Review: Xantrex XPower Pocket Powerpack 100

by James Bain Aug 03, 2006

The greatest annoyance about Video iPod, after their dinky gotta-squint-at-‘em screens, is their battery life while watching video. In my experience, you’re lucky if you get three hours of viewing on a full charge.

And it seems that all my electronics, not just my iPod, suck batteries like crazy. Think about your average laptop on battery power alone—gone in a couple of hours. Or my Palm Tungsten 3. I get maybe three to four hours of serious Monopoly™ play off of it before it pooches. And don’t talk to me about my Motorola RAZR v3! I barely have time to say ‘Hello’, take a few dozen photos and check my email before I have to recharge it again.

The electronic umbilicus of our world’s current gadgets really is a short tether, and anyone taking a really LONG plane trip and wanting to use their eToyz the whole time would understand my grief.

So, once upon a time last October when I had a very long trip to take on passive transit, 5 hours there and 5 hours back, to meet a client, I was fishing hard to find a way to keep my Palm and my iPod charged and running. The thought of being stranded for ten hours in cramped seats without any sort of electronic entertainment was unbearable.

Maybe six months before this I had noticed, in one of our neighborhood’s hardware stores, a series of power inverters displayed, and one had a label claiming it could recharge iPod. Neat. Nothing I needed then, but with that trip ahead of me I wandered back down and reacquainted myself with the XPower Pocket Powerpack 100.

In brief, the Xantrex XPower Pocket Powerpack 100 is a small backup power source for portable electronics that can charge off of a USB port. It has a North American three-prong power plug that its documentation says can be used for running or charging devices that use less than 100W of power, powering up a 10W device for about 2.5 hours. This is all way too much math for a simple review, but I guess that’d you’d at least be able to recharge your iPod a good dozen times before draining the battery. This is more than enough to cover you for a ten hour trip, or a twenty-four hour trip even, recharging your iPod and PDA while you snooze. It costs about $120, but shop around and you can find pretty good discounts online, and comes with a vinyl zipper case that houses the power inverter, its battery pack, its charger and cables.

And it’s a brick, a four-pound brick. It is orders of magnitude larger than any other iPod-targeted battery solutions I have ever looked at its weight is almost entirely the result of its using a NiMh (Nickel Metal Hydride) battery as its base rather than a skinny little Lithium ion pack. Consider that something in Lithium with a similar capacity, a laptop battery say, costs about $300, for a $120 solution I’ll deal with the weight of NiMh! Still, it’s a bit of a heft and for less than long term use, I think I’d look for something an eighth this size.

As an added bonus, however, besides its recharging capability, the XPower Pocket Powerpack 100 also includes an intergral power inverter that you can detach and use in the car to plug your electronics into as well, either via the USB port or by using the three-prong plug. I put this to good use during a very long car trip recently where my MacBook Pro became a portable entertainment center for the kids. You can even, by juggling cables, recharge the removable battery pack itself using this power inverter. A neat ability and one not to discount if you use this at all in the car.

So, my final verdict is that the XPower Pocket Powerpack 100 is a heavy beast, but well-priced. It works, works well, can charge up any number of USB-based devices, like my cell phone, my GPS, my Palm, my iPod and my camera, any number of times, depending upon the battery capacity of the device. I know for sure that the next time I take a long trip this thing will be there at the bottom of my laptop bag just in case, an industrial-strength safety blanket for my collection of personal electronics. For little trips around town and so forth, I’m in the market for something a lot lighter.


  • When I fly now, I try and book a seat with a power outlet.  This has proved invaluable for me.  On my last trip, I watched the entire last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on my iPod, about ten hours.  I couldn’t have done that on the iPod’s pathetic battery life alone.

    When o’ when will some mad genius invent over-the-air transmittable power?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 03, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • They have it’s called lightning. Rummored to be the new power source for Microsoft’s iPod killer.

    TheOldMan had this to say on Aug 03, 2006 Posts: 5
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