Under the Radar

Tweak Your Battery Life With Power Practical

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Power Practical Electronics makes the Powerpot V, an innovative and lightweight camping cook pot that also converts heat to electricity to charge your smartphone. They didn't send us one of those, but we did get a chance to check out their Lithium 4400 Battery Bank and Practical Meter.

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The Lithium 4400 is small (3.5" x 2" x 1"), light (4.2 oz.) and comes with a built-in 4 LED flashlight. It features a sturdy rubberized construction but doesn't have any protective covers for the charging ports. It delivered 2.5 full charges to a depleted iPhone 5s with no use of the flashlight. Performance is going to be reduced if you're using the light, but that's still a lot of recharging from a device this size

It comes with a micro USB charging cable that can be reversed to charge most Android phones. If you've got an Apple device, you'll need to bring your own lightning or 30-pin cable.  The device used to ship with a 3-in-1 fast charge cable (described below), but none of those three is an Apple lightning connector.

Power Practical sells them for $59.99 with free shipping on their website and that's pretty much the final price you'll find if you search other online retailers. That's not cheap but the price is in line with the battery size. We've reviewed less expensive options, but you're not getting as much charging capacity at the lower price.

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The Practical Meter sells for $24.99 and promises to tell you how much power your charger is delivering to your phone or tablet. It comes with a 3-in-1 fast charge cable that includes 30-pin, micro USB and mini USB connectors (no lightning connector). The cable won't transfer data and promises to charge your device more quickly than the standard issue cable.

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The meter plugs into the USB connection on your charging source and then you plug the USB cable that's connected to your device into the meter. The lights show the amount of power delivered to your device from 1 t0 10 watts.

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The Practical Meter was the beneficiary of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign last year, so there's obviously a lot of gearheads who need to know the truth about the charging capacity of their devices. I tested a drawer full of cables and chargers and discovered that one of our off-brand wall chargers is really not performing as promised and another off-brand charger significantly outperforms the Apple charger that came with the phone. I also found out that one of my lightning cables is doing such a terrible job that it needs replacement.

The truth is that I haven't ever really noticed either charger's performance before, but I'm the kind of person who's tweaking my connected devices like they're a 1969 Dodge Charger, either. If you really need to know all those details, the Practical Meter really works.

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