Pros: Simple iPod battery pack provides over ten hours of additional power to iPod hardware with four AA batteries – more depending on the iPod and batteries you’re using.
Cons: No frills like remaining power indicators or clips to attach to your iPod or a belt. Eats AA batteries faster than competing (though more expensive) option.
We rarely re-review products, but are making an exception for the PowerStick iPod Battery Pack ($27.99) by ezGear, a product iLounge readers may recognize on sight from our July 2004 review of Gadget Accessories’ Battery Pack. The identical-looking Gadget Accessories version of this device is one of the only iPod accessories we’ve ever tested and found potentially dangerous – hence its F rating. Thus, we weren’t overly excited to hear that Audio Outfitters LLC’s new ezGear label was re-branding and releasing the charger with no major external distinctions. However, there’s one notable internal change: the unit we received from ezGear doesn’t exhibit the same problems as the Gadget Accessories hardware we (and readers) found problematic.
The PowerStick is a TV remote control-sized white plastic battery holder that measures 4 7/8” x 1 5/8” x 3/4”, using rounded corners and a barely glossy polish to soften its edges. An integrated 10” cable with an unlicensed (all-plastic) Dock Connector plug connects the PowerStick to the Dock Connector ports of 3G, 4G, mini and photo iPods. Four AA batteries pop into a compartment on its rear, while a yellow power indicator light on its front lets you know generally that there’s some juice in the batteries. And finally, a black on/off switch next to the cable lets you switch the Stick on whenever you want to supply your iPod with extra play time.
That’s it: there’s no sophisticated power remaining indicator, no clip to attach to your iPod, and not even a company logo. The case’s rear has a generic label that reads “Battery Adapter / Uses Four AA-Size Batteries,” and like the Gadget Accessories unit we tested, the PowerStick comes in minimal packaging. It’s designed to be cheap and simple: toss four AA batteries in, and go.
We dropped a set of four Energizers into the PowerStick and ran our standard iPod test – 50% volume, no equalizers, randomized playback, minimal control interference – with a first-generation iPod mini to see how it did. At the same time, we were testing Battery Technology Incorporated’s new AA iPod Battery accessory, which also uses four AA batteries to supply iPod power. To put the two devices on parity, we fully charged the iPod mini we attached to the PowerStick, as we had done with the same iPod mini in an earlier test with BTI’s device.
Combined with the iPod mini’s battery life, the PowerStick ran for 22 hours and 15 minutes before the iPod turned off. Unusually, we found that the Stick’s power light was still glowing, and we were able to resuscitate the iPod mini for another hour and 2 minutes of play time before it died – a total of 23 hours and 17 minutes. Subtracting out the iPod mini’s own contribution, the Stick added around 13 hours of playtime to the iPod.
For the $27.99 price, an extra 130% or so of normal run time isn’t bad, though the Stick didn’t do quite as well by comparison with BTI’s AA iPod Battery ($49.95): that one ran for 32 hours, 25 minutes on an iPod mini with the same type of batteries – about 22 hours without the mini’s own juice – but includes a higher-priced enclosure and mounting system. In other words, your up-front costs are significantly less with the PowerStick, but the BTI charger makes up for its higher price over time as it eats sets of four AA batteres less quickly. We’ll also note briefly that both units run times will increase when used with better batteries and newer iPods, or decrease when used under less positive conditions.
Price and longevity aside, we were mostly concerned that the PowerStick would exhibit the same sizzling sounds and other odd electrical symptoms that Gadget Accessories’ Charger did, but as promised by ezGear, they never appeared: the PowerStick we received worked as promised. Moreover, we have been repeatedly assured that ezGear is committed to guaranteeing the safety of all of the units it ships, and has not experienced issues with any of the PowerSticks it has sold to date. The company points to its warranty – a short three-month guarantee that covers only the PowerStick, and not the iPod – in case there’s any problem.
While we remain marginally concerned about the product just based on past experience with its Gadget Accessories doppelganger, we are generally comfortable with ezGear’s commitment to keep its customers happy. The company has indicated that it is in discussions with Apple to incorporate a licensed Connector into the product, and has gone through sufficient testing to indicate that any problems Gadget Accessories has experienced are not affecting ezGear products. Our hope is therefore that the issues in the earlier products have been fixed entirely, and we would expect that our readers will let us know if this isn’t the case with the units they receive.
Overall, the Power Stick is a decent source of extra iPod battery life at a reasonable price – as currently advertised at $20.99, some will find it very attractive. It’s not the best way to squeeze juice out of four AA batteries, as you could get more iPod longevity from BTI’s AA iPod Battery. And it’s also not made in any way to attach to your iPod or be practically carried around outside of tossing both items into a bag or trying to squeeze them into the same pocket. But for certain travelers and budget-constrained users, it will do the trick.
As a final note, because the Gadget Accessories units with problems are still floating around out there, we strongly caution our readers to purchase this unit only as a new ezGear part from a legitimate retailer with a full warranty rather than through eBay auctions, small vendor web sites, or other transactions. There is no way to easily tell problem and non-problem units apart, and though we issue a positive grade to the ezGear unit here, that grade does not apply to any other version of this device that may be available, regardless of its looks.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo