PowerMonkey Extreme Portable Power Supply & Solar Charger Review

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, October 2012
Manufactured by: Powertraveller
Requires: An absence of local charging power and a bunch of portable devices containing batteries which insist on going dead after you've used them for a while
MSRP: US/CAN$180.00, 120.00, 141.60 (all prices vary from region to region online, and in full-service/full-range outdoor gear shops)

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Description

The PowerMonkey Extreme is a portable charger for electronic devices and rechargeable batteries. It consists of a compact, main power storage unit, a separate clamshell unit which unfolds to reveal a pair of high-efficiency solar panels, and an assortment of cables, USB and DC port connectors for attaching various portable electronic devices to the main power storage unit for charging. The PowerMonkey Extreme in its zippered protective travel case weighs 596g (1.3 lbs) and is small enough to fit into a corner of your luggage, shoulder bag, carry-on, camera bag or messenger bag. The PowerMonkey Extreme is also supplied with its own, plug-in, wall/mains charger.

Features

The PowerMonkey Extreme is designed to be used every day if necessary and is built to last. The input and output ports are solidly mounted and don't move or flex at all. The main storage unit is brick-solid and wrapped in a grippy synthetic rubber of some sort that is water resistant, scratch and abrasion resistant, and cleans up easily.

  • Excellent Power Reserve - The internal cell in the main power storage unit is a recharging 9000mAh Lithium Polymer battery with a 33.3Wh capacity, and two output channels of 5V DC/700mA (through the USB port) and 5V DC/2.1A (through the DC port).
  • Touch On/Off - No switch to break, and it can't be accidentally turned on because something in a bag hits it or rubs against it.
  • LCD Readout - Accurate readout shows actual power left in main storage battery, charge level when charging main battery from solar panels or mains, and active charging indicators when a device is plugged in.
  • High Capacity - Sequentially charge at least two fully depleted smartphones and a regular cell phone, and still have enough capacity to get an iPad 2 or 3 going as well (see Use, below, for charging test results).
  • Durability - Input and output ports are very solidly mounted in the main unit, with no bend, shift, wobble or movement of any kind, the clamshell solar panels are mounted in very tough polycarbonate plastic, the surface of the charging panels is scratch and impact resistant, and the main unit is wrapped in a very tough synthetic which also makes it weather resistant.
  • Versatility & Usability - Offers enough output voltage for a wide range of portable device charging, and enough main unit capacity to actually charge multiple devices in sequence.



 

PowerTraveller has packed a lot of charging output and versatility into a surprisingly compact package. It's not tiny by any means, but you're getting the smallest possible device for the sort of charging capacity provided. PowerTraveller has struck the ideal balance between portability and usefulness..

Use

We used the PowerMonkey Extreme to charge a variety of portable devices during the course of a wide range of research trips and photography trips to areas in which mains power is either unreliable or periodically non-existent, and on various fishing, camping and hiking trips where power was non-existent all the time, and in areas where we had decent cellular network signals but couldn't otherwise recharge any phones because we were very far from a vehicle or a hotel, and at a hotel, lodge or campsite where the only available outlet was already being used. Here's what we charged on a regular basis:

  • Tablets - Samsung Galaxy Tab, Apple iPad
  • Smartphones - Apple iPhone 4s, RIM Blackberry 9900
  • Music Devices - Apple iPod, Apple iPod Touch, iPod Nano
  • eReaders - Amazon Kindle Keyboard, Amazon Kindle, Sony eReader PRS-T1, Kobo Touch eReader
  • AA & AAA, CR/RCR123 or 123A rechargeables - Any charging station that has a 5V DC or higher input (Lenmar, Energizer, Tenergy and Duracell, among many others, all make such chargers) can be plugged into the PowerMonkey Extreme to charge Ni-Cd, NiMH, lithium ion or lithium polymer rechargeable batteries
  • Camera Batteries (proprietary) - We were really pushing it, but we were able to charge Nikon EN-EL15 and Canon LP-E6 batteries using a cheap third-party charging station (but note that charge time was over five hours and did not fully top up either of the batteries)
  • Netbooks - We fully recharged an Eee PC X101 in just under an hour, but most netbooks and any laptop requires somewhat higher input charging voltage than the PowerMonkey can produce, and contain batteries with higher watt/hour capacities than the PowerMonkey which means you'll drain the PowerMonkey before you fully charge a compatible Netbook

Older PowerMonkey models were good but not great. However, the Extreme is a tough little unit that keeps going and going and going, and sports a much better pair of solar panels (more efficient, tougher outer shell) than any previous models, and a higher capacity main storage unit that is wrapped in rubber and has a more informative readout, a touch-sensitive on/off pad, and very sturdy ports designed for many years of reliable service. It won't charge an ultrabook or full size laptop because it doesn't produce the necessary output voltage, but hundreds or thousands of other devices are fair game.

The Powertraveller PowerMonkey Extreme has helped me avoid several bits of aggravation, repeatedly, over the past couple of years, especially in locations around the world where mains power is unreliable or where power is simply turned off at certain times of day or night. A research associate of mine travels with a Powertraveller Solargorilla for laptop charging. The Solargorilla also works extremely well and has the output voltage and power management circuitry to do a proper job. She's never without a Solargorilla or the Powergorilla and PowerMonkey Extreme in the field, whether the "field" happens to be Bosnia, Croatia, Northern Iraq, Egypt, various locations in northern Africa, and so on. Closer to home, the PowerMonkey Extreme has worked perfectly during long drives in the car to charge and keep using a smartphone when the two available in-car charging sockets were already in use. Fishing trips, wilderness photography trips and other activities have been made easier by being able to keep smartphones, iPods, AA & AAA batteries and other devices fully charged when we're in the field for days at a time. That means your LED flashlight batteries can always be topped up too.

We used the PowerMonkey Extreme to charge four AA batteries at a time using the Lenmar R2G 802U charging station (which has a 5V DC input port). It's a great little folding station that is compact enough for travel, well made and ideally matched to the superb Lenmar R2G AA and AAA batteries (although we use it to charge Eneloop, Energizer and Radio Shack Infinicell batteries too). The PowerMonkey also powered the Eneloop and Energizer AA & AAA charging stations (again, stations which have a 5V DC input port). Charging times were all fast - approximately two hours for fully depleted sets of four AA or AAA batteries. Charging time for an iPhone 4s is approximately one hour. Charging time for an iPad 2 WiFi+3G is approximately 3 hours. Charging time for a BlackBerry 9900 is approximately one hour. Basically, we found that charging times were either same as that provided by proprietary chargers or up to twice as long for devices which really pushed the limits of the PowerMonkey.

During a test of the fully charged PowerMonkey we recharged a combination of 16 Eneloop and Lenmar R2G AA batteries, a fully depleted iPhone, and two Samsung cell phones before the PowerMonkey drained. We plugged in solar panels, fully recharged the PowerMonkey in about two hours in bright sunlight, then continue the charging capacity test using a Kindle, Kobo Touch and a Sony eReader and a different iPhone. Then we got bored of testing. The PowerMonkey Extreme works extremely well.


Value

Powertraveller is producing devices which as far as we can tell are tough, well made unit, and contains very good quality components. A PowerMonkey Extreme might sit in your travel or camera bag, or in a drawer at home for months before you need it. Then the power goes out, your smartphone goes dead, but you can't charge it from your car because your significant other or your kid is driving it somewhere, and the PowerMonkey Extreme will come in very handy. We think the PowerMonkey Extreme is well-priced, so we'll call it a very good value.

Cons: Some jacks barely clear the edge of the hinged output port covers which only open 90 degrees. I've never broken a port cover, so maybe this Con is just me being sensitive. Getting the solar panel clamshell into and out of its snug fit in the travel case can sometimes be a minor irritation.

Pros: The Powertraveller PowerMonkey Extreme is a very well made, portable charging device that is meant for regular use in a wide variety of conditions. It's well designed, and above all else works reliably. I've used my own PowerMonkey Extreme several times on every single one of the dozens of trips I've taken over the past two and a half years (as I write this). If you've been stuck with a dead phone, iPod or tablet, or stuck with dead camera or flash batteries (i.e., AA or AAA) with no power mains in sight, you'll have keenly felt how much we're dependent on a) electricity, and b) all the portable devices we use and carry with us. The 33.3 watt/hour capacity, the higher construction quality of the device, and the efficient solar panels are what set the PowerMonkey Extreme apart from almost all of its competitors. The PowerMonkey Extreme is one of those must-have devices that you'll keep for a very long time because it will never go out of spec or go out of compatibility. Highly recommended.

KSN Product Rating:


 

 












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