External Battery Roundup: Stay Away From The Wall Socket

Battery life is always such a big deal in our mobile coverage (often because gaming systems fall so short). But don't feel limited by the built-in power source. Today we round up 15 external batteries that can keep you running longer away from a socket.

Shopping for a notebook involves a delicate balance between battery life, performance, usability, and price. No two users share the exact same criteria for what they consider the right blend. That’s why we try to evaluate mobile platforms based on their perceived strengths. Take last year's Netbook Buyer’s Guide as an example. We considered the fact that some buyers are willing to spend more for battery life and forgo a bit of performance. Others are willing to pay an extra $100 or $150 to get both. Another group cares more about usability. The list of ways to break even this one specific market into tiny pieces goes on and on.

If battery life is your number one priority, shopping choices are limited. Clearly, there are notebooks designed for those on the move. But what if you don't want to sacrifice elsewhere to get that mobility? Maybe you just need another hour of run time to get your current notebook through the day. If that's the case, a brand new system doesn't make much sense. 

Even if you already own a notebook that delivers ample battery life, we're certain that there are travel days when even a power-sipping system just doesn't have enough juice to last through closing time. If you spend a lot of time on the road, layovers don’t provide enough time at an AC jack to get you back to 100%. That might mean your in-flight entertainment gets interrupted right before the big climax. Sleeping, talking to unwilling neighbours, and hitting on flight attendants only eats so much time. What other options are there?

There is a solution, though. Check out an extended laptop battery, which comes in the form of an even larger installed battery pack compatible with your existing system. There is a big catch. These batteries (often denser six-cell or nine-cell) weigh down your machine, altering its mobile profile. These batteries stick out the backside of your notebook like a sore thumb, and can turn a sleek thin and light notebook into a clunky desktop replacement.

Fortunately, there is another option, too: universal extended batteries. These batteries don’t plug into your system directly. Instead, they function similar to uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), which we often associate with safeguarding desktops. They are always external units, but often have a small profile that makes them easier to pack for travel, offering higher densities than extended batteries can't provide. And if that wasn't enough, you generally get the ability to charge your cell phone, iPod, and camera from them as well.

After we published our Netbook Buyer’s Guide, one reader posed a question about mobility in the comments. So, during the past two months, we hunted down just about every available solution capable of extending the battery life of your notebook. If you're on the go, this story is for you.

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  • sylvain
    Interesting read. Would it be possible to do a similar test for pure USB external batteries. Used for adding that extra bit of juice to an iPad, iPhone or similar devices?
  • Anonymous

    I am interested in using the battery for a DSLR video rig, i want to use the 12v to power the camera, then split the 5v to power both an asus wicast and a SDI to HDMI down convertor. both these last two devices take a 5v feed. would this be possible do you think?
  • Spanamana
    I purchased one of these batteries from a UK supplier and have to say I have never encountered such poor customer service in a long time. They claim that they supply one free tip a year. Rubbish! When you try to get one for a iPad 3 or later, they charge you $10 because they changed the name of it from "tip".

    After 8 months the battery started not keeping its charge. I tried to use the 2 year warranty to get it replaced and found out that although the unit is guaranteed for two years, the battery is only guaranteed for 6 months. Then I was told that it would cost too much to get it repaired as there is no UK repair centre and therefore there is a charge of $30 for a replacement.

    Having delivered the replacement battery, I have not received a VAT order for £21 for import duty from TNT. So a battery that cost me £50 has now cost me £95.

    Shonky product, useless service. Don't waste your money.