USB-C is a newcomer to the interface world, really made famous by Apple with their newest MacBook models. Xtorm have followed this launch to design and bring to market a battery pack that boasts USB-C charging. It’s called the Xtorm Power Bank Essential (AL450), and for £79 it is promoted on its ability to fully recharge a drained MacBook.
Following all the newer Xtorm charging Power Bank releases, this charger has a similar slim profile with curved edges, but it also has an aluminium body which contributes to a dense 277g weight. It feels like a solid product that could deal with a few hard blows to the ground should such accidents happen. But we don’t actually think that’s the intention for the material, we’d hazard an educated guess that Xtorm have implemented an aluminium body for the quick dissipation of heat due to this charger's faster and more straining charging capabilities that we’ll come to shortly.
A three bar blue LED indicator represents charge levels. All ports are directly available for usage and aren't covered by flaps. There are 2 USB 3.0 out ports and a micro-USB in port for charging the Power Bank. Slightly underwhelming is the lack of an inbuilt USB-C connection, but instead a supplied regular USB to type C is supplied for this purpose. This was not made obvious, we felt.
What makes the Xtorm Power Bank Essential different from something like the Xtorm Power Bank 15.600 with similar electrical capacity, is that one of the USB 3.0 ports on this is able to output either a 5V/3A or 12V/1.25A (auto detects what’s required) output for faster more compatible charging with USB-C devices. We’re not unfamiliar with charging notebook computers via battery packs like the Xtorm Laptop Power Bank 18.000 which could distribute an AC current. However, this latter product was fairly bulky and became hot quickly, needing an inbuilt fan which stole energy, whereas the Xtorm Power Bank Essential, with its DC output, is silent, slim/light and charges a substantial MacBook in the same way we’re familiar charging smartphones and tablets. Because of this it’s a more accessible appliance for travellers with lots of devices that rely on a USB connection for recharging.
The capacity of 12.000mAh was able to fully recharge a sleepy iPhone 5 with a remainder of 3-8% for 6 days consecutively. So, by our calculation, around 25% of the energy is lost from this Power Bank in the process of charging, which is below average and the charger does automatically shut off once it has charged a battery. The main trial event, that of charging a MacBook, was noticeably slower than using a wall outlet, even with the computer asleep - taking 250 minutes, which is four times longer than when using a wall outlet! Nevertheless it did manage to fully recharge the battery, whereupon it was itself totally diminished. So significantly less efficient here, but obviously there's a greater strain due to the stronger current.
The Xtorm Power Bank Essential is a fairly efficient high capacity charging solution for traditional USB based devices. We like the speedier 3A output for charging smartphones and tablets, but when it comes to the USB-C usage it’s a bit flawed. Despite not actually having an inbuilt connection and using essentially an adapter cable instead, it does charge a MacBook fully once in an organised fashion (but notably slower than a wall outlet) and is specifically useful when stranded from the mains. It's a nice taste of what will no doubt become a more sophisticated and capable recharging device in the future.