Tech Review: FatCat ChargeCard

by Neil McAllister on November 12, 2010
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Mobility has transformed the way we live and work. But our phones, PDAs, MP3 players, GPS receivers, and other mobile devices all share the same Achilles’ heel: batteries. If you’ve ever run out of juice in the middle of an important call, you know how frustrating it can be.

Enter the FatCat ChargeCard. It’s a compact, portable battery designed to provide emergency power for all of the above devices and more.

Although it’s called the ChargeCard, it’s not exactly credit card sized. At 3.8″ x 2″ x 0.3″ thick, it’s closer to the size of a slim mobile phone than something you could keep in your wallet. On the plus side, it holds around 2,000mAh of power, which is nearly twice the capacity of the typical phone battery.

The ChargeCard ships with a collection of 16 tips that adapt to fit the power plugs of a wide variety of devices, both commonplace and obscure. I had no trouble charging a BlackBerry, an Android handset, a Barnes and Noble Nook, and a Nokia 770 Web tablet, but some of the adapter tips were complete mysteries to me.

To charge a device with the ChargeCard, you simply fit the right adapter tips and plug it in like you would the device’s AC adapter, then push the button on the front. A set of four green LEDs shows you how much power is left in the card.

Recharging the ChargeCard itself takes around 3 to 4 hours. It can draw power from either AC or the USB port on your computer, but it loses a gold star because it doesn’t actually come with an adapter to plug into the wall. Fortunately, it seems to work fine with just about any AC-to-USB power adapter; the adapter from my BlackBerry powered it up without a hitch.

The ChargeCard does have some limitations. It doesn’t come with tips to suit most laptops (and probably doesn’t pack enough juice to charge them anyway). It also can’t charge devices that have removable batteries and use external chargers, such as digital cameras. And of course, if you forget to bring the ChargeCard with you, or you forget to keep it charged up, it will be no use at all.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could charge your phone over a long car or plane trip, or that you just get enough extra juice to finish an important phone meeting, the ChargeCard could be a lifesaver. It lists for around $60.

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