Review: Incipio offGRID Smart Bluetooth Low Energy-Enabled Portable 6000mAh Backup Battery
Incipio's latest battery offGRID Smart ($90) combines elements from products that've already been released. The 6000mAh version of the battery has the same shape and number of outputs as the non-Smart edition of offGRID, while incorporating the Bluetooth 4.0 features seen in BRV-BANK from Braven, a subsidiary of Incipio. Because it's so familiar, but still interesting, we're issuing a brief review.
Also available in an 8000mAh version for a $20 premium, offGRID Smart comes in a plastic housing that’s made to look like brushed metal, rather than the matte black finish of previous offGRID products. Its three ports—one Micro-USB for charging, one 2.4A USB output this time, and one 1A USB output—are all located on the same glossy end of the battery. Instead of just one button on top, there are now two. One controls the power, and the other switches the Bluetooth radio to discoverable mode. Four blue LEDs display the remaining power.
Our test of the battery’s performance capabilities showed that the cell performs almost identically to the version of the pack without Bluetooth. Plugged into a fully depleted iPad Air, offGRID Smart was able to deliver a 42 percent charge, a point higher than the 6000mAh offGRID. Although both these figures are below the 50 percent charge we’d expect, it’s at least good to see the addition of Bluetooth didn’t have a major effect on the battery performance.
What that wireless radio does offer is the chance to monitor and control the battery from an iPhone. With a free app, offGRID Smart can talk to Bluetooth 4.0-equipped devices, offering a feature set that is similar to BRV-BANK’s. Once connected, it’ll show icons representing the remaining charge in the battery, how many hours of power it has left—or how much longer it’ll take to recharge, if plugged in—and the remaining battery capacity of your phone. Notably, it’s not the battery life of the device that’s plugged in, but rather the one on which you’re running the app. You can also toggle the USB ports on and off, and trigger a sound from the battery in case it’s lost.
Compared to the standard 6000mAh offGRID, offGRID Smart is certainly a more capable accessory. It offers potentially faster charging thanks to the upgrade to 2.4A-output, and of course there are the Bluetooth features. But compared to other 6000mAh batteries—including BRV-BANK, which delivered a full 20 percent more recharging power in our tests—this model’s recharging is below average, running around 8% lower than the typical 50% refueling we’d expect for an iPad Air. Because of this, it earns our limited recommendation. While the on-device controls are cool, they’re not totally necessary, and the performance doesn’t justify the high price.