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Review: Innovative, portable power solutions Add to ...

USBCELL AA Rechargeable Batteries ($15.97 per two battery package)

A few years ago, two events led to a drastic increase in battery usage in my house: the advent of wireless game controllers and the birth of my electronic-toy-loving daughter. We use traditional rechargeable batteries when possible, but they're a hassle and we never seem to have enough around. That's why USBCELL batteries are so welcome.

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The tops of these clever little Ni-MH double-A batteries are attached with elastics and pop off, revealing a USB jack. You can plug them into any USB outlet (I've been using my laptop, desktop PC, and game consoles) to top up their power reserves, which means there's no need for separate charging devices in the home or while traveling. An LED light flashes when they reach 90 per cent capacity and switches off when they're full.

It takes around six or seven hours to fully charge a depleted USBCELL battery, but the initial charge is quick-I can plug it in for just a few minutes to get enough juice to power my Xbox 360 controller for several hours. I haven't conducted any formal battery drain tests, but my impression is that a fully charged USBCELL battery lasts for around the same length of time as the batteries I used to buy in bulk.

Once I amass enough of these ingenious energy vessels I plan to never buy a single-use double-A battery ever again. USBCELL's website notes that they have triple-A, C, D, 9-volt, and even some popular cell phone batteries in the works right now. They can't come fast enough for our family.

Callpod Chargepod ($59.99)

Dealing with tangled power cords at home sucks. So does the need to drag along half a dozen chargers for your portable gear while traveling. Callpod's six-in-one Chargepod is an elegant solution to both of these problems.

Reminiscent of an octopus, one of the dock's cables plugs into the wall while the rest jack into your gadgets. A bright blue LED indicates charging status. It recharges most devices in about the same amount of time as a standard power adapter.

Of course, the trick is making sure that you have the proper adapters for your devices. Callpod includes three common adapters in the box: mini-USB, micro-USB, and iPod/iPhone connectors. More than 3,000 additional adapters from scores of manufacturers are available through the company's website, but at about $10 each they're a bit pricey.

The standard Bundle Pack comes with a voucher for one free adapter of your choice, while the Value Pack, which costs $10 more, comes with three vouchers. Also in the box is a car adapter (which I didn't have occasion to test) and a carrying pouch.

If the included adapters and voucher(s) cover all your needs, then Chargepod is a no-brainer. It will make your life cleaner and easier. However, if you have a large collection of portable devices each with its own unique power jack then the cost of additional adapters could make clutter-free charging an expensive endeavor.





Scosche flipSYNC Keychain Charger ($19.99)

It's easy to imagine forgetting your cell phone charger while leaving your home or office, but it's unlikely you'd forget your car keys. It follows, then, that if you attached your charger to your keychain, you'd never forget it.

That's the idea behind Scosche's flipSYNC keychain charger, a device that looks more or less like a remote entry car fob. It's available in two varieties: one comes with mini-USB and micro-USB jacks attached to short cords that cleverly plug into each other for storage while the other sports Apple's proprietary iPhone/iPod connector. The USB model charges other USB devices as well, including cameras, music players, and GPS nav units.

And, as the name suggests, it doesn't just charge your phone, it also lets you sync it with another device, which could come in handy should you ever need to move large amounts data from your handset to your computer or vice versa.

The flipSYNC provides peace of mind at an affordable price. It's like a Swiss army knife for geeks: just put it on your keychain and forget about it until you need it.



Konnet PowerV Quad Advanced Induction Charger and Storage Dock for Wii Controllers (US$49.99)

Konnet makes great charging devices for all sorts of gadgets, but my favourites are those designed for game controllers. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 editions have been around for a while, but now Nintendo fans have been shown some love with the PowerV Quad, which is currently available to Canadians through Konnet's online store.

Whereas the company's previous gamepad rechargers required users to plug their controllers into the dock, the PowerV Quad uses induction technology, which means you simply need lay your Wii remote in a cradle to begin wireless power transference. It works through the remote's silicone jacket and with the Wii MotionPlus peripheral attached, so there's no need to disassemble anything.

The dock comes with a quartet of rechargeable batteries designed specially for Nintendo's motion-sensitive remote. Individual LED lights indicate power levels, shining red while charging and blue (to match the Wii disc slot's cobalt glow) when complete, at which point the flow of power stops, to prevent overcharging and save electricity.

Althought it takes up a bit of room, the dock looks smart set beside a Wii. It's an easy recommendation for avid users of Nintendo's console.



Follow on Twitter: @chadsapieha

 

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