External Battery Roundup: Stay Away From The Wall Socket

Brunton Sustain And Impel

If you are an avid outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman), than you are already familiar with Bruton. It sells a lot of its camping products through REI. But the company also makes solar- and battery-based products. If you want a battery specifically designed for use outdoors, Bruton’s Sustain and Impel are the way to go. Both are encased in a thick shell of ABS and rubberized plastic.

These are the only batteries in our roundup that are water resistant. For all other batteries in our roundup, water will void your warranty. This doesn’t mean you take a Bruton battery underwater, but it does mean exposure to rainwater, white water rafting, and occasional splashes at the beach are all permissible. Because water may cause a short circuit, the company provides a pin to reset the tripped circuit.

SustainSustainImpelImpel

Each battery comes with a charger, output cable, and seven tips. Notice that one of the tips is on a slightly longer extension. This cable is used specifically for Dell notebooks that use the PA-12 charger. Just plug a tip into the output cable, connect it to the battery, hook it up to a notebook, and press the On button (default state is off). While there is a degree of overvolt protection, these batteries do not use sense resistors. You must correctly select the right voltage or you could potentially harm your notebook.

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27 comments
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  • lashabane
    Excellent article. I had an idea that this stuff was out there but never really bothered to look. If the 4-5 hours I get from my Asus 1215t begins to not cut it, I now know where to look. Thanks!
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  • zodiacfml
    I did not understood any of the technical reading especially the part about the desktop PSU.
    At one point, it is stated that AC adapters have higher voltage than the battery on a notebook so that it can be charged. Then, how can a external battery damage a notebook's electronics with a higher voltage (only if it's too high)?

    It is not stated how to set the external battery voltage correctly. What then is the correct voltage? Correct me but I believe the voltage has to be equal that of notebook battery.
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  • burnley14
    It's pretty remarkable that after page 2 I could guess who the author of this article was (without looking of course) due to the thoroughness and good grammar/lack of typos. Hats off to you yet again, Mr. Ku. Job well done as always.
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  • Anonymous
    @zodiacfml

    it's simple really, AC adapter spit out AC, Batteries spit out DC
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  • nukemaster
    zodiacfmlI did not understood any of the technical reading especially the part about the desktop PSU.At one point, it is stated that AC adapters have higher voltage than the battery on a notebook so that it can be charged. Then, how can a external battery damage a notebook's electronics with a higher voltage (only if it's too high)? It is not stated how to set the external battery voltage correctly. What then is the correct voltage? Correct me but I believe the voltage has to be equal that of notebook battery.

    Your guess is actually right. The battery with its voltage set too high can damage the notebook.
    If you need to know the voltage required, you just check on your laptop AC adapter or power brick. It is not always the same as the battery.

    For instance, a Compaq R3000 has an 18.5 volt AC->DC(120w) power supply and its battery is only 14.5 volts. The voltage regulators in the laptop(in the charging system) it self cut it down to the needed 14.5-15volts to charge the battery.

    Also note that the AC adapter does NOT spit out AC it in fact spits out DC(it has a rectifier to convert AC to DC).

    As you can see by this picture(you have to click the link), The adapter takes in AC 120V and spits out DC 18.5V. AC is shown with a ~ and DC with a --_---_-- cant make it on here, but you get the point.
    http://img269.imageshack.us/img269/1950/powerw.jpg
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  • Onus
    Thanks for the comments on Digipower. I've placed them on my personal "Do Not Buy" list.
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  • Luscious
    Quite a different experience on my end testing the Energizer XP8000 and XP18000.

    For my smartphone and MiFi, the XP8000 just can't be beat. 5x runtime guarantees me 20+ hours of 3G broadband and week-long phone use. Being barely bigger than a Blackberry, I can effortlessly stash the XP8000 on my belt, and charge my smartphone while I walk.

    The XP18000, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. Using a Toshiba NB305 netbook, it was incapable of recharging the factory 6-cell battery while powered on, and could not provide 2 full charges while powered off. For my usage scenario, that's a failure, as I plug in the external battery when my netbook hits 3% critical, right before Windows does a force shutdown, allowing me to continue working.

    Using this deplete-charge-deplete approach SHOULD allow me 14+ hours of continuous power-on time, except that even the beefy XP18000 couldn't get through 1 netbook charge. Had it been capable of providing one full charge powered on, or two full charges powered off, I would have recommended the XP18000 as well.

    http://lgponthemove.blogspot.com/2010/07/accessory-corner-3-energizer-xp18000.html
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  • a_fortiori
    Nice article. I wonder if these units can be used as a mini-ups for equipment like a NAS, routers and modems. It would be great if you could wire these with the NAS, and be sure that a power outage wouldn't damage the NAS. Considering that the NAS units typically consume much less power than a notebook, these should be able to cover 4-5 hrs of power outage (?) Any thoughts?
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  • shineon2010
    Very good info , alot of products that im having second thoughts about.
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  • junixophobia
    shineon2010Very good info , alot of products that im having second thoughts about.


    Just buy an automatic inverter that works for hours with a car battery
    -1
  • junixophobia
    shineon2010Very good info , alot of products that im having second thoughts about.


    Just buy an automatic inverter that works for hours with a car battery
    -1
  • Anonymous
    Im missing the portable powerstation, especially the spps-200.
    i wonder how that scores against the others.
    i think they are from novuscell
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  • junixophobia
    sorry guys, just gettin the hang of this...
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  • Onus
    If you deep-cycle a car battery, you'll kill it in a matter of weeks, as its thin plates deteriorate. For deep-cycle applications, you want to get an AGM battery, containing much thicket plates; and even then you don't want to drop the SOC too much between charges, perhaps 60% is the lowest you should go.
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  • Anonymous
    Carrying an extra battery adds a lot of weight. And once the battery is depleted, you are dead in the water if the power socket is out of reach.

    If I am going off grid, I would rather bring a solar panel and charge the battery I already have in my device.

    http://leicadig.blogspot.com/2011/04/digital-camera-off-grid.html
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  • acku
    Which sonar panels are you looking at? I use Brunton myself.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
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  • agnius
    I am debating between Brunton, Powerfilm and Voltaic.
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  • acku
    I have all three. What's holding up your decision?
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  • agnius
    Andrew,

    According to my calculations I would need about 25-30W to power/charge a netbook directly and charge my camera battery.

    In theory Solaris 26 could do the job, but I am not sure - I have not read any reports about it. I was planning running Targus DC adapter from Solaris 26 straight into a netbook (I had HP Mini but it broke so now I am looking at Lenovo X120e as a replacement).

    Also, I read that CIGS panels after being stored in the dark take days to reach their peak output. Solaris is CIGS, PowerFilm 30W is silicon which does not have that problem.

    But PowerFilm 30W is also considerably larger which makes it less feasible to deploy while riding. Hence I am looking at Voltaic panels which are much smaller, but I am not sure how to route power without an intermediate battery from them (because they are 20V).

    I am stuck in this decision loop while looking for more information.
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  • acku
    Are you only trying to charge the camera and netbook at the same time? I assume the camera charger requires an AC outlet?
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