It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to device charging out and about. Maybe my expectations are far too high – I want a portable charger which will refill my iPhone 6 a good four or five times without fuss, without bother and without the ‘cable not supported’ rigmarole.
I’m yet to find a solar powered charger which is anything but a bit naff here in Blighty, which means true out-and-aboutness is limited because the only viable alternative is a portable charger which you have to plug in to a wall to boost back up again. So the more charges it offers in return, the better.
Which brings us, via a couple of other battery/powerpack devices which have left me less than impressed, to the Varta Indestructible Powerpack 6000 mAh.
Now Varta makes a terrific torch in the Indestructible range – reviewed here – which I’ve not yet managed to destroy. I’ve thrown it at a wall, tossed it as high as I could in to the air over concrete (something I do regularly just to entertain myself on the way to the car) and dropped it from scaffolding at the top of the house, and it’s still going strong.
Because of this I have no reason to doubt the indestructibleness of the powerpack and my couple of attempts to do the same have unsurprisingly come to nothing. This is thanks to materials and construction methods which appear to be shared with the torch – the main body is made from tough machined aluminium with all of its edges and corners protected by thick rubber bumpers.
On one end of the sturdy-feeling unit, beneath a pop-off rubberised cap, are two USB ports, a mini USB port and the power button which lights up to four tiny blue LEDs on the front when switched on.
Which brings me to the point of the Varta Indestructible Powerpack – its ability to charge stuff.
Like most blokes I’m not good with instructions, so without even reading the front of the pack I took everything out, made sure the unit would fit in to the supplied net pouch alongside the short mini USB cable that was also in there, then plugged it in to my laptop to charge.
The first thing I noted was that it took forever to suck up the juice it needed. This is not unusual for a device like this, but it took somewhere around five or six hours at least to start showing all four blue lights, meaning it was ready to go.
Mrs Muz and I retired for the evening, having deliberately drained our phones – my iPhone 6 and her 5s – down to less than 10% power for the test.
The handy two ports on the Varta are an excellent convenient touch so we dug out our two Apple cables (no ‘non supported’ issues – another plus), plugged them in, switched the charger on then nodded off.
Except when we woke up neither phone was fully charged (80%ish each) and the Varta was dead. [Ed: The iPhone 5S has a stated battery capacity of 1560MaH, and the iPhone 6 has 1810MaH. The 6000 in the Varta’s name refers to its capacity of 6000MaH, so it should charge both phones fully with the assumption that the phones are not ‘on’ and draining their batteries as they charge.]
Thinking I had done something wrong or hadn’t charged the Varta for long enough I plugged it in for an entire day then went for it again with just my own phone, which charged fully over a surprisingly-short period of time. But on the next charge it got to 60% before the Varta packed in again. Dead.
It was then that I found the packaging and paid attention to the details: “Up to 3 full charges!” it proclaimed. Just three. And even then it was ‘up to’. And that was based on an iPhone 5 which, in human years, is about 89-years-old now. So that was disappointing. As was the next charge. And so is the Varta generally.
It does a job, don’t get me wrong. It’s tough, small, simple to operate and conveniently tucks away in to its pouch alongside its cable. And it charges stuff, too – if you want to keep your Kindle running on-the-move I can think of nothing better for £35 and I’m sure it’ll give plenty of charges (with the amount of effort it takes to run a Kindle battery down there’s no way I’ve got time to test it). Likewise if your mobile phone is an earlier model with low battery drain then again, it should be a good buy for you.
But GearWeAre is an outdoorsy site and I need to think of the Varta in that context. I’m obviously just using myself as an example, but being outdoors quite a bit these days means I’m using my phone for phone calls, texts, taking photos, maps, various location services, a torch and playing podcasts via bluetooth among other things, which means my 6 can go from 100% power to zero in a day or less.
And with a paltry one-and-a-bit charges available from the Varta I’m afraid it just doesn’t cut that there mustard.