Review: Nyko iBoost mini Battery Pack
Pros: A thin-profile iPod mini battery pack that adds around 10 hours of playtime to a first-generation mini, and almost 18 to a second-generation model. Requires no special charger; docks in Apple’s official Dock.
Cons: Pricey for an iPod mini battery, especially given that it adds 1/3 to 1/4 the power of category-leading products in a similar price range.
There are two somewhat different types of battery options currently available for the iPod: large battery packs that add literally days of continuous playback time to an iPod, and small, thin packs that add only half a day of extra playtime, give or take six hours. If you’re looking only for the best dollar-to-playtime ratio out there, BTI’s iPod Battery ($99.99, iLounge rating: A) and iPod Battery ii ($99.99, iLounge rating: A-) remain the best options we’ve seen. But if smaller size and style are bigger draws, you’ll want to consider Nyko’s new iBoost mini ($79.99) and Belkin’s earlier TunePower ($99.95, iLounge rating: B-). Nyko is also making a full-sized iPod version called the iBoost, but it’s not yet shipping.
The iBoost mini is the thinnest iPod mini battery attachment we’ve seen, adding about 50% additional thickness to the rear of an iPod mini, and less than an inch of added thickness to its bottom. Unlike the TunePower (shown in a comparison shot below), it is a single-piece shell that slips on the iPod mini’s back, and there’s no button to let you check battery strength at any time. Rather, iBoost mini includes a two-colored charge indicator light on its front - solid yellow shows that the battery is actively charging, flashing yellow shows that it’s fully charged, and red appears when the battery is low. White and clear glossy plastic are used for the shell in an obvious but imperfectly matching nod to the design of full-sized iPods, with clear clips that attach to the iPod mini’s sides, and a thin felt pad to protect scuffing on the inserted mini’s back. The look is quite good overall, though the iBoost mini’s top has some uneven white coloration inside of its glossy clear exterior. It’s the only blemish on an otherwise attractive package. Smart design on Nyko’s part led to a bottom connector with two interesting characteristics. First, it includes a pass-through Dock Connector on its bottom. Second, it is shaped to match the profile of the iPod mini - not just for visual reasons, but to enable a person to recharge the iBoost while docked in Apple’s official iPod dock, or connected to any computer’s powered USB or FireWire port. Consequently, it’s very easy to charge no matter what iPod mounting accessories you prefer to use, and you don’t need to carry around a separate charger, as with Belkin’s TunePower.
The iBoost mini’s play time is comparable to the TunePower, which gets around 10 hours of play time out of a first-generation iPod mini. Nyko promises 10 hours on its packaging, and with a first-generation iPod mini, the iBoost ran for almost that long before expiring, getting nine hours and 50 minutes in our test. But our second-generation iPod mini did better, running for 17 hours and 39 minutes, and putting on its red battery light with around 30 minutes of its charge remaining. The improvement was most likely thanks to the new iPod mini’s improved battery conservation technology, but the result’s inescapable: you’ll get almost ten hours of additional playtime if you have a new iPod mini.
When compared in play duration against other battery options out there, and taking into account the likely differences between Nyko’s suggested and actual retail prices, the iBoost mini is a fair but not great value. Belkin’s TunePower offers similar functionality and multi-iPod compatibility at the higher price of $99.99. The iBoost mini has comparable battery life and is only iPod mini-compatible, but is thinner and smaller than any other option, and offers an easier charging system. True, a number of companies are selling or planning $50-60 AA or AAA battery packs for the iPod that don’t include their own rechargeable batteries, but Pacific Rim Technology offers one that at $24.99 is the cheapest such offering we’ve seen for the iPod mini. On balance, we still think the iBoost mini is on the pricey side, but it’s more recommendable overall than the TunePower. Especially as iPods have increased in built-in battery life, we’ve ourselves been inclined to use external batteries only for extreme circumstances - the sort that BTI’s larger but longer-running packs can best address. But there is no denying the day-to-day appeal of something that’s as small and easy to recharge as the iBoost mini, especially for size and fashion conscious iPod mini owners, and then best for people with older, lower lifespan iPod minis. These individuals will see an instant doubling of the older mini’s run time - good enough for extended travel or even just to put less strain on the iPod mini’s internal battery. Particularly if you shop around for a discount, the iBoost mini thereby merits a solid B - and our “recommended” badge.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.