I’m obsessed with end-of-the-world fiction, and I’ve found myself slowly stocking up on gadgets that might come in handy after an apocalypse. I have a closet filled with walkie-talkies, hand-crank radios, movement-powered flashlights and other useful items. (I tell my wife they’re for more mundane emergencies, like blackouts.)
Ergo my interest in Energizer’s $150 All-In-One power box. Essentially a giant battery designed to be charged and then tossed into your trunk, it can boost your car’s battery, inflate tires, provide power to portable gadgets and shed a little light via its LED spotlight. I figured it was the sort of device Mad Max might keep in his Interceptor to help manage roadside emergencies. Those that don’t involve crazed gangs, anyway.
There’s something about its rugged, toolbox-like exterior and 10-kilogram heft that suggests it means business. It was clearly designed with simplicity and efficiency in mind. Its three primary functions are colour-coded and require only a modicum of technical know-how.
I didn’t have occasion to jump a car battery during my evaluation, but the process requires only three clearly numbered steps. Press a big green “check” button to see if the battery has enough juice for the boost, attach the jumper cables – which are docked to the unit’s sides and marked with giant positive and negative signs – to your car’s battery, and flip the giant green dial from “off” to “jump.” Hit the ignition and your car should roar back to life.
The air pump is similarly straightforward. A hose flows out of a cubby in the back and has a trio of nozzles to accommodate tires, balls and other inflatable objects. Just connect the hose, toggle on the 250 pounds-per-square-inch compressor, and keep an eye on the pressure gauge built into the side of the box.
The All-In-One’s power inverter, meanwhile, provides juice to most 120-volt AC devices – assuming they don’t consume more than 200 watts. It powered a laptop, car vacuum, and kettle without problem. Sadly, my wife will have to survive Judgment Day without her high-power hairdryer, which kept flipping the unit’s circuit breaker during my tests. A single standard three-prong outlet plus a pair of 12-volt DC car lighter jacks lets the unit provide power to up to three gizmos at once. I just wish the balance were reversed; I have more use for standard outlets than car lighter ports.
It takes 24 hours to recharge the battery once fully depleted. Energizer recommends doing this once every three months, or after each use. According to the instruction booklet, a fully charged unit will deliver 18 hours of charging time to phone-like gadgets via the AC jack and provide constant juice to a running appliance like a small television for a couple of hours.
I tested the battery by connecting a laptop with WiFi on, screen set to maximum brightness, and sleep mode turned off. The All-In-One lasted a little under half a day. I was a little disappointed by this. Should the world end, I hope to devise strategies to rebuild the world by playing Sid Meier’s Civilization V, a decent game of which lasts a lot longer than 12 hours.
I imagined a couple of other ways in which Energizer’s All-In-One might be improved, too.
For starters, it doesn’t have its own power cord. Its plug is embedded in a recessed compartment on the back of the unit. That means you’ll need an extension cord to charge it. I’d have preferred a short, reeled cord housed inside the battery case.
And the lamp, found on the end of a bendable metal arm hidden inside the battery’s handle, is on the wimpy side. It has just four LEDs, which provide enough light to illuminate the pages of a book and little else. A bigger head with a dozen or more lights would be much more useful in emergency situations that demand a little luminosity.
These issues aside, Energizer’s portable power box should prove practical for anyone predisposed to prepare themselves for the end of the world. If you just want the sort of peace of mind that comes with knowing you can jump your Pontiac in a pinch, it’ll provide that, too.