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Duracell a Real Power Player with new Product line

By Jim Bray and Angela Liang
November 18, 2009

They call it "smart power," but it's nothing like the type of "smart power" president Obama seems to think he's advancing on the international stage.

Instead, it's Duracell's "Smart Power initiative", an attempt by the company to expand its product portfolio beyond the traditional battery in a marketplace that's growing and broadening every year. Duracell's initiative, which will eventually include a "drop-and-go myGrid charging pad" that sounds kind of nifty, currently covers a selection of "personal power solutions" for a variety of needs and, according to the company, signifies its commitment to "keeping today’s consumers connected to the devices they need the most at all times."

They're talking about all those wireless doohickeys we use and love, of course, from cell phones to digital cameras – anything, practically, that's portable and needs power.

"Duracell Smart Power is an evolution of Duracell’s heritage that builds upon the reliability and performance that our batteries have and will always deliver," says Victoria Maybee, External Relations for Duracell. "This initiative will serve as an important lens for future product innovation as we expand the breadth of our offerings to address the evolution of personal power." Maybee says their new personal power solutions allow consumers the freedom to live without the limits of staying tethered to today’s power grid.  "It is charging made simple," she says.

And she's right, as long as your devices are compatible.

The company also says its Smart Power products represent "state-of-the-art charging performance", making charging your batteries simpler and "creating new ways to take extra power with you" while providing "new ways to maximize power efficiency".

I guess it's yet another way to "empower yourself"…

Duracell sent me the GoMobile "anytime, anywhere" charger, the GoEasy charger, Instant USB charger, Pocket USB charger and the Daylite LED flashlight, which obviously isn't a charger but which is a terrific little flashlight that works well.

The GoMobile, which the company says is Energy Star-certified, can deliver a charge to AA or AAA NiMH batteries in just an hour, which is handy for those times when you've procrastinated on your power, or at least your battery charging – and don't we all do that more often than we'd like to admit? It's designed to fit in a car’s cup holder and plug into an auxiliary power outlet, and will charge up to four batteries at a pop. Duracell says it's also designed to fit with home décor, which I suppose depends on your home décor (it's black and gray plastic, so will be pretty innocuous in most homes). It also comes with four pre-charged Duracell rechargeable batteries the company says can be recharged hundreds of times and will hold their charge for up to a year when you aren't using them.

Naturally, I haven't tried the "one year" claim, since I wanted to get this piece done while the products are still current (no electrical pun intended), but the charger works fine and if I could only remember to take it with me it might help me a lot when I'm on the road with my digital camera, which just happens to take AA batteries.

The Go Easy is also Energy Star-certified and slips nicely into a pocket or purse. It's an AC only charger that holds and charges up to two AA or AAA NiMH batteries. It comes with two rechargeables and could be ideal for use in your office or – as long as you remember to take it with you when you check out – your hotel room. It requires AC power, so won't work in a vehicle like the GoMobile does unless your vehicle has an AC power plug in it, which quite a few do, but it's very small and convenient just the same.

The really cool units are the Instant Charger and the Pocket charger. The former is a compact Lithium-Ion charger that's designed to provide reserve power for devices such as PDA's, MP3 players and cellphones – as long as they can be powered via USB, which means it won't work with my old Sony, or my wife's Nokia. That doesn't mean it won't work with any models from these brands, just not with the ones we happen to own, which proves that Murphy's Law is alive and well.

On the other hand the Instant Charger works great with my iPhone, so thanks to it I can have emergency power on hand when the hungry device demands more juice, as it does so often. It works by piggybacking the device, an external power supply that may not look elegant but which is certainly convenient. Duracell includes a USB-to-micro-USB cord in the package, too, for extra flexibility, and says it can give you up to 35 hours of power.

It would have been a perfect addition when my family went on an Alaska cruise a few months ago and I took along a great little Panasonic digital camera whose battery recharged via USB. The charger's small enough to keep in your pocket and/or purse for when it's needed.

Speaking of pockets, the Duracell Pocket Charger is even smaller, though a bit thicker. It's a supplemental Lithium Ion-Rechargeable power source for USB-powered cell phones.  It could come in handy if your cell phone battery runs out when you're away from a conventional recharger, offering "up to 60 percent more talk time", according to Duracell.  

You charge it by plugging it into a USB 2.0 port, such as on your computer, and then store it in your pocket or purse until you need it.  

The Daylite LED Flashlight is a wonderful little unit. Duracell says it's 20 times brighter than standard 5mm LED's, while providing five times the battery life of everyday “incandescent bulb” flashlights. It also features "spot to flood" performance by which you can tighten or widen the beam (which is, indeed, very bright) depending on the situation.  

I took the flashlight with me when I filled in doing some helicopter-based traffic reports in my city, which meant dragging my sorry carcass out of bed in the wee hours of the morning and heading into the air about an hour before sunrise. The Daylite did a great job of illuminating the clipboard of notes I have to take with me, without its beam annoying the pilot (fortunately!) or affecting his vision.

It takes two AA batteries, which are included in the package. It also appears to be built well.

The one doohickey I didn't get to try but look forward to testing is Duracell's myGrid charging pad, a device the company says "eliminates the mess of multiple cords by simultaneously charging multiple devices", by which they mean the usual gaggle of cell phones, MP3 music players or other mobile devices. It sounds like it'll be a pretty nice unit once it hits the market next spring.  Duracell says that by simply fitting a Power Sleeve or Power Clip thingy into your electronic devices' charging port, you can merely drop your device onto the myGrid's surface and it'll charge it for you.

I can see this as being a nice way to keep a bunch of devices together when they need to be charged instead of having to chase them all around the house.

Talk about a power to the people moment!

Copyright 2009 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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