With hundreds of options now in the marketplace, USB battery packs are headed towards commodity status at this point: pricing, capacity, and recharging speeds are becoming the biggest differentiators between numerous otherwise similar models. Previously known for its high-capacity Ultrapak Tour, which boasted an integrated charging meter and super-fast recharging for its 10,000mAh cell, uNu has debuted Superpak ($100) as an alternative. Superpak drops Ultrapak’s fancy gloss casing, packed-in wall charger, and integrated LCD screen for a rounded-off, matte-finished box akin to Just Mobile’s long-abandoned 2008 version of Gum Pro. uNu pitches Superpak as the smallest 10,000mAh battery pack around, which it does achieve in footprint, albeit with added thickness as a consequence.
Despite shape similarities to the old Gum Pro, Superpak features a more efficient design. Measuring roughly 3.6” long by 3.2” wide by 0.85” thick, it’s around 50% the footprint of APC’s recent 10,000mAh M10BK battery (shown here), but also twice the thickness. Its large circular power button sits right next to three USB ports — one micro-USB port to recharge Superpak, one 2.1A USB port to recharge a tablet or iPhone 6/6 Plus, and one 1A port to recharge other iPhones and iPods. The top surface has four tiny white power status LEDs that are very difficult to see on off-angles, but visible when viewed directly overhead, and one edge contains a collection of capacity and specification numbers. The number 10,000 is extra large, emphasizing Superpak’s power, while claims as to the input and output capabilities are in smaller numbers off to the side.
We use the word “claims” only because Superpak doesn’t live up to all of its marketing. For instance, both the box and battery claim that Superpak itself can be recharged at up to 2.4 Amps — “SuperX charging” — which is important because high-capacity battery packs can often take 8 to 16 hours to refuel from USB ports or typical wall adapters. uNu’s earlier 10,000mAh model Ultrapak Tour notably zipped from empty to 100% in only 1 hour and 30 minutes with its included adapter, a record speed. But in several tests of Superpak with common high-output power sources ranging from iPad USB power adapters to Mac computers, the recharge times we saw were in the 8-hour range, nowhere close to Ultrapak’s performance, and par with 1-Amp recharging we’ve seen in numerous batteries.
Another marketed technology, “uSmart,” claims to automatically detect and match the optimal charging speed of a connected device — no huge feat given that most batteries do the same, except for ambiguity over Superpak’s range of supported speeds. The box says “max 2.4A,” which would be enough to refuel even the power-hungriest third- and fourth-generation iPads at their top speeds, but Superpak itself is twice marked with a lower 2.1A max output that’s matched to iPad Airs, iPad minis, and the first two iPads. Our tested charge times with the iPad Air 2 were consistent with full 2.1A output.
Capacity is one area where Superpak delivers fully on expectations. Based on past battery tests, we expected that it would achieve around a 90% charge with the iPad Air 2, and it hit 88% in a test with a fully discharged iPad, versus 96% when the same tablet was slightly pre-powered. This was the exact same result we saw when testing the aforementioned APC M10BK with the iPad Air 2, and we would expect this aspect of Superpak’s performance to be virtually identical to Ultrapak Tour’s, which hit 79% on a fully depleted first-generation iPad Air with a larger internal battery. There should be no issue fully recharging any iPad mini, iPhone, or iPod with Superpak; in fact, smaller devices can be expected to recharge two or more times.
Another item worth noting is Superpak’s included charging cable. It has a full-sized USB plug on one side with a micro-USB plug on the other, permanently tethered to a Lightning adapter for the micro-USB plug. Apple-licensed as Made for iPhone—notably not Made for iPad—the single cable can be used both to recharge Superpak, and to use Superpak to recharge recent Apple devices. Very few of the USB battery packs we’ve tested include Lightning cables, and cables like this one sell for $15 on their own, so this is a nice little bonus. That said, Superpak really should have also included a dedicated wall adapter.
Overall, Superpak is a good rather than great external battery. On the positive side, it bundles a high capacity cell with a nice charging cable, sporting a small footprint and enough juice to completely recharge almost any of Apple’s current flagship products. But what precludes us from rating Superpak higher is regrettably confusing pricing. We review products at their stated regular prices, not temporary sales, and uNu’s spread for Superpak is very significant. Officially, Superpak has an MSRP of $100, though uNu lists it at a $40 sale price. We contacted uNu for clarification and were told that the $40 price is temporary, with a plan for it to “jump” closer to the MSRP in the future. If you can still get it for the sale price, consider it a great deal; otherwise, there’s no question that it’s a big step behind the $100 Ultrapak Tour, which delivers more bang for the buck.
Company and Price
Compatibility: All iPhones, iPads, USB iPods