capsule review

iLuv i603 and i604 battery packs

At a Glance
  • iLuv i603 and i604 battery packs

Although Apple has improved the battery life of each successive iPod generation, there are times when you still need more between-charge juice. Thankfully, there are a number of good external battery packs available; unfortunately, many of these accessories force you to forego a case while using them. i-Luv's i603 and i604 take a different approach: combine a clear, silicone "skin" case with an external, lithium-polymer battery pack.

You slide your 5th-generation iPod (with video) into the silicone case's screen opening; once inside, the i603/i604 connects to your iPod via the latter's dock-connector port. The battery itself is a white-plastic enclosed slab that sits -- also inside the case -- against the back of your iPod. The chrome-finished bottom of the i-Luv pack houses the i603/i604's electronics and dock-connector plug and port. Overall, the pack adds just over half of an inch to your iPod's thickness and nearly an inch to its height.

You charge the i603/i604 via its own dock-connector port, which is actually a pass-through port that lets you sync your iPod, using its own dock cable, while in the battery. (You can also use some dock-connector accessories through that port. However, not all such accessories work properly; for example, microphone attachments won't function through the i603/i604.) Although you can supposedly charge the i603/i604's battery via USB, as well, using your iPod's dock cable, iLuv includes a small (2.75- by 2- by 0.9-inch) AC adapter with a USB power port; unfortunately, the company doesn't include a dock cable; you have to use the one that came with your iPod. Still, the inclusion of this adapter -- Apple charges $29 for a similar adapter by itself -- is a nice bonus. The pack doesn't include a battery-level indicator; you get just a single light that shows whether or not the battery has been fully charged.

iLuv claims the i604 will let your fully-charged 60/80GB fifth-generation iPod (with video) play much for 55 hours; we got nearly 60. The company doesn't make any claims about video playback, but we were able to watch over 13 hours of video using the i604. (We didn't officially test the i603; however, in informal tests, our 30GB 5G iPod surpassed iLuv's claims of 42 hours of music playback.)

The i-Luv battery's silicone skin covers all of your iPod except for its screen; I had no trouble using the iPod's controls through the case. Unfortunately, there's no clear-plastic screen protector like the one included with most current "skin" cases; nor is there a belt clip or other carrying accessory. In addition, although this could be a great "case" for watching videos on your iPod, thanks to the additional playback time, iLuv doesn't include any sort of stand; even a simple easel-style stand, to let you lean your iPod back for viewing, would have been welcome.

One issue I had with the i603/i604 -- which kept me from giving it a slightly higher rating -- was that I wasn't always able to sync my iPod (or charge the iLuv battery) via Apple's dock cable connected to my computer; charging was more reliable when using the AC adapter. I also wish that the inside of the i603/i604 -- the plastic surface that sits against the back of your iPod -- had some sort of soft pads to keep dust and dirt from scratching the latter.

Still, this is a unique and useful accessory if you're looking to extend the battery life of your 5G iPod without having to deal with an external battery pack and cables.--Dan Frakes

At a Glance
  • External battery packs for 5G iPods.

Related:
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon