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The biggest complaint about mobile devices today is short battery life. While computers have grown exponentially faster, battery technology hasn’t improved significantly – and that’s a problem. While we eagerly await the next generation of batteries, we’re left with but one choice to extend the life of our gadgets: external batteries.

Intocircuit are battery specialists, and their Power Castle PC26000 is a real beast, packing versatility and oodles of power into a real value-for-money package. Read on to find out why – and win your own.

intocircuit PCastle 26000mAh - box

The Intocircuit Power Castle 26,000 mAh external battery pack is available now from Amazon for $99.99. It’s a buyers market though, so for alternatives and a cost analysis, scroll down to the later in the review.  We also previously reviewed Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000mAh Solar Battery and Charger Review and Giveaway Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000mAh Solar Battery and Charger Review and Giveaway We tested the Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000mAh external battery pack with automatic solar charging. Read More the Poweradd Apollo Pro ($110), a 23,000mAh model with a weak solar panel built-in.

Contents

  • Wall charger (18.5V)
  • 75cm straight male-male DC cable
  • 50cm coiled USB adaptor cable
  • Numerous adaptors

intocircuit PCastle 26000mAh - contents

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There are no less than 22 different kind of adaptors and connectors provided, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say ten are for mobile devices, and twelve of them are for laptops and other devices. The laptop list includes major manufacturers like Sony, ASUS, HP, Lenovo and Dell – but notably absent is any generation of Apple MagSafe (probably due to licensing costs, but Google informs me a custom cable can be made) – check out the Amazon listing for a full breakdown of compatible laptops (though not being listed doesn’t mean it isn’t compatible, just that it might not be).

The mobile adaptors includes the Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, and an old 30-pin iPod connector – but not a newer Apple Lightning cable (again, licensing restrictions). Most of these you simply won’t need, but they’re a handy set to have around the house anyway.

A soft flannelette case with drawstring is also included.

intocircuit PCastle 26000mAh - product shot

Design and Specifications

  • Input: 15-19V (18.5V 2A wall charger is included)
  • Output: (1) USB port 5V at 2.1A (2) Variable DC port 12V/16V/19V at 3.42A max
  • Dimensions: 185mm x 125mm x 20mm
  • Weight: 665 grams
  • Battery Type: Lithium Polymer

intocircuit PCastle 26000mAh - switch and ports

From a design perspective, the case is a brushed aluminium alloy – but thinly plated – and the solid black plastic underneath is clearly visible where the top and bottom case plates are joined. It feels both solid, but slightly cheap, at the same time. Of course, it’s an external battery, so looks aren’t a priority. It’ll certainly stand up well to everyday knocks and scrapes, but it’s not exactly what I’d define as “rugged”. In terms of weight, it’s about two thirds of the weight of an 11-inch Macbook Air, so not insignificant at all. If I had to choose between carrying this or a power cable, I’d probably choose the power cable unless I was certain there’d be no sockets.

There’s a single USB port which should provide a maximum of 2.1 amps; and a single DC out socket to provide a variable 12/16/19V, selected with the central side switch and indicated on a front LED panel. Next to the DC out, on the far edge, is an identical DC in port for charging. Though labelled on the front of the device, I can easily see these being mixed up.

Cost Per 1,000mAh Analysis

The market is flooded with portable batteries. Just last month, we gave away a 10,400 mAh unit from Lumsing Lumsing Powerbank 10,400 mAh Portable Battery Pack Review and Giveaway Lumsing Powerbank 10,400 mAh Portable Battery Pack Review and Giveaway So many devices, so little power. The Lumsing 10,400mAh battery pack is a portable backup for when times are demanding. Read More . So how does the Intocircuit Power Castle compare to some other generic portable batteries? I took a random selection of popular, budget battery packs and did the math.

* Note that the Lumsing model has only been included for comparison sake: it provides only USB 5V output, not a variable DC output suitable for laptops, and doesn’t include a wall charger. Purely in terms of cost per battery capacity, it appears to be cheaper, but doesn’t provide the additional functionality that the other models do.

The data doesn’t lie: when compared like-for-like, the Power Castle wins as being the best value for money, no doubt about it.

intocircuit PCastle 26000mAh - flat on table

Living with the Intocircuit Power Bank, and Performance

You can simultaneously charge both your laptop and a USB device, as well as charge the battery and discharge to devices at the same time – however, if your laptop draws a significant current, you may find the screen flickering as the battery cycles through periods of charging and discharging.

Charge retention is excellent: after 3 weeks, not a single LED indicator worth of power had been depleted, though this could still mean a loss of anything up to around 20% of the total charge.

The only real concern I have is the white lettering to indicate which ports are for DC in, DC out, and the different voltages. In heavy outdoor use, I think these would deteriorate, and there’s no other way to differentiate than simply remembering – best to keep the manual handy in case this does happen.

intocircuit PCastle 26000mAh - ports detail

The choice of supplying a 18.5V wall charger, and only accepting 15-19V input, irks me a little. I have many, many 12V devices and chargers sitting around the house, so making these interchangeable should one or the other break would have been of great utility to me. I suspect additional circuitry would have been required to step up the 12 to 19V, but still.

Though the USB socket is labelled as 2.1A, my third-generation iPad would only draw about 1 amp when using the 30-pin adapter supplied with the Power Bank, so charging was understandably slow. Switching to an original Apple cable sorted this, and it went up to around 1.8A.

When considering how much usage you’ll get out of this, battery inefficiencies must also considered – a 30 percent loss due to heat, voltage conversion, and charging circuits would not be unreasonable. Realistically, you should be able to fully charge an iPad (third or fourth generation) around one and half times from the Power Castle.

All things considered, the performance of the Power Castle is good, but do be careful about using original cables for Apple devices.

It Right For You?

The single USB port is limiting: if you were hoping to charge multiple USB devices from this behemothic battery pack, look elsewhere. For a single USB device and any kind of laptop, or even simply as the cheapest 12V external battery around – at $99, the Intocircuit Power Castle represents great value for money.

MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it if you need an extra portable laptop charger; look else where if you’ll just be charging USB devices.

How Do I Win The Intocircuit Power Castle 26,000mAh Portable Charger?

Intocircuit Power Castle 26,000mAh Portable Charger

For mobile users, click here to enter.

The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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