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Despite all the advances in technology of the last decade, batteries are still shockingly bad – taking up the bulk of most modern devices and rarely lasting a full day of use. Which is where whopping great external battery packs like the Poweradd Apollo Pro come in, with automatic solar charging and 23,000mAh of power – or about 3.5 iPads worth. I’ve been putting one to the test. And today, we’ll be offering it in our giveaway!

The Poweradd Apollo Pro costs $110. If your interests lie solely with solar charging ability and not a battery pack, the Anker 14W foldable USB charger will perform better, at only $70. Poweradd also offer a smaller form-facter, 10,000mAh model for $45, more suited to small devices like an iPhone. EC Tech offer a similarly sized battery pack (22,400 mAh) for $50, though without any solar charging abilities.

First Impressions

Our purchase was supplied with a free carry case separate to the main package. This thing is heavy at just over 1.3 kilograms in the box, and not much lighter when out of it.

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What’s in the box?

A ridiculously large number of power adapters is supplied for every DC power jack known to humanity; these are used for laptops, or generic 12V input like an Arduino. On the other side is a USB port, with an extendable cable supplied and adapters for mini-USB, micro-USB, and an old style Apple 30 pin connector – yet curiously not the new Lightning connector. Since it’s a standard USB port, you can just plug your own adapter straight in – the supplied mini cable is just for convenience.

An AC power adaptor is also supplied for charging the battery from a wall plug, in case you live somewhere like the UK where the sun rarely shines and all solar devices are essentially rendered useless.

  • 10 DC barrel jack charging heads
  • 50 centimeter extension cable for DC charging
  • Coiled USB charging cable
  • Micro USB, Mini USB, Apple 30 pin, and minuscule 1mm wide jack (I have no idea what it’s for) USB charging heads
  • User manual

The USB charger heads and cables aren’t interchangeable with the DC jack – which is a good thing, because you’d fry your mobile devices if you pumped 12V into them, which is what the DC power is designed for. A simple slide switch changes between 12C, 16C, and 19C, for charging larger devices like laptops. No AC power socket is available. Here’s the full list of the more obscure DC plugs supplied.

  • A – 6.00×4.25 – Sony VAIO
  • B – 6.25×3.00 – Toshiba Satellite A105, M35
  • C – 5.50×2.10 – Toshiba T1950, T4700 / Acer Aspire 1200
  • D – 4.75×1.70 – ASUS Eee 900, 1000
  • E – 5.50×1.70 – Acer Aspire One AO722 AO725
  • H – 5.00×3.25 – Samsung N130, N310
  • I – Dell 3Pin – Any Dell Laptop use a 3 Pin adapter
  • J – 7.40×5.00 – HP Pavilion DV6 / HP G60, G61/ HP Compaq CQ60, CQ61 / HP 550 / Dell inspiron 1525, E1505
  • K – 7.90×5.40 – ThinkPad T60, X60, R6

Although it’s rare you’d need anything other than a single adapter, it would have been nice if the supplied carry case had room for all the adapters and cables too; this seems a common feature on the foldable solar panels.

A single click of the bright orange button displays the current charge level – it’s supplied fully charged. Hold down for a longer time on the button and the front super-bright white LED is activated – not that I can see anyone wanting to use this hulking beast as a wieldy flashlight, but it’s useful for emergencies.

Charging Time

A full charge of my third-generation iPad took just about 6 hours; the Nexus 7 took about 4 hours; my iPhone 5s took about 2 hours. After charging both the iPad and Nexus, the battery was showing a 25% charge left, which works out roughly with stated battery capacities of 11,560 mAh for the iPad, 4,235 mAh for 2012 model Nexus 7, from a total 23,000 mAh in the Poweradd Apollo Pro.

The unit can be charged either from a wall plug, with the full battery replenished overnight; or can be trickle charged from solar. The problem with the solar charging is that it doesn’t appear capable of charging the device once the battery has dropped to 50% or less. I suspect this is because the small solar panel just doesn’t have enough oomph (that’s a technical term) to kickstart the battery charging process, even in bright sunlight – so relying upon this for an emergency situation where there’s no wall outlets available probably isn’t a good idea. Batteries requires a large voltage for the initial stages of charging; later, a smaller charge is all that’s needed, at which point the solar cell can handle. As far as I can tell, this isn’t confirmed in the product literature, so it may be the case that our British springtime sun just isn’t strong enough.

In theory, a full charge of the battery will take 24 hours of optimal sun (15V 230mAh solar cell, for a 23000mAh/85Wh battery capacity)

Living with the Apollo Pro

Here’s where I hit a snafu: I own a MacBook air, which can’t be charged with the Apollo Pro due to the lack of MagSafe adapter. In fairness, this is Apple’s fault and not Poweradd’s — they make non-standard power cables with tiny micro-circuits in them to prevent third party devices from working without a licence. It’s a part of the Apple tax, but it does somewhat limit the usage of these niche power solutions. Regular laptops and anything that charges from USB will work fine.

In practice, I was able to use the solar panel to keep my iPhone charged for a week without requiring any external input. Once I tried to charge a tablet as well, the battery depleted to 50% and solar no longer seemed to replenish any charge.

In terms of usability, I was expecting to have to switch modes between charging or discharging – that’s not the case. Solar charging occurs automatically when placed into sunlight. Charging a device requires a single push of the button; and solar charging/battery discharging can be done simultaneously. The only real setup you need to do is ensuring the correct DC voltage is set for your laptop.

Should you buy the Poweradd Apollo Pro?

I’m in two minds about the Apollo Pro. On the one hand, my dreams of running away to live off grid or survive the zombie apocalypse have been thoroughly dashed; this battery will need a wall socket to fully charge – the solar is just an added extra that will prolong its life as long as you don’t use it too much at a time.

On the other hand, 23,000mAh is a truly monstrous capacity that, in practice, will provide a full charge for an iPad, a Nexus 7, and a mobile phone – which could make all the difference if you’re stranded in your car or otherwise; and the ability to run other DC devices that require higher power is a great addition.

MakeUseOf recommends: As long as solar charging isn’t your priority, the Poweradd Apollo Pro is great external battery pack. For purely solar charging, look elsewhere.

How do I win the Poweradd Apollo Pro?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, May 9. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

The Winner

Congratulations, Gareth Howe! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before May 22 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

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

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