06
Aug
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Last Updated: August 9th, 2011

If there is one thing I constantly have to think about on a pretty much daily basis, it's juice. Not the kind of juice you pour yourself in the morning at breakfast, but the kind that is needed to power by insatiable electronics on the go. Last August, Phonesuit sent me a review unit of their 1000 mAh Primo Cube, but this year they really stepped up their game and sent over a whopping 8200 mAh portable charger called the Primo Power Core, compared to which the Cube is a mere drop in the bucket.

The Primo Power Core originally caught my attention for 3 reasons:

  • imageFirst and foremost, its massive 8200mAh capacity, which should be able to recharge a 1500mAh battery over 5 times.
  • A high-current output, with juice flowing out of the 5V jack at 2.1 amps, which is 4 times the amount a computer USB port provides (500 milliamps) and should be able to rival most wall chargers.
  • For $99.99, it's priced very competitively compared to other similar products (remember both of the above bullet points).

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So, after testing the Power Core for over a month with 3 of my green friends you can see above, I've formed my opinion and molded it into sets of positives (Yay!), negatives (Nay!), and real-life tests, and topped it off with a conclusion.

Let's get to it.

Yay!

  • 8200mAh - with enough capacity to recharge an average phone's battery about 5 times and a tablet 1 time and then some (unfortunately, the XOOM doesn't charge via USB - bummer), the Power Core will last a long time before you need to plug it in again. As a heavy tethering user whose battery is 50% depleted by 12pm (on the way to work), I found myself with plenty of juice for over a week. Your mileage may vary, of course, so it may last you months if you recharge only in emergency situations (or have an iPhone 4, which has stellar battery life, as much as it pains me to say that).
  • 2.1 amps - most chargers, especially on the cheap side, will provide between 500 milliamps and 1 amp of current, which translates into slower charging. In fact, some chargers won't even be able to keep up if you're running lots of power-intensive apps, and your device will still slowly discharge. I believe wall chargers are rated at 2.1 amps, and Power Core tries to match them. While it doesn't perform as well as the wall charger, it outperformed any other chargers I've tried before and charged my EVO in a speedy fashion. See the Charge Tests section below for more details.
  • Compatible with multiple devices, as it has a universal USB cord with microUSB, miniUSB, iPod, iPhone, and other interchangeable tips. I found myself needing a regular microUSB most of the time, so I didn't even bother carrying around any others.
    • The Power Core comes with a 30-pin Samsung adapter with lower resistance (newer models come with a special RC module rather than a specific Samsung bit, which is even better), which increases the amount of current flowing to the tablet. I've verified that it indeed charges the Tab 10.1 well, even with the screen on (at first it didn't charge with the screen on and displayed a red X over the battery, as I was using the regular Samsung charging cable).
  • Compatible with existing USB cables - don't like the modular USB cord that comes with this charger? Is it not long enough? Just use your own - plus it won't be as bulky on the modular end.
  • 3 LED charge indicators - all 3 light up when you have 100% charge, then they gradually turn off one by one. The Power Core charges itself pretty slowly - 3-4 hours, but hey, this is a big reservoir we're talking about.
  • Convenient shape - unlike the awkward Power Cube by the same company, the Power Core is shaped like a brick, so it's as natural to handle and use it as it looks.
  • Great aesthetics - I love the way this charger looks. The presence of LEDs is a nice touch when they're turned on.
  • Minor one - the included carrying pouch is handy.
  • $99.99 price doesn't break the bank for the capacity and high-current output you're getting.

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Nay!

  • Update: As it turns out, the 2.1A, which should be able to provide enough power for tablets, such as my Galaxy Tab 10.1, simply isn't. It's not a big surprise, as my tests (below) showed the charging process to be about 20% slower than the wall plug, but the fact is - when plugged into the Tab 10.1, the Power Core does not charge it with the screen on (a red X is visible over the battery icon). With the screen off, however, the tablet does charge, albeit pretty slowly.
    Update: Disregard this bullet point completely and see the Samsung bullet above in the Yay section.
  • Single USB port - I would rather have dual USB ports instead of that extra 12V port, which requires an optional connector anyway.
  • 12V connector not included - the 12V port, which is meant to power laptops, netbooks, and the like needs a connector that is not included by default and needs to be special ordered. I was not able to test the 12V charging functionality.
  • The Power Core needs a very specific power adapter (included) - the Power Core can't use microUSB or miniUSB to charge itself, which means I can't recharge it unless I have the power adapter handy. I would have much rather preferred to have that option, no matter how slow it would be, so that I can charge it overnight at a hotel, for example.
  • Does not auto shut off after inactivity, which can drain the internal battery if you forget to switch it off (although I suspect that the draw is minimal, as no current is flowing out outside of powering the 3 LED lights).
  • $99.99 - I put the price in both Yay and Nay because while it is reasonable, there is some cheaper competition on the market with even more capacity (see the Competition section below).

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Charge Tests

Because it takes months for the battery to really prove itself (it took 6 months for an off-brand Dell laptop battery to last me less than an hour) and because it's quite hard to keep track of every charge, my tests are limited to actually showing the speed of charge using AC power (left), the Power Core (middle), and a 1600mAh 1 amp charger I scored at CES.

If you examine the leftmost 30 min intervals on each graph, you'll see that the AC charger charges the fastest (about 25% per 30 min), with the Power Core following closely at about 20% per 30 min, then followed by the 1600mAh charger that goes about 13% per 30 min.

While it can't match AC power (I don't know if any charger can in real-life tests), the Power Core holds its own very well.

snap20110617_170552 snap20110622_162638 snap20110620_151637

Left - AC power || Middle - 8200mAh Power Core || Right - rival 1600mAh portable charger (< 2.1 amps)

Full Specs

  • Model Number: PRIMO-CORE-SP
  • Battery Capacity: 8200 mAh
  • Power Output: DC 5V@2.1A, 12V@2A
  • Power Input: DC 9V@1A
  • AC Adapter: 100v to 240v AC Adapter. USA, UK and EU outlet types available.
  • Dimensions: L 130mm x W 75mm x 18mm
  • Weight: 233 g / 8.2 oz

Competitors

  • i.Sound Power Max 8000mAh - 1.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 5 reviews. $55. Ugh.
  • Trent iCruiser IMP1000 11000mAh - 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 48 reviews. It has more juice and is cheaper at $75, but is lacking the 12V output and seems to be rated at 1 amp instead of 2.1 amps like the Power Core. Still, it's a very strong and 25% cheaper contender.
  • i.Sound Power Max 16000mAh - 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 47 reviews. At $77 (on sale), this thing is an absolute monster. 5 (!) USB ports and output current of 2.4 amps (though probably total, split between all 5 ports). On the downside, but expectedly, it also weighs more and isn't as portable, but if you care mostly about capacity, this battery pack is extremely impressive.

Conclusion

The Power Core by Phonesuit is my first portable charger of such high 8200mAh capacity, but I am extremely impressed with its performance after a month of use.

My devices are very power-hungry, yet I go for over a week without needing a charge.

It charges fast, a bit slower than the wall charger, but faster than any other charger I've ever tried, and certainly faster than any computer USB port.

Because its 5V output comes out of a regular USB port, you will find it compatible with all gadgets that charge via USB, whether using the included cable and set of tips, or by using your own USB cable.

The $99, while very reasonable for what you're getting, is a tad higher than I'd like it to be, especially seeing serious competitors with higher capacity chargers and more USB ports go for 25% cheaper.

If you're looking for a charger for your portable device, do your research, but know that the Power Core earned high marks in my grade book.

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Buy

  • You can buy the Primo Power Core from from Amazon (currently 4.3 out of 5 stars with 7 reviews) - $95 shipped at the moment
  • Directly from Phonesuit, the manufacturer - $99.99
Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • wirbly

    While I'm certainly not knocking the Primo Power Core, I ended up buying the iSound Power Max. 16,000 mAh and 5 USB ports - schwing!

  • frankie doyle

    What is the APP used for the charging graphs?

    • Qlimax

      Systempanel. Btw Nice review

  • http://tresebrothers.blogspot.com/ Cory

    iSound is really questionable battery supplier. They have lots of bad QA issues with the lithium cells they are using. The PowerMax 8000 (1.5 stars) and the 16000 are using the same cells.

    Check out the one Stars on Amazon. Batteries Puffing, Fires, Small Explosions.

    Do not trifle with large capacity, low quality batteries. They're just too darn dangerous.

  • Mike

    If you want an external battery compatible with the Xoom I would recommend the Energizer XP8000. You have to order the "free" tip (NB11) but once you have that it works quite well.

    I understand the XP18000 also works but I have not tried that one yet.

  • Elvis

    looks really cool, ive been starting to look into something like this, looks like competition is starting to get good :l and cheap tooa

  • Aeneas

    Artem, will this thing work with a sammy 10.1 tab? I've found it to be very particular to what it finds acceptable for charging, as in only the charger it came with and not 3rd party ones I have ordered despite them having similar amp/volt specs. If you have one available, could you give it a quick try?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Was meaning to test it and just did with my Tab 10.1.

      The situation is a little weird - there is a red cross no the battery, making it seem like it doesn't charge when I turn it on. However, it is definitely charging - in the last 15 minutes it went from 85% to 87%.

      It may have something to do with having the screen on vs off, I'm not sure just yet, but it's definitely working.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Disregard this - it charges just fine if you switch the tip or use the RC module (newer models of the Power Core). See the update in the post.

  • yelrx8

    As with all these external power pack specs, the capacities ("8200mAH") really mean nothing if they do not specify the nominal voltage of the base battery in these power packs.
    For example, the capacity of 5v/8200mAH is very different from 12v/8200mAH.

    On these multiple output external power packs, the manufacturers use combinations step-up/step-down regulators in order to output different power levels from the same base battery.

    • http://stuarthalliday.com Stuart Halliday

      If the device states 8200mAH. Then this should be at 5V as that is what the USB socket gives out.

      But I suspect it's 3.7V and the battery is a camcorder type. So it likely has a dc-dc converter.

      Probably the manufacturer is stating the nominal power rating of the battery itself as that makes it sound better for marketing purposes?

      I'm still waiting for reviewers to do a proper hardware test by opening the device and measure current and voltage over time using real meters and real loads using load resistors.

  • lee

    Do you know if the Asus Transformer will have similar charging issues as the 10.1?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I'm getting a Transformer in a day or two, so I'll try it out.

      • lee

        Any follow up on the Transformer?

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          Just tested it with the Transformer using TF's own USB cord. It charges, but goes pretty slow - like 4-5% in half an hour.

          I suspect that as with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a tip/adapter with lower resistance is needed, and from what I am hearing, the new models of the Power Cube come with an adapter that does just that. However, mine didn't, so I can't verify this.

  • Juggalotus

    The competition looks ugly and HUGE...thats prolly why its more...one things for sure...Ima see if someone can mod this into an e-cig just like my Tekkeon...Vaping and charging my phone on the go...I say YES! :O)

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