuji S5000 Camera, Sony DSC-P100 / T50 / T70 cameras, or Canon A570 camera.
Obviously having the right adapter tips is key to owning a product like this. Powermonkey tells us that you can go to their website and get a free adapter tip, then after that tips are around $7 each (click on “Monkey nuts” to find the list). I am not sure exactly what is going on logistically with that, and I do not see any mention of a freebie tip in case the one you need is not included in the original package, but that is what was related to me.
In our testing, we would fully discharge the device to be tested, then use the Powermonkey to fully charge the device. Compared to the marketing claims we had read, the Powermonkey always came up short. That said, all our editors that did the testing wanted to make sure that they got one for themselves. No one that we have seen use the Powermonkey did not like it, including myself.
I have used the Powermonkey generally to charge my phone and Sony PSP. The scenarios in which we timed and tested Powermonkey charges are not likely to be the way it is used in everyday usage. Most all of us charge our mobile devices before they go totally dead. When my RAZR gets down to the yellow “caution” battery stage, I would plug it in, and the Powermonkey would give me a full charge in about 15 to 20 minutes. The Powermonkey comes charged out of the package and with that I was able to charge my phone a total of three times without ever charging the Powermonkey. The Powermonkey is good for about 5 to 7 phone charges when the phone reaches its “caution status.”
The less expensive Powermonkey Classic and Powermonkey eXplorer acted identical when it came to using them. Obviously the eXplorer looks better than the Classic and seems to be better constructed for day to day abuse, but we have not had any issues with the Classic.
The big ticket solar panel charger that comes with the eXplorer, it little more than good marketing. It does work though. You can charge your Powermonkey with it or other device, but unless you are sitting in direct sunlight, it is going to take a long time. Outside of hiking in the mountains and other outdoor activities, there seems to be limited use for the solar panel with possibly one exception. If you want to leave it on the dashboard of your car to charge up your Powermonkey, it would work well in that situation. That said if you were lost in the woods and needed to charge your handheld GPS, the solar panel might feel like a bit more than a gimmick.
I had my doubts about the Powermonkey but it has proved to be a valuable addition to my backpack.
If you look at this thing and think, “I have absolutely no use for that,” you are probably right. But if you are like me and think, “That might come in handy every once in a while,” you might just find it something you don’t want to do without once you get used to it.
I will not leave the house on a trip without my Powermonkey. I can charge my iPod, PSP, and phone, no matter where I am at. These Powermonkey devices are not cheap, but they do bring with them a very solid value for the traveler.
Next on its list of products is a PowerGorilla for your laptop. Specs here. I am sure that will be of interest to many of you as well.
There is already a thread running in the HardForum dedicated to Powermonkey and there is a representative in there answering questions.