The Powermonkey Extreme for non-stop video/audio recording

Powertraveller is a British company developing and selling power devices for road warriors and people who want to charge their devices as eco-friendly as possible. Powertraveller’s Powermonkey Extreme is a combination of a battery and solar panel specifically aimed at charging 5V (USB or others) devices. I tested the Powermonkey Extreme with a Zoom H4n audio recorder and a bunch of GoPros to see if and how one Powermonkey Extreme can get you through a whole day of recording.

I received a black Powermonkey Extreme to set up my test environment. My goal was to see if the solar panel would be able to charge a GoPro HD Hero2 with the new WiFi BacPac for a whole day recording, and how long the battery would be able to run a Zoom H4n audio recorder driving two 48V phantom powered microphones.

First let me tell you the Powermonkey Extreme is rated for 5V devices, including USB stuff. It can charge iPads, iPods, iPhones and every other 5V device that draws up to 9000mAh. You can read about the Powermonkey Extreme‘s technical data, as well as what’s in the box, on their site. I will only say the whole system, from the travel case to the battery unit and the foldable solar panel, oozes quality of build and well-thought of features.

I was particularly interested to see how well the Powermonkey Extreme would fair with the Zoom H4n powering two 48V phantom-powered studio microphones without powering the Zoom H4n through the mains. The latter isn’t always possible, for example when you’re shooting outdoors. While you can use powered microphones or the built-in ones instead of phantom-powered ones, I’m sure nobody will argue that two Rode NTG-2 mics will sound better than two skimpy mini-jack AA-powered no-brand plastic thingies.

I first tested the Zoom H4n in normal (not stamina) mode with its two AA batteries. I was still surprised to find that, despite the two mics drawing considerable power, the batteries lasted for 40 minutes before giving up.

The next step was to try it with the Powermonkey Extreme battery plugged into the H4n’s power adapter interface. I started this test at 11:00am and finished it at 16:10. During that time, the H4n continuously recorded using the two phantom powered microphones. The Powermonkey Extreme still had not run out of juice. Quite on the contrary: only two of its seven charge icons were gone. Powertraveller’s claim that you can charge an iPhone up to six times, a Garmin Edge 800 up to six times and standard mobiles up to 12 times therefore is absolutely no exaggeration.

I also wanted to see how long it would take to recharge the battery unit again to full capacity. That took about three hours using the mains as there was no sun to try this with the solar panel.

I tested the solar panel in a different way. On a cloudy day but with regular periods of sun, I positioned the solar panel behind a double-glazed window to see if it would charge a GoPro WiFi BacPac at all. It did. It did take much longer than with a USB connection to a powered USB hub to fully charge the WiFi BacPac, but frankly I didn’t expect any charging at all, given the weather.

With patience also came a day of bright sunlight, that I once again had the solar panel sitting behind a window (single glass sheet this time). I let it charge the GoPro HD Hero2 and that worked out brilliantly with the GoPro not taking more time to get its full charge than otherwise.

It’s clear the Powermonkey Extreme was up to the job. Even the solar panel, of which Powertraveller’s support pages say you can’t expect them to perform as evenly and as powerfully as main power unless in bright sunlight and not behind glass — which makes sense — performed much better than I was justified to expect.

In short: if you need a battery and clean energy solution for anything from charging phones to powering devices that draw more power than their internal batteries can deliver, the Powermonkey Extreme is a great performing system. It’s also waterproof, so if I would have taken it along with the H4n on a sound hunting trip in the woods, I wouldn’t have had to worry about moist spoiling the adventure.

A Powermonkey Extreme will set you back €141.60. Considering the test results, that is dirt cheap.