Review: Tekkeon TekCharge MP1860A Dual-Port Emergency Charger for iPad, iPhone + iPod
As much as we've liked and actively used Just Mobile's Gum Pro and Gum Plus high-capacity rechargeable batteries for our iPods and iPhones in the past, the company hasn't yet released a version that provides full-speed iPad recharging capability. So we were thrilled to see Tekkeon release TekCharge MP1860A ($70), the most affordable Made For iPad battery pack to date. Based upon an earlier 4,400mAh battery released by the company for iPods and iPhones, TekCharge MP1860A now has a USB port with up to 2.1-Amps of output power, capable of providing full-speed recharging for any iPod, iPhone, or iPad. And then it adds something more: a second USB port that can simultaneously deliver 0.4mA of current to a simultaneously connected iPod or iPhone, or up to 1A to an iPhone if nothing else is connected.
TekCharge MP1860A’s design is actually only a little more complex than that. Made from glossy black plastic in an extruded kidney bean shape, it has gray rubber grips on the sides and six matching rubber dots on the bottom as pads. The top has a three-position power switch: off turns the battery off, on activates the two USB ports on one of the kidney bean’s flat sides, and a circle with lines icon turns on a small white LED flashlight on the opposing flat side.
Apart from a mini USB input port in the center of the two full-sized output ports, the former used to recharge TekCharge and the latter to fuel one or two other devices, there’s not much more to the battery. A wall charger, retractable USB wall charging cable, carrying case, and alternate tips for mini-USB and micro-USB connections are included in the package. So is a full-length Dock Connector to USB cable, the tip of which is Apple-sized and thus compatible with virtually every iPad, iPhone, and iPod case on the market.
It should be noted at this point that Tekkeon’s package is a very good value for the dollar. The 4,400mAh battery inside puts MP1860A in direct competition against the same-capacity Gum Pro for iPods and Gum Plus for iPods and iPhones. Gum Pro sells for a little less at $60 and is similarly plastic-bodied, but delivers only 0.5-Amp power—full-speed iPod and half-speed iPhone charging, with no real support for iPads. Gum Plus sells for the same $70 price as TekCharge and has a fancier, Apple-style aluminum body with 1.0-Amp power, which delivers full-speed iPhone and half-speed iPad charging. Tekkeon’s pack-ins are comparable to the ones in Gum Plus, though with one extra tip to accommodate micro-USB devices; its two USB ports and 2.1-Amp support are decided advantages, and its less impressive plastic casing is a small disadvantage. The flashlight is basically pointless to us, but you may feel otherwise.
TekCharge’s performance was pretty much exactly as expected: when only an iPad was connected to one USB port, the 4,400mAh battery provided almost exactly 50% of a recharge to one connected iPad or iPad 2, bringing it up by 49% when left connected to a Wi-Fi network but otherwise unused; turning off the wireless hardware brings the numbers up modestly. Total recharging time was 2 hours and 20 minutes for that half refill, in line with expectations for a 2.1-Amp charger. When the ports are used at the same time, the same amount of power is distributed amongst two devices, such that you can expect to entirely refill two iPhones or iPod touches at the same time, or give an iPhone/iPod as much juice as it can squeeze from a 0.4-Amp line while the iPad is gulping faster through a 2.1-Amp port.
The one and only hiccup is Tekkeon’s battery light indicator: there really isn’t much of one. When you turn the power on, a little blue light goes on, turning red over time before going out. That’s it. Competing batteries tend to do a much better job of providing a granular sense of their discharge levels, but then, few of them have multiple USB ports to manage with varying levels of drain on each. PhoneSuit’s Primo Power Core, an iPad battery that nearly doubles TekCharge’s capacity for a $30 higher price, similarly has only three indicator lights on its face; Just Mobile’s Gum Pro has three too, and Gum Plus has five. In any case, additional lights let you have a better, faster sense of how much power is left, and Tekkeon doesn’t do enough here in that regard.
That issue aside, TekCharge MP1860A is a very good battery option for iPad, iPhone, and iPod users—assuming of course that a 50% iPad recharge or two iPhone/iPod touch recharges is sufficient for your needs. In the iPhone/iPod era, two full recharges for $60 to $70 was about as much as could be expected from a reputable manufacturer; barring some major technological advance in rechargeable cells, it’s our impression that TekCharge MP1860A is very close to the price and performance floor we’ll see for the next generation of iPad batteries. If you need more power, there will surely be name brand options beyond the ones available today, but we’d be surprised if they’re much more affordable than this. Superior industrial design, recharging lights and pack-ins, however, will be another story.