Battery life is a cruel mistress. The reputations of smartphones and manufacturers have been made and ruined by the performance of their batteries. BlackBerry garnered huge success in the US back in the day with outstanding week-long battery cycles, while HTC more recently has been slammed by users who believe the battery in products like the Desire HD have been below their expectations.
The Choiix Power Fort fits into a relatively new category of mass-market tech — a slimline portable battery pack designed specifically, but not exclusively, for use with today's juice-guzzling smartphones. The requirements of customers purchasing this kind of device is simple: that it charge their phones. However, with more and more of these portable power packs popping up in phone stores, there is a distinct advantage for the product that can differentiate itself.
The Power Fort is quite sleek, with a glossy, piano-black plastic cover on top and soft-touch charcoal-coloured plastic underneath. It has a single button for starting a charge, and two ports on the back: a mini-USB port for charging its battery and a USB host port for connecting your portable device. At 102 grams, the Power Fort is slightly lighter than your smartphone, but its physical dimensions are roughly the same size. This surprised us at first, not that we design this sort of kit ourselves, but it seems to be a bit bigger than necessary. Knocking on the top of the Power Fort returns a hollow thud, suggesting there is plenty of empty space inside. A more compact unit is always appreciated, especially when your shoulder bag is already bulging with a laptop, a tablet and a copy of War and Peace.
Interestingly, the Power Fort does have a feature that we have not seen on other rechargeable batteries: a built-in torch. Located under the front lip of the Power Fort is quite a large and bright LED light, which you activate by holding down the charging button. This might sound like a useless gimmick, but considering you're likely to carry a device like this with you most days, you might be surprised how often you find yourself reaching for the Power Fort as you stumble up the driveway at night.
As you might expect, the Power Fort, with its 2700mAh capacity power supply, will recharge a mobile phone battery, but it won't do so quickly. We found a fully charged Power Fort could return power to 1.5 average smartphone batteries, which is in line with its capacity claim, but it takes several long hours to do so. While phones like the Motorola Atrix recharge at the wall in just over an hour, the Power Fort took over three hours to do the same. Our review unit also took forever to recharge itself, though we did review a unit that comes without an A/C travel charger and relied on USB power from a PC to recharge.
We did like the clear LED that show the remaining power indicators on the unit. The Power Fort has a five-light indicator under the plastic cover on top, which illuminate as you charge and discharge the battery. Having used other products with less adequate charge indication, we feel this solution was enough to keep us informed of when to charge the unit next.
If you're interested in portable power, the Power Fort delivers as advertised, but it doesn't surpass these humble claims. Its design won't win awards, and you'll need to monitor its battery level as often as you check your phone's charge, but it is a device that could get you out of a tight spot on those days when you need that extra power. Its AU$99 RRP is more than we'd recommend paying for this device, though we've found plenty of local online stores selling it for around AU$60, which seems fair for what you get.