A laptop battery pack is your dream travel companion
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Introduction and design

We've all been there: you're sitting at a coffee shop trying to crank out a presentation at the eleventh hour when all of a sudden, your laptop blares out a warning that you have less than 5%remaining battery life.

In an age when manufacturers trade the functionality of removable batteries for the convenience of lighter, slimmer form factors, mobile computing users struggle with balancing portability and power.

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Mobile battery packs, also known as juice packs, are fairly common for smartphones, allowing you to get a few recharges. With these devices, you're out of luck if you need to recharge a more power-hungry Windows-based tablet or a laptop. However, several manufacturers make dedicated laptop battery packs, and I recently bought two different models to test: the IntoCircuit Power Castle PC26000 ($99, £65, AU$136) comes with a 26,000mAh battery and the RAVPower Xtreme 23000 ($99, £65, AU$136) that comes with a 23,000mAh internal battery.


Both units are about the size of a small 7- or 8-inch tablet. Both units share the same 7.3 x 0.8 x 4.9-inch (18.5 x 2.0 x 12.4cm) measurements, and traveling with either battery pack will add 1.5 pounds (0.68kg) to your gear bag. The upside is that with more than 20,000mAh of battery power, you likely won't need to carry your laptop's charger.

How much is 20,000mAh? For comparison, the Dell Latitude 12 7000 Series (E7250) battery is about 7,000mAh, while the Surface Pro 4's battery is just over 5,000mAh. Microsoft's 12-hour Surface Book battery comes in at a total of 9,187mAh, with the base containing a 6,800mAh battery and the tablet portion housing a 2,387mAh battery.

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The IntoCircuit's 26,000mAh battery, if it's completely efficient, is theoretically capable of giving the Latitude three times more battery capacity than its internal battery and five times the charge of the Surface Pro 4.

I haven't done a full battery run-down by continuously using my Surface Pro 2, which comes with a 4,200 mAh battery, or my Surface Pro 4 and the IntoCircuit yet, but I had no problems lasting two full workdays without recharging either my tablet or the battery pack. The battery provided more than enough power to run my Surface Pro 4 for 18 hours of web browsing, emailing, word processing, and light video and music playback.

The IntoCircuit is housed in a silver brushed aluminum frame, whereas the RAVPower unit has black metal surfaces, save for the black plastic on the base. I prefered the IntoCircuit because I am rough on my gadgets, and the all-metal construction feels more reassuring than the RAVPower, which creaked when I pressed on the plastic.

How it works and alternatives

Both units will allow you to charge multiple devices simultaneously. There is an AC input port to charge the battery itself, and an AC output port. You'll want to connect one end of the included male-to-male AC cable to the output port, and then connect a compatible charging tip to the other end of the cable so that you can plug the battery into your laptop or tablet.

The RAVPower and IntoCircuit both ship with an assortment of AC charging tips, so you'll likely find a compatible power plug that fits in your notebook. Neither the RAVPower nor the IntoCircuit battery comes with a MagSafe or MagSafe 2 charging tip for the MacBook Air or Pro, but if you're willing to take a few risks, you can find some inexpensive cables on eBay, Amazon or AliExpress for around $10 (£6, AU$13).

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In my case, I ordered the Surface magnetic charging tips for my Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 4 on Amazon. If you have a new HP laptop, like the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1, with the blue charging tip, you'll need to find a tip for that, as neither battery pack ships with the new HP connector. I found one on eBay at a reasonable cost, but shipping from Asia took a few weeks.

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The RAVPower came with a flat Lenovo charging tip for ThinkPad models, like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Third Edition, but I wasn't able to find one for the IdeaPad line or for the Lenovo Yoga 900.

The end of the tip that connects to the AC cable is standard size, making them interchangeable. You can use the ones that ship with the IntoCircuit on the RAVPower, and the RAVPower tips will also work on the IntoCircuit.

However, there are several differences between the two units. The IntoCircuit comes with just a single USB port, while the RAVPower unit has two USB ports. The USB port allows you to plug in a phone or a tablet to charge your mobile devices, so you don't need to carry a separate power bank.

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Also, the IntoCircuit comes with a switch that allows you to change the charging current between 12V, 16V and 19V. This is done automatically depending on the laptop model you plug in on the RAVPower. The RAVPower has a single button that activates the LED strip. This LED strip shows how much battery power you have left and what charging current is used to charge your laptop.


Dell sells a Power Companion with various battery capacities. The Dell Companion is more compact than either the IntoCircuit or the RAVPower models, and the unit looks like a Dell power brick that charges your laptop. When you're at your desk, you can daisy chain to recharge the Power Companion and your Dell laptop by connecting your Dell charging brick to the Power Companion, and then connecting the Power Companion to your laptop.

The Dell Power Companion has been one of my staples whenever I use a Dell laptop. Like the third-party battery packs that I've tested, Dell included two charging tips, making the battery compatible with the company's enterprise and consumer line of laptops.

If you'd rather not deal with adapters and charging tips, ChargeTech makes a 24,000mAh battery pack that comes with an AC wall outlet built into the unit. When you need power, connect your laptop to its power brick, and then plug the power brick directly into the ChargeTech. This makes it a more versatile solution for users with obscure charging tips, and you won't have to worry about compatibility. The downside is that you'll have to carry the ChargeTech and your laptop's power supply, which could add significant weight to a mobile setup.

If you find that you'll be away from a wall outlet for extended periods of time, or are the type to forget to charge your laptop overnight, there are battery packs with even more charge. Amazon sells battery packs that go as high as 50,000mAh.

Is the weight worth it?

At 1.5 pounds (0.68kg), the IntoCircuit weighs almost as much as the 1.73-pound (0.78kg) Surface Pro 4. With the Type Cover, the Surface Pro 4, as a laptop, weighs 2.37 pounds (1.08kg). This means that the IntoCircuit is 60% of the weight of the Surface Pro 4 and Type Cover.

You'll definitely feel the weight when traveling, but I appreciated the flexibility of not having to look for a power outlet. I've taken the IntoCircuit on several business trips and conferences, and the extra power means that I can work freely without fear of running out of juice.

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Dell's Power Companion is a far sleeker battery pack if your office relies on Dell Inspiron, Latitude, XPS and Venue laptops and tablets, but if you have an office that supports multiple brands and makes of notebooks and tablets, the IntoCircuit and RAVPower models are more versatile. The ChargeTech will deliver the most versatility, since it comes with an AC outlet built into the power pack, but you'll have to carry around your laptop charger, which will add to the size and weight of your gear bag.

For me, I don't mind hunting for charging tips, and I'd rather ditch my laptop's charger all together, so the IntoCircuit is now a staple in my carry-on whenever I travel.

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