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Technology Today - October 2015 - Staying Connected
By Robert Sanborn

Staying connected has always been one of the holy grails we continue to search for because as we travel more, we need to keep things powered and as we move into the beautiful fall weather, at least here in Indiana, power issues become more and more in our minds. And staying connected is of course, what we need the most even if we are venturing off the grid for extended stays in places like the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Badlands, or even Death Valley, one of my favorite destinations. So, we want to stay slightly connected if you want to post images on Facebook, use the smartphone GPS to keep you on the right road, and need to keep the digital camera charged. Which reminds me, I don’t think I have a USB charger for my digital camera, need to look for that.

So I have gone through a number of the external USB chargers from the mini USB charger you see in this image to the right to a number of others and for the most part, have found them quite wanting. What has turned the Enercell to a paperweight on my desk is the fact that as you see, you have a standard USB connector on one end and a “mini USB” connector on the other. If you are an iPhone, iPad, or iPod user, you are doomed as you need to find a cable to connect to it. My GPS would connect to it but you needed to sit it on its side to keep it plugged in.

Enercell Power

Also got one from Lenmar and it at least came with the reverse of both the standard and mini USB connections but discovered that it was incredibly low powered. While the charging output was a standard 5 volts, it only put out 500mA which means for a long slow charge. The charging cable that came with it took up more space than did the unit itself.

The good news is that the second generation units are getting much better. My current traveling companion is not only much smaller but also more powerful with a capacity of 2000 mAh and can charge my iPhone at a 1 amp rate. It uses the smaller micro USB charging cable to charge the unit but still takes a standard USB cable from my i devices. As you can see, it is also much slimmer and lighter weight, which is terrific for the carry bag I use for my cables and connections. A downside is that you need to plug a cable into it to see how much battery power is left as there are four tiny led lights to let you know. As of now, Amazon still carries it for around $25. You can see Antec Mobile Products here.

Antec Mobile Lifecard

TCheero Power

While the above units have worked pretty well for a single charge of a depleted phone, one charge and you have to go looking for the nearest AC outlet to get them charged up again. That makes it a bit difficult for traveling off the grid or overseas where in some parts of the world, electricity is suspect at best. So what came to me recently to look at was from Cheero. They have a unit that is not only quite portable with the standard micro USB charging connector, but with two USB charging ports that are able to not only handle two devices at once, but able to charge them at higher charging rates. One USB connector is the standard 5V 1A while the other is a 5V with 2.4A output which can double your charging rate. The power button quickly tells you how much juice is left in the unit, and unlike the smaller units above, this one comes with a huge capacity of 13,400mAh.  The input amperage is also higher which means the unit will also take a charge quickly. I am looking forward to taking this unit on my next set of trips.  Available on Amazon for $36.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite charging devices. From Revolve USA (no longer with us), the Revolve charger could be charged not only by USB and a wall outlet (AC Plug built in), but also by the sun with its built in solar panel charger.  Leave it in the bright sun for a long time and it would charge both itself and any device attached to it. It also had a button on it to tell you the state of the battery. At the time, it was the ultimate in charging devices allowing you to stay off the grid for as long as you like and still be able to charge or sync two devices at the same time. Made of bamboo with a replaceable lithium polymer batter with a capacity of 2200mAh. You can still find it at NewEgg for $50.

Revolve Solar Charger

Robert Sanborn

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