DroneMax 360 hands-on: A portable power station that does it all

Portable battery packs are convenient, if not limited. The DroneMax 360 can charge just about anything, no matter where you are.

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I don't normally take a look at Kickstarter products, but in a moment of weakness when I was approached by the Energen team to look at the DroneMax 360, I decided to give it a try.

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With the main sales pitch for the battery pack including charging batteries from various DJI drones, I decided to use the pack to power various gadgets and items around my home.

I've had a prototype device for a couple of weeks now. Because it's not a final production unit, it's lacking some of the polish Kickstarter backers will see when it begins shipping in May. For instance, some of the ports aren't perfectly lined up.

Prior to using the DroneMax 360, I'd never given much thought to having a portable power station on hand. I figured it was something that only the really adventurous needed for extended camping trips and the like.

But, as I've found out, that's not the case.

Design

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

There are two faces of the DroneMax 360. One face has two 110v standard plugs, a power switch, and a fan cutout. One this side you can plug any standard plug, say for a computer or a lamp, into the battery pack to power it.

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On the opposite face, you'll find a total of eight ports and series of buttons and switches. This side is where you can connect a USB cable to charge a tablet or smartphone, use the USB-C ports to charge, or connect to the drone charging ports to charge two drone batteries at the same time.

The drone charging ports have three options: 4-Cell, 12V, or 3-Cell. You can set each port independently to fit the needs of the type of battery you need to charge.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

There's also a 12V port that works with the included cigarette lighter cable to charge devices via the battery instead of in your car.

A removable rubber bumper encases the pack, providing extra protection and a couple of handles.

The DroneMax 360 comes with a sturdy carrying case and a series of cables for connecting various drone batteries to it.

Performance

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Using a PortaPow Premium USB power monitor and a Drok DC Load Tester, I am can the efficiency of any battery pack, and if proper safety shutoffs when a device attempts to draw too much power are working.

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The DroneMax 360 has a capacity of 207 watt-hours (Wh). In comparison, a typical portable battery pack has around 45Wh of capacity. For example, the Mophie Powerstation Plus has 46.056Wh.

In running down the battery of the DroneMax 360 with a single USB port in use, I found it to have an efficiency of roughly 65 percent. That's not incredibly impressive, with an average efficiency of battery packs I've tested in the past is around 83 percent.

Granted, the DroneMax 360 is a far more capable battery than the typical packs I test and it's not a production unit. I've been assured by Energen the battery's performance will be optimized for the final production units.

As far as recharging the DroneMax 360, it fully charged via the 12V adapter in a few hours. In other words, this isn't a pack you'll need to leave on the charger overnight.

Peace of mind

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Considering some portable battery packs push the $100 mark, and are typically dedicated to smartphones and tablets, the current price of the DroneMax 360 on Kickstarter -- $159 -- is a heck of a deal. Not only does it come with a case, but it comes with several cables to use when charging DJI's Phantom 3, Phantom 4, or Mavic Pro drones.

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After the campaign is over, the retail price of the DroneMax 360 goes up to $350.

Not owning any sort of drone myself, I've found a use for the DroneMax 360. It's been used outside to power a speaker and recharge a phone during my time with it. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the peace of mind I have in knowing that if we were to lose power, I have a power station that can charge phones and run a lamp or a small household appliance if needed.

Those interested in buying the DroneMax 360 can do so right now on Kickstarter.

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