The release of Order & Chaos Online was a big deal for Windows Phone 8 gamers. Finally, our platform had a fully- fledged massively multiplayer online role-playing game with beautiful 3D graphics and Xbox Achievements. But graphically intense online games have a downside: they drain a device’s battery like crazy! Depending on a user’s charger and phone settings, a phone might die while playing demanding games – even when plugged in.
In searching for solutions to the power drain issue, I remembered our previous review of the Brando Power Jacket for the Lumia 920. A combination of external battery and phone case, the Power Jacket seemed like the ideal solution or Lumia 920 gamers looking for more juice on the go. Now that I’ve used the case exclusively for a couple of months, I’m back to report my findings on its suitability for gamers.
A quick refresher: the Power Jacket includes a built-in 2200mAh battery. After inserting the phone into the case, pressing the power button on the back of the case will charge the phone.
The Power Jacket’s battery charges via a micro-USB port at the bottom of the case. Four blue LEDs on the back indicate the case’s power level and whether it’s charging. The case comes in white or black, and it also features a built-in, flimsy kickstand.
First, let’s address the obvious. The Power Jacket ads a significant bulk to the Lumia 920, making it longer and thicker. A Lumia 920 with the case on nearly approaches the size of the Lumia 1520, though it’s still smaller.
And of course the case adds weight to the phone. This could potentially increase fatigue from holding the phone and gaming with it for long periods of time. But as a gamer, you’re probably used to holding physical controllers and playing for hours. The Power Jacket with a Lumia 920 inside won’t be heavier than your average Xbox 360 controller.
The real reason a gamer would buy the Power Jacket is to extend their battery life. In that respect, the Power Jacket is a mixed bag. The best use scenario is when playing without a micro-USB cable connected to the case. After all, you could play while plugged in even without the case.
After manually turning the battery on, the light on the back of the case will blink and your phone will start charging. In my experience, the Power Jacket extended gaming time by about an hour. Demanding games take a lot of power, after all. The extra playtime could be longer, but every little bit helps when you’re on the go.
The Power Jacket’s charging is not without its downsides though. For one, it only provides 1A power output. In other words, it charges a bit slowly. To fully meet the demands of power hungry games, a 1.5A or 2.1A charger would be more appropriate. Instead of negating power drain while playing a high-power game, the Power Jacket is really just slowing the speed of drain.
Hot hot heat
Windows Phone 8 devices have been known to overheat due to some sort of hardware defect or OS-level bug. Playing with a case can protect your hands from that heat and make gaming more comfortable. That said, the Power Jacket actually produces heat while charging the phone. You don’t even have to be playing; the 920 just gets warm while the Power Jacket is turned on.
It’s no hotter than the phone gets when gaming anyway, but the idea that I’m absorbing extra radiation while playing is slightly disconcerting. The Power Jacket is a product of China. It wasn’t specifically engineered for Brando or anything. Point is, I don’t fully believe in the device’s safety rating. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.
I actually purchased two Power Jackets for my household. One of them sometimes makes a quiet hissing sound while charging. The other one charges silently, so perhaps the louder one is slightly defective. Update: A reader suggests that a capacitor or other component in the charging circuit might be emitting a high pitched frequency for some reason, thus causing the noise.
Charging the case
The Power Jacket has an interesting quirk that makes charging in general different from using a real charging cable. Namely, if the case detects the phone is at full power, it fully stops charging the phone. Whereas when you plug a phone into a real charger and it hits maximum capacity, power would continue to trickle and feed the phone, keeping it at maximum battery.
The downside to this is that you can plug the case in, start playing a low-power drain game, turn the power on, and your phone still ends up dying.
The phone didn’t die because the game sapped power faster than the case could provide it. Instead, the case got the phone to full power and just stopped providing power, all without telling the user. I’ve played the Sims FreePlay with the case plugged in and turned on, only to find a couple of hours later that my phone is critically low while the case is fully charged.
I don’t know that there’s a design solution to this issue – maybe the case could have a toggle switch for providing continuous power? But the workaround I’ve found is simply to remove the phone from the case when I want to play plugged in. My charger provides power faster than the Power Jacket anyway. But taking your case off means you won’t have any protection if you drop your phone.
The Brando Power Jacket is not quite the perfect gaming power solution I had hoped it would be. There have been too many times when I intended my phone to charge but the Power Jacket had charged itself instead. I also wish the jacket pumped out more power, because the Lumia 920 can easily handle more than 1A.
Still, external batteries can be quite useful. Carry a fully charged Lumia 920 and a fully charged Power Jacket and you’ll certainly get more playtime out of your phone. My first recommendation for Windows Phone gamers in need of more power would be a 2.1A charger. But if you need more power when you’re away from outlets and you’re willing to put up with some quirks, the Power Jacket could just do the trick.
Brando sells the Power Jacket for $37 on their website. If you prefer a reputable seller, they’re probably your best bet. But as I mentioned before, the Power Jacket is a generic Chinese product (also known as the Power Bank) and can be purchased from a few other places as well. Head to eBay and you can get one for $20 shipped – just search for Lumia 920 power case.