Review: Tylt PowerPlant 5200mAh Battery Packs for iPod + iPhone
Following Apple's transition from Dock Connectors to Lightning, developers have released a number of batteries -- mostly integrated into device-specific cases -- featuring the smaller plugs. Tylt has just joined the pack with the release of PowerPlant, a device-agnostic 5200mAh cell that's now being sold in both Lightning ($90) or Dock Connector ($75) versions. Directly comparable to Just Mobile's prior-generation Gum Plus 2.1A in basic features, power capacity, and charging speeds, PowerPlant differentiates itself primarily with a different shape, an integrated Apple device charging cable, and different pricing.
Made primarily from glossy hard plastic, PowerPlant will appeal most to iPhone, iPod, non-Retina iPad, and iPad mini users, all of which can recharge at full speeds. Shaped like a roughly 3” by 1.7” by 1.5” block, PowerPlant’s physical volume is comparable to Gum Plus 2.1A’s, just in a wholly non-metallic enclosure with a thicker shape. Sitting alongside a recessed indicator button, four large green LEDs peek through a smoky translucent surface to indicate the current power status of the battery, which is refueled with an included but non-integrated micro-USB to USB cable. While we generally liked the design, it’s thicker than most standalone batteries we’ve tested, and we had to use rubbing alcohol to remove a feature-listing sticker from the glossy body, as it shreds when peeled.
Charging speeds top out at 2.1 Amps, either for a single device or shared between two devices; a USB port hidden behind a flip-open soft rubber panel provides device-agnostic charging, in addition to an integrated fold-out cable with either a Lightning or 30-pin connector at the end. Found in some competing batteries at these price points, the dual-charging feature nonetheless makes PowerPlant a bit more versatile than Gum Plus 2.1A, and assuming you’re carrying a compatible device, the side-stowed cable eliminates the need to worry about locating and toting along one more thing.
Separate tests of the USB port and dedicated Lightning connector yielded the same results with new Lightning devices: fast 2.1 Amp recharging of an iPad mini, restoring it from 0% to 80% capacity, as well as high-speed charging of an iPhone 5, which gets a bit over two full recharges from the 5200mAh cell. Regrettably, PowerPlant itself refuels somewhat slowly, with 1-Amp input that requires between six and seven hours to go from discharged to full power. This was also a limitation in Gum Plus 2.1A, but newer high-capacity battery designs are increasingly shifting to faster recharging, eliminating your need to leave them connected to computers or wall adapters overnight.
The only serious demerit with PowerPlant is the pricing. While $75 is a reasonable enough price for the Dock Connector version, which merits our general recommendation, Tylt’s $90 asking price for the Lightning version is just too steep: Unu’s plastic-bodied Enerpak Tube offers a nearly identical 5000mAh of power—but no Apple cables—for $60, while the $80 and beautifully metal-housed Gum Plus 2.1A came with a Dock Connector cable. For that reason, the Lightning version of PowerPlant gets our limited recommendation; it’s a good battery, but just too expensive for what it offers. Hopefully, Tylt and/or Apple will do what’s necessary to reduce the prices of Lightning accessories such as this one, as there’s literally no difference in performance or experience between the PowerPlants besides the shape of the connector inside, and no good reason to charge such a premium for something so simple.