Given Apple’s obsession with crafting ever thinner devices year after year, there’s a good chance that people who get work done away from an office or dorm room are going to be locked in battles over coveted outlets at airports and coffee shops. Well, maybe not iPhone users; there are plenty of portable power options for mobile phones. Too bad there’s not something similar for Mac users. Oh wait… there is!
I’ve been waiting for a product like the BatteryBox for years. The situations I just mentioned aren’t hypothetical; I live them from time to time. I don’t care if it’s Starbucks or Local Joe’s; if you get a seat next to a working outlet it’s like winning a mini lottery (very mini, I admit, but that’s how it feels). And it’s even rarer to snag a decent place to charge your Mac at the airport.
But the world doesn’t stop just because your device runs out of power. Thank goodness for the BatteryBox.
What’s obvious from this article so far is that the BatteryBox will keep your Mac running instead of letting it run out of juice. But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to how the BatteryBox actually works. It’s not just a portable battery. It’s a smart portable battery.
The BatteryBox doesn’t actually charge your Mac; instead it powers it. It’s an important distinction. The first method lets your Mac’s internal battery degrade overtime, the second doesn’t. What this actually means is that if you’re battery is at 29% when you connect it to the BatteryBox, it will remain at 29% when the BatteryBox is finally drained; so rather than charging the device, it keeps the current power level constant. All this smartness is powered by BatteryOS which means artificial intelligence will keep your power situation as safe and efficient as possible.
The BatteryBox doesn’t just charge your Mac, though; it can also simultaneously charge your phone (and if you own a Mac, that probably means an iPhone). It’s ports include a USB and a Micro USB which are there in addition to the permanent power-out cord which you connect to your Mac.
To charge the BatteryBox you connect it to an outlet via an adapter that plugs in to the Mini USB port. In 4 hours it’ll charge up to about 80%. For a full charge you’ll need to charge it overnight (8 hours). You’ll be able to tell approximately how much juice is left thanks to the row of 5 green lights next to the power button that light up accordingly.
But the BatteryBox connector is very different from Apple’s MagSafe technology. Rather than make use of a magnetic seal, the BatteryBox team developed a new type of connector known as the SnapFit. The BatteryBox comes with several different SnapFit connectors which wrap around the end of the power cable coming out of the BatteryBox; there’s one for each type of MacBook. Each SnapFit connector has a little arm on it that hooks into the hinge of your MacBook, thus holding things steadily in place.
From what I can tell the SnapFit connector doesn’t play nice with MacBook cases or covers. That’s a big bummer because if my Mac is with me (aka in portable mode) I’m going to want to make sure it’s protected (I don’t want any scratches or dents, you know). But, when my Mac is in portable mode, that’s exactly when I’m likely to need extra power. It’s like you can have one important thing: pick.
I tested the BatteryBox out with my 11” MacBook Air. I purchase this computer specifically because I wanted to be able to travel light. But that necessarily meant that I’d get less battery life than a MacBook Pro. The built-in battery on my 11” MacBook Air shipped from the factory rated at 9 hours of use. The BatteryBox will power my Mac for that long plus an additional 5 hours (14 hours of total extra power). That, my friends, if frickin awesome. It’s insane. It’s incredibly useful. I love it.
Before I get into my impressions and thoughts about performance, let me talk a little about the design. The BatteryBox is basically a black rectangle. It’s about as long as the spacebar on my 11” Air. There’s not much to it, aesthetically, it’s kind of just a black block with a white cord and green lights. But I don’t mind that; it’s professional-looking. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some flair. There’s a line going around the mid-section that’s slightly off kilter — just like the uneven white line running around the middle of the package that separates the top from the bottom of the box. I appreciate that attention to detail (that extra design styling) because it befits an Apple accessory.
I recently had a chance put the BatteryBox through it’s paces when I took it with me on a recent business trip. And my big takeaway, other than having some handy extra power, was that the BatteryBox is both big and small.
It’s small for what it is; it can’t be as thin as portable power packs for smartphones because it takes a lot more juice to power a laptop. It’s definitely small enough to be packable and portable. But it’s also large.
It’s large enough that, while you can pack it up and take it with you, it could cause some awkwardness in your bag or backpack since it’s kind of wide. Because of it’s dimensions, it can be tricky to place a mouse, power bricks and other accessories and stuff you might want to carry along with you in the same compartment. Again, it’s totally doable, but there might be times when it’s tricky. That said, for me the benefits totally outweigh any potential packing issues. Knowing I won’t run out of power at the airport or on a long plane ride is like having a superpower of sorts.
By nature you’re going to be dealing with cord overload when you make use of the BatteryBox. It’s got one permanent cord popping out of it and by the time you connect a phone and/or plug it into an outlet to recharge itself, you’re looking at managing 3 cords. It’s a necessary evil in a world where wireless charging hasn’t fully seeped into every corner of our digital lives. Again, this is not that big a deal; just want to make sure you have your expectations appropriately set.
So let’s talk about build quality. The battery capacity itself will last for many years into the future and I’m inclined to think that the hardware itself will too. On my recent trip I did have the BatteryBox banging around in my carryon luggage with lots of other tech goodies and it came through without any scratches or dents. And the device just feels really solid and well-made in general. I actually appreciate the matte plastic finish; if they had gone with a metal shell of some sort it might have looked nice but would have been prone to scrapes.
In any case BatteryBox ships with a 30 day free trial and a 12 month warranty. You’re basically covered if you don’t like it for some reason or if it has some sort of unforeseen issue (which doesn’t seem likely at all from my testing). But the reason I mention it is that it shows the company believes in the utility and toughness of it’s product enough to back it up.
If you’re a traveler I’d call this an essential tech accessory: one of the best you can buy. If you’re a business person and find yourself on the road frequently or in meetings where you may or may not have easy access to power, I’d highly recommend the BatteryBox. If you do anything outside of the office (filming, writing, designing, etc.) or find yourself working at coffee shops quite a bit, this device could be a big life (and productivity) saver. I’m elated that it exists and excited by it’s performance.