Review: FatCat PowerBar 4200 Travel Charger
Mobile devices are becoming increasingly powerful these days. We have quad core phones with large screens and high speed data connections. All of those things put a huge strain on batteries and can cause our devices to die prematurely. Unfortunately, battery technology hasn’t been improving at the same rate that mobile hardware has been. So while our gadgets can do more than ever, they typically don’t last as long. I can still remember the days of only needing to charge my phone once every 3 weeks. Now, plugging in is a nightly ritual and I’m out of luck if I don’t make it to a charger in time.
Thankfully, companies have started to offer travel chargers that can keep our mobile devices mobile for longer. FatCat is one of those companies, and they were kind enough to send over one of their options, the PowerBar 4200 travel charger, which I’ve been using over the last few weeks.
Along with the PowerBar 4200 itself, you’ll get a cable, several tips and a drawstring bag for storing everything. The cable has female connectors on each end, which allow you to use the included tips to make the type of cable you require for each of your devices.
Tips include male and female USB, a micro USB, a mini USB and the older style of Apple’s proprietary connector. The included cable and tips will work with the vast majority of popular smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and GPS units on the market today.
Measuring just 4″ x 2 .4″ x 0 .5″, the Fat Cat PowerBar 4200 is rather compact. In fact, it is smaller than my phone – the LG Nexus 4 – in every measurement except thickness. Compactness is a must have feature for an accessory like this. No one will want to carry around a bulky and heavy external battery and backup power wont do you any good if you don’t have it on you when its needed. In that regard, the PowerBar 4200 is great. It is small and light enough to easily fit in a jacket pocket, glove box, backpack or purse. So there is a better chance of you having it with you, when you actually need it.
There isn’t much to the PowerBar 4200. It’s basically a larger battery with a input port on one side and a output port on the other. You charge the PowerBar 4200 by plugging a micro USB cable – such as the one that may have come with your phone – into the port on the right side and you charge your mobile devices by plugging them into the PowerBar’s full-size, female USB port on the left side. It’s all very simple and easy to figure out.
A single button above the Fat Cat logo is used for checking how much juice the PowerBar 4200 has. Pressing it will cause between 1 and 4 LEDs to light up. Each LED represents about 25% battery life left. So 4 LEDs on would mean that the unit is currently at 100% or fully charged and 2 would indicate a charge of 50%. Again, its all really simple.
I felt the Nexus 4 would be a good device to test the PowerBar 4200 with. The reason being is the Nexus 4 uses a sealed up, 2100mAh battery and, like the name suggests, the PowerBar’s battery is rated at 4200mAh. So according to the specs, the PowerBar has exactly twice as much battery capacity as the Nexus 4. Which lead me to believe that it might be capable of charging a Nexus 4 around two times before it needs recharged itself. Unfortunately, that isn’t quiet the case.
A fully charged PowerBar 4200 took my Nexus 4 from 9% remaining battery life to fully charged in less than 3 hours. That’s about how long the included, LG wall charger takes and is rather impressive in my opinion. As soon as my Nexus 4 was charged up, I plugged my wife’s Nexus 4 into the PowerBar, and her phone went from 33% to 86% before the PowerBar was fully exhausted of it’s power.
So in my testing, a fully charged PowerBar 4200 was capable of charging the Nexus 4 about 1.5 times. Which isn’t bad at all. Especially when you consider that our Nexus 4s usually run for 14 to 17 hours before they need recharged anyway. Leaving plenty of time for the PowerBar to get recharged before its needed again.
In my opinion, the PowerBar 4200 makes a great external battery pack for the Nexus 4 users that hate having a non replaceable battery in their phone. Sure its not as convenient as popping in a freshly charged battery, but it is the best alternative I’ve found so far.
I was also impressed with the PowerBar 4200’s ability to keep my Garmin GPSmap 62s running for several hours. The photo above shows my GPSr with it’s internal batteries removed and powered on as if it were plugged into the wall or a car adapter. This capability is huge in my opinion and makes the PowerBar 4200 a great accessory for anyone that does a lot of hiking off the beaten path. Having your GPS last a few hours longer could save your life depending on the situation you find yourself in and the PowerBar 4200 is so compact and light that its barely noticeable in a backpack.
The PowerBar 4200 will power anything that will charge via a USB cable. Including the PS Vita, which uses a oddball, proprietary charging connector. The Sony PS Vita’s battery capacity is rated at 2210mAh and the PowerBar charges it pretty much the same as it will charge the Nexus 4. Meaning, you’ll get about 1.5 charges to your Vita before the PowerBar is completely dead.
Battery Life and Charging
As stated above, the battery used in the PowerBar 4200 is rated at a maximum capacity of 4200mAh. The battery itself uses Lithium Polymer technology and has a cycle life of up to 500 charges/discharges. It was designed to be charged via a USB port on your PC or the charger that came with your phone. Charge time will typically run between 4 and 7 hours depending on the current of the charger used. Maximum input current is rated at 800mA, and the PowerBar will charge your devices with a maximum output current of 700mA.
For best performance, Fat Cat recommends charging the PowerBar 4200 at least once every 3 months and before each use when possible. I haven’t had my review unit long enough to thoroughly test battery life over time, but so far it seems to be holding a charge fairly well. I have went a full week without using or charging it and the battery indicator still showed 4 LEDs.
Overall, I am very happy with how the PowerBar 4200 performs. It is compact and light enough to keep on you, it does a great job of keeping mobile devices working a bit longer and it’s affordable. They ship them pre-charged and ready to use, and they even include a drawstring bag that is actually large enough for everything to comfortably fit inside. So those are just bonus points in my book.
Bottom line, the PowerBar 4200 does everything it claims it will and I highly recommend it to anyone in need of a compact, travel charger or external battery pack.
The PowerBar 4200 is available Silver, Black, Blue, Orange and Red for a retail price of $79.95 from FatCatGear.com