Whether you’re on vacation far from an outlet, or at home where a cable just won’t reach there’s nothing worse than needing your gadgets to work when its battery is near-dead. Thankfully the Limeade is a portable battery pack that’s small enough to slip in a pocket, can charge any USB device, and packs enough power to charge your phone or tablet several times over.
It wasn’t too long ago that we highlighted our five favorite external battery packs, but when a new contender hits the market with enough juice to charge multiple gadgets at the same time, supports multiple voltages, and even comes with a really smart charging cable, we’re willing to take a look. More than a few of you nominated the Limeade back when we asked for your favorite battery packs, but since it was still a Kickstarter back then and wasn’t actually available for anyone to get hands-on experience with, it didn’t qualify. Since then we’ve had a chance to give it a try with phones, tablets, ereaders, and even cameras, and it definitely makes the grade.
Let’s back up a bit. The Limeade is an external battery pack that’s available in three sizes: the small and pocket-sized 13000mAh L130X, the medium sized 15600mAh L156X, and the high-capacity 18000mAh L180X. The company is a a Kickstarter success story, designed to minimize the number of times you had to recharge the battery pack itself, and to pack the most possible juice into the smallest possible size. We’ve been testing the high-capacity L180X for a few weeks now, and even though it’s the largest of the three, it’s still small enough to fit into a front pants pocket (as long as you have nothing else in there), and is tiny enough to fit into a side or front pocket of a laptop bag.
The battery pack itself is a rubberized coating that won’t smudge or attract fingerprints, but also has the benefit of not sliding around a ton if you have it resting on a desk or center console in a car while you’re using it. There’s only one button on the Limeade—the power button on the side. When you press it once, it shows you the available charge in the unit in an easy-to-understand four-LED display on the side. Double-click it and the LED on the top lights up, offering an impromptu flashlight.
The pack also packs two USB charging ports on the top—one DC 5V/1.0A output, and another DC 5V/2.1A output. That means it’s capable of charging your phone or a larger device like an iPad without switching to that slow-charging mode that no one likes There’s also a DC 5V/2.0A input for rapid charging of the battery pack itself. The quick charge input means you’ll spend less time charging the Limeade, and more time on the go or charging your actual gadgets.
Perhaps best of all is the cable that comes with the Limeade: One end is standard USB, and the other is a combination 30-pin dock connector for Apple devices/microUSB connector for everything else. When you need the 30-pin connector, the microUSB section locks into place and you can plug it in. When you need microUSB, the 30-pin connector swivels away (but stays attached) so you can charge your Android phone, camera, eReader, or anything else. Turn the cable around and plug in the microUSB to the input and the USB port into a spare port or wall charger, and you can recharge the Limeade. You don’t have to carry another cable, or a bag full of custom adapters or charging tips, either. It’s tough to describe, but you can see the cable in the photo below.
While testing the Limeade, I used it to keep my Android phone charged during the day every day since I got it, and I’ve only had to recharge the Limeade itself once. I managed to discharge it completely once: When I decided to charge my iPad and my phone at the same time for several hours. Both devices were low on battery, and the Limeade brought them up to full charge, but the Limeade itself needed a boost. I plugged it into a powered USB port and let it charge overnight. By the time I woke up the next morning, it was ready to charge other devices again. I let it keep charging, and before lunch it was back to full capacity (about 14 hours total). Had I plugged it directly into a wall outlet, that probably would have been faster.
It’s hard to understate exactly how small even the L180X—the biggest of the lineup—is. It’s only about 5in (~13cm) tall, 3in (~8cm) wide, and less than one inch (2.5cm) deep. It’s the most portable high capacity pack I’ve seen, especially considering it can charge two devices at once at different voltages. It eschews additional screens in order to save power for your gear, and the only lights on it are the emergency flashlight and the status LEDs. While it’s not the most futuristic-looking battery pack, it’s also unassuming, so it won’t get stolen. It’s also about the length and width of the phone you’d charge it with, so it can sit in a drawer or on the corner of a desk, out of the way.
The Limeade isn’t without competition. Similar charging packs from companies like Energizer, Anker, Mophie, and even Monoprice are all over the market, all offering varying price points. The L180X that we tested will set you back $ 100 at Amazon. The smallest of the group, the L130X, will set you back $ 50. The L156X sells for $ 80. By contrast, the Limeade is still affordable when compared to, for example, the $ 140 Energizer XP18000 (compared to the L180X), and while there are plenty of cheaper, lower-capacity battery packs available, the Limeade is one of the most affordable high-capacity ones we could find.
If you have the cash to spend, or you know you’re heading somewhere you’ll need some juice and won’t be near an outlet—like you’re hiking or camping and need to keep your GPS powered, planning a beach vacation and don’t want your Kindle to die in the middle of a good book, or know you have a long layover in an airport and want to use your phone as a music player, the Limeade is a worthwhile companion to keep handy. You can read more and check out more specs at the link below.