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Backup batteries effective in tryout, but don't overload Power Grid

By MELISSA L. JONES SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published August 4, 2014 at 2:12 a.m.

special-to-the-democrat-gazettemelissa-l-jones-the-jackery-leaf-left-and-tego-powers-power-grid-are-two-backup-battery-options-for-those-needing-more-power-for-their-smartphones-or-tablet-computers

Special to the Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA L. JONES The Jackery Leaf (left) and Tego Power's Power Grid are two backup battery options for those needing more power for their smartphones or tablet computers.

where it’s @

The Jackery Leaf requires a USB connection. The product retails for $99.95 but is currently on sale for $59.95. More information is available at jackeryusa.com. Tego Power’s Power Grid also requires a USB port for charging. The product retails for $59. More information is available at tegopower.com.

With the start of school only a few weeks away, many are taking a last-minute summer vacation.

While on the road, people are using their smartphones and tablet computers to navigate, take photos, even blog about their trips (or in the case of a few of my friends, brag about it on social media).

With all that activity, smartphone and tablet batteries empty quickly. It doesn't hurt to have a spare battery to carry around, just in case.

I tried out two such products this week, trying to find a good solution for travelers.

Jackery has a new product for iPhone users, a case that slips into a backup battery to charge whenever needed. The battery is thin enough to stay on the phone if needed, or it can slide off and slip into a pocket or purse.

The Jackery Leaf currently comes with two iPhone cases, a white one and an orange one. The cases are very thin and pop onto the phone. The top and bottom are open to allow access to the buttons and ports, and a slit on the left provides access to the phone's mute switch and volume buttons.

The case itself doesn't offer much protection. It barely rises above the sides of the phone, so dropping the phone on its face could damage it. The case does cover the vulnerable corners, but being made of hard plastic, it doesn't offer much cushion should the phone fall.

It does have a teardrop-shaped hole on the back. It may seem strange, but it's there for a reason. It catches a small post on the inside of the battery as the phone slides into place. The post helps hold the phone in place when it docks with the connector at the bottom.

The battery adds some thickness to the phone, but not much, about a quarter-inch to the bottom of the phone and less than that to the back along the bottom where the bulk of the battery lies. It's not too bulky as to make the phone more difficult to use. The only issue may be getting a headphone jack into the phone. In response, the battery comes with a headphone extension cord to make it easier.

The battery takes about five hours to charge, giving it the ability to completely charge a phone with a bit extra. A thin LCD light on the back lets you know how much charge is left. Green is 75-100 percent charge, blue is 35-75 percent and red is 10-35 percent. The light blinks red when it gets below 10 percent or runs out. A button below it illuminates the light and can turn the battery on or off to charge.

The Leaf doesn't offer much protection, but it does offer a nice battery that travels well attached or detached from the phone. It's nice to have the option to slide the battery on or off when needed.

The next battery is made for most smart devices -- at least those that charge by USB.

The Power Grid from Tego Power has two USB ports on the bottom for charging devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

The child in me loves the look of the Power Grid -- it looks like a large Lego block. Two standard USB ports on the bottom are ready for the power cords needed to charge digital devices. A micro-USB port on the side of the device allows it to be charged.

The front and back have raised, blue circles that give it that Lego look. A small line across one of the corner circles indicates the power button. The button can be toggled to illuminate the rest of the circles in that bottom row, showing how much power the device has left. One light is 1-20 percent, two is 21-40 percent, and on to five lights. The light for the current battery level blinks when the power button is pressed.

The Power Grid is about the size of a pack of cards, so it's easy to carry it around. Like the Leaf, it takes about five hours to fully charge. However, while it will give a full charge to a smartphone, it won't give as much charge to a tablet computer.

The Power Grid says it can charge two "authorized" products at once but when I hooked an iPad Mini and an iPhone to it simultaneously, it only charged for a short time, overloaded and shut itself off. The last time I tried it, I could hear the unmistakable high-pitched whine of electric overload. I unplugged the Mini, and the Power Grid worked just fine, staying on to charge the iPhone until the grid ran out of juice.

The good news is that the Power Grid will shut itself off when it recognizes it's overloading. The bad news is users have no idea if it's going to feed back into the devices and damage them. So, although the Power Grid claims it can charge an iPad and another device at once, I'd highly recommend charging an iPad separately to avoid overload.

Of the two products, I'd recommend the Jackery Leaf over the Power Grid, assuming you have an iPhone. If you decide on the Power Grid, just be careful charging another device alongside a tablet computer.

Either way, it's good to have a backup on the road, especially if the smartphone is telling you which road to take.

SundayMonday Business on 08/04/2014

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