CHARGE: Power-related gift ideas for the holidays

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MyCharge Summit 3000 rechargeable power bank

$80 (Amazon)

The Summit 3000 is a 3000mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery that can recharge several different portable devices. It includes a built-in cable for Apple devices like the iPhone, iPod and iPad (at least the older Dock Connector models, not the new ones with the Lighting port). Another built-in cable is for micro-USB devices, which include several Android phone models. A USB port also allows for recharging devices if owners also have their own USB cable for recharging (this could be used, then, in theory, for iPhone 5 and iPad fourth-generation owners).

In fact, you can recharge three devices simultaneously (via the Dock Connector, USB port and micro-USB cable). However, there's a small caveat - if three high-powered devices are connected at the same time, the Summit 3000 assigns priority charging to the Apple Dock Connector, then the USB connector, then the micro-USB cable. If you plug in lower-powered devices (such as an iPod nano or iPod classic), simultaneous charging can occur.

While the unit comes with its own USB cable for recharging the device off a laptop (like the Sojourn 1000 model), the extra cool part here is a fold-out power outlet prong, which lets you plug the Summit 3000 into a wall or power strip for super-fast recharging of the battery pack. Also cool is the voice notification feature - when you plug the unit into the wall, a pleasing voice tells you that it's charging. The voice also can tell you how much battery life you have on the recharger - press a button and it will say things like "Battery is almost full". Cool!

Fully charged, the device can offer up to 13 extra hours of talk time for a phone (over a 3G network), and up to 10 hours of data time (again, over 3G - Wi-Fi usage is likely less). If you want to use this unit as a synchronization bridge between an iPhone/iPod and a computer, you can do that as well.

At $80 it might seem a bit pricey for a rechargeable battery pack, but the ability to charge many portable devices at the same time (including a Bluetooth headset, eReader, to name a few) make this a great device to have in your laptop bag of gadgets.

- Keith Shaw

MyCharge Trek 2000 rechargeable power bank

$60

The Trek 2000 is a 2000mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery that can provide power for an iPhone or iPod (via a built-in dock with the Dock Connector adapter), as well as a micro-USB cable for devices like an Android smartphone, BlackBerry or other mobile device with a micro-USB connection (like a Bluetooth headset, for example).

The unit itself is recharged through a built-in USB cable that connects to a computer's USB port (unfortunately, no plug-in wall adapter here), and there's a battery-level indicator that tells you how much juice you have left in the Trek 2000.

Fully charged, the unit can provide up to 9 additional hours of talk time (over 3G), or up to 7 hours of web data time (again, over 3G). The combination of the Apple Dock Connector and the micro-USB port means you can charge two devices at the same time, which can be convenient if you need to recharge an iPhone and the Bluetooth headset (or a BlackBerry) that are both depleted of their batteries.

The fold-out dock is also a nice little stand for the iPhone or iPod - when connected to a computer via USB, you can use this to synchronize data between the device and computer.

For mobile workers that need an extra battery pack for multiple devices, this can be a nice little tool for their bag of tricks.

- Keith Shaw

Aleratec Charge-Glo Sync Cable

$20

Here's a cool stocking stuffer for the owner of an iPhone, iPod or iPad - this charging cable is basically a USB cable that connects to the Universal Dock Connector (the older one, not the new iPhone 5 Lightning connector) to provide charging and synchronization features. The "cherry on top" feature of this, however, is a little light inside the connector that indicates whether the device is charging or if the unit is fully charged. If it's red, it's charging. If it's blue, it's fully charged.

This basically saves you a few seconds of having to go to the device and powering it on (or out of sleep mode) to see if you have a full charge. Since I use one cable to charge multiple devices, it's always good to know that I can switch from one device to the next without needing to check.

- Keith Shaw

Newer Technology Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet

$25 (list); $19 (Amazon)

At first glance, the Power2U device is one of those smack-yourself-in-the-forehead, why-didn't-I-think-of-that kind of products - a replacement electrical socket that includes two USB charging ports.

It's inexpensive, and can eliminate the need for those bulky wall wart cube transformers that take up so much space. The Type-A USB connectors on the socket are behind little spring-loaded doors that shut off power to the transformer when closed, so energy usage should be less than with a cube transformer case.

While installation is likely not a problem for regular Network World readers, it's important to note that it involves AC power. You need to be absolutely certain to attach the right wire to the right terminal, or, as stated in some poorly translated user manuals I've seen, you might experience a "large occurrence" that would then require the relatively high cost of a licensed electrician.

I've also seen numerous reports of the unit not fitting into older electrical wall boxes, so you may need to check this out before you buy. Both of these potential challenges limit the value of the Power2U (especially as a gift), and a simple multi-outlet AC power strip with a few short AC pigtails might be a simpler, albeit clunky, alternative.

However, if you know what you're doing with electrical outlet installations, or if you're building a new house or renovating a room to add techie features, this is a clever product for those purposes. And the inexpensive price is nice, too.

- Craig Mathias

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