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Tech Armor external batteries: Good solution for business travelers (review)

Business trips often mean a lot of time away from a power outlet, resulting in a gadget going dead at the worst time. We review four mobile power banks that beat the battery clock.

External battery packs can be the business traveler's best friend. You charge them up and throw them in the gear bag, ready to plug in a gadget with a dying battery. They come in a variety of sizes and capacities to handle anyone’s power needs.

Tech Armor chargers compared
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The ActivePower line of chargers from Tech Armor consists of four units with varying battery capacities. They range from a very small smartphone charger to a version big enough to keep everything in the gear bag charged.

The four units tested each have one of the following battery capacities: 3,000, 6,000, 12,000, and 20,800mAh. Those wanting a tiny charger for a smartphone will find the ActivePower 3000 to be sufficient. It has a single USB port to charge one device at a time. It is quick to charge up and will replenish the battery of any smartphone one time. It weighs only a few ounces and takes up little room in the bag.

Tech Armor ActivePower specs:

  ActivePower 3000 ActivePower 6000 ActivePower 12000 ActivePower 20800
Output 5V/1a 5V/2.1a, 5V/1.3a 5V/2.1a, 5V/1.3a 5V/2.1a, 5V/1a
Dimensions 55x9x8mm; 2.16x0.35x0.31in 104x47.4x27mm; 4.09x1.86x1.06in 95x82.6x27mm; 3.74x3.25x1.06in 165x80x23mm; 6.49x3.15x0.9in 
Weight 65.2g; 2.29oz 131g; 4.62oz 210g; 7.4oz 446g; 15.73oz

Update: The user manuals that ship with the ActivePower 6000, 12000, and 20800 incorrectly state the voltage of the tablet USB port. Tech Armor has indicated in the comment section below that both ports are in fact 5V. I have updated the tablet above and elsewhere in the article to accurately reflect this.

The next three chargers in the ActivePower line can charge a phone and a tablet at the same time. The two USB ports are marked for tablets and phones, outputting 5V/2.1a and 5V/1.3a or 1.0a, respectively. They can charge a phone and tablet one or more times, depending on the capacity of the charger being used. The largest ActivePower, the 20800, can probably last the duration of a short trip.

The three largest Tech Armor mobile chargers have an integrated flashlight. Having a flashlight can be useful on a trip, and it's nice having one on the ActivePower units.

All of the ActivePower batteries are charged via an included USB to microUSB cable. Phones and tablets are charged using the appropriate (clearly marked on the units) USB port. You have to use your own phone or tablet USB cable to charge your device.

All but the smallest of the chargers are activated by a quick tap of a power button, which readies them to charge and displays up to four LED indicators. These indicators show the remaining charge of the ActivePowers. The ActivePower 3000 automatically charges when a device is plugged in and turns itself off when the gadget is disconnected.

ActivePower device charging
Device charging capability as per Tech Armor

In our testing, all four Tech Armor chargers performed as expected and without issue. Recharging the ActivePower battery took a reasonable amount of time for each, which varied based on capacity. The charge time for phones and tablets was roughly equivalent to plugging them into a power outlet.

A good use for portable batteries like these is to plug in your phone or tablet and throw it in the gear bag. This will top off the gadget while you're en route to your next appointment.

The ActivePower chargers aren't intended to recharge laptops. They will handle most smaller gadgets, including e-readers.

The ActivePower chargers from Tech Armor are good options for the frequent business traveler who needs to keep gadgets up and running under the most trying conditions. The larger capacity chargers can last for entire short trips, even if device power adapters are mistakenly left behind.

The Tech Armor ActivePower chargers range in price from $14.95 to $44.95. They are available from Tech Armor and online retailers.

Pros:

  • Solid construction
  • Integrated flashlight (ActivePower 6000, 12000, 20800)
  • Dual voltage output (ActivePower 6000, 12000, 20800)

Cons:

  • Supplied USB cable is short
  • No power adapter for the mobile chargers

Reviewer's rating: 9 out of 10

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