Review: EC Technology Swiss Army Charging Knife
It's a fair cop, my title was more descriptive than accurate - this little gadget is actually called, on Amazon, the 'EC Technology 5200mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank', a typical SEO-heavy name that's not as interesting as the product itself. You see, this fills a very real need, at least in my household.
Now, I know what you're going to say. "Yada yada, another blessed emergency charger, nothing to see..." But give this one a chance and hear me out.
If you're a road warrior, of course, fully equipped to stay topped up all day long and with very well defined mobile needs, then you'll already have one of the various high capacity emergency chargers that I've reviewed on AAS and AAWP, e.g. here and here. And they're great - but also heavy and bulky.
Then at the other end of the spectrum we have another of my favourite 'gadget' categories, 'wallet chargers'. These are ultra slim and small, fitting into (as the name suggests) a wallet card slot. However, the problems with these are that their capacity is necessarily limited, typically around 1400mAh at most (don't believe the ones that claim 2500mAh or more - battery capacity is 100% linked to physical volume, and 'ye cannae beat the laws of physics'), which is less than half the required capacity of a typical 2016 smartphone - times change, eh? Plus their output current is usually similarly limited, e.g. 1A.
The final straw is that they usually have flying microUSB leads. This latter was a real blessing a couple of years ago, since it meant not having to remember to carry a charging cable too, but we now live in a world where USB Type C is ever more widespread and your family's iPhones use yet another standard, the Lightning port.
The situation is, then, that you or I are out and about with family (partners, parents, kids, etc.) and someone, at some point, needs their phone topping up urgently. Heck, you probably agree with this need if it means trying to find them in an hour's time in a busy shopping centre. [Why do family not plan their phones' charges better? Who knows!]
Yet the chances of their phone using the same physical connector as you are small. So you'll need to be flexible. And to provide enough capacity to charge more than one persons phone through a busy day out. And yet you don't want to have to carry a bulky and heavy duty power bank.
This is starting to sound like a tall order, so let's crystallise the requirements for my (perhaps) mythical Swiss Army Charging Knife:
- Around 5000mAh of capacity
- Able to dispense current at (at least) 2A
- Easily pocketable, such that you dont notice the size or weight
- Can charge anything with microUSB, Lightning or USB Type C
- Durable, withstand daily throwing about
But, as you'll have guessed from the existence of this review, I found a match. And no, this wasn't sent in for review, I researched this and bought it with my own hard earned money, in case you were wondering.
I had to cheat very slightly, in that I also had to source very short USB Type A cables to go with it (it only comes with microUSB) - see the photo with all the leads at the bottom, but the central accessory is absolutely spot on. The EC Technology 5200mAh Portable Charger exceeds my capacity requirement, is so small in terms of volume that it fits inside my fist and only weighs 120g.
Importantly, it can also not only be charged at a full 2A, but can charge other devices at 2A. So that would get a typical Lumia 950 XL class smartphone from empty to 80% full in around an hour and the EC charger would still have over half its charge left, ready for the next device.
There's only the one USB Type A output, but that's all that's needed here, for family/casual use. You'll notice an extra, too. Again potentially very useful on a day out with winter nights drawing in. Yes, most phones now have some kind of LED torch function these days, but there's also a LED torch built-in here, it's accessed with a long press of the main charge-check button. It's not as bright as that from most phones, but then it's only for emergencies. (Plus if you want something similar to this EC gadget but which is more torch than charger, do see this, one of my other favourite gadgets of the last few years.)
The EC charger has a nice rubberised finish, with rounded, bevelled corners and edges, ensuring maximum grip while never being uncomfortable to hold and not digging into you in a pocket. A final nice touch is that the LEDs showing charge state are styled and gentle - these aren't cheap LEDs, these are properly designed.
In terms of price, this is currently at £8.79 on Amazon UK, which I reckon makes it a steal - you can see why I snapped it up. With wallet chargers like the old Proporta ones coming in at over £10 for 1400mAh max, this halfway house solution between the tiniest and largest chargers comes in as looking like the best value too.
As you'll see from my photos and looking at my requirements above, I needed to be able to charge my microUSB Android phone(s), my USB Type C Lumias (though more Android phones are now adopting this) and my wife and daughter's iPhones, both with Lightning ports. And I don't think I'm unusual in needing to be this flexible.
The solution had to be something with a standard USB port into which I could throw ultra-short charging cables of the three different types. Then I could rubber-band the EC charger and small cables and put them in a coat pocket, quite literally ready for anything!
Comments welcome on my solution(s) here - will this gadget or something similar help you and your family with their smartphone needs when you're with them?
PS. As I said, the EC charger comes with just the small microUSB lead, but I managed to find very short USB Type C and Lightning cables too, all in my gadget drawers. Ahem. If you're having trouble finding similar, see the links on the line above? There are also new 'multi-head' cables such as this one, more expensive and somewhat untried and tested. But again, comments welcome if you get one of these instead.
Published by Steve Litchfield at 20:59 UTC, September 28th