TYLT PowerPlant portable battery pack
If there's one thing that seems to run out consistently -- particularly when you need it the most -- it's energy. You after a long day, a boxer in the 12th round and, most importantly, your smartphone at around 5 p.m. The abysmal battery life offered up by most gadgets far and wide has created an entire industry of backups -- charging devices engineered solely to provide [insert gizmo here] with an adequate amount of juice. I've toyed with a lot of portable battery packs in my day, but TYLT's PowerPlant is one that's worth a second look.
For starters, the PowerPlant brings 5,200mAh to a bantam brick that's barely larger than your average earbud case. In layman's terms, that's enough to power your smartphone for another 10 to 12 hours. (As a point of comparison, the iPhone 5's internal battery is just 1,440mAh.) For those unfamiliar with this segment, that's a huge amount of power in a remarkably small shell -- I honestly can't get over just how tiny this unit is. Beyond that, TYLT offers it in three variations: a micro-USB model ($65), a 30-pin Apple Dock Connector version ($75) and one with a Lightning connector ($90). Each one has a side-plug for charging one device as well as a full-size USB port for juicing up another of your choosing.
The detail that sealed it for me was this: unlike most portable chargers, the PowerPlant actually recharges over micro-USB. This is huge for avid travelers. Instead of packing a battery pack and a proprietary AC adapter to recharge it, just use a micro-USB cable that's already in your bag. For instance, I can arrive in Europe, plug my laptop in and recharge the PowerPlant using one of the machine's USB ports; no need to tote another AC adapter or power converter. That's efficiency worth praising.
-- Darren Murph
Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight
When I started at Engadget, my editor bio used to include the phrase "an e-reader refusenik of the highest register," but alas, a week with the awkwardly named Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight forced me to retract the statement.
Barnes & Noble's flagship has a surprisingly sturdy build quality and an absolutely cracking display. While I doubt I'd sell my rather (ahem) large collection of books to round a purchase, I'd certainly not disown anyone who bought me a GlowLight for Christmas (hint, hint).
Text reproduction is pretty amazing too: with the backlight, I'm able to read in complete darkness without too much glare and generally thought that it was a bloody lovely piece of kit. While I worry about the company's seeming ambivalence about the category and the possibility that I'd buy this and be left with a lemon in a few year's time, I'm starting to think that I should invest in one purely for long-haul flights and the sake of shaving many pounds from my carry-on baggage weight.
-- Dan Cooper