FatCat mPower PowerBar 4200 Review

The next portable power system in our series of reviews is the PowerBar 4200 from FatCat’s mPower line of battery packs. How does it stack up? Read on to find out.
The PowerBar 4200 is a 4200mAh battery pack for use with any smartphone. FatCat estimates that 4200mAh will provide 2 charges for most smartphones and this has proven true with my iPhone 5, which has a 1440 mAh battery. This may not be the case for a Galaxy S3 which has a battery capacity of 2100mAh. 

2013-02-27 09.16.00The PowerBar has a USB port for output and a microUSB port to charge the battery pack itself. One more unique feature of this battery pack is that it is a lithium-ion battery, much like the battery in your smartphone. The largest benefit of this type of battery is that it holds a charge for a much longer time when not in use.  The result of this is that the battery pack ships fully charged and retains 65-70% of that charge for your first use. The PowerBar is nicely sized, similar in size to a deck of cards, but thinner with well rounded edges.This means that the PowerBar feels great in the hand. I have used several portable power options and so far they have all been designed around a folding plug (See ZAGG Sparq and SEIDIO Vault) which proves to make either a bulky charger, or a pretty janky folding connector. What I never understood about the portable power packs with a plug is that if there is an outlet nearby, and you need a cable anyways, why not just carry around your standard charging setup? This does mean that you now need a separate way to charge this device.
IMG_0330The setup provided with the PowerBar is unique to say the least. FatCat provides a crazy system of plugs and connectors to make a franken-connector to charge both the PowerBar and your device. I found it easier to just charge the PowerBar with a normal microUSB cable, and use a lightning cable to power my phone (or any other USB cable as required), although the manufacturer recommends using the provided connectors.
In order to really stress-test this portable power pack, I brought it with me to CES and used it exclusively to power my phone when it needed juice, and I must say, the experience was quite nice. At CES I ran through probably twice as much charge on my iPhone as I would on a normal day, due in part to the terrible signal in the convention center, and during this process the PowerBar was indispensable. I had my phone tethered to the PowerBar probably 50% of the time, and it was able to keep up with my usage throughout the day. That is not to say that the PowerBar is without fault, however. The largest fault I have with it is the fact that it is only a 0.7 Amp output, for comparison, the ZaggSparq is 2.1 Amps, which means it can charge devices about 3 times faster. The PowerBar is also comically tiny when compared to the battery of the iPad with Retina Display which has a battery capacity of 11560 mAh, or almost 3 times the capacity of the PowerBar. It is important to note that FatCat does not advertise using the PowerBar with the iPad. The PowerBar does work great with the iPad Mini, providing approximately 1 full charge.

The PowerBar is perfect for those looking to just toss a spare battery in your bag and forget about until you need it most. While the 4200 mAh is nice for most devices, you certainly can’t charge a full size iPad with this.

Price: $79.95 from FatCat, $57 from Amazon (at the time of writing)
Colors: Silver, Black, Blue, Orange, and Red
Specifications:

  • Battery: 4,200 mAh Lithium Polymer
  • Input voltage: 5.0 to 5.5V
  • Output voltage: DC 5.5 +- 0.2V
  • Maximum output current: 700mA
  • Maximum input current: 800mA
  • Time required to charge Card: 4-7 hours (depending on charging current).
  • Cycle life: Up to 500 times.
  • Dimensions: 4” x 2.4” x .5”
  • Weight: 4 oz

Pros:
-Small
-Lightweight
-LED charge indicator

Cons:
-Slow charging (Low Amperage)

 

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