When id America took to Kickstarter with its unusually unique product idea for a portable backup battery charger, it successfully raised nearly $40,000 from keen consumer backers. Only two months have gone by and id America has now started shipping its newly Kickstarted product – the suitably named L.E.D Portable Charger. It's a dockable, portable battery charging dimmable LED light bar with a svelte design and two really useful applications. Charge your gadgets on-the-go and light up darkness with powerfully bright LEDs all conveniently built right into a single, portable backup solution which id America is calling the most versatile portable charging device on the market. But is it really the best backup battery you can take with you? Check out the full review after the break to find out!
The L.E.D comes inside a nicely presented sleeved box packaging, and proudly inscribed with a "Funded with Kickstarter" mention on the front.
Inside the box you'll find the L.E.D unit, a charging dock, a flat micro-USB charging cable and a quick start guide booklet. The L.E.D also comes with an $80 price tag and it's available in two flavors, silver and black. And depending on which color you choose, the charging dock that is included with it will be color-matched. However, a black USB cable is included with both colors.
Now although it's true that as of the posting of this review id America is an advertising partner of ours, our review of the L.E.D is not affected by this circumstance in any way. Now that we have made ourselves look good with this friendly disclaimer, I'd like to point your attention over to that long and hard thing I'm holding in my hand...
If you own a smartphone or a tablet chances are you've already looked at plenty of external battery charging options, and so have we. But we have yet to come across something quite like id America's L.E.D Charger. This thing is an impressive little charging bar. It was made to be portable, something that can be easily brought along with you no matter where you're going. Measuring in at 8-inches tall and only 2-inches in diameter, the L.E.D Charger won't be the ideal battery charger to put in you pocket like a Just Mobile Gum++. That's also because of its utilitarian design, which is in the shape of a rod. And I must say, it has such a nice industrial design that also feels terrific in the hand. Not that it really matters how it feels being that it isn't meant to be held like a smartphone is, but a touch of mindful polish on anything is always a good way to start.
There's a perfectly good reason why id America picked such a long and unpocketable shape, and that is because the L.E.D Charger features three very bright and well spaced LEDs across the front surface, which essentially transform this battery charger into a light bar with a single tap. Not to mention the fact that when used as a light, the L.E.D Charger can be positioned standing up, flat on its back or on one of its two sides.
Each LED is diffused using a semi-transparent white plastic diffuser cover that sits flush with the rectangular surface. This helps in allowing the LED lights to emit a diffused bright light that spreads more evenly and softly instead of having the focus of a regular flashlight, which is ideal for setting a relaxed lighting environment. Compared to the LED light on the iPhone 5s, the combined output power of the three diffused LEDs makes the L.E.D Charger nearly twice as powerful as well as significantly cooler at 6000k in our real world testing.
The top is a touch-sensitive control interface that can be used to turn on the L.E.D Charger's LED lights, as well as switch between the three different brightness settings. Tap once and you'll set the L.E.D Charger at its lowest brightness setting, another tap will switch to the medium setting and one more tap will set it to full brightness. Once you've set the L.E.D Charger to its full brightness setting, you can tap again to turn the light off. The controls are very limited when it comes to operating the LED light feature of the battery charger. And you can't pick the amount of LEDs to turn on, all three will always light up. There is a lock switch near the touch-sensitive light control which will lock or unlock functionality to the touch control. You can also use this lock switch to turn off the light at any point instead of having to tap and alternate between the three different brightness settings. What I don't like about this switch is that it's very small and nearly flush requiring you to use your fingernail to switch it on or off.
The touch-sensitive button interface works great and is acceptably responsive, however, I did find that a high-pitched noise will turn on when setting the brightness setting at low or medium levels. It seems like the L.E.D Charger poorly limits the energy to these LEDs using its electronics when you set the brightness below the highest setting causing this high-pitched humming noise to emit from the device. This isn't anything dangerous, it simply means that the internal hardware was not optimized to handle power stepping. Some monitors have the same issue when set at a lower brightness. There's no question you'll be annoyed by this when used in a quiet place.
There are two different ways you can go about charging up the L.E.D portable battery charger. You can use the included flat micro-USB cable to charge the battery using its micro-USB (input) port at the bottom, which is located right above the USB charging (output) port. A red LED light will turn to indicate that the unit is being charged. It will turn off entirely when charging is complete, which will take a few good hours unfortunately. We recommend using an external 10W (2.1A) USB wall adapter to charge the L.E.D a little quicker than a standard USB port on a computer.
The second option is slightly more convenient. You can use the included charging dock to charge the L.E.D vertically thanks to its bottom-facing charging input. A solid red LED will illuminate on the charging dock during the charging duration, and a solid blue LED will let you know that charging is complete.
While the L.E.D Charger is impressively made out of a single piece of aluminum I'd have to say that the charging dock is the least impressive item in this entire package. It's cheaply made, plasticky and not well put together. It does, however, perform its duty well so in that regard there's no faulting its intended function. It'll charge your L.E.D vertically just like an iPhone charging dock, and it will also serve as a holder for the L.E.D allowing you to position it atop of the base horizontally like a police cruiser light when you want to use its LED light function. Though I'm not really sure why that would be necessary when you could simply place the L.E.D rod on any flat surface without the need of the charging dock. If you're scared about scuffing your surface with a metal object, then it would make sense to prop the L.E.D on its charging dock as it has a padded bottom.
You can expect to get enough charging boosting juice to fully charge a device like an iPhone 5s up to three times, while other devices with much bigger battery capacities like tablets, notably iPads, will never reach a single full charge using the L.E.D Charger. But that's a typical performance result from portable backup batteries with less than 10,000mAh batteries under the hood. The L.E.D Charger has a high-quality Samsung rechargeable battery inside with the capacity of 5,200mAh along with a 2A USB charging output current at 5 volts. Meaning it can charge almost any device that chargers using USB from portable speakers, smartphones, tablets, to compact cameras like the Sony RX100. But don't think that the L.E.D Charger will quickly top your gadgets off, it's still not as quick as charging an iPhone using the USB port on the back of an iMac.
In our testing, the L.E.D was able to charge an iPad mini with Retina display from 0% all the way back up to 60%. Conversely, the L.E.D was able to fully charge an iPhone 5s and a Nexus 5 back from 0% with a little extra left to continuously power its LEDs for about an hour. And that's a surprisingly great result being that the Nexus 5 has a larger battery than the iPhone 5s. And as always, we test all backup batteries without touching the device during charging to simulate the most accurate charging performance possible.
I'd like to say that this is a revolutionary product, but for whatever reason I'm not sure that slapping some LEDs and a few strong magnets on an aluminum-enclosed rechargeable battery with nothing but an acceptably good charging performance merits such high praise; no matter how sleek and well constructed it may be. Having said that, this amalgamation of functions does make for one enticingly great portable battery charging device we'd be willing to use ourselves. And if you compare the L.E.D's 5,200mAh battery to a similarly priced quality portable battery pack like the noteworthy Mophie Powerstation, which features a 4,000mAh battery capacity, you're getting LED light bar feature that's unique to the L.E.D and more battery for the same price.
With the ability to run continuously for 45 to 50 hours (depending on the brightness setting we're told) on a single full charge, the L.E.D Charger can be used as a light bar to light anything from a camping tent to a novice photography indoor shoot. The possibilities are endless. You can also keep charging your smartphone or any other device for that matter, and still enjoy the LED lighting feature simultaneously. LED performance aside, the L.E.D Charger is beautifully crafted from a single piece of meticulously finished extruded aluminum. The built quality is terrific and impressively solid. The only plastic bits on the entire unit are the end caps, and of course the seamlessly integrated LED diffusers.
Plugging your USB cable to charge your device will automatically turn the L.E.D's charging mode on to charge your device. A blue LED light illuminates to indicate that your device is being recharged, while no light at all means charging has completed. There's no power on/off button on the L.E.D battery charger except for the touch-sensitive button that controls the LED lighting. And we're fine with that, but the caveat is that the L.E.D does lack an on-board battery status indicator, which we think would have been a very helpful little feature to have. Without it you really can't know when to expect to fully charge the rechargeable battery of the L.E.D - nor will you be able to tell if there's enough juice available to make for an acceptable charging on the go. If there ever was a feature we thought was missing it would be a battery gauge.
Around the back we have nothing but what looks to be a clean flat aluminum surface. Well, apart from the id America branding and battery capacity information. There are these small holes at either end which we're not completely sure what they're meant for, but they may be openings for attaching a very small lanyard. Speaking of attaching things, there's one more attachment point that's so magical it's literally invisible.
To make it a versatile lighting accessory, the L.E.D Charger features reasonably strong built-in magnets, which let it mount onto any ferrous metal surface. And it actually is a very useful feature to have when you need to give your hands a break yet still need to shine the light from a position where you would otherwise need to be doing all the handling. It's a clean mounting solution, but of course there are limitations. Only the back side of the L.E.D Charger is magnetic so you can't mount it sideways on a flat metal surface.
Putting an LED flashlight on a battery bank is nothing new. Countless mobile accessory manufacturers like Richard Solo have been doing that for years now. But what id America has done with its portable L.E.D Battery Charger was meant to take this concept a step further by introducing a more versatile utility light without sacrificing battery life and external device charging performance. In most cases, external backup batteries use a single LED light point to emulate the functionality of a standard flashlight. Even your smartphone uses a single LED light source, and that works quite well in many cases where you need to shine light on something in the dark. But what if you want actual lighting? Lighting that has a more permanent role in which it can emulate a stationary light source such as a desk lamp? In that case the L.E.D brilliantly ties together two highly useful utilities into one easy to use product.
If a svelte aluminum build quality, portable magnetically mountable form factor, a 5200mAh battery bank and a powerfully useful LED light bar feature doesn't appeal to you - we don't know what will. We're convinced that id America's L.E.D is one amazingly versatile tool to have in case of an emergency, whether it's you're USB-powered gadget running low on power in the middle of the day or a power outage crisis requiring you to whip out your rod and light your way though the darkness. While not the fastest USB charging device, we're impressed by the L.E.D's performance capability enabling users to fully charge their smartphone at least two times while a set of three bright white LEDs are capable of shining a soft and expansively diffused light for an extended period of time, or for days if you don't end up charging your smartphone. We don't think the lack of a battery status indicator or the fact that the L.E.D emits an arguably annoying hum when not set at full brightness should be what stop you from considering an otherwise convincingly useful and versatile accessory.