My New External Laptop Battery/Charger Keeps Me Powered on Long Flights

I’ve had too many flights recently without seat power — too many connections from an American Airlines MD80 to an American Airlines MD80. With enough connection time I head to the lounge and plug in, my laptop gets back to a 50% charge in under half an hour. But on a quick connection I’m hosed.

Meanwhile, my 8 year old Empower adapter stopped working. American’s international 767s have seat power but they still require the adapter. It’s such an outdated technology, I didn’t want to buy a new one — but I have an upcoming 8 hour day flight and I’d want to be able to run my laptop for longer than 4 hours (likely watching movies – I bring my own inflight entertainment and don’t trust even Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific to have something I want to watch).

So I decided to buy a new external battery.

I wound up buying an Energizer XP18000AB Universal Power Adapter with External Battery.

I wanted a device that’s light enough and small enough to fit into a side pocket in my laptop bag and not weigh me down terribly.

And the biggest selling point was their ‘guarantee’ that it would work with any laptop.

Most external battery/chargers are inexpensive and work with cell phones and similar items, but I wanted one powerful enough to run my laptop for several hours and that would also charge my phone (at the same time) or Verizon Mifi wireless internet.

The device comes with several tips and several different cords for a variety of devices, but it doesn’t actually come with one for my laptop. That’s ok, they have a website where you can order tips and they promise two per year, every year for free when you register your device.

In fact they will charge shipping (apparently even shipping used to be free — they want to make sure you really want/need the tip before sending it to you, this change generated some customer anger I think according to reviews I’ve read). And my laptop requires a separate cord, not just tip, so that’s a few bucks more. But it’s one of the few devices that seemed to be compatible with my oddball Lenovo ultrabook, so it worked for me.

This battery wasn’t cheap – it cost me ~ $165. But it works great. It runs my laptop and my Samsung Android phone at the same time, and it travels great. I don’t have to worry about recharging my laptop between domestic flights, and I’m ready to go for 8 hours without an empower adapter.

What’s your inflight power solution?


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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No offense, but why spend so much money on more electro crap to carry around? Sound like your lappy is getting old anyways, so I’d have bought a new laptop and/or a new battery (or two). Would’ve saved a lot of space in your backpack, plus not need to be un-/repacking your portable RadioShack store all the time.

  2. @Christoph – laptop is 18 months old. But the battery will run out of juice after 4 hours of DVD + internet with relatively bright screen. So I carry extra juice. Meanwhile, my Android phone will also burn juice because I’ve got two different exchange email accounts loaded onto it in addition to gmail and a yahoo account. Lots of syncing = burns lots of juice = needs power. And my MiFi internet device only gives me a couple of hours of internet, I should probably get a newer generation one of those..

  3. Does this work for macbook retina 15′ ? I’ve been looking for a external battery for that specifically but can’t seem to find one.

  4. I didn’t see any address/contact labels with your info on the cords. Why not tape at least your email address to that stuff so the person who finds it in the seatback, car rental or hotel wall outlet can alert you.

  5. Seriously, the idea of schlepping an extra power brick, thick cables, and a battery pack that together weigh as much as an ultrabook like a MacBook Air, and still don’t give you as much battery life as a MacBook, and paying an extra $175 on top of the cost of the laptop for the privilege, in 2013? You’re crazy!

    So since you asked, my power solution is:

    1) No DVDs. It makes more sense to buy vinyl records in 2013 than DVDs.

    2) Use a MacBook Air.

    The MacBook Air gets 10-12 hours of battery life in real world use. If you insist on a DVD drive then the new “Haswell” MacBook Pros coming out later this year should get about the same.

    I’m assuming here when you say you “need a PC”, what you actually mean is you “need Windows”, in which case just run Windows on a MacBook Air. The MacBook Air is, by far, the best portable computer to run Windows, for the vast majority of people with normal office/home computing horsepower requirements.

    p.s. if your battery drains more than a few minutes faster with Wifi turned on then it’s time to take it in for repairs.

  6. Gary,

    I use a macbook air and I dual boot with OS X and Windows 7. You can use Boot Camp assistant and enjoy the wondrous battery life of the new Macbook Air’s all while natively running WIndows!

  7. Knowing we would be in the air for a total of 16 hours with no seat power I purchased the Lumsing 11000mAh 5 x USB External Battery Pack Charger on Amazon, at $33- plus free shipping. Fully charged, this back-up battery recharged both my hubby and my HD tablets from 10% back up to 100%, with enough juice left over to charge a third tablet up to about 60%, or a smartphone up to 100%. For the price it’s a steal. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B9BUZW2/ref=oh_details_o01_s04_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  8. I have a 13,000 mAh one that’s too big to be pocket-sized but small enough to go in a bag. It was under $50, and will charge an ipad and iphone simultaneously, multiple times. Yes, it sucks to carry around a battery that weighs more than the devices it’s there to charge, but with that battery I can run without AC power for *days.* It’s an Anker E4.

    But, no, it’s not directly comparable to Gary’s situation because there’s no laptop charging. I have an Air as well and haven’t been on a flight without power that’s long enough to deplete it yet.

  9. Get a new MacBook Air and install Parallels or Fusion and then you can run Windows on your mac. This computer is thin, lightweight and battery lasts 12 hours. I like to travel light and the picture of your “new toy” scared me.

  10. All those wires and plugs are a royal pain. The answer is a MACBOOK air as stated earlier. Easy to use. Great keyboard etc. I am mostly a windows person but use the air on many travels. Its just the best.

    Rob

  11. 165.00 for a battery. No thanks for me. And those things tend not to last a long time either.

  12. Another idea is that 165 could have been used for a Barnes Nook which I hear is a great 9 inch Android video device that runs a long time, like a ipad. Or 165 toward a IPAD.

  13. @Michael
    “I’m assuming here when you say you “need a PC”, what you actually mean is you “need Windows”, in which case just run Windows on a MacBook Air.”
    I agree with your point. However, IT makes the call at most places and they are not keen on supporting more than one system. Hasn’t happened in the last decade, won’t happen anytime soon.

  14. Fair enough if IT makes a “we will not buy Macs” call, but in that case ask for a Windows Ultrabook. Not quite MBA build quality or battery life, but at least you’re not schlepping around 5 lbs of laptop, and 2 lbs of extra battery, and probably 2lbs of power bricks and cables.

    This post is like something from the 90s.

  15. Will the Apple fanboys stop trying to brainwash everyone with their overpriced Macbook Air’s please… some Apple people can’t rest unless they tell non-Apple people to switch to Apple, regardless of merit.

    Macbook Air is not the solution to Gary’s problem.

  16. OK, forget Apple. The inflight power solution is an Ultrabook with a 10 hour battery life and a few downloaded movies. Not a DVD collection and a bag full of cables and power bricks.

    I happen to think the best Ultrabook is made by Apple. I’m not alone. http://thewirecutter.com/leaderboard/laptops/: “For the third year running, the 13-inch MacBook Air is the best overall laptop for most people, according to many reviewers. It’s boring, but true.”

  17. x2 to what AS said. Gary clearly has stated a Mac Air isn’t a solution.

    Before anyone starts telling everyone how great the new Air is, do a little research on all the post-launch wifi issues issues the current Air had – it was so bad that it led to a large number being returned to BestBuy, where people were snapping them up as open boxes for $750-900 with only a few battery cycles and waiting for Apple to issue a fix or replacement (search it if you don’t believe it… Being sold on a CL near you now for $975!) It was interesting that a major oops like that by a company with Apple’s reputation & price was not more widely covered.

  18. Seriously folks, lets keep the Mac/PC religious war out of this space if we can…

    An Air is very fine computer. I bought one for my wife. She loves it. But in many ways it is NOT a great Windows machine. Its pretty expensive to begin with, say $1299 for a 13″ Air? Plus another $200 for a couple of Windows. Plus whatever (maybe free if VirtualBox is good enough, but Parallels and Fusion are NOT free) for your virtualization software. Getting kind of expensive yet?

    Next, the Air has amazing battery life. Under OSX. Under Windows? Probably pretty good, but NOT the same. It doesn’t boot as quickly. It doesn’t resume as quickly. It does NOT get the same battery life you’re used to with Windows. Etc. Don’t just imagine this stuff works–research the subject. Maybe assume Gary’s not an idiot and chose a decent laptop already thanks. Maybe.

  19. Thanks Gary, for the new power dilemma solution. I also have the same kind of travel issues, particularly when on “vacation.” We have the same phone and I took your lead and bought the power brick you recommended some time ago. It saved me time because you did the research. I didn’t want to enlarge my Galaxy by getting the bigger battery and the brick has been a lifesaver, given the lousy battery life with a loaded phone and multiple necessary email accounts. Thanks! BTW, that power brick company has awesome customer service – fast answers!

    None of the Macophiles admitted to having the same needs or level of expertise that you have. So……unless they are walking in your shoes, they need to trust that your decisions are correct for you.

  20. The macbook air is overrated. Also, battery life decreases after charging cycles, and this is something even apple can’t solve.

    What you may want to consider for you next laptop is one with an external battery where you can simply swap the batteries (like your old thinkpad). Having two batteries will reduce the load on your laptop batteries and extend the life of your computer.

    You can charge your samsung phone via USB. Should accomplish the same task you are looking for.

    Another alternative I like is to carry separate devices. A small laptop with no dvd drive. And a separate DVD player ($60 on black friday). Separates work from pleasure, takes up less space on a plane – can easily have my dvd player and a drink and snack in a coach seat without issue. can place in the center console in J during meal service. It’s one more item to carry when you do need both, but there are trips where I don’t need a computer where a cell phone and possibly tablet are sufficient, and i can add on a dvd player for the flight.

  21. all of the pc/mac arguing aside.

    one tip i would recommend is not using your DVD drive. i see that you did not mention it but people seem to have assumed so. ripping those to video files (or the digital edition that comes with dvd/blu rays now) is much better on battery life. or use google play/itunes/blockbuster or any number of rent to watch services.

    yes, the new macbook air is quite a machine. a privilege you pay for, but a heck of a machine. and yes it won’t run windows with the same uptime as osx.

    i think his solution is warranted, i use the i.sound 16,000 mach backup for tablet/phone powering everyday, but not for my laptop.

    i would recommend using a tablet for movies instead as the battery life is better, but to each his own.

    and yes, there are some, lenovo and dell/ business machines that support additional batteries. but that is not the machine he has at this time.

  22. I agree with cbkcc1: I use a tablet for movies. My Kindle Fire HD will last at least 2 movies with a single charge even on brightest setting.

    Beyond that, a $25 2 oz Juicebar tube gives me another 3 or so hours.

  23. MD80s…..geez AA needs to get rid of these relics once and for all. They are falling apart!

    And how about taking a nice break and enjoying a great glass of wine instead? Your company wont miss you if you have a heart attack for working so much.

    Trust me, you are not that important. Nobody is!

  24. yeah, that’s a lot for a battery. I have a couple 11K models I bought for about 35-40 for charing ipads/iphnoes, etc..

    I’ve also got a functioning empower kicking around if you’d like it for your trip
    N

  25. I have similar issues. I backed a project on Kickstarter and it’s still in the R&D phase but I’m hoping that it turns out ok. It’s basically a laptop bag with a battery in it that can power/charge multiple items. I’ll let you know how it works out when it ships. I’m always looking for a more efficient way to travel and hitting some regional airports without an Admirals Club and very few power ports can be infuriating. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phorce/phorce-the-worlds-first-smart-bag

  26. I arrived at this website from a totally different angle – to safeguard my laptop and my data, photos, videos etc from electrical surges that may “fry” my laptop and the digital contents. This may be rare – Sandy happens once in a life time, may be, but I want protection from this eventuality. Of course, cloud storage, storage in multiple hard drives save data but not your hardware. From this point of view $165.00 doesn’t seem much. You develop the discipline of not directly connecting your laptop to the wall outlet. The external battery is now your sacrificial lamb, as it were.

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