If you use your Windows Phone a lot on the go – whether to play games, watch videos, or plain old make calls and text – you’ve probably run into the dreaded ‘Critical Battery Warning’ once or twice. As the phone’s battery ages, it starts holding less of a charge, thus making battery life an even greater concern. You can always buy a new battery, but people like me who plan to replace their existing phones with a shiny new Windows Phone 8 handset later this year probably don’t want to spend too much on an accessory they won’t be needing any more in a few months. That’s where the NRGdeck Power Bank from Porta Solutions USA comes in.
The NRGdeck is an external battery pack/charger for USB devices, so it’s not strictly a Windows Phone accessory. But it is a versatile charging product that can power two devices at once, helping keep your phone and other electronics going when wall outlets are in short supply.
5000 gigawatts, I mean, milliamps
At the time of this writing, the NRGdeck Power Bank comes in one capacity: 5000mAh. Porta Solutions recently added a new unit to their website with a whopping 11000mAh capacity, but that unit isn’t available for purchase just yet. Still, the 5000mAh model I’m reviewing should provide more than enough power for most users’ needs. For comparison, the original Samsung Focus battery holds 1500mAh, the Focus 2 1700mAh, and the Nokia Lumia 900 clocks in at 1830mAh. Thus a fully-charged Power Bank 5000 can actually more than double (and in some cases, triple) a WP7 handset’s battery life. Not too shabby!
A Titanic battery
The Power Bank 5000 is a black rectangular device with curved edges measuring 4.33 inches x 0.57 inches x 2.76 inches and weighing 5.28 ounces. That makes it a bit smaller and lighter than an HTC Titan II, but not dramatically so. Obviously there is a tradeoff between size and utility with the NRGdeck, the semi-large physical size allowing for much greater power capacity than the tiny batteries found inside normal smartphones. Still, it’s not so heavy that you’d notice it when stored inside a messenger bag or backpack, and it could fit inside (and fill) an empty pants pocket in a pinch.
The front (4.33 x 2.77 inches) of the NRGdeck boasts a logo, an iOS-like power button, and a 4 unit LED power indicator. Plug the unit into a power source (a wall outlet, computer, etc.) and the LEDs light up as it charges. I didn’t measure the charging time, but it went from nearly empty to full overnight when plugged into the wall - not bad at all considering how long some phones take to charge.
The only other side of the NRGdeck with any features is the 2.77 inches x .057 inch side that holds a micro USB input port and two standard USB output ports. The output jacks are not identical: one pumps 1A of power (enough for your average Windows Phone) and the other 2.1A (for tablets and other high power devices). As if the versatility of output wasn’t useful enough, the Power Bank 5000 can actually charge two devices simultaneously. During my recent excursion to Casual Connect Seattle, I often plugged in both my phone and digital camcorder at the same time with no apparent impact on charging speed.
One cable and many plugs
The NRGdeck includes a single coil cable (approximately 24 inches in length) with a standard male USB end and a non-standard circular female end. To make use of said cable, you’ll need to attach one of several plugs. Included are a micro USB plug (perfect for Windows Phones), a mini USB plug, an iOS plug, and a circular plug.
If you’re just using the Power Bank with micro USB devices like WP handsets, you can leave the micro USB plug attached all the time; plug it into the input port on the device to charge it; and plug it into an output port to power the phone. No need for additional cables or plugs in that situation. But any USB cable with one standard male end will work, making the included cable optional rather than required.
What’s it like to actually use the NRGdeck? Quite the pleasure. Once you’ve connected a device to the unit’s power output, you must turn on the Power Bank in order to charge the device. Lightly tapping the power button doesn’t quite do the trick; I had to hold the button for a second or the NRGdeck would power down instead of initiating charging. That nitpick aside, once you learn to hold the power button long enough, you shouldn’t have any issues getting the juice flowing as intended.
While the NRGdeck transfers power to another device, its blue power LEDs come on and indicate remaining charge. As the power gets used, you can see it tick down from 4 LEDs all the way to zero. The charging process works best with the Power Bank and any connected devices sitting on a flat surface so the power cord or cords don’t get bumped too much.
I found that I could use my Windows Phone while connected to the NRGdeck, but if I moved the phone around too much the connection would come loose – pretty much the same as using it when connected to an AC charger. Powering a camcorder during non-stationary use wouldn’t be a great idea, considering the weight of the battery would likely tug at the cable and interrupt the flow of power.
Some folks can power their phones from a single nightly charge and never run too low on juice – it all depends on your usage habits. For my own part, if I do an hour or so of unplugged gaming, I’m guaranteed to run down before the end of the day. Factor in trips to places where wall outlets aren’t available, and the need for an extra battery or a product like the NRGdeck becomes apparent.
The NRGdeck Power Bank 5000 is a fantastic solution for powering portable USB devices, including Windows Phones. I love that it will work with Windows Phone 8 handsets and many other portable electronics that come along within the next few years. If you’re a regular user of high-drain devices like tablets or larger camcorders, you might want to hold out for the upcoming Power Bank 11000. But most smartphone users will do just fine with the 5000 mAh model.
During my recent conference trip, I used both my Windows Phone and smaller camcorder quite frequently throughout the day, easily draining the charge from their built-in batteries. But the NRGdeck kept up with my needs and never ran dry as long as I charged everything at night. The freedom to use my phone for whatever purposes I wanted, including gaming, without worrying that it would end up completely dead before I got back to the hotel was most appreciated. If you rely on your phone for entertainment, business, and everything in between as well, you might just need a Power Bank too.
The NRGdeck Power Bank 5000 retails for $69.99, but you can get it for just $30.99 through an Amazon third-party seller. Amazon fulfills the order, so it’s eligible for free Prime shipping.