Review: Scosche goBat II Portable Charger + Backup Battery
If you're looking for a battery pack to recharge your iPhone or iPod, you have dozens of options -- hundreds if you count all the variations that are available in China -- but truly iPad-ready batteries are few and far between. In order to refill one of Apple's tablets at full speed in four hours, a battery needs to be capable of pushing out 2.1 Amps of power, or a little more than twice what iPhones need, and four times what iPods require. Between this speed requirement and the expense of making a rechargeable cell with the significant quantity of power iPads demand, many companies have taken a wait-and-see attitude, or developed cheaper, interim solutions that go part of the way towards refilling an iPad properly.
Scosche’s goBat II ($80) turns out to be one of them. Rather than trying to completely refill an iPad or iPad 2, goBat II includes a 5000mAh battery—considerably smaller than PhoneSuit’s Primo Power Core but a little bigger than Tekkeon’s TekCharge MP1860A, with a price tag directly in between them. Scosche claims that goBat II can recharge an iPad “up to 55% and other devices 2 to 3 times,” which would be above TekCharge’s 49% and below Primo Power Core’s 80%. And it also includes a feature that some but not all rivals offer: two USB ports for simultaneous two-device charging. goBat II behaved properly when charging both an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4 at the same time, though obviously its capacity is shared between the devices; you can expect two full iPhone 4 charges with a little left to spare.
Not surprisingly, goBat II has some plusses and minuses that are worth considering before making a purchase. On the plus side, the glossy black unit looks quite nice, and due to its limited battery capacity, it isn’t particularly large or difficult to carry around: at roughly 4.75” tall by 2.9” wide and 0.6” thick, it’s only a little larger on each side than an iPhone, with rubber feet on the bottom to keep it from slipping or scuffing on a table. Additionally, it ever so slightly surpassed Scosche’s claim for iPad and iPad 2 refueling, bringing their batteries up by 56% when goBat II was connected to one tablet using a self-supplied Dock Connector to USB cable, and nothing else. The four blue battery indicator lights worked respectably to show the remaining level of juice, triggered by a circular button on goBat II’s top; the lights also show the current level of power when goBat II itself is being recharged with its lone included Micro-USB to USB charging cable.
On the other hand, charging and recharging with goBat II are both relatively slow. While the packaging repeatedly says that the battery supports 2.1-Amp iPad charging, and Scosche’s web site claims a 3-hour recharge time for the iPad or iPad 2, one of our tests took closer to four hours to recharge a lone iPad 2 by 56%—the same amount of time we’d normally expect for the iPads’ included wall chargers to completely refill a depleted device. It’s worth noting that goBat II’s packaging omits Apple’s Made For iPad certification, as well as any other iPhone or iPod logos, perhaps because it doesn’t quite meet full-speed recharging standards. Also noteworthy: Scosche doesn’t include a wall charger for the unit, or enable it to be recharged at full speed, so you can expect to take 6 to 8 hours just to refill it—perhaps longer. We tried once to recharge it at night using a Micro-USB cable other than the one Scosche included in the package, and came back the next morning to find that it hadn’t charged at all. With Scosche’s cable and a self-supplied USB wall adapter, the battery recharged as expected, just slowly.
Overall, goBat II’s design, performance, and pricing offer users a compromise between previously available options, without really standing out much in any particular way. On one hand, it represents a small performance boost over Tekkeon’s TekCharge MP1860A, preserving the same dual-USB design and adding 7% additional iPad battery life, although there’s a $10 price premium, and you lose Tekkeon’s included wall charger, carrying case, and some recharging speed—non-trivial omissions. Yet it’s $20 less expensive than the more powerful Primo Power Core, adding a second USB port while losing the case, wall charger, and 24% of the recharging power. Judged strictly on its merits as an iPad battery, goBat II rides the line between our general and limited recommendations, but its ability to charge two devices at once and its nice industrial design push it into flat B territory. This is a good battery pack option overall, and though it’s not the best we’ve seen for iPads, it’s a reasonable compromise solution for users who want more than a typical iPhone or iPod charger to use on the road. An included charger and faster speeds would have made it a stronger pick.