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Old 05-25-2007, 04:00 PM
Don Tolson
Thoughts Media Review Team
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 749
Default Power to Go!! -- the iGo powerXtender review

Product Category: Hardware � Portable, emergency power supply
Manufacturer: Mobility Electronics
Where to Buy: iGo. Power tips are available from here
Price: $15.99USD Power Tips are $9.99USD each.
System Requirements: Works with a large number of portable media devices (see listing in review) Requires two AA batteries (supplied).
Specifications: Dimensions -- 98.4 x 48.3 x 22.6 mm (3.6 x 1.9 x 0.9in) without tip. Weight � 88g (3.1oz)with power tip attached. Output Voltage 4.2 � 6V. Output power 5W continuous. Output current � up to 800mA.

  • Supports a wide variety of devices using separate 'power tips';
  • Compact unit � easily fits in pocket or purse;
  • Uses standard AA batteries (rechargeable or regular).

  • Separate tips needed for each device;
  • A bit bulky to use phones and headsets while still attached; :-)
  • Power unit may shut down if drain on batteries it too much;
  • No notification when batteries are low or drained.

    Ever had one of those 'doh' moments as you watch the last segment of the battery meter fade away? Unfortunately, with more and more personal media devices making use of rechargeable Li Ion cells rather than conventional replaceable batteries, it's not as easy as to run into the nearest QuickieMart to refresh your power source. Fortunately, devices like the iGo PowerXtender by Mobility Electronics have developed to fill the need for a portable emergency power source for personal electronics. The big advantage of the powerXtender is that it's able to work with a large number of manufacturers and models through the use of replaceable power tips which plug into the main battery unit. But how long will it keep you going?

    Read on for the full review!

    I don't know about you guys, but my Pocket PC is my only hope for keeping some semblance of order to my chaos. And now that I've added cellular phone capability to it (with an associated Bluetooth headset), it's also become my communications lifeline. Suffice it to say, I need both of them working full-time during my waking hours and I tend to keep power 'sources' close at hand � whether they be cables to USB ports, cigarette lighters or wall sockets. But carrying those cables and adapters around can get a bit cumbersome and sometimes there just isn't a socket to plug in anywhere. (Like when I'm using the GPS on a hike with my Cub Pack). Well, Mobility Electronics has a provided a solution for me. It's the iGo powerXtender which is a battery-powered supply with removable tips for connecting to each of my mobile electronics devices. Its small size is perfect for a pocket or gear bag and the replaceable batteries make it an easily replenishable source of power.

    Ordering Your powerXtender
    Unfortunately, ordering the powerXtender is not a one-click affair, since the unit is not usable without the Power Tips and these must be ordered separately from the main power unit. There are lots of Power Tips to choose from, but Mobility Electronics makes the process of deciding which ones you need simple and straightforward on their website. The website provides a Power Tip Finder function, in which you tell them which device you want to power, then it tells you which tip you need to order.

    Although the tips are a little pricey at $9.99USD each (especially if you have a large number of mobile devices), the advantage is that the same power tips can be used by any of Mobility Electronics' power adapters � from the battery-powered powerXtender to the iGo Wall Power Adapter.

    What Comes in the Package
    The powerXtender is shipped in the typical shrink wrap package as shown below.

    Figure 1: The PowerXtender as it is sold/shipped.

    Figure 2: Contents of the powerXtender package.

    Inside the package you get:
  • The powerXtender power adapter;
  • Two AA size batteries;
  • And the User Guide.

    It's nice to see the trend now of vendors supplying batteries with their products, rather than making you go out and purchase them separately.

    The User Guide is a single, folded piece of paper which provides basic instruction on how to install the batteries and turn on the unit. For some reason, it mentions that the powerXtender may shut off prematurely when used with some devices? (More on this later.)

    As noted above, and noticeably marked on the package, the Power Tips for attaching to the actual devices are packaged separately. In my case, I ordered two � a mini-USB for the Eten X500 and RAZR 3V, and the connector for a Motorola HS820 Bluetooth headset -- which came attached to a marketing brochure with some extra information, but I suspect they would normally be shipped in the same box as the powerXtender.

    Figure 3: Two of the power tips available � the mini-USB for my Eten X500 and the dual-pin for my Motorola HS820, respectively.

    Powering Up
    So now let's get the powerXtender powered up and ready for work. The main power unit consists of two pieces of relatively rigid plastic which are held together with basically a friction fit, with very small nibs on the ends to click into the socket body. To take them apart, you grasp the top and bottom in one hand and the sides in the other and pull. Careful!, the batteries will fall out when the clear cover is removed. Fortunately, there are embossed diagrams of the battery placement / polarity inside, so you can get them in correctly. I tried putting the batteries in backwards just to see what would happened, but it didn't cause any problems � the unit simply wouldn't turn on.

    The advantage of having this kind of emergency power source is that you can use any type of battery in them � from cheap dime-store knockoffs to the 'second generation' batteries being touted by manufacturers at premium prices. As noted on their website though, iGo recommends using premium batteries to provide the greatest capacity and endurance. (I'm assuming the batteries provided with the unit are examples of 'premium' batteries :-)

    There is a small power switch on the left side of the unit, as you face the logo.

    Figure 4: Side view of the powerXtender showing the position of the power switch. It's pretty small and recessed, so you'll need a fingernail to turn it on.

    Figure 5: The Blue Power LED on the bottom to show when the unit is on. Unfortunately, it's on the underside when plugged into most devices.

    The powerXtender in Use
    The power tips attach with a strong friction fit, with small ridges to provide a noticeable click when they are engaged. The tips are also polarized, so they can't be plugged into the battery unit the wrong way. Each of the power tips automatically configure and regulate voltage to the device attached.

    Figure 6: The powerXtender with the power tip attached.

    Power tips are available for:

    Figure 7: List of devices supported by power tips (from Mobility Electronics website).

    Figure 8: A comparison shot of the powerXtender beside my Eten X500.

    According to Mobility Electronics' website, the powerXtender can provide �Up to 10 hours of talking, 20 hours of playing or 28 hours of listening� �Runtimes [are] based on performance tests and manufacturers' stated battery life for Motorola RAZR� V3, Blackberry 7280, iPod� Nano and Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP. Runtime will vary according to the device being charged. Runtimes indicated are with 2 premium AA batteries.�

    Figure 9: Table of additional run time provided by the iGo powerXtender for various devices (from Mobility Electronics website).

    Unfortunately, I didn't really get a chance to test these, since none of my devices lend themselves to use when the powerXtender is attached. Instead, I focused on using the unit as an emergency backup recharger.

    I first tried using the powerXtender on a camping trip with the Cub Pack I lead. We were away from available power sources for the weekend and I purposely let my Eten X500 Phone Edition PPC run itself down to its 'critical' stage of 15% battery left. I figured I'd plug in the powerXtender and leave it for a couple of hours to recharge the phone while I was finishing up a campfire with the boys. When I came back about an hour and a half later, the LED on the powerXtender was off and the Eten was showing about 50% charged. No matter what position the power switch on the powerXtender was in, I couldn't get it to come back on. My first suspicion was that the batteries had been drained by the X500, but when I got home and took them out, they tested at almost 75% on my battery meter. After further testing, I suspect this may be a situation like that described in the User Guide when �Unit may shut off prematurely when used with select devices.� Their suggestion is to disconnect, wait 10 minutes, then reconnect. I didn't try that at the time, but when I tried it later with the Eten, the same shutdown occurred again after only � hour and the only way to get the powerXtender to respond to the power switch was to disconnect the powerXtender from the device, physically remove the batteries from the unit, wait about 30 seconds, then re-install them. Needless to say, although the batteries in the powerXtender are still at better than 70%, I've been unable to recharge my X500 completely with it.

    A similar problem occurred the first time I tried the powerXtender with my Motorola HS820 bluetooth headset. I ran it down to exhausted, then hooked up the powerXtender and saw the headset's LED come on to show that it was charging. After leaving it alone for about an hour and a half, I came back to find both the headset's and the powerXtender's power LED off. As per the instructions, I disconnected the powerXtender, waited 10 minutes, then tried it again � no response from the power switch. The only way to get it back was to remove and replace the batteries. After I got it working again, I reconnected it to the HS820 and completed the charge cycle. This time, after another 2 hours, the headset showed fully charged and the powerXtender's power LED was still on, which is as it should be.

    I also tried replacing the batteries with fresh ones, and connected the powerXtender to my RAZR v3. It took a couple of seconds after connection for the phone to start charging, but it worked well for about an hour and a half, happily charging away with the powerXtender LED on. After that time however, the powerXtender LED went off again and charging stopped. The RAZR was showing pretty close to fully charged but again, the only way to get the powerXtender to respond to its power switch was to remove and reinstall the batteries.

    While the powerXtender could be used to power some handheld devices, plugging one in adds substantial bulk and weight. There is no way you could use a headset or a cell phone with this attached. :-) And it really wouldn't work for items you normally hold in your hand or pocket while you use them. Instead, I would use this to recharge the unit for emergency use for those devices, or as an alternate power source for MP3 players, etc. in situations where you didn't have to keep it 'on your person'. My guess with the shutdowns is that the X500 may be drawing too much current from the powerXtender and it is shutting down in order to prevent damage to either unit. Unfortunately, for me, this makes it unreliable as a backup recharger for my X500. It seems like more work is required on the sensing unit, or there needs to be better indication of why the unit is shutting down (blinking LED?).

    Don is an Associate Director with Fujitsu Consulting and a member of its Enterprise Mobility Community. As such, he's always looking for new sources of power :devilboy:
    Reply With Quote
    Old 05-26-2007, 06:25 AM
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Posts: 30
    Default Gomadic version

    I've never used the iGo one, but I've had great experiences with the gomadic battery backup unit as well as another one I believe I got from The Supply Net. The Gomadic one has a tip exchange similar to the iGo, but uses 4 AA's instead of 2 as does the other one I have.

    Using it with my HP2215 and i870 cell phone, I've had no problems at all with powering up units from a dead battery state, or keeping it running for hours longer then possible without it. It's great for long flights, hiking/camping trips, and especially for college classes that last over 3 hours.

    I really don't think 2 AA's have enough power to work with most of todays devices in any effective way, but the 4AA units work great.
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    Old 05-30-2007, 03:04 PM
    Join Date: Mar 2003
    Posts: 2
    Default same tips as Targus?

    Does anyone know if the iGo tips are compatible with the Targus universal power tips? They look very similar - so I wonder if the same company manufactures them.
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    Old 06-13-2007, 08:15 PM
    Join Date: Jun 2007
    Posts: 1

    I just ordered the Tekkeon myPower GO MP1500 It uses 4 AA's and includes 10 tips (so my Blackberry and Axim are covered), unlike this one which only uses 2 AA's and you have to buy all the tips separately. Also, if you order it from and use Google Checkout, you get $10 off your order.. so I got it for $13 total shipped. Pretty sweet. I'll let you know how it works once I get it, but the reviews have been pretty good.
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