Review: Griffin PowerBlock, PowerJolt + PowerDuo Reserve
iPod chargers and rechargeable batteries may be passe, but when they're combined together, they suddenly become more interesting. That's what Griffin has done with PowerBlock Reserve ($40), PowerJolt Reserve ($40), and PowerDuo Reserve ($60), a three new charger and battery sets that won our 2009 Best of Show Awards for their "just makes sense, especially at these prices" feature sets and designs. The concept is simple: buy a standard charger, get a Dock Connector-equipped, charger-fitting rechargeable battery in the same package, and charge both your iPod and the battery at the same time. If you don't finish charging your device and need a little extra juice, pull off the battery and carry it around; otherwise, leave it connected so that it will stay topped off. All three of these sets also work with iPhones.
PowerBlock Reserve takes the prior PowerBlock—a wall charger—and transforms it such that Griffin’s 500mAh battery pack appears to be part of its shell, differing only in texture: the charger is primarily glossy black plastic, and the battery is substantially soft touch matte rubber. There’s a USB port on PowerBlock Reserve to plug in your pre-existing USB cable for iPod or iPhone charging, and the included battery makes a magnetic connection to the block, showing its power level with three bright yellow lights and a large power indicator button on its top surface. Wall blades on the back of the charger flip closed for easier storage.
By comparison, PowerJolt Reserve is a car charger. Unlike Griffin’s prior PowerJolts, which have become smaller over time, this version adds a little buik in order to accommodate the battery charging portion; Griffin offsets this by adding some classy chrome to the glossy black plastic body. The battery is identical to PowerBlock Reserve’s, and can be charged on either device.
That compatibility was intentional. PowerDuo Reserve gives you one PowerBlock and one PowerJolt, plus one battery to share between them; you save $20 relative to purchasing the two accessories separately, but also lose a second battery in the process. Notably, none of the sets includes the USB cable you’ll need to recharge your iPod or iPhone, a disappointment given that these cables have been packed with Griffin’s $20 standard chargers for years.
You can decide for yourself whether Griffin’s battery pack is enough for your needs, or worthy of the premium it commands relative to a standard PowerBlock, PowerJolt, or PowerDuo package. Our view is that it rides the fine edge, but does enough for the price: the 500mAh cell had literally just enough power to fully recharge a dead fourth-generation iPod nano in our testing, which means that it can roughly half-recharge an iPod classic or touch, or add 30-40% to an iPhone, all depending on the specific model. Unlike many of the other battery providers out there, Griffin isn’t trying to completely restore a dead iPhone; it’s there to give you the boost you need to keep going after a too-brief period of recharging, or an extra hour or two of calling when you need it.
For that, Griffin’s battery MSRP premium is around $20—$25 if you count the missing cable—and the cell is small, easy to place on the charger where you most often recharge your device, and extremely convenient. Cable omission aside, you’ll be satisfied with any one of these; they’re great little packages with sharp-looking, well-made parts. They’re worthy of our high recommendation, particularly if you shop around for them.