Review: Nyko iBoost Battery Pack
Pros: A thin-profile iPod battery pack that adds around 17 hours of playtime to fourth-generation iPods, and around 10 to third-generation iPods. Requires no special charger; docks in Apple’s official Dock or connects to the wall with standard iPod cables.
Cons: Pricey for an iPod battery, given that it adds 1/3 or 1/4 the power of category-leading products in a similar price range.
Back in March, we reviewed and generally liked Nyko’s iBoost mini Battery Pack for iPods (iLounge rating: B), a slim but pricey battery pack that promised 10 hours of added run time for an iPod mini, and achieved at least that much, depending on the type of mini that was attached. Now Nyko has released iBoost for full-sized iPods ($79.99, street prices $45 and up), which promises 16 hours of added music playback, though the actual number will depend on the iPod you’ve connected.
iBoost takes a different approach to iPod power than many - but not all - of its competitors. Rather than using a large, powerful battery to keep the iPod running, it adds only around 50% additional thickness to a 40GB fourth-generation iPod, and less than an inch of extra height at the bottom. The internal rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery won’t keep your iPod running for nearly as long as comparably priced products from BTI, such as The iPod Battery II (iLounge rating: A-), but it’s easier to tote iBoost around for everyday use. Nyko uses clear plastic that’s been painted white on its interior surface, save for two clear iPod-grabbing arms and two clear plastic inserts, one of which is padded to size the iBoost for thinner iPods, while the other adjusts the thickness of its bottom Dock Connector area.
As with iBoost mini, the full-sized version of iBoost was designed with a couple of smart ideas: it can fit in a standard Apple iPod Dock for recharging, so the second plastic insert lets you make the bottom thin enough for 20GB iPod Docks, or fat enough for 40/60GB iPod Docks. It also uses a yellow light on its front face to indicate charging status, and a red light to let you know that it’s close to dying, both behind a Nyko logo.
Our experiences with two iBoost units varied a bit. The first one we received - apparently from a now-discontinued production run of problem units - never worked. We plugged it in to wall power and its yellow charging light never went on; connecting it to a computer actually abruptly shut down the machine. We’re willing to believe that the unit we received was an exception to the general rule, and not base our rating upon its performance - however, we suggest that you look to the comments below to see whether readers have had different experiences.
The second unit - this time, from a good production run - worked almost identically to the iBoost mini. We charged it separately from two dead iPods, one 4G model and one 3G model. Connectiing the fourth-generation iPod, we saw that it ran for 17 hours, 5 minutes without any iPod internal battery assistance before dying - exceeding Nyko’s estimate by an hour, a good thing by our standards.
But in tests with a third-generation iPod, iBoost didn’t do as well, running for around ten hours before giving up. While not totally unexpected in as much as older iPods consume more battery power than newer ones, iBoost did falli short of what someone might assume from Nyko’s packaging. It also took a couple of retries to get the dead third-generation iPod to run off of iBoost before it worked properly.
In both cases, it was easy to plug an iPod in and take it out. Plugging the second unit into the computer or wall worked just fine for charging, too, though wall recharging of the iBoost took longer than Nyko’s suggested 4.5 hours of charge time. And while the unit wasn’t cosmetically perfect - certain portions of its interior white paint were a bit rough - it looked more than good enough for its intended purposes, and was very easy to carry around at all times.
The biggest obstacle to a stronger recommendation for the iBoost is its aggregate price-to-performance ratio. As with Belkin’s $99.95 TunePower (iLounge rating: B-), iBoost puts a bigger premium on looks than on added playback time, and the consequence is a product that does a good job of enhancing an iPod’s routine daily use, but won’t eliminate your need for wall outlet power on extended or overseas trips.
However, even at its full MSRP, the $79.99 iBoost is cheaper and a better value for most users - perhaps not those with both iPods and iPod minis - than TunePower, providing better battery life for both 3G and 4G iPods than Belkin’s product. It can’t compare in overall value or longevity to BTI’s iPod Battery ii, but if you really shop around, it may be cheaper, and in any case it’s sleeker looking and easier to carry around. Issues with the first unit aside, we’d rate the second one as B-level recommendable, though we will adjust this rating accordingly if we hear of widespread problems from our readers.