Gadget Bits: OmniCharge Power Bank Keeps Your Portable Office Running

Meet the OmniCharge Omni20

Portable battery chargers have come a long way in a relatively short time. You can recharge your phone from a portable battery that’s the size of a PEZ dispenser pretty easily. But keeping your entire mobile office going, away from power outlets, for longer than a couple hours has been tougher. There are very few portable chargers that include the ability to plug in an AC power cord (it requires some special electronics to convert the stored power to the right voltage and frequency). I’ve reviewed them before, and they’re useful, but usually large enough to make them challenging as part of your everyday carry. But the OmniCharge Omni20 I was recently sent takes a big step forward in combining a huge power capacity (over 20,400 mAh), with a convenient size and form factor, and added touches that make it more useful, portable, and functional than the rest.

Smarts

The Omni20 is billed as a “smart” battery pack. That’s because it gives you more information that most other similar units. At best, most portable chargers have 5 lights that blink to tell you how full the batteries within are. On the Omni20, there’s an OLED screen on the control side that reports the unit’s charge percentage, temperature, which ports are in use, and the rate of power flow into, and out of, the device. It’ll even tell you how long it will take until it reaches a full charge, or how long you have to run it (at the current flow rate). Knowledge is, after all, power, and knowing how long you have left to work is powerful piece of mind when you’re on the road.

Ports

There are four total ports on the Omni20. The standard AC outlet will run at 120V to match the North American standard, but will also run in an 150V HVDC mode that many modern laptop can use more efficiently. There are two USB ports. One is a standard 5V/3Amp port that will charge most every USB-compatible device. The other is a QuickCharge 3.0-compatible port, that allows even faster charging on devices that use the specification to intelligently control how much juice is being delivered to them, and how quickly.

Most battery chargers use USB to be charged themselves, and have an input USB port somewhere on them. The higher-capacity devices will have what’s called a “barrel” port for being charged, that allows them to connect to a cord with a transformer brick that then connects to an AC outlet, to bring in a certain mix of volts and amps to refill. These are always power input ports, serving only one purpose, with one connection possible.

The barrel port on the Omni20 is a two-way power port, which allows it to do some amazing things, especially when you throw in the selection of adapters that come with the bundle option. First, it can be re-charged normally, via a 120V AC outlet. But with various adapters, it can be recharged via solar panel, from a 12v car outlet, or it can even pull power back out from other devices. And then the barrel port can be used for power output to other devices that use the same barrel for their input power, delivering charge directly, rather than running it through transformer bricks and losing efficiency. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of power ports.

 

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