Review: Juice power banks – a couple of squashes short of a juice bar?

13 Jan 20164 Shares

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The Juice family of portable chargers. Photo: Connor McKenna

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We’ve all been there. Enjoying a night out, or a weekend trip, or any long day away from sockets, when disaster strikes – a dead phone battery. Your salvation? A portable charger. In steps Juice.

juice-carphone-graphic

Or not, really.

On first look, everything about the Juice chargers – Juice Squash Power Bank, Juice Squash XL Power Bank and Juice Power Station, all available at Carphone Warehouse ­– seems like exactly what you’re looking for.

They exhibit an economy of design – sleek, elegant and (with the exception of the Power Station) small enough to fit in a handbag or pocket – that’s immediately appealing. They’re also all weirdly soft to the touch, but not in a bad way.

Their micro USB to USB charging system is simplicity itself, with an included-in-box cable fulfilling both the function of charging your phone and of charging the power pack itself, provided you have an Android phone. iOS users must use their own charging cables, as a result of Apple’s unique – read, ‘at times frustrating’ – charge-port design.

Even if you are an iOS user, using one of the power banks only requires you to carry a single cable, which is a relief for anyone who wants a truly portable experience. Minimal clutter, minimal headache.

And yet the Juice power banks aren’t without flaw.

Niggling design issues

Where the Juice Squash Power Bank and Squash XL Power Bank have crystal clear battery level indicators, the Power Station’s design places an almost impossible-to-discern battery indicator below its surface. As a small LED battles to be seen through layers of plastic, you’ll find yourself straining for any idea of battery level at all.

And they’re not intuitive. With a product like this – especially one that’s cleared the bar elsewhere – you want it to be easy, straight from the box.

To display battery level when not actively charging the power pack is simple on the Squash XL. Push a button and hey, presto. On the other two devices, it’s a little more opaque, and a lot of messing around is required to find out how much juice (pardon the pun), is left.

But that issue is not exclusive to displaying battery level. It takes a little trial and error, and some futzing around with the USB cable, to get the power pack to engage at all. You’re never quite sure if it’s human error that’s causing the problem, or design.

A glance at the rudimentary instructions suggests that shaking the power pack should wake it up and get it working. That must be a Masons’ secret handshake-esque trick, as it took a whole lot of shaking to get anything to happen at all.

Not enough Juice

Quite simply, none of these power packs performed as advertised. All tests were carried out using iOS devices, so there may be some wiggle room if you’re on Android, but don’t take that for granted.

The Juice Squash Power Bank claims to offer one-and-a-half charges on an iPhone 6. It got less than one (83pc charge). The Squash XL power bank is meant to get you three, but netted just under two (190pc charge). Both charged relatively quickly.

The Juice Power Station was the biggest letdown. Purporting to give you one full charge of an iPad Air, it only managed to eke out 62pc – albeit charging a regular ol’ iPad, not the Air – and took a painful four hours and 15 minutes to get that far before dying.

That said, the Power Station would be ideal for camping or for the festival circuit, as it would give a couple of full charges to a smartphone or two.

Juice Power Station charging phone
The Juice Power Station in action. Photo: Connor McKenna

The most unforgivable issue though, for me, was that the adapters don’t seem to communicate fully with the device they’re charging.

Where traditional chargers stop charging at 100pc, the Juice power banks apparently eschew logic and continue pumping in the power. As a person who turns off all notifications over night, and thus someone not used to hearing vibrations in the early hours, it woke me each time it began its charge cycle.

Unplugging my phone from the charger in a fit of frustration at 3am, and waking to a battery still at 100pc, it’s clear the charging cycle was unnecessary. This means the pack uses up more of its own battery power than necessary, rendering it far less effective than it should be. Of course, this can be avoided if you only charge during daylight hours, and if you’re watching like a hawk for it to hit 100.

Verdict

This may read like a damning review, but really the things that count tick all the right boxes.

Yes, it may take the intellect of Einstein to get one of the damn things to work, and yes, they may not give quite the charge they claim, but, to all intents and purposes, they do just what they’re supposed to do – they charge your phone (or iPad).

You’re unlikely to ever be using one of these as your main source of power and, for festivals, long days, or nights out, they’re just what you need to top up your battery and keep you texting, tweeting and Tindering until you get back to civilisation.

Final verdict? Three-and-a-half out of five. They may not be perfect, but they get the job done (more or less).

Juice power banks are available at Carphone Warehouse.

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Kirsty Tobin is Careers Editor at Siliconrepublic.com, covering careers-related news, features and interviews

editorial@siliconrepublic.com