Tech on the Trail Meets HyperMac: 32 hours of life for your MacBook?
8/18/2009 by: Sean Kalinich
"Get away from it all" often means being completely disconnected from everything. Most times this is by design but other times this is just a circumstance of the area you chose to visit. One of the ideas behind our "Tech on the Trail" section is to bring technology out with us to these remote locations. But how do you power your devices once you are beyond the range of electricity?
One method is to bring along a really big battery. This is exactly what the HyperMac MBP-222 is; simply put it is a 222 Watt Hour [14.5~18.5V 4.5 Amper] battery that can allow you to power your MacBook or any number of USB powered devices. We ran this interesting device through our lab and then out on the wild to see if it is able to give us what we want, power anywhere anytime.
The box that the HyperMac was sent to us in is a plain brown affair with no markings except the word HyperMac in large bold letters.
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I do not know if this is the retail packaging or not but it is very utilitarian and not un attractive. The box is also very sturdy and would probably be able to take some very serious abuse in shipping without any harm done to the components - the manufacturer's first concern was how to protect valuable content on the inside.
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Now I know what you are thinking; it is a battery, how can it get hurt. Larger batteries are made up of smaller cells, each cell is linked to the other to make the whole. There are also circuit boards to control the amount of power released to any connected device. Any of these can be damaged by a hard enough impact.
Inside the box is a nice range of accessories, including a car charging adapter. The car adapter is not for charging the HyperMac but for use in powering your MacBook while mobile.
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One thing that is missing is a universal adapter for charging products that are not made by Apple. Now while this is a glaring omission, it is not a hit against HyperMac. They have always marketed this device as being intended for the Apple's MacBook platform and they meet that statement admirably well.
The HyperMac MBP-222
The HyperMac MBP-222 is a large, heavy object. It weighs about 4.7 pounds [2.13 kg] and is 10.1L x 5.91W x 1.34H inches [256L x 150W x 340H millimeters]. This is a nice compact size that allows for it to be easily stored in a backpack or notebook case. The weight is not too much until you consider that a single Gallon of water is roughly eight pounds. This means that on the trail you would need to sacrifice a little more than a half gallon of water or roughly two meals worth of food [standard MREs [Meal Ready to Eat] weigh at two pounds per pack].
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That coupled with any other tech gear you may want to bring could make the HyperMac a tough decision on extended hikes [such as through hikes on the Appalachian Trail]. Of course if you are hiking this distance you have probably arranged for food drops at strategic points anyway so food might not be too much of a problem.
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The HyperMac would also be very good for use during presentations where power access is limited. You can leave your MacBook on the HyperMac and plug your projector or other devices that cannot run on battery into the available outlets.
Looking at the design, the HyperMac is a nice looking battery. It is well labeled and has all of the controls and sockets on the same side. The HyperMac is capable of power/charging both a MacBook and a Single USB device like an iPhone or an iPod at the same time. HyperMac has also included a charge indicator that you can push to see a rough indication of how much battery time you have left. If you are connected to a MacBook you can also turn the battery on or off. If you are charging a USB device it will simply charge the device without the need to power cycle the HyperMac.
As I mentioned above the HyperMac holds 222 Watt Hours of power, this can cover quite a bit of trail time. The HyperMac also charges fairly fast. From a drained state to full charge took a little less than 6 hours [a good night's sleep on the trail].
The car charger that is included with the HyperMac is a pure DC adapter. This, according to HyperDrive is better than a traditional AC/DC inverter in that it does not need to invert the current and create AC spikes which could damage the system. Of course a high quality DC Inverter will have protection against this happening but it is still a good thing to know about the HyperMac's car charger.
For our performance testing I wanted to run both in-lab and on the trail tests. As I do not own a MacBook I did have to borrow one for my tests. The book I borrowed was the MacBook Pro 15.4-Inch Unibody. According to HyperDrive's website the HyperMac MBP-222 should be able to provide 27.2 hours of continuous power. I also used my iPhone 3G S as a secondary device and the one I would most commonly bring with me on the trail.
My testing was as follows;
In Lab - Continuous Power
Here I simply plugged in the device and used it as I normally would. This included writing a few articles. editing images in Photoshop , web browsing and e-mail use.
iPhone continuous testing was the same but the phone was set to play music through the iPod interface throughout the test.
Interestingly my battery life time with the HyperMac was quite a bit less than stated on the HyperDrive website. The website says 27.2 hours while all I saw was 20 hours of power under the usage I listed above. This included a couple of 2 hour naps for me while the MacBook was either uploading or downloading information over a wireless network.
Now while a seven hour difference sounds bad, it is not really as many standard battery tests reduce overall power consumption by dimming the display, and turning off other items. In fact HyperDrive's site says;
"The wireless productivity test measures battery life by wirelessly browsing various websites and editing text in a word processing document with display brightness set to 50% on a MacBook with a Better Battery Life setting"
The settings I used prevented the MacBook from dimming the display, was set for high performance and would not turn off the display until it had been inactive for more than 4 hours. So in all a 20 hour run time is excellent.
I gave up on the iPhone test after it ran for about 36 hours. Simply put the HyperMac MBP-222 could probably power your iPhone for a few days without dying.
In Lab - Recharge
This test was to see how long the HyperMac could keep each device running if there was no power available. I would typically plug the iPhone and the MacBook in as soon as they hit 20% battery life remaining.
Here we see something very interesting - using the HyperMac as a recharger only I was able to use the MacBook Pro for a total of five days. This is using it during normal hours, not on an extended bender or marathon session. The iPhone was able to be powered for more than 45 days without ever plugging it into a computer or power outlet.
On the Trail
The tests on the trail were all about longevity. The trip that was planned was for two days. While we would have power, I would not be using it for the two main connectivity devices I was carrying and also just for fun my Canon Digital Rebel XTi. For these three items I would only use the HyperMac.
Over the course of the two day trip the HyperMac performed very well. The MacBook was not only used for work it was also the only source of entertainment over the two days. I would plug the MacBook into the HyperMac and was able to watch DVDs or AVi movie files.
The HyperMac also had no issues maintaining the charge on my iPhone 3G S and keeping the Canon batteries charged. I was not able to test it on the trail for more than two days at the time of writing but I do have a hike of the FootHills Trail in South Carolina early next year, and look forward to testing out the HyperMac on a longer duration trip.
The HyperMac MBP-222 is not an inexpensive option, at $499.99 it is an exceptionally pricey way to take your MacBook on the trail. It also has a high cost in weight at 4.7 pounds. For the average tech-reliant hiker this flavor of HyperMac might not be the option.
Thankfully there are a few more options out there for you to choose from. They start at 60-Watt hours for $199.99 and move up from there. As an additional bonus, as of this writing, you can get a free HyperMac Car Adapter with any HyperMac of 100 Watt Hours and above. This is a $150 value according to the HyperDrive site. For me the HyperMac MBP-222 is right on the line of excessive in price, as I do not personally own a Mac I found myself wanting a universal adapter so that I would be able to bring a PC. I think that this product would be a better value if something like this was included or at the very least an option.
Support for your HyperMac is setup through an sending a message to HyperDrive. This form can be found on the support tab of their web page.
I am in two minds about the HyperMac and in particular the MBP-222. On the one side it is a great idea and can provide a considerable boost to any MacBook that you plug it into. It can also provide power to any USB chargeable device. This makes is very functional in terms of what it can do with the large exception of its Mac limitation. To give HyperDrive credit they have never advertised it as anything else.
In terms of value it is very hard to justify the cost of this. If you have a MacBook Pro and you are constantly taking it on the road or using it in presentations where there might be limited access to power then it is an invaluable product. Just as it is if you are looking to extend the life of your MacBook when away from power for an extended period of time, or need to charge a USB device like a camera or phone. HyperDrive has built an excellent external power supply. It has a rapid charging rate, excellent power retention when not in use and a sturdy construction.
But the lack of a universal adapter limits its coverage and therefore its market presence. I would love to see HyperMac offer a universal adapter, or perhaps even a version for PC as this would be an excellent product for use on the trail if it was able to power PCs or other DC devices. As a single market device I can only recommend it to enthusiast or power users that own a 15-inch MacBook Pro or above. Anything less than that would be serious overkill in terms of price and available power for the MBP-222.
HyperMac External Battery for Apple MacBook (222Wh), HyperDrive, HyperMac, Battery, Extended battery, battery life, USB Charging, MBP-222, Watt Hours, MacBook, MacBook Pro
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