Text and photos by Simon Cohen
Portable rechargers don’t have a lot of specs. When it comes right down to it, it’s all about three things: Capacity, size & weight, and charging time. Sure, you can throw in extras like LED lights, more USB ports and fancy materials or design, but from a practical point of view, these are secondary.
By now you’ve probably noticed that companies like Apple are hell-bent on making their smartphones thinner with each new model. And while that’s a laudable goal design-wise, it comes at the cost of a feature most of us would actually prefer: Longer battery life. Day-to-day, having a phone that konks out in the evening isn’t the end of the world--there’s often plenty of opportunities to top up the battery, whether it’s at home, in the car or at the office.
But when it comes to travelling, it’s often a different story entirely. My solution has been to shlep around an external battery pack like the IntoCircuit Power Castle. The good: Its massive 15,000 mAh battery can power up a lot more than just my iPhone 6, it can charge two devices simultaneously and its 2.1A port is perfect for iPads. The bad: It’s kinda heavy and bulky, and takes a long time to charge from empty.
Portable rechargers don’t have a lot of specs. When it comes right down to it, it’s all about three things: Capacity, size & weight, and charging time. Sure, you can throw in extras like LED lights, more USB ports and fancy materials or design, but from a practical point of view, these are secondary. That’s why the ASAP Dash stands apart.Thanks to the included AC wall adapter that can feed power to the Dash at 50W, 17-21 volts with 3 amps, charging it takes just 15 minutes. Let me say that again: 15 minutes. Basically, in the time it takes you to enjoy a latte and catch up on email, you’ve got a battery pack that can easily recharge your iPhone (or any other smartphone) between 1 and 2 times over. By comparison, the 15,000 mAh Power Castle (with 3x the capacity of the Dash) can take up to 10 hours to fully charge via USB.
You can still charge the Dash conventionally over USB with its microUSB input, but given how small and light the wall AC adapter is, you’ll rarely need to do so. Unlike the Power Castle and many other battery packs, the Dash lacks an LED light or a digital capacity display, but you may not care. A tap on the unit’s power button shows you its current charge level using four tiny LEDs on its back which correspond to 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.
Fit and finish on the prototype test unit I received is good; the wrap-around aluminum body gives the Dash a premium feel. The edges where the aluminum meets the plastic end caps are a little rough however, though this might be improved once they ship the final products. Overall, it feels very sturdy, though I have not tested the company’s claims that it can withstand a 1-metre drop from any angle without suffering damage.
In addition to its competition-crushing recharge time, the Dash also possesses special circuitry that offers a kind of future-proofing for the next generation of portable devices: When connected with a compatible cable, the Dash can up its single USB port to a whopping 3.1 amps--though curiously, the label on the bottom of the unit says the port’s max output is 2.4 amps.That won’t help your current phone, but it’s nice to know that as long as you don’t wear through the Dash’s claimed maximum 1,200 charge/discharge cycles, it will be ready for whatever comes next.
Note: Though the Dash does charge itself exceptionally fast, it can’t actually recharge your phone or other device faster than the factory specs allow.
It took about 90 min to fully recharge a dead Nexus 5 using the Dash. It will however, maximize your device’s charging speed, something which the factory USB or wall adapter might not be able to do.
If there’s a downside to the ASAP Dash, it’s the price. Available for pre-order now on Indiegogo, in your choice of silver, gold or gunmetal finishes (with an expected ship date of June, 2016), the Dash will set you back $89 USD, plus $9 shipping to Canada.
That works out to about $135 CDN as of the writing of this article. Ouch. Now, that does include the wall charger, the Dash itself, a car-charger accessory and a nifty flat USB cable with two tips: Lightning and MicroUSB.
You need to place a heavy premium on the Dash’s rapid-charge feature in order to see the value, especially when a product like the well-reviewed JETech Power Bank with a capacity of 10,000 mAh and only slightly larger footprint than the Dash, can be had for only $17.99 plus shipping on Amazon.
That said, compared to the other rapid-recharging battery packs like the Zap & Go, ($149+$20 USD shipping) it’s a relative bargain. Mind you, the Zap & Go uses a fancy new graphene-based cell so maybe it’s worth $239 CDN?
The only other niggle, and it's a minor one, is that the Dash’s AC charger is almost as large as the Dash itself, which means that if you're looking to pack light, you'll probably want to leave it at home.
Faster charging is hopefully going to become a major trend in consumer devices over the next few years. But if you can't wait to get on the bandwagon, the Dash is a good place to start.