With the introduction of iPads came super-high capacity battery packs, and with those increased capacities came longer and longer charging times. We’re not referring to the amount of time it takes to charge up a tablet, but rather, how long refilling the battery pack itself can take. It’s a matter of hours, and sometimes, that figure can jump into the double digits, depending on just how large the battery is. As a general rule, the higher the battery’s capacity, the longer it will take to recharge — unless you can guarantee that the battery is receiving high-quality power, quickly.
First introduced and awarded Best of Show at the 2014 International CES, uNu’s 3,000mAh Ultrapak Go ($60) and 10,000mAh Ultrapak Tour ($100) batteries are different from the pack. Instead of relying on an included USB cable to refuel, each Ultrapak ships with a fast dedicated wall charger, connecting to a round port on the body of the battery. The result is that the Ultrapak itself can recharge at up to 2.5A, a significant increase over what most batteries are capable of. This means faster refueling for the battery packs, with uNu claiming that 15 minutes of wall charging for Ultrapak Tour will give it enough energy to completely recharge an iPhone. There are a few other features that also differentiate these batteries from most competitors.
Visually, both batteries are just about as plain as can be; they’re literally black boxes with rounded corners. Both are glossy on the top and bottom, with a matte strip around the interior. Ultrapak Go measures 3.95” by 2.05” by 0.68”, while the larger pack is 5.36” long, 2.78” wide, and 0.69” deep. Each has a power button on one long end. If you move clockwise, you’ll find a flashlight, and either one or two USB output ports on the short end—a single 2.1A port on Go, while Tour adds a second 1A port. Finally, around the next corner is the power input.
One of the more interesting things about these batteries is how they show the remaining charge inside. Rather than using a line of several glowing LEDs to roughly represent percentages, there’s actually a hidden screen that glows when you press the power button, when charging, or when a device is connected. It not only displays the remaining battery life as a numerical percentage, it will also tell you how many minutes it will take to refill when plugged in. Although it seemed to drop suddenly within the last 25 percent, the screen is still a neat feature we’d like to see refined and used more in the future.
Both battery packs do charge up to 100% at a very impressive rate: about 30 minutes for Ultrapak Go, and 1 hour and 30 minutes for Ultrapak Tour. The output is more in line with most other battery packs, though: the smaller pack delivered a 29 percent charge to a fully depleted iPad Air in just over 2 hours, beating the 25 percent average by a few points, while the larger pack came in a little under the average, charing the same iPad from zero to 79 percent. We also tested the claim that 15 minutes of Tour refueling is enough for one full iPhone charge, finding that an iPhone 5 fell a little short, hitting 88 percent.
In terms of pricing and physical size, both Ultrapak Go and Ultrapak Tour are very close to “right” for their capacities, if not just a little on the high end. There’s no doubt that the fast charging is a truly cool and useful feature, and the display is a nice touch too. To get the former feature, Ultrapak gives up the convenience of Micro-USB recharging, so you’ll need to accept the need for a large power brick that requires an outlet. It’s a tradeoff, really, but we value the innovations enough to award our B+ rating to both batteries. uNu is ahead of the curve on the Ultrapak line, and these are really nice products that show off what contemporary battery technology can achieve.
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Compatibility: All iPhones, iPads, iPods