Geek Gifts 2010: Kensington PowerBack iPad battery case

The Kensington PowerBack is both a protective case and extra battery for the Apple iPad. Find out if it should be on your geek gift list.

Kensington PowerBack - Apple iPad case and batteryThe Kensington PowerBack is both a protective case and extra battery for the Apple iPad. Find out if it should be on your geek gift list.

The Apple iPad's internal 3.75V battery will last about 10 hours under normal use. While this is fine for the average commuter, serious road warriors who need more power should check out the Kensington PowerBack. This hard plastic case contains a 4400mAh Lithium polymer battery that, according to Kensington, provides up to five extra hours of iPad battery power. It also has a 3-position kickstand that let's you position the iPad in both portrait and landscape mode.

I used the PowerBack on my iPad 3G for two weeks. It worked well and didn't give me any problems. I liked the extra battery life, the unit's low weight, and the 3-way kickstand. But, the device also had three significant shortcomings that keep it off my geek gift list. Here's more detail on what I like and don't like about the Kensington PowerBack.

For a more photos, check out my gallery of Kensington PowerBack photos.


  • Battery: Lithium Polymer battery
  • Capacity: 4400 mAh
  • Output: 30-pin Apple connector: 5V DC, 2.1A
  • Input: micro-USB - 5V DC, 0.5-2.1A
  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Extra battery life: 5 hours
  • Indicator: LED Battery fuel gauge
  • Stand: 3-position kickstand
  • Cost: MSRP $129.99 (US) - (available for $89.99 at many online retailers)

What I like

Extra battery life: Providing more battery life is the PowerBack's main purpose, and it does just that. My iPad 3G lasted longer with the PowerBack than without it. Did it last five hours longer, as Kensington claims? Honestly, I don't know. Here's why.Kensington PowerBack - iPad case and battery

I expected the PowerBack to work like a backup battery--kicking in when the iPad's internal battery hit 15 percent charge. But, the device doesn't work like this. The PowerBack actually functions like an external power source.

It provides power to the iPad whenever the internal battery drops below 100 percent. The iPad's charging icon will actually appear while this is happening.When the PowerBack runs out of juice, the iPad's internal battery takes over.

This charging protocol makes a lot of sense. As long as the PowerBack has juice, the iPad's battery will remain fully charged--giving you 10 hours of normal use. But, it also makes it difficult to measure exactly how much extra battery life the PowerBack is providing. Regardless, I was pleased the amount of extra iPad usage PowerBack gave me.

Weight: I was very impressed by how little the PowerBack weighs. At 12 oz., it didn't make my iPad uncomfortable to hold or carry.Kensington PowerBack - iPad battery and case Kickstand: The 3-position kickstand is a nice extra. It lets you position the iPad in the standard landscape-typing position--as you can with the rubber Apple case. But, it also gives you more upright portrait and landscape positions.

What I don't like

No screen cover: Despite the iPad's screen being constructed of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass, it's not indestructible. I routinely carry my iPad in a briefcase pocket with keys, pens, metal clips, and other semi-sharp objects.

A case with a screen cover, even a minimal one, helps protect the iPad from scrapes and scratches. This is a personal preference, but I like cases with screen covers--something the PowerBack lacks.Kensington PowerBack - iPad case and battery

Micro USB connector: The mobile industry may be moving to a micro-USB standard for charging/data ports, but MY iPad/iPhone charging infrastructure is still built around Apple's proprietary 30-pin connector. I must have a dozen of these cables lying around my office, in my briefcase, and in my car.

The PowerBack connects to the iPad with Apple's 30-pin connector, but its only external port is micro-USB. Kensington provides a cable with the PowerBack. But to charge the device in more than one place, you'll need to buy another cable or carry the provided one with you.

Difficult to remove: This complaint is really an offshoot of the previous one. Because I didn't want to carry the included micro-USB cable with me all the time, I needed to remove the iPad from the PowerBack to charge it using a cable with the Apple 30-pin connector. Unfortunately, the PowerBack holds the iPad so snugly, that I found it difficult to remove the iPad from the case. A tight fit is good for protecting the iPad, but this was too much.

Bottom line

Frequent travelers who need more up time than the iPad's built-in battery can provide, may find the Kensington PowerBack useful. It's lightweight, priced reasonably, and the kickstand is a nice touch. But, it's not for me. The absence of a screen cover and the requirement that I use a micro-USB cable are too significant to ignore.

For more photos of this Kensington case in action, check out my related PowerBack gallery.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: **
  • Geek factor: ***
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ***