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Road Tested: Newer Technology NuPower Charge & Sync +

If there's something that is almost as common as fart apps, it's iPhone external battery packs. TUAW has done reviews and giveaways of a number of these units including the Richard|Solo 1800 and the Mophie Juice Pack Air. One thing that a lot of these boxes have in common is that they all require an external AC adapter in order to charge 'em up.

That can sometimes be problematic, particularly since the AC adapters are sometimes as large as the battery pack itself. A separate AC adapter also means that there's one more thing that you have to remember to take on a trip and one more thing that can get lost.

Newer Technology came out with a new and rather innovative device last month that I thought was so different from the pack that I ended up buying one for myself. The NuPower Charge & Sync + packs almost everything you need, including the AC adapter and charger, a 1400 mAh Lithium-Ion battery pack, and a USB charging cable, into one small package. Read along as I tell you all about this unique little device.
First off, let's talk about the design of this unit. As I mentioned, it comprises a recharger / AC adapter, a 1400 mAh Li-Ion battery pack, and a cable all in one tiny 2.3" x 2.9" x .8" box. That box is made of white polycarbonate and has several LEDs, a door, and one sliding switch on it. That switch is used to pop out the US standard 110V AC adapter prongs so that the box can be plugged into a wall socket. One red LED is used to tell you when the NuPower is being charged up, and then it turns off when the charging is complete. The other green LED is there to indicate when you have turned on the NuPower pack using a diminutive power button. Finally, there's that little door...

The door hides what is the key piece of this unit, a standard iPhone / iPod dock adapter. It's connected via an 8" ultra-thin USB sync and charging cable to the NuPower pack. When you're not charging up an iPhone or some other device (more about that in a minute), the cable wraps around the exterior of the NuPower pack in a small groove. Like I said, it's one nice little package with everything built into it.

The really cool thing about this box is that it can charge just about any USB device. Two additional cables are provided with the NuPower Charge & Sync +, one with a miniUSB connector and the other with a microUSB connector. To change to one of the other cables is a cinch -- you just put a fingernail under a notch on the side of the device and apply a little pressure, and the USB connector end of the cable pops out. These USB connectors are a fascinating bit of design in that they're essentially a piece of plastic with the USB contacts on one side.

Can you use these odd USB connectors in a standard USB slot? You betcha! And that's where the "Sync" part of Charge & Sync comes in. I had owned this little box for about a day when I found myself needing a USB cable so that I could move some pictures off of my iPhone and onto my MacBook Air. Unfortunately, I had gone through a frenzy of organization the day before and couldn't for the life of me find a cable within reaching distance. All of the cables had been neatly tucked away into plastic containers and moved into a desk. Before I got up to open a container up, my eye glanced at the NuPower box and I quickly popped out the cable, plugged one into the MBA and the other into the iPhone.

Are there any negatives about the device? Well, I am absolutely sure that some day the little door that covers the business end of the dock connector cable is going get lost, so I hope that Newer Technology will be selling replacements for it. I'd almost like to see a small cord connecting the door to the main device so that it doesn't disappear. In addition, I wonder how long the thin cables and connectors will last, as they seem rather fragile. On the other hand, the Charge & Sync + is inexpensive, so replacing one after a year or two wouldn't be out of the question. Final complaint -- the connectors for microUSB and miniUSB are larger than they need to be, so they won't work with some digital cameras or other devices that have recessed connection ports.

All in all, I've found the NuPower Charge & Sync + to be a useful addition to my pocket. It would make a wonderful gift idea for any person who owns an iPhone or iPod, or any device that uses either a microUSB or miniUSB connection for charging. Check out the gallery below for a closer look at this unique addition to the crowded world of iPhone external battery packs.

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