UPDATE 1/15/10: I recommend you avoid the Zagg Sparq. Please read my updated comments at the end of this review. A few weeks ago I noticed an interesting new external battery from Zagg called the Sparq. The company is primarily known for their high end screen protectors (InvisibleSHIELDs) and has recently released this combination charger and portable battery supply. The premise is very interesting. Use the Zagg Sparq to supply power for up to two USB cables (which most devices ship with). While you’re powering your devices the Zagg Sparq recharges an internal 6,000 mAh lithium polymer cell that they claim can be recharged more than 2,000 times before losing capacity. Another interesting claim is they “guarantee 4 iPhone charges”. So how do the claims hold up? UPDATE January 15, 2010:
One of the first things that I noticed when I opened the package was that the Zagg Sparq requires a 9 hour initial charge. Subsequent re-charges take the same amount of time. This was a let down because if you are traveling it’s sometimes not possible to be near a plug for 9 hours.
On the plus side what the Zagg Sparq does away with is those nasty power bricks that you would otherwise have to lug around to re-charge an external battery. As you can see from the picture below Zagg have designed the charger so the prongs are built into the battery. It’s very similar in size and style to the power adapter that ships with Apple’s MacBook Pro.
It’s a little tough to see in this photo below but the Zagg Sparq provides for dual USB outlets to recharge two devices (you supply the cable) simultaneously. That’s a neat idea and coupled with the ability to ditch a bulky power adapter that other batteries require I thought the Zagg Sparq was onto a winning idea.
These two USB ports function both when the Zagg Sparq is plugged into the wall (where you’d use it as a regular AC Adapter) and when you’ve unplugged and are using the Sparq as a battery.
Everything pretty much works as you’d imagine with this power supply – except it didn’t last for anywhere near four charging cycles. More accurately I was able to retrieve about two full recharges out of the Sparq – though I did not test it only on an iPhone – and was using it to re-charge my Verizon Droid as well.
I tested this both out and about while on the road and in the office. Using it while on the road was great. The device is compact and because the Zagg Sparq recharges itself with the built in electric connector – I didn’t have to worry about lugging around a cable to re-charge the battery.
Is the Zagg Sparq worth the money? I guess that it depends on how long you need the battery to perform for. I’m still going to run my device (which I paid for myself and is not a loaner or manufacturer gift) through a few more charging cycles to see if the battery life is extended.
Although I know that the conventional wisdom is that batteries need a few cycles to really reach their capacity – I just have never found that to be true with any modern day device I’ve owned. So while I’ll report back on any extension of life offered by putting the Sparq through a few more charge cycles I’m still going to say that it’s disappointing that I received about half of what I was expecting for battery charge time.
Would I still buy the Zagg Sparq if I had to do it over again?
My sense is that this is going to be convenient enough (due to the built in charging prongs) that I probably would recommend it to someone. I also like that in a pinch you could use this charger on the road to recharge devices via the AC outlet in your hotel room. Then when you throw everything into your briefcase you’ll have a fully charged 6,000 maH backup battery.
For heavy duty road warrior use where you don’t mind lugging a bulky AC Adapter to re-charge the battery – check out this Energizer XP8000 which is small and compact and although it lacks the dual USB charging ports (it only comes with one) it does have a coiled USB adapter cord with a few gazillion charging adapters supplied.
My Initial Pros And Cons Of Zagg Sparq
UPDATE 1-9-2010: My Zagg Sparq has suddenly stopped providing any charge from either of the 2 USB ports whether the battery is fully charged ( as indicated by the status lights ) or plugged into the wall. I’ll update the post once I return this device and test another.
UPDATE 1-15-2010: I’ve had absolutely awful results with my Zagg Sparq.
The list of issues seem to mirror what other users are reporting in this Zagg Sparg Review discussion on the Macrumors forum.
The device takes 9 hours to recharge per the manufacturer, it appears in both my testing and those on the Macrumors forum to drain inordinately fast.
On several occasions it has showed battery power but refused to charge anything.
The kick in the crotch is the Zagg Sparq that I have when used overnight ACTUALLY DRAINED MY GOOGLE NEXUS ONE phone not once but twice. That’s right when I woke up in the morning the Zagg Sparq still had a charge – but my Nexus One did not.
I recommend avoiding this gadget at any price.
- No charging brick to carry around – the recharging connection is built in
- Doubles as a USB charging adapter for two cables (use your own cable)
- Fairly lightweight
- Reasonably priced at $99 (on promotion – normal price of $129) – periodic deep discounts may further lower the price by 50%
The Not So Good
- The advertising promises 4 iPhone re-charges – and was only able to get through two on my first try (after charging the battery for 9 hours) – albeit I did recharge my Droid and Google Nexus One instead of the iPhone.
- 9 hours is a long time to wait for a re-charge if you’re constantly on the road
- Cheaper alternatives are widely available although they require a separate bulky charger adapter – I use this Energizer XP8000 which I found on closeout at my local Marshalls store for about $50 and have yet to exhaust its power reserve)
- The Zagg Sparq twice drained the battery on my Google Nexus One.
- Poor Zagg Sparq word of mouth from other users experiencing similar problems