Calibre is one of countless names producing external backup battery packs, a name you probably have never heard of either. So what Calibre has done to make itself shine like a diamond in a the rough is create one of the more influential backup batteries that we have seen. With a first-class, ultra-clean design we swear could be based off of a leaked schematic of a soon-to-be-released Apple product, the Ultra'Go mini has already done its part in grabbing our full attention before knowing what it does and how well it does what it should do. Calibre's Ultra'Go mini is not much different from other batteries of its kind in that it'll charge just about every one of your USB-powered gizmos except that the Ultra'Go mini sells itself as the world's first ultra-compact battery pack to feature vibration signalling. A vibrating external backup battery? That's certainly an intriguing first for us. What does it all mean though? Let's get straight into the thick of it then!
Has it ever occurred to you that just as you're about to head out, and when you come to grab your iPhone or any other smartphone for that matter, you notice it's about to run out of juice and you've forgotten to charge it up? It happens a lot. There's one way that you can cover your back and that's where a backup battery pack comes into play. We've reviewed quite a few different batteries, most recently Just Mobile's Gum++ which has gotten a favorable review from us for its speedy performance and pocketable design. The one and only problem is the price. At $80 the Gum++ is somewhat expensive and that brings us over to Calibre's Ultra'Go mini which can be had for $65. For that you'll get a much more premium made product with design aesthetics that are worthy of a fruity logo laser-etched on it.
You can find Calibre's Ultra'Go mini in the raw silver aluminum color we're reviewing at the moment, as well as in anodized burgundy red, titanium gray, and charcoal black.
I'm talking of course about the Ultra'Go mini's seamless all-aluminum enclosure. Anodized and finished with a fine aluminum texture you'd find on Macs, the Ultra'Go mini is a fantastically designed, minimalist power station with a flat even form factor making it easier to stuff it down your pants when absolutely necessary. Let's not forget that Just Mobile is also known for producing aluminum backup batteries, however, the Ultra'Go mini's build quality and solid, unibody aluminum enclosure is respectively superior to any external backup battery accessory Just Mobile has released thus far and that says a lot about Calibre's effort to make a big first impression as a newcomer. I'm far and away impressed by Calibre's Ultra'Go mini in terms of how unique it is compared to others like it as well as its durable, beautiful all-aluminum designed form factor. Even the edges are precisely cut and are sharp to match the construction of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
You may be asking why not add an LED battery gauge instead, well by implementing a vibrating battery indicator Calibre was able to keep the Ultra'Go mini looking as clean and as minimalist as possible with only a single tiny white LED visible denoting the power status of the battery itself. Instead of pressing a button followed by a visual series of battery status indicator lights, opening the charging port cover will initiate a series of up to four vibrations. Each tells you the approximate remaining battery level of the Ultra'Go mini. For example: four vibrations indicate a 100% battery level, three vibrations indicate 75%, two vibrations indicate 50%, and finally one vibration alert indicates 25%.
It's also worth mentioning that Calibre's MacBook Pro-inspired bright white LED status light pulsates when it's charging up your device, but blinks when your recharge it instead. The pulsating effect coupled with the aluminum design makes the Ultra'Go mini is dreamy must have portable external battery for any Apple enthusiast who appreciates sleek industrial design.
Measuring in at just 0.4 inches thick, the Ultra'Go mini is a 3" square-shaped metal slab with rounded corners made to look like a Retina MacBook Pro. You can easily slip this into your pocket to be taken everywhere you go and you won't even know it's there. The key difference between these two packs is their internal battery capacities and USB charging output currents. The Ultra'Go mini is the least powerful with only 1A of output power and a 3500mAh internal capacity. On the other hand, the Gum++ features a much more powerful 2.5A of USB output current and a larger 6000mAh internal capacity. While it isn't very fair to compare the two in terms of battery capacities as there's a significant price difference at play, that said however, the Ultra'Go mini's 1A of power output leaves much to be desired.
The single most significant downside to the Calibre is that it's pretty slow when it comes to charging up your device. The Gum++ by comparison is twice as fast. With the Ultra'Go mini it took 2 hours to fully charge the iPhone 5s while the Gum++ delivered high-powered USB performance comparable to an iMac output. That said, w were impressed by the Ultra'Go mini's charging performance when it came to fueling up our devices. It was able to bring an iPhone 5s back up to 100% from a completely dead state with an additional 40% charging boost soon after. For a 3500mAh battery capacity that nearly provides one and a half times of backup charging juice is quite an achievement for such a compact and slim portable battery form factor. Of course the Gum++'s 6000mAh spec can double that amount but it's chubbier and more expensive compared. Depending on your needs, the Ultra'Go mini makes a fantastic backup battery choice for those with a strong conscience for svelte design.
To be fair, the Ultra'Go mini was never intended to be used as an iPad backup battery charger, and so when thinking about it, 3500mAh is enough to power an iPhone or iPod touch to last you all day. On the other hand Calibre's larger Ultra'Go offering does, and it can also charge your tablet plus smartphone simultaneously with its dual USB charging outputs. The Ultra'Go mini is still capable to charging a handful of different USB-powered devices including a compact camera like this Ricoh GR V, and that makes is a versatile little lightweight battery pack to have around with you when you're out and about.
At the top of the unit is where you'll find the USB and micro-USB charging output and input ports covered by a plastic flap which is actually kept magnetically attached that once flipped open, turns on the power and the battery will vibrate on startup letting you know how much juice is left. Closing the port cover will automatically power off the unit. Unfortunately you cannot charge the Ultra'Go mini whilst it is charging up one of your devices. But we actually don't think that's really considered a drawback as you can still charge your device separately beside it and even save time doing so. The only worst case scenario we can think of would be when you've only got one USB outlet to charge two devices at a single time, but tha hardly ever happens right?
After spending days using the Ultra'Go mini as my go-to and on the go emergency battery fuelling station, I am a little concerned about this plastic port cover. Considering this piece is what dictates the on/off functionality of the battery, it does seem like the least durable and fragile part about this entire battery that it could potentially detach and get lost if not too careful with where you place the Ultra'Go mini to charge when this flappy cover is open. Because it uses a magnetic that tells the battery when to turn on or off, you won't be able to use the Ultra'Go mini without it quickly draining when not in use.
The back is detailed with the battery's internal capacity, USB power, input and output information as well as the company's bad ass, angry unicorn logo. As you can tell, the bottom of the Ultra'Go mini is a flat bare aluminum surface with no rubber feet. Then again neither do the HTC One and iPhone 5s.
Before we forget: inside the packaging you will find a neat microfiber drawstring pouch to store the Ultra'Go mini in when not in use, as well as a short dual-purpose micro-USB to USB charging cable that you can use to either recharge the Ultra'Go mini battery itself or conversely your micro-USB powered device when connected to the Ultra'Go mini's standard USB charging output. And one another thing, the carrying pouch has a second interior pocket to store the included charging cable so that it won't scratch the aluminum finish of the battery.
We're a little disappointed in the fact that the Ultra'Go mini has an underpowered USB charging output and that quite frankly isn't good enough to merit a recommendation from us considering the saturated external backup battery market. However, Calibre's Ultra'Go mini is one of the most amazingly designed backup battery packs we've ever reviewed. It's sleek and slim all-aluminum enclosure makes it highly pocketable, durable and in our testing its internal 3500mAh battery capacity proven to have enough energy to fully charge an iPhone 5s and then some, as well as other devices that might need a boost along the way. As for being the world's first vibrating portable power station of its kind, well that has its novelty yet functional moment. As for an external backup battery charger, Calibre's Ultra'Go mini emphasizes more on solid, Apple-esque styling than raw performance. And for that reason, we don't think the Ultra'Go mini's vibrating battery status alerting feature is enough of a compelling reason to go out and purchase it at $65.
One thing we are certain of though, and that's if you care more about design and materials then we think the Ultra'Go mini is a gorgeous option when looking for a unique pocketable backup battery solution. If you're reading about the Ultra'Go mini chances are you care about looks, or else otherwise you'd know that if performance is what really matters you'd grab a plasticky 9000mAh Astro2 battery pack with a high-powered 2.4A charging output for $40.