I have been wanting to review Powertraveller’s professional battery solutions for quite some time. To me their equipment seems to be the most effective way to power all your photo and video equipment — from 5V to 24V. And now it has finally happened. Here’s a go at the Powergorilla and Solargorilla, the two most powerful rugged power devices in the Powertraveller product range. The Powergorilla is a 21000mAh battery that will charge your laptop and anything else that works on 5V to 24V. The Solargorilla is a foldable solar panel that can charge the Powergorilla or power anything that runs on on 5V or 20V. Both have the size of about an iPad, only about twice as thick.
Powertraveller has won multiple enterprise awards and for a good reason. The company excels at quality of build and innovation. Powermonkeys are small 5V-capable batteries that can be made waterproof with an inexpensive add-on. Powermonkey Extremes have a 12V output and a special iPad converter accessory comes with them. While Powermonkeys are great, they are limited by a low voltage and amperage. That’s why the Powergorilla is a battery system aimed at professional users. It can deliver electric current to devices at several voltages (5V, 8.4V, 9.5V, 12V, 16V, 19V and 24V) with 21000mAh to spend. True to Powertraveller’s calling, you can charge the unit using nothing but sunlight — with the help of a Solargorilla.
Powergorilla battery pack
The Powergorilla is a battery pack made of aluminium with a rubber bumper for extra protection. It has a status LCD and a button. The LCD displays the voltage the unit is delivering, the availability of 5V USB current, the remaining charge (using bars instead of a percentage; a percentage would have been nicer) and the name of the device. The button acts as an ON/OFF switch and a voltage selector.
Along the top of the unit you’ll find a DC In and DC Out port and a USB interface. You can power multiple 5V devices together with one different-voltage device as long as you stay within the amperage the unit is capable of delivering. For example, I ran two BALLED Pro photo lamps off the USB port using a small USB hub and one Akurat Lighting video lamp at 8.4V off the DC Out port.
In this kind of configuration — USB and DC Out — the Powergorilla’s DC Out port automatically switches and fixes itself to 8.4V. If the electric current drawn from the Powergorilla ’s USB port is too low (I didn’t experience this myself, but apparently it can happen) the unit will switch off. To prevent this, you can “lock” the Powergorilla so it stays on even when you’re only drawing little current.
In the Powergorilla’s box there were two complete sets of “tips”. Tips are the plugs that fit onto the 80cm cable provided with the Powergorilla (200cm with the Solargorilla). You’ll need those to power different types of appliances, including satellite phones, camcorders, etc. The tips are labelled so you can easily match them up with the right equipment. You can store tips in the Powergorilla’s own neoprene storage sleeve. It has room for these and for the cables as well. Tips are firmly fixed and remain so even after exchanging them many times over a day. I can only say I found this part of the system as well thought out and working as the rest of it.
I charged the Powergorilla using its own mains adapter first. You can also charge the unit using any laptop mains adapter. Again, you will need to use the specialised tips provided with the unit. Only Apple’s Magsafe interface isn’t directly supported, but the Powergorilla is compatible with Apple’s travel power kit. When recharging the unit from a laptop mains adapter, you can keep on charging other devices, including your laptop. The battery will automatically switch to the correct voltage.
Charging the Powergorilla with one or two Solargorillas is also possible. If you do, the unit can’t be used for anything else. You can buy a split cable at Powertraveller for only about €12 and have two Solargorillas charge the unit simultaneously. That of course halves the time needed to get a full charge.
I also let the Powergorilla deplete to 60% and then recharged right from behind glass, with the Solargorilla pressed against a window. The user guide says you won’t tap into the Solargorilla’s full charging capacity and I’m sure that’s right, but it worked well nevertheless.
Solargorilla solar charge station
The Solargorilla has about a third more surface and comes with a smaller number of tips than the Powergorilla. It comes with its own neoprene protective storage sleeve. The unit is all rubberised to ensure occasional bumps won’t cause damage. When you open the shell, the two photovoltaic solar panels become apparent. They generate electric current when they are exposed to sunlight. The panels are made of glass, which improves performance and they’re covered with a non-reflective coating — I assume to make photon absorption more efficient. The green LED on the Solargorilla indicates the strength of the charge.
The whole system looks sturdy and robust and I managed to charge a USB mouse just by exposing it out on my terrace to an October sun for an hour. However, and as expected, when clouds started to appear the charging stopped and the LED showed me there wasn’t enough current to continue.
The secret of using the Solargorilla for direct charging lies in the availability of continuous bright sunlight. In our part of the world, it’s probably better to use the Solargorrila as a charging option first and foremost — charging a Powergorilla slowly won’t harm. To charge the Powergorilla, you’ll use the provided L53D tip.
My take on Solargorilla and Powergorilla
Often you can put solar energy to good use for charging small devices, such as computer mice, action cameras, dSLRs, tablets, etc. I am a strong believer of using robust devices such as the Powergorilla and Solargorilla for these tasks, rather than delicate but elegantly designed indoors-only devices. Power/Solargorillas can be used wherever you are, even in hostile environments. That saves you from buying duplicate equipment — one set for home use and one for “outdoors”.
I have tried out the Powergorilla, both indoors and outdoors, with computer mice, AA battery chargers, Li-ion battery chargers (Hahnel’s Powerstation Twin V Pro Video), an Atomos’ Ninja Assassin and a Ninja Blade, a Duet iPad/Mac powering an sE Electronics 2200a phantom-powered studio mic, a Zoom H4n audio recorder, a Rhino Camera Gear Rhino Motion slider motor, BALLED Pro photographic LED lamps — two of these simultaneously, an LL2120hc3 V-WHITE Akurat Lighting on-camera LED video lamp, GoPro HERO3+ cameras, and an iPad Air 2.
For an indoors video interview I used only the Powergorilla to run three USB devices together with the Atomos recorder. At about €223.00 for the Powergorilla and €202.00 for the Solargorilla these devices are very reasonably priced — slightly more than one Sony NP-F970 battery. If you use them well and often, you may even help save the planet.