Review: Powerbag Business Class Bag

Powerbag backpack hides universal charging system (February 16th, 2012)

Many companies currently offer battery packs and various accessories to keep smartphones and other gadgets charged when away from an outlet. Powerbag has taken this concept to the extreme, with products such as the Business Class Pack. The company aims to offer well-rounded backpacks and messenger bags that protect gear and keep batteries full at the same time. In our full review, we take a look at the Business Class Pack's worthiness as a charging station and a backpack.

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Powerbag

Price: $180

The Good

  • 6000mAh integrated battery
  • Connectors for Mini/Micro USB and Apple devices
  • Solid construction
  • Comfortable with heavy loads
  • Adjustable sternum strap for load distribution

The Bad

  • Large for notebook alone
  • No built-in rainfly

Many companies currently offer battery packs and various accessories to keep smartphones and other gadgets charged when away from an outlet. Powerbag has taken this concept to the extreme, with products such as the Business Class Pack. The company aims to offer well-rounded backpacks and messenger bags that protect gear and keep batteries full at the same time. In our full review, we take a look at the Business Class Pack's worthiness as a charging station and a backpack.

Design

Powerbag was kind enough to send us the Business Class Pack just ahead of CES. We thoroughly inspected the bag before committing it to what we knew would be a brutal adventure. The pack had to be durable, comfortable despite a relatively hefty load, small enough to serve as a notebook back on an airplane, and able to keep our gear protected from external abuse and damage from things slamming against each other.

The backpack's primary feature is its battery pack, a module--3000mAh, 6000mAh or 9000mAh--that can be removed when not needed or swapped if an outlet recharge is not practical. What looks like a simple rubber badge with the company's logo is actually a button, which serves as a charge initiator and a capacity check. Four LEDs above the button, but behind the fabric, allow users to see how much power is left, and provide a status indicator when the pack is charging from a wall outlet.

A 9x7.5-inch pocket above the battery status LEDs serves as the charging station. Unzipping the pocket reveals two large sleeves lined with soft fabric, each with a different charging cord. One side offers a dock connector for iPods, iPads and iPhones, while the other side provides two USB connections to charge an Android handset or anything else that charges via Micro or Mini USB. Users can charge an iPod and a USB device simultaneously without worrying about the devices bumping against each other.

Moving further back into the pack, a second pocket holds the removable battery and another protected sleeve for larger devices such as tablets. The battery holder provides a female USB port that can be used for iPad cables or other proprietary USB cables found on devices such as Samsung's Galaxy Tabs.

A shallow pocket can be found between the battery compartment and the main storage area. The small storage space serves as a perfect place to stow things that may be needed quickly or on an airplane where it is difficult to dig through the whole bag. We kept our headphones, SD cards and a spare cellphone battery in this area, though the charging system eliminated the need for the battery.

The main compartment is fairly large, providing approximately 750 cubic inches of storage space for notebook cords, cameras and other large items. Several smaller sleeves are sized for pens and pencils, business cards and small items. We used this compartment to hold a DSLR camera, an extra lens, several filters, a small LED array, a flashlight, AA batteries and other small items.

The notebook compartment sits directly behind the user's back, which we believe is a logical placement. Another zipper separates the main compartment from the notebook, enabling users to cruise through airport security without pulling the notebook completely out of the bag. A 17-inch MacBook Pro comfortably fit in the notebook sleeve without feeling cramped.





Ergonomics

Anyone who carts around a messenger bag at CES all week may regret the decision after a few days, especially if all of their necessary gear is in the bag while they dart around the show floor and around Las Vegas to attend meetings and events that are held outside of the convention center. We eagerly stuff 50 pounds of gear into a hiking pack and spend a week tramping through mountain terrain, however 20 pounds of electronics can easily cause more pain after several days of brisk business in Las Vegas.

The shoulder straps on the Business Class Pack provide just enough padding to be comfortable, without being bulky or restricting airflow. We were delighted to see an adjustable sternum strap, which helped us distribute the load across our chest rather than leaving all the weight on our shoulders.

When we were moving through airports with a larger bag occupying our back, we found the the Powerbag's carry handle to be extremely comfortable. The strap appears to be built from neoprene and rubber, avoiding any rough spots.





Battery

Before we received the Powerbag, we were forced to run a Micro USB cable from a MacBook Pro into the main compartment of a simpler bag to charge our smartphone. The approach was clumsy, putting excess pressure on the computer's USB port, draining the computer battery, and scratching the phone when it tumbled around in an unorganized compartment.

The Powerbag allowed us to quickly attach the phone to the charger and remove it when needed, without fumbling with the computer or trying to find a small cord that would become inevitably entangled in the MacBook's cord. As an added bonus, the phone was always kept in a protected sleeve to avoid damage.





The standard Business Class Bag ships with a 6000mAh battery pack, which is claimed to provide up to four charges for a standard smartphone. We were able to refuel our Samsung Droid Charge approximately three times before the bag's battery was depleted. It is important to note that the phone was running a Wi-Fi tethering app for a significant portion of that time, which quickly drains the battery. We would expect to get closer to four charges if the device was merely on standby while charging.

The bag comes with a 3.5-foot charging cord that conveniently wraps around the power adapter. Users can charge the battery while it is in the bag, plugging the adapter cable into a water-resistant port on the outside edge of the bag, or plug the adapter cable directly into a battery that has been removed. We view the latter option as a significant benefit for anyone who plans to use the bag with multiple battery modules, as it eliminates the need to swap batteries to charge each module.







Final thoughts

Despite our apprehension when taking unfamiliar and untested equipment to CES, the Powerbag proved to be a worthy tool. The backpack is comfortable, accommodating for basic camera equipment and a notebook computer, and effective at charging smartphones or other devices. The aesthetics are professional and modern, without alerting potential thieves to valuable contents.

For $180, or less than $160 through some retailers, the Business Class Bag is clearly not the cheapest backpack on the market. When considering the total value, however, we feel that the company is offering a good deal. The bag itself easily competes with notebook cases in the $70-100 range, while a single 1500mAh iPhone battery case can fetch $80--without the ability to charge any other devices. In the age of power-hungry smartphones and tablets, we welcome a universal charging system that discretely hides within a comfortable backpack.






by Justin King


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