In our highly connected digital worlds, keeping on touch with everyone around us is virtually mandatory and as a result we find ourselves demanding more and more battery life from our mobile devices and smart phones. Naturally there is only so much power that can be crammed in to the shell of a smart phone and short of having a very bulky handset, the only real option for many of us is to stick near to a power source where we can give our phones a quick boost of power, although this is both inconvenient and unpractical. To keep us going, portable battery packs that allow us to charge our phones on the go have started cropping up through multiple vendors, making them a commodity for those of us that use our phones a lot whilst out on the go – myself being a prime example.
When it comes to selecting the right battery pack for your budget or needs, the number of options to choose from is huge and the vendors themselves know this. With the demand so high and the number of competing items growing at a rapid rate, every manufacturer is doing the best they can to set their products apart from the rest of the crowd, whether it be through design to suit a particular set of users, or through features and functionality by adding in additional features and accessories such as carry bags, torches, larger capacities and wireless charging capabilities. Whilst all off these products have a variety of designs and capacities, they all have internal batteries and when these come to the end of their working life, there is no option but to buy a new pack. Silverstone however believe they have to the solution to the problem of battery life, simply by removing the battery out of the equation, leaving the user the freedom to select their own batteries and thus the freedom to get a larger capacity of battery for a longer charge time,
Built into a metal casing with a plastic inside, Silverstone’s PB03 barging pack features a small LED light and also doubles up as an AA battery charger. With the cost of portable battery packs spread out across a fairly wide range of budgets, the real question to ask is whether you are better off in getting the PB03 and your own set of batteries, or should we stick to the plug and play units that require no user interaction apart from charging?
It goes without saying that we don’t expect there to be much included in the box alongside the battery and this is just the case with a short USB cable included for charging the battery pack (when rechargeable batteries are used) or connecting a mobile device that has a microUSB port.
A Closer Look
Looking a little closer at the PB03, we find the pack built with a robust metal exterior with the internals made out of plastic. With the dimensions of an AA battery having a large influence over the overall measurements of the pack, Silverstone have aimed to keep everything as small as possible to avoid having a product that is overly bulky.
On one end of the pack is a full-sized USB port with a red LED beside it for charging your mobile device. On this end of the unit we also find two plastic tabs which, once pinched together, allow the plastic frame from the metal casing to install and change the four batteries.
On the opposite of the pack is another USB port, this time with a microUSB connection, which allows the user to charge a set of batteries when flat without the need to remove them first. I will not that this does mean that you have to install a set of rechargeable batteries in the first instance. It may seem like an obvious point to make, but its one that has to be made all the same. Beside the USB port is a four-way switch which has four different settings, from the left to right these are for charging the installed batteries, turning the pack completely off, charging a mobile device through the USB port on the other end and powering on the built-in LED flash light.
As mentioned above, the PB03 features an LED flash light and this is built-in to the plastic internal frame on the opposite end to the switch. Whilst this is a tiny SMB-LED, the light that it has the capacity to deliver is far greater than that of a typical bulb that we find in some key ring sized torches. With this being an LED, the power consumption is also very low resulting in a minimal impact on the battery levels when in use.
Cage Installation & Use
With the PB03 shipping as a bare bones unit, we obviously need to supply our own set of batteries. By using our own batteries, we have the ability to control the overall purchase price for the charger, but more importantly its charging capacity. As we can see from the image below, I’m using a set of 2800mAh batteries and the batteries are arranged in a stacked formation with two batteries in each stack. By using 2800mAh batteries in my case, the PB03 will have a total capacity of 11200mAh which is far greater than the typical ~2-3000mAh that we have seen from a large number of ready to go packs.
The SMB-LED on the side of the unit as one would expect has a very bright output and the easiest way to describe how bright it is would be to compare it to most modern smart phones. With SMB-LED being the main element of modern smart phone cameras, we all know how bright they are and this is exactly what the PB03 has to offer.
When we look at the charging element of the PB03, the charging time is very subjective as the end-user has the option to install whatever batteries into the unit that they want to. Obviously the higher the capacity, the longer the available charging time there is, just remember that a decent set of rechargeable batteries will last a lot longer than a cheap and cheerful value set – even if they are rated with the same capacity.
As highlighted throughout this review, the overall pricing of this emergency mobile charger is largely influenced by the end users choice of AA batteries. For the sake of comparison, I’ve taken the price of the batteries that I use for my cameras flash gun which are available in the UK through 7DayShop.com (The 2800mAh batteries that I have here have been superseded with a 2900mAh cell, although they are that same price to buy) and as far as batteries go, they are some of the best that I’ve bought, having lasted me well over two years of constant heavy usage – a huge credit to 7DayShop here. With my batteries costing £4.99 (~$8.31) and the PB03 costing around £15 on Scan.co.uk with delivery or $16.99 through Amazon US, we are looking at a total cost of around £20 in the UK and $26 in the US.
Within the mobile accessories market, we know that there are countless portable chargers for our mobile devices and since the time when the first battery pack went on sale, we have seen numerous other options come to market, and whilst they all in effect do the same job, the difference in cost from the cheapest to the most expensive is rather large and this leaves people in a state of confusion. Fortunately the PB03 battery back from Silverstone eliminates the conundrum of deciding whether to go for price or capacity by giving the end-user the flexibility to decide what batteries they want to put in to the pack. Naturally this does mean that the PB03 is not quite plug-an-play out of the box, but if you are able to get a decent set of batteries for a good price, then why not consider something like this?
As far as the design and build of the PB03 goes, you do get a product with a solid build and a good feel of quality to it and you do get the added bonus of the flash light along with the ability to recharge the batteries without removing them, although it would have been nice to see a product that was a little less bulky. Had the PB-3 been designed with the four batteries laying side by side instead of the 2×2 fashion that we have here then I feel that the unit would have a more attractive design as it would fit more easily into a coat or trouser pocket for charging whilst on the move.
Due to the huge flexibility that the PB03 has in terms of potential capacity and the principle of having a bare-bones charger for mobile devices, I do have to credit Silverstone for being one of the first, if not the first to come out with this design and I look forward to see if anyone can come out with a better concept (perhaps by using AAA batteries instead of AA). To condense the whole review down into a single point, I am impressed to see that a battery pack with user changeable batteries has come to market, however the design of this particular unit is a bit marmite in my eyes and this is what is really holding this product back from an award.
- Barebones frame with space for user selectable batteries
- Can hold high-capacity batteries for longer times between charges
- LED flashlight
- Solid metal build
- Unit is a little bulky with a 2×2 battery layout
- Design is not exactly up to date with the rest of the market.
“Portable battery packs have been around for some time now and it was only a matter of time before we saw a bare-bones style product come to market. The PB03 is a great product as far as the concept and functionality goes, however the design is a little industrial for my liking and this is what I feel is holding it back from winning over the high street user.”
Thanks to Silverstone for providing us with this review sample.