External battery packs are available in pretty much every size and shape imaginable. Paick’s Noble Power Bank ($65) may look to have a familiar design at first — a rectangular aluminum box with curves — but it’s actually unique among other options out there. That’s because instead of leaving the ports exposed at all times, this pack features a pop-up tray that folds into the body when not in use. Equipped with both 1A and 2.1A USB outputs for charging, and a micro-USB input, it also comes with the requisite micro-USB charging cable. Through the first quarter of 2014, Noble can be had for $50, but our review is based on its actual retail price.
Thin, light, and housed in metal, Noble is well-suited for being tossed into a bag or pocket for travel. At 4.5” long, 2.75” wide, and less than 0.5” tall, it’s a nice size for its capacity. We received two units for review, and both arrived with dried-on residue, especially on the underside. While it easily rubbed off, it’s not an encouraging sign when a product arrives dirty.
A black rectangle on the top of the battery serves as a touch-sensitive power and charge indicator button, with blue LEDs showing the remaining power level. A single physical black button on one of the short ends is used to release the ports, which pop up at an angle. On one of our review units, the button failed to release properly, meaning we had to pry the port cover up; clearly, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. The other worked properly. At either end are full-sized USB ports, both labeled with their output capacity, and next to the one on the left, the micro-USB port.
To test Noble’s capabilities, we hooked up an fully depleted iPad Air to the 2.1A port. While some recent batteries have charged slower than their advertised rate, this one worked properly. In a little over two hours, it delivered a 47% charge before running dry. This is a percentage point or two lower than our expected figure, based on averages, but that’s totally acceptable—right on par with where it should be.
While the release button should work more consistently across units—an issue Paick needs to address—the battery otherwise works quite well, and comes in at an affordable price for its capacity. The performance is right around where it should be, too. It’s not a perfect solution, but we like it, and offer our general recommendation. Between the pricing and the unique design, it stands out from the crowd a bit without making sacrifices.
Company and Price
Model: Noble Power Bank
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones + iPods