Portable power solution takes charging to a new level.
When it comes to charging your portable devices, it’s unfortunate that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for recharging all your devices at once. I’ve been dealing with individual power banks for several years now and find myself switching back and forth a lot because I can’t charge my phone, tablet, and even my laptop from one source while I’m on the go. There are a few options out there (like the Omnicharge) but many of them are too cost-prohibitive to be worth the investment. I was just introduced to the Volt Power Station from Naztech and I think I’ve found the one power bank to rule them all.
The Volt Power Station is a 27,000 mAh battery that features 3 high-speed USB ports and one built-in AC outlet. The AC outlet makes it possible for you to not only charge devices like laptops, but it also allows you to use a wall charger and have a fourth USB port available if needed. The AC outlet is ‘universal’ and works with all standard U.S. AC plugs. It provides 110V/85W of power for charging. In addition to that, there is a single USB-C high-power port that delivers up to 5V/3A for charging devices. The two USB ports provide two different levels of charging. One is a dedicated Qualcomm QC 3.0 port. It is designed to charge devices 4X faster than standard chargers. The other port pushes out 5V/2.4A. Both ports are powerful enough to charge tablets as well as smartphones. The power bank has adaptive fast charging which means that the voltage output will be dynamically adjusted for maximum efficiency. The power bank comes with an AC wall charger, International wall socket adapter (AU/US/UK/EU) and a user manual.
The Volt arrived in a creatively branded box consisting of an outer sleeve and an inner box. The exterior features nice photo of the product along with many details of the power bank. The interior box housed the battery itself, the accessories including the AC wall adapter and international wall outlet. The user manual is a multi-lingual booklet with approximately 15 pages of instructions written out in English, Spanish and French. When I first got the Volt out of its box, I figured I knew what I was doing. As it turns out, I needed to pull out the instruction manual in order to get the unit working. Here are some of the things I came across while I was working with the Volt.
No Pass Through Charging – This is sort of a thorn in my side because I rely on convenience especially when it comes to charging my devices. Pass-Through charging is the ultimate in convenience because you can not only recharge your power bank but also power your connected devices, too. I was really surprised to find that you cannot charge mobile devices at the same time you are charging the Volt. The manual outlines this lack of functionality on page 6 under the headline “Charging Your Volt” but before reading that I tried charging my devices a few times while the Volt was recharging. I thought the ports were malfunctioning at first and then I read the manual.
Hot Spots while Charging – Even though the Volt features Adaptive Fast Charge technology, which should reduce the amount of heat put out by the battery, I felt several hot spots on the power bank. This mainly occurred while I was charging my MacBook Pro using the built-in AC outlet and when I was recharging the Volt, but it was concerning because of the amount of heat I detected. At three separate times, I recorded 112º F, 109º F, and 115º F near the AC outlet while my laptop was charging. I have the 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) so it only draws 61W and since the AC outlet should produce up to 85W safely, I was surprised at the amount of heat I recorded. I also detected 106º F when the Volt was recharging from a power outlet. The USB ports did not have the same problem. I did not notice any heat from those ports or surrounding surface of the battery while my iPhone and headphones were charging.
Confusing Controls for AC/DC Power – This might not phase some people, but when I plug my devices into a charger, I want them to automatically start charging without having to press any buttons to activate that function. I have used many power banks that require this step and it’s really a big turn off for me as a consumer. The Volt takes this operation a step further by requiring that you not only have to press the power button in order to activate the USB port charging but then you also have to switch the AC outlet on in a different place. Now, I’ve worked with other AC power banks before like the Omnicharge. It requires that you power the charger on and then select your AC or DC power outlets. Even though this is a requirement for use, the buttons are located in the same place and there is no mistake about how to operate it. I ran into issues where I wasn’t sure if charging was active or not on the Volt. I also don’t like that you have to manually turn the battery off in order to make sure it’s not in standby mode. I would much prefer that it automatically turn off after an idle period. The manual recommends that you recharge the Volt every 3 weeks if you are an inactive user. Most power banks have a much longer lifespan with limited use. I have power banks that I don’t use for months and they still retain their charge.
Multiple Device Charging Options – With the Volt, you can charge up to 3 devices simultaneously — 2 USB-A powered devices and 1 USB-C device. If you are charging something with the AC outlet, it is recommended that you only charge one other device along with it or you will drain the battery too quickly.
After these initial observations, I did some field testing with my MacBook Pro, iPhone 7, and a pair of wireless headphones.
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016) – My MacBook Pro requires 61W of power delivery in order to charge. Because it received power through USB-C, I thought I would attempt to charge my laptop using a USB-C to USB-C cable. Unfortunately, this method did not work but using the laptop’s power adapter did. I plugged it into the AC outlet and switch the outlet on. After about 20 minutes of charging, I did start noticing quite a bit of heat on the surface of the battery as noted above. Here are my charging results.
|10:33 p.m.||70% (112º F)|
|10:51 p.m.||82% (109º F)|
|11:07 p.m.||93% (115º F)|
iPhone 7 – I charged the iPhone using the USB-A port (5V/2.4A). I did try out the QC 3.0 port but determined that since the iPhone couldn’t benefit from that connection that I would do the majority of my charging through the other port. Both ports registered a power delivery of 4.87V/1.31A when the iPhone 7 was plugged in and charging. I did not have the same heat issues that I did with the AC charging. In fact, the USB ports and the area around them were cool to the touch.
Wireless Headphones – I wanted to test out the power delivery of the USB-C port so I grabbed a pair of my wireless headphones to plugin. They charge using USB-C so I thought that were a good test case. Since the headphones don’t provide a battery percentage while they are charging, I didn’t take down those measurements, but I did note that the power delivery measurement was 5V/0.20A for the headphones. I took measurements of the charging headphones using both USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A to connect to the Volt. I got the same reading each time.
The Volt does a good job charging devices from its many power port options. For me, the Volt is missing some key functionality — pass-through charging being at the top of that list. I do like this for what it is but still, have concerns about the heat exchange I detected while I was using it. It is possible that this unit is defective, but aside from the heat, I haven’t perceived any other functional issues. The retail price of the Volt is approximately $200. This is on the high end (although not the highest) for portable power stations with AC built-in. I still see this being a valuable tool for charging on the go but would love to see some improvements made.