Laptop battery life matters a great deal. The difference between having 6 and 10 hours of endurance could be the difference between finishing your report or shutting down until you find an outlet. Unfortunately, most accessory makers haven't gotten the memo, as they only sell charging products for phones and tablets. Enter the Energizer XP18000A ($144), a 1-pound external battery that's worth its weight in gold, because it can double your notebook battery life or power a tablet/smartphone for an entire weekend.
Click to EnlargeAt 7.1 x 4.3 x 0.7 inches, the Energizer XP18000A appears large at first glance, but it was thin and light enough to fit into a small interior pocket in our laptop bag. The 1-pound box-shaped battery is a little bit lighter than a 10-inch tablet, and adds little heft to your bag or briefcase.
The XP18000A, which is made by XPAL Power but sold under the Energizer brand name, won't win any beauty contests, but its simple black plastic, rectangular chassis won't embarrass you either. The top surface sports a tiny Energizer logo and a battery indicator with four blue lights. Hit the button next to the lights and one to four of them will light up, depending on how much charge you have left. While charging, the lights activate from right to left with the next level blinking and all bars to the right of it solid, until the battery is at full capacity.
The right short side of the battery has four ports: a power-in for charging the battery, a 16 to 20V power out for powering notebooks, a USB port for charging phones and tablets and a 9 to 12V port for connecting to portable DVD players and cameras.
Tips and Connections
Click to EnlargeThe Energizer XP18000A comes with a broad selection of charging tips and wires for notebooks, phones and other portable devices. In addition to its power brick and power-in cable, the battery comes with wires for both its 16 to 20 and 9 to 12V ports and a series of heads that connect to each wire. There are six notebook heads for the higher capacity port, and these fit many models of notebook from Dell, Toshiba, Acer, Sony and HP.
However, XPAL has tips for just about every notebook ever made on its Tip Finder site (tipfinder.xpalpower.com) and promises XP18000A owners two free tips a year, as long as they pay a minimal shipping charge. We ordered a pair of tips for a Lenovo ThinkPad, paid just $3.95 for shipping, and they arrived after a little more than a week.
The XPAL tip finder also has wires for charging MacBooks. However, because only Apple sells its MagSafe connector, users must buy an offiicial Apple MagSafe airline adapter ($49.95) to connect to the wire that XPAL provides. If your MacBook has the newer MagSafe 2 connector (common in models released from mid-2012 on), you will also need a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter ($9.99).
Unfortunately, we didn't find any tips on XPAL's site for the new flat power connector Lenovo has started using on its newest notebooks, including the IdeaPad Yoga. However, the company offers a support email form to help you find the tips you need.
The battery also comes with tips for connecting to portable DVD players or connecting to an older iPhone or iPad. Users with iPhone 5s or iPads that use the lightning dock can simply use the lightning to USB connector that came with their devices.
Click to EnlargeWith its AC adapter attached, the battery took between 3 and 4 hours to charge. When you carry the XP18000A, you can leave your notebook's power brick at home. When it is plugged into an outlet, you can plug your notebook into XP18000A and charge both at the same time.
XPAL claims that the Energizer XP18000A is rated to provide 500 charge cycles. We did not have time to verify this claim through testing.
Click to EnlargeWhile you can use the Energizer XP18000A to charge a device, you can also use it power a device and preserve its internal battery level. The XP18000A acts like a power outlet, allowing your notebook to draw juice from it as needed.
With the XP18000A sitting in our bag on the floor, we were able to run the charging cable to a laptop that we positioned on our lap, allowing the external battery to power the notebook. Instead of waiting until your laptop runs out of juice to connect the XP18000A, we recommend that you use it to maintain your notebook's charge for those times and places where you don't have room to whip out an external battery.
Click to EnlargeWhen we used it, the XP18000A stayed cool, allowing us to keep it in our bag to charge devices while we walked around. We could also imagine keeping a hotspot or other small device in our bag and using this to make sure it stays alive all day.
In our tests, the 18,000 mAh Energizer XP18000A added a significant amount of endurance to the devices we attached to it. With the XP18000A connected to a Lenovo ThinkPad X230 with its internal battery removed, the Energizer battery powered the notebook for 7 hours and 59 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi) all by itself. That's an hour longer than 6 hours and 56 minutes that the X230 got with its own 6-cell battery. Of course, the XP18000A is meant to supplement, not replace, your notebook's battery. In this case, the external battery would have more than doubled the X230's endurance, allowing it to last for nearly 15 hours in total.
The less power your device consumes, the more endurance the Energizer XP18000A willl provide. When we attached a Google Nexus 7 tablet to the battery, it lasted an amazing 33.5 hours on the LAPTOP Battery test, 26 hours more than that tablet gets with its internal battery alone.
You can use all three ports--the 16 to 20V, the 9 to 12V and the USB power port--at the same time, allowing you to juice three different devices at once. The amount of power your gadgets draw together will determine your endurance.
Competition and Alternate Model
There are few other companies that make external batteries capable of powering a laptop. Most of the big names in the charging accessory space--Mophie, New Trent, Belkin, Targus, Griffin, Kensington, etc.--have ignored this pressing need.
At first glance, Veho's $69.95 Pebble XT Pro looks like a viable competitor because it costs less, weighs just 0.87 pounds and comes with tips for more notebook brands than the XP18000A. However, the Pebble XT Pro is designed to turn itself off after your device is charged, preventing you from powering a device. We own the XT Pro and, in our experience, the battery sometimes turns itself off even when our laptop or phone is not done charging. At 13,000 mAh, it also has 27 percent less power than the XP18000A.
HyperJuice makes a series of external batteries for MacBooks that range in price from $169.95 for a 0.8 pound, 60 watt-hour unit to a $449.95 for a 4.7-pound, 222 watt-hour battery behemoth. Unfortunately, these batteries aren't made to work with PCs and only come with a MacBook adapter, which you must attach to a MagSafe Airline connector ($49.99) and, for newer MacBooks, a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter ($9.99). You can also connect to the HyperJuice by purchasing the company's "magic box," cutting open the wire on MacBook's AC adapter and routing the wires through it.
The original version of this battery, XPAL's Energizer XP18000, is still sold at a number of outlets for around the same price as the XP18000A. We've tested this earlier model extensively and it provides identical performance and looks nearly the same, except that the Energizer logo on its top surface is much larger. According to XPAL, the main difference between the old and new models is that XP18000A corrects a problem with iPad charging.
Click to EnlargeWIth the average ultraportable notebook lasting just over 6 hours on our battery test and many new models coming with sealed-in batteries, the Energizer XP18000A is a must-have accessory for users who require true all-day battery life. Having this much juice can even change your work habits, allowing you to sit on the other side of the coffee shop from the outlet or take your notebook outside, because you know you don't have to worry about charging.
Even if you don't spend a lot of time using your laptop far from power outlets, you'll still appreciate this battery's ability to power your notebook for hours or juice your phone or tablet for days during an outage. At $144.99, the XP18000A may not be the cheapest thing you buy for your laptop, but considering the endurance it offers, it's a bargain.