Review: Braven BRV-BANK Smart Rugged Portable Power Bank
Sure, there are lots of battery packs out there, but how many are made to stand up to water with an IPX5 weatherproof rating ... and to scare away bears? Braven's BRV-BANK ($130) is here to fill that void. A 6,000mAh cell -- an 8,000mAh edition is coming in the future -- is packed inside a rugged body with a rubberized outer skin made to survive the elements. It can charge two devices at once, and there are a few other unique aspects to the accessory besides just the chassis. Along with the packed-in Micro-USB cable and lanyard, there's also a USB flashlight module that can be plugged into either of the ports as needed. Additionally, Bluetooth 4.0 is built in, allowing you to monitor battery life, turn ports on and off, and even activate "Bear Mode," which triggers an audible alarm and makes the flashlight strobe if it's attached, all from an iOS device.
Physically, BRV-BANK is a bit large for its capacity. Measuring 5” by 3.125” by 1”, it’s definitely still portable, but it’ll take up more room than the comparable—and much less expensive—AmpMax from myCharge, as an example. It’s a dense pack, with some plastic showing, but is mostly covered by a rubber coating on the outside. At one end is a watertight flap, which opens to reveal the battery’s inputs and outputs. From left to right, there’s a 2.4A port for charging iPads, Micro-USB input, a reset button, and a 1A port for iPhones and iPods. There are also two separate buttons around the corner, along the top edge – one is for power, the other for Bluetooth pairing, and there are five battery indicator LEDs in between.
Braven’s app brings some cool features to the mix, doing something different than any other battery on the market. Once connected to a compatible device, the app displays a straightforward menu. At the top is an illustration of the battery next to a numerical listing of how much power is left inside. Below, there are five separate toggles. The first two turn on the 1A and 2.4A ports, respectively. Next is “Find Me,” which plays a high-pitched tone from the battery in case it’s lost. The S.O.S. button flashes a Morse code distress signal as long as the flashlight is plugged in. Finally, there’s “Bear Mode.” When the mode is activated — and if your iPhone is moved — it’ll automatically trigger the same squeal as the location feature, and flash the light. It might not actually scare off a bear, but it will let you know if someone’s snatching your device.
Based on past tests, we expect a 6000mAh battery to provide a charge somewhere in the vicinity of 50 percent. BRV-BANK beat that number, bringing a fully depleted iPad Air up to 62 percent in two hours and 27 minutes, meaning it was indeed charging at the proper 2.4A speed. This is an impressive result for the capacity, although for the price, one can find better performing packs.
What you’re paying for with BRV-BANK isn’t just the battery itself, but also the bells and whistles. Yes, it performs quite well as a charger, but it can also survive being splashed and dropped, and can also be controlled remotely. While it’s not a utilitarian accessory, we find it to be a cool innovation that many will enjoy. It’s deserving of our strong general recommendation for this reason. With the battery market so saturated at this point, new features and ideas are appreciated, and BRV-BANK brings both, along with impressive performance. Price and size keep it out of the “great” range, though.