We live in an age where belief, in anything, can be difficult—especially where crowdfunded products are concerned.
I’ve been burned several times by kickstarted tech projects over the years. Mostly, the delivered goods underwhelm compared to what was promised. In some cases, a return on my investment never materialized at all. I’d all but given up on crowdfunded gear, but after using their Omnicharge’s batteries for the past few months, I want to believe that this startup is doing things right.
The Omnicharge comes in two different sizes: a $159 13,600 mAh/65W iteration and the larger $249 Pro version, which packs a 20,400 man/100W battery. Both come with two USB ports for charging tablets, smartphones, action cameras, and other low-powered devices. They’re also equipped with a three-pronged 100-volt outlet that allows you to plug in a laptop or larger device. An OLED display provides real-time data on recharge/discharge rates, battery temperature and which ports are in use.
Both sizes of Omnicharge feature a power management system that allows them to adapt the amount of voltage being churned out to your devices. This helps to ensure a balance between the fastest possible charge times and not frying your hardware. This same technology also allows the Omnicharge to provide an estimate of how long it’ll take to completely charge any device you plug into it.
Either of the battery packs can be recharged via their included wall wart in the space of a few hours or, if you own one, a solar panel. Given the capacity of the standard and Pro version of the battery, sturdy build quality and these capabilities, I’d feel comfortable throwing my money at an Omnicharge battery if I saw it in on Amazon or in a store. But the extras that the Pro version of the battery comes packed with are a siren song enticing me to steer my ship towards a rocky, crowdfunded shore where no guarantee of fulfillment might be found.
Go Pro and you get MagSafe too
Unlike its smaller counterpart, the Omnicharge Pro comes with a built-in Qi charging pad. If you use, for example, a Mophie Charge Force case for your iPhone, you can just drop it on the charging pad. The Pro also swaps out one of its 5V/3A USB ports for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 USB port.
But hands down, its best trick is that its capable of using the same barrel port to charge the battery as it does to juice up a wide variety of laptops and other high-powered devices, thanks to the inclusion of a number of proprietary port adapters. Why should this matter to you? Because one of the adapters included with the Pro offers a MagSafe connector—no external power brick required. In order to utilize the port for charging your gear instead of recharging the Omnicharge’s battery, simply alter a setting in the device’s on-screen menu. Done.
What’s more, unlike other external MacBook batteries that I’ve used in the past, there’s no need to buy a MagSafe power adapter to modify specifically for use with the Omnicharge Pro—the battery and its included MagSafe cable work right out of the box. You can even plug in a second laptop to charge at the same time, by taking advantage of the Omnicharge’s three-pronged power outlet.
Since I got my hands on the Omnicharge Pro, I’ve been leaving my 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina display’s power brick at home, in favor of bringing the battery and its charger instead. The battery weighs roughly one pound more than my laptop’s power brick does, but it allows me to charge my laptop anywhere, without the need for a wall socket. At the end of the day, instead of charging up my MacBook Pro and external battery, I just top off the battery so that I’m ready to rock the next morning.
Now, here’s the paranoid disclaimer.
Omnicharge promises to ship out batteries to backers in March of this year. I can’t imagine that, provided they have their ducks in a row, it’ll take much longer for them to start selling their wares at sites like Amazon and BestBuy, or via their own portal. I recommend that most people wait until if and when this happens. By doing so, you guarantee that the product you’re paying is one you’ll actually receive and, should you be dissatisfied with it, you can return it for a refund. As much as I really dig these batteries, I still feel that crowdfunding is too much of a crapshoot for most people to invest in.
Next Time: We’ll look at a portable, wireless battery-powered printer that’s light and compact enough that it deserves a place in any road warrior’s arsenal.
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Séamus Bellamy is a travel and technology writer with bylines at Boing Boing, AFAR Magazine, BBC Worldwide and USA Today. A full-time digital nomad, Séamus calls Canada home--but he doesn't see it all that often.