While some manufacturers are doing whatever they can to increase battery life in power-hungry smartphones, most of us still have to find a way to make sure our gear stays charged on-the-go. Sure, extended batteries get the job done, but they add extra bulk to your device, and they don't help a bit if you have multiple devices to keep juiced. So, what's the most practical solution?
A portable charger.
We've taken a look at several portable chargers in the past - some good, some not-so-good. Today, we're going to check out one of the best portable chargers that I've ever used: the kuel f60Q from SGP.
Availability: Available now from SGP's Amazon store
The Bottom Line: This is the Cadillac of portable chargers. Sure, it's a little on the pricey side, but the build quality is outstanding, it looks great, and, best of all, it can charge phones and tablets without issue.
6,000mAh - That's enough to charge the LTE Galaxy Nexus' 1,850mAh battery a little over three times or the Galaxy Tab 10.1's 6,800mAh battery to about 90%.
10-Watt Port - While it only has one charging port, it is spec'd to provide 5 volts at 2.1 amps (~10 watts) - about the same as most AC chargers for power-hungry devices (like tablets). That means the charge time shouldn't be much different than what you normally experience from a standard wall outlet.
Build Quality - As soon as you pick up the f60Q, you can tell that it's well-made. It doesn't bend, creak, or rattle... it's just solid.
It Looks Great - Some may say it looks a little iDevice-ish, mostly because it's all white. Still, like most SGP products, it consists of clean lines and a well thought out design.
Two Charging Modes and Tablet Support - The kuel f60Q features charging modes for both Android and Apple products, so it can power many different devices. Also, since it pushes out 10W of power, it can handle tablets, which usually require a lot of juice to charge in a reasonable amount of time.
MicroUSB Charging Port - While the main output port is a full-size USB port, the input to actually charge the unit is a standard microUSB port. Since your phone likely uses the same port, this spares you the trouble of having to carry an extra cable.
Single Charging Port - Most portable chargers that we've looked at in the past have dual charging ports so you can juice up a couple of devices at once. Unfortunately, the f60Q only has a single USB port, so your devices will have to take turns. Mine didn't seem to mind sharing, though.
Confusing Battery Indicator - This is one really quirky feature of the unit - the four LEDs on the front of the device that display the current battery status read differently depending on whether the unit is charging or discharging. For example, if the device is discharging, the four LEDs are read as follows: One red LED - Battery needs to be charged; Two blue LEDs - 20-50% remaining; Three red LEDs - 50-80% remaining; Four blue LEDs - 80-100%. However, if the unit is charging, the readouts go something like this: One red LED - less than 5%; One blue and one red LED - 5-30% charged; Two blue and one red LEDs - 30-70% charged; Three blue and one red LEDs - 70-95% charged; Four blue LEDs - fully charged. Like I said, it's pretty confusing.
Slightly Awkward Shape - Most of the portable chargers that we've used are shaped similarly to an external hard drive, but the kuel f60Q is shaped more like a brick (possible bad analogy there, I know), which could make it slightly awkward in your bag. I haven't had any issues in this respect (I actually prefer the shape), but I felt like it was worth a mention.
Update: By request, here are a couple of images with the kuel f60Q next to a phone so you can better judge the size.
Galaxy Tab 10.1
Since this badboy can charge up phones and tablets alike, I ran a few tests for comparison. Firstly, I charged my Galaxy Tab 10.1 for exactly one hour with both the kuel f60Q and AC. Here are my results:
The first run with the SGP charger bumped the Tab up from 47% to 65% - an increase of 18%.
The AC adapter took the Tab from 64% to 84% - a 20% increase.
The second run with the kuel f60Q provided a 15% increase - from 64% to 79%.
The second run with an AC adapter provided a much more impressive 23% increase - from 52% to 75%.
Left: One hour with the kuel f60Q; Right: One hour on AC power with the stock charger.
So, why the difference in charge? Because charging slows dramatically at 80%. In the first test, the Tab didn't hit 80% while using the SGP charger, so it charged more rapidly throughout the entire charge duration. While on AC power, though, it broke that 80% barrier and the charging process slowed down, giving an advantage to the kuel f60Q. During the second test, however, neither method broke that 80% mark, creating a level playing field. While charging over AC is still the best method, the SGP kuel f60Q is nothing to scoff at - it held its own quite well.
Now that you know how much juice the kuel f60Q can provide a tablet in one hour, how about a phone? Phones have much smaller batteries, and typically only require 5V @ 1A to charge (this is the rating for many stock chargers).
Again, I ran two test. Here are the results:
On the first run with the SGP charger, it provided a 43% increase in battery, from 49% to 92%.
Surprisingly, the AC adapter only bumped the battery level up by 38%, from 56% to 94%.
...and that is the main reason I decided to run the tests twice. I couldn't believe that the kuel f60Q was able to provide more juice than a wall outlet. The second test didn't play out quite the same, however.
The second run with the SGP charger gave the battery a 60% boost, from 25% to 85%.
The AC adapter churned out a 65% increase, from 26% to 91%.
Left: One our on with the SGP kuel f60Q; Right: One hour on AC power.
In each scenario I used the stock chargers that came with the devices for the AC tests.
The kuel f60Q is, hands down, the best portable charger that I've ever used, but it does have a high price tag. A quick search at Amazon reveals many more affordable alternatives, but it's hard to say how the cheaper solutions stack up in terms of build quality and reliability - two things that you will definitely get from SGP. If you're looking for a good, solid portable charger and don't mind splurging a bit, then I highly recommend this kuel f60Q. If, however, you're on a tight budget, this is probably not the solution for you.
There is one certainty, though: if you do pick this charger up, you won't be disappointed.
SGP's U.S. site is out-of-commission at the moment, but you can still grab the kuel f60Q from Amazon.