Before Apple’s Lightning connector was introduced, it was common for backup batteries to come with Dock Connector cables bundled in. Since the new standard came about though, almost no companies include the charging cord, and those that do often have it fused into the pack. Such is the case with Macally’s 5200mAh Portable Battery Charger ($90, aka MBP52L). Directly attached to the battery is a stubby Lightning cable, plus a micro-USB cable for powering accessories. It’s able to put out a total of 2.6 amps of power, with 2.1A of that coming from the Lightning connector.
In terms of its physical footprint, this pack is right on par with what we’d expect compared to other batteries we’ve seen. It’s 4.5” long, 3” wide, and just shy of 0.75” tall, making it a very portable option. The outer shell is made of plastic; white on the front and back, with a silver band running between those plates. It feels a lot like most Macally products feel, which is to say not premium, but not cheap, either.
There’s only one port on this charger, and it’s micro-USB, to be used with the included cable for recharging the pack. Absent is a full-sized USB port, which means you’ll have to rely on the built-in plugs for charging, and older iDevices that use Dock Connector plugs won’t be compatible. The Lightning plug only extends 1.5” away from the body of the battery, which is somewhat limiting, especially considering the 5” length of the micro-USB cable. The Lightning plug itself is also among the biggest we’ve seen; it should fit most cases, but some with particularly tight port openings will be incompatible.
In terms of actual battery performance, Macally’s pack does quite well. We tested it with a first-generation iPad mini, which had its battery fully drained. The 2.1A Lightning charger was able to juice it up to 81% in about an hour and 15 minutes—higher than the 76% or so we would’ve expected, based on previous tests. Part of this may be attributable to unexplained battery performance boosts we’ve seen with iOS 7, but regardless, it’s a good result.
While the $90 price tag is expensive for a 5200mAh battery, it’s not a bad value when you take the included Lightning cable into account. We do appreciate that the connector is built-in, of course, but we really wish it weren’t so limited by its short length. The lack of a full-sized USB port is another big concern, although this will mainly be an issue for those using older devices, including the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and iPod classic, all of which Apple still sells. With a lower price and longer Lightning cable, this one would be a better value, but as it stands it earns only a limited recommendation.
Company and Price
Compatible: All Lightning-Equipped iPads, iPhones, iPods