GoCharge Power Pack is three devices in one (hands-on)

The GoCharge Power Pack by Accessory Power packs three very useful functions into a pocket-size form factor.

GoCharge Power Pack
The GoCharge Power Pack by Accessory Power packs three very useful functions into a pocket-sized form factor. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

My time with the Accessory Power GoCharge Power Pack has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. When the device landed on my desk, I dismissed it as a basic 12-volt to USB adapter. However, closer inspection revealed some very interesting secondary features that are worth highlighting. Unfortunately, once I started looking closely, I discovered a few build quality issues that quickly quenched my excitement.

In the box, you'll find the GoCharge unit itself, an AC to USB power adapter, a Mini-USB cable, and a Micro-USB cable.

GoCharge closed
All closed up, the GoCharge has about the same footprint as a business card. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The GoCharge has about the same footprint as a business card (2.25 inches by 3.5 inches) and is about an inch thick. Along the top edge is a sliding translucent plastic sheath that uncovers a 12-volt power adapter on a ratcheting arm. Along the left edge is a Micro-USB port for charging the device. The right edge is home to a pair of full size powered USB ports for charging other devices and a four-LED flashlight, while the power button for that flashlight is located on the unit's front face. A power switch and power indicator for the charging circuitry hides along the bottom edge. Finally, on the back side of the GoCharge, there's a four-bar battery meter that is activated with the press of a button.

As you could probably tell from the description of the GoCharge's hardware, this device serves three major functions. It serves as a 12-volt to USB adapter for up to two devices; it operates as a 2,000mAh external battery for USB devices, and there's a rather powerful flashlight built in. The unit is able to charge its internal battery via either its integrated 12-volt adapter, a PC's USB port, or the included AC adapter with the help of a micro USB cable.

Two of the GoCharge's three major functions performed as advertised. I liked the ability to add USB power to any vehicle by simply plugging it in. The GoCharge was pretty bulky, which could make it difficult to use with recessed 12-volt outputs, but the connection arm gave me a reasonable amount of positioning flexibility. I also liked that, unlike most 12-volt to USB adapters in my collection, I was able to charge two devices at the same time with the GoCharge--provided that I brought my own USB cables to the party

Why would I need to bring my own cables when the GoCharge includes a pair? Well, on my very first trial run, while using the GoCharge to power the brand-new Contour+ sports camera, the included Mini-USB cable became stuck into the camera's USB port. After a few moments of tugging, the USB cable's metal tip popped right off. Eventually, with the aid of a pair of pliers, I was able to remove the tip from the camera, but the cable was rendered useless after just one day of testing. The Micro-USB, on the other hand, performed without issue.

twin USB ports
With two powered USB ports, the GoCharge is able to juice a pair of USB accessories both in the car and out. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Getting back to the positives, the GoCharge's 2,000mAh rechargeable battery was able to completely charge my power-hungry HTC Thunderbolt while in its battery backup mode. Additional tests with a full charge proved that it was able to keep that same HTC Thunderbolt's battery topped off for more than 6 hours of moderate use. Of course, I wasn't too thrilled about keeping the handset tethered to an external battery, but in a pinch, I doubt I'd complain too much. I also like that I was able to recharge the GoCharge's internal battery whether in the car or at home thanks to the included AC-to-USB adapter.

I had a serious issue with the power button for the flashlight function which, simply put, did not work. The button is supposed to work like a toggle--one click for on, another click for off--but the only way I could get the flashlight to illuminate was to squeeze and hold the button with all of my might. Even then, as soon as I released the pressure, the light would power off again. I'm assuming that there's some loose connection behind the button because occasionally, while handling the device or tilting it in certain ways, the torch would randomly illuminate (usually when I was looking directly into it). As much as I'd like to think that this is a one-off issue with my tester, closer inspection reveals that this is the same loose power button component that I complained about on my GoGroove FlexSmart X2 review , another Accessory Power product.

For $29.99, the GoCharge would ideally make a pretty good cheap gift or stocking stuffer. It combines two accessories that I keep in my glove compartment anyway--an emergency flashlight and a USB power adapter--with one that I often carry in my backpack--an external backup battery. It's a pretty good deal, if all of those functions work. However, our issues with the GoCharge's build quality would cause me to hesitate before clicking the Buy Now button. Additionally, if you're not looking to save space or pinch pennies, a bit of hunting online could surface a separate USB adapter, flashlight, and an even larger battery backup for just a few bucks more.

 

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