Thanks to the increased power demands of iPads, high-capacity external batteries have recently become increasingly common, and developers are actively competing to offer better combinations of capacity and pricing than they have in the past. Unfortunately, raw specifications don’t necessarily tell the whole story of a given battery’s performance, and inexpensive batteries have a tendency to underwhelm in some way — output power, input power, and longevity are just a few of the potential issues. New Trent’s PowerPak Ultra ($100, aka NT140R-B) is an example of how an affordable high-specced battery mightn’t deliver a truly excellent experience: for the same price as seemingly less powerful batteries, it promises a whopping 14,000mAh of capacity, yet it didn’t match similarly capacious cells in our real-world testing.
From the outside, the brick-like 5.5” by 3” by 1.2” PowerPak Ultra looks like it’s ready for anything. Obviously ruggedized with rubber edging and sealed ports, Ultra arrives in packaging claiming that it’s water-, dirt-, and shock-proof. Oddly, there are now some unusual caveats to this: the box offered no specific IPX or other independent certification for these claims, and New Trent’s web site has removed any promises about its resistance to anything except scratches. As of today, there are still photos of the battery drenched in mist and standing under a thin stream of water, but they have no accompanying text. As such, we’d be very hesitant to recommend this battery as truly safe against liquid intrusion, but the design is certainly more resilient than options we’ve seen without any port coverage.
As a raw battery pack, PowerPak Ultra carries a ton of power: on paper, the 14,000mAh cell should be enough to give an iPad Air a charge of around 117%, or share that energy between two integrated USB outputs. One is rated at an iPad-ready 2.1 Amps, while the other is for iPhone/iPod use at 1 Amp. In our testing, however, the battery didn’t come anywhere close to the performance we expected. An iPad Air went from 0% to 87% in around 4.5 hours on the “2.1-Amp” port, which was both slower than we would have expected and 30% less capacity. While iPad minis can expect to see at least one full recharge from PowerPak Ultra, and iPhones will likely get three or more full charges, other full-sized iPads will typically fall below the iPad Air’s 87% mark.
It’s also worth mentioning that PowerPak Ultra’s relatively meager four-light indicator provided atypically little remaining power guidance for a high-capacity cell; the best batteries around this capacity include a larger number of lights to help you gauge their power status. You can also expect long recharging times despite a promised 2-Amp micro-USB port on the side. New Trent includes a micro-USB cable, but not a wall adapter, so you’ll need to supply an iPad-ready power cube (or recent-model Mac’s USB port) to refuel Ultra in less than a day.
The single saving grace of PowerPak Ultra is its low price tag. Just months ago, RAVPower shipped the Dynamo 14,000mAh battery without any ruggedization for $130, and although it came much closer to the actual output performance we would have expected from such a high-capacity cell, that’s a lot of money to pay for a USB battery pack. By contrast, New Trent has PowerPak Ultra at a $100 MSRP but a widely-available $70 street price, which is certainly eye-catching; after testing, however, the price seems like an apology for the underwhelming performance. For a variety of reasons, this certainly wouldn’t be the first high-capacity battery we’d recommend to our readers — we’re definitely concerned about the corners that were obviously cut here — but the low price makes it a “get what you pay for” product. Our advice: don’t expect PowerPak Ultra to fully live up to its initial promise, but if you want a battery with somewhat more capacity and ruggedization than you’d typically find for $70, you can consider giving it a shot.
Company and Price
Company: New Trent
Model: Powerpak Ultra NT140R-B
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPods