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TechnologyTell Review: Incipio offGRID Battery, Ghost 110

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c They’re not half bad at it too. Their latest iteration of a frankenstein, external battery pack has Qi wireless built in. What’s that, you say? Why, Qi wireless lets you charge via wireless induction. So the latest Incipio offGRID batteries don’t need to be plugged in to charge. Fancy that!

Design

The Incipio offGRID Portable Backup Battery 4000mAh is shaped sort of like a small chocolate bar. Or maybe some home speaker remote. Something nifty like that. It’s a little thicker than a smartphone in slim case, yet remains thin and handheld friendly. The matte black exterior is smooth, but not slick. It doesn’t catch on cloth or collect much lint or dust. Fingerprint smudges are muted and wipe off easily.

Incipio offGRID battery Ghost 110 box contents

These are the goods you need to get the QI wireless charging going on

In terms of features, this battery is fairly basic. The Micro USB input port goes up to 2A, and the USB output can max at 2.1A, sufficient for most tablets. Compared to the majority of external battery packs out there, the Incipio offGRID 4000mAh is anywhere between 33 percent and 100 percent faster. This is for both charging up or charging out to your personal gadgets and devices.

Sure, the offGRID battery is good for only one device at a time, but for having 4000mAh of energy you deserve to be stingy. Other people can go get their own, right? The included USB charge cable is definitely a keeper. It has a thick cord with wide grips at each connector end. It’s a fast-charge cable too, so you’ll always get the most of whatever your connected device demands.

Incipio put a cute twist on the offGRID battery by making it flush along the curved edge. Not just that, but they implemented a press-hold feature for charging. A single press of the power button only lights up the battery gauge LEDs, which last for a few seconds. Requiring a press-hold helps to prevent the battery from accidentally turning on and discharging while in a bag or backpack. The drawback is that you, too, have to remember to press-hold to charge out.

Incipio offGRID battery top

Good pocketable size

Like most external battery packs on the market, the Incipio offGRID battery sports four LED indicator lights. Instead of white or green, they glow a cool blue color. Each LED represents a 25 percent threshold in order to estimate how much power is left. While they’re not that bright (especially during the day), the LEDs won’t glare back at you either when you want to check.

Unlike most external battery packs on the market, this one features Qi wireless charging. When paired with a Qi base, such as the Incipio Ghost 110 Qi Wireless Charging Base, recharging the offGRID battery pack is as simple as setting it on the base. You don’t need to fumble with any cords (even though the included USB cable is tops), and when you’re ready to leave the house just pick it up and go.

There isn’t much to the Ghost 110 charging base. This lightweight device is thin, square-shaped, and has a satin finish (no gloss is always good in my book). Four rubber feet help to keep this Qi wireless charging base in place. Included with the Incipio Ghost 110 is a wall adapter with a twist-lock plug. Whatever you do, remember this or else you’ll wonder why the plug is “stuck” right before you rip it out and damage the cord and/or base exterior. (I almost did it. Almost.)

Incipio offGRID battery button

Standard 4 LEDs, but power button rides the curve

There are no buttons on the Ghost 110 – just a single, LED indicator light. It glows blue when charging to a Qi device resting on top. If you see the LED shift to red, it means you need to readjust the device to align the internals correctly. Although the Ghost 110 charging base takes a max input of 2A, the output is only 1A.

This kind of product is merely a charging convenience (or novelty, depending on how you look at it). Fully charging the Incipio offGRID 4000mAh battery with the Ghost 110 base takes 9 hours. But if you use the USB cable with the offGRID battery, refilling 4000mAh only requires 3.6 hours.

It’s a significant difference with respect to time, but that’s standard for all Qi devices currently available. Induction charging has its speed limits (capped at 1A, for now), so those who don’t need a quick turnaround on charging a device can find a place for the Ghost 110 among their gadgets. But those who hate having a messy tangle of cables can appreciate the simplicity of wireless charging from a base.

Battery Performance

The Incipio offGRID 4000mAh battery is efficient with respect to staying off as much as possible. The LEDs glow for only a few seconds, and the whole battery automatically shuts off after 15 seconds of charging inactivity. This battery does have pass through charging, which means a user can charge a device and the battery simultaneously.

Incipio Ghost 110 charging base

Simple with a cyclopian LED

When pass through charging with a device and the Incipio offGRID 4000mAh battery, the device sees a 0.6W to 1W drop in power currently being received. Since the cable delivers max output, it’s far more efficient in terms of charging up both the battery and device. While users can opt to include the Ghost 110 wireless charging base, the performance will be significantly reduced. It took 9 hours just to wirelessly charge the battery all by itself, let alone that and a connected smartphone.

Note: Most external battery packs I’ve ever purchased and used came only partially charged, so I’ve always made it a habit to fully charge them before use. I tend to fully charge and discharge a new battery a few times, just so I can level out the charge states of the individual cells. It helps to maximize the battery’s manufacturer-listed potential.

The standard efficiency rating of external battery packs currently on the market is 70%. This means that 30% of the battery’s listed capacity is consumed while charging up devices. So, for example, a standard 1000mAh battery would effectively deliver 700mAh of energy.

Incipio offGRID battery charging

This is what Qi wireless charging looks like

While the out-of-box efficiency of the Incipio offGRID 4000mAh battery was little more than average, it quickly picked up with each additional cycle. I tested charging with my HTC Evo Shift 4G, with its stock 1450mAh battery, as well as my Camelio Tablet, with its 3800mAh internal battery. After a dozen cycles, the offGRID battery ended up with an average efficiency of 91.2 percent. That’s equivalent to 3648mAh of usable energy, which is really, seriously good.

So what can one do with 3648mAh of battery energy? That’s good for 1.1 full charges to a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (3100mAh), or 2.5 full charges to an Apple iPhone 5 (1440mAh), or 0.8 full charges to a 7” Kindle Fire HDX (4500mAh). Considering how slim and easy it is to bring the Incipio offGRID 4000mAh battery anywhere, there’s little reason to worry about running out of power in times of need.

Verdict

Both the Incipio offGRID Portable Backup Battery 4000mAh and Incipio Ghost 110 Qi Wireless Charging Base perform admirably. They are designed well and are easy to use. The offGRID battery, specifically, pushes the upper limits of output efficiency and portable form. Who knows? Maybe companies such as Incipio just might start bumping up the average with higher standards.

Although the Ghost 110 Qi base is worthy for anyone interested in wireless charging, I’m not sold; just for induction charging in general. The Ghost 110 takes 2A input power and turns it to 1A of output power, yet the offGRID battery draws only 0.5A to 0.8A from the base. My demands exceed that, as I don’t often take less than what a device can max. However, many won’t mind, especially if overnight charging is their thing

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