Date reviewed: April 2021 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £189 | www.omnicharge.co
Battery technology has progressed incredibly over the past few years, but many riders rely on their phones for navigation, action cameras to record their rides, and tablets or even laptops to document their adventures. While much of these power needs can be taken care of with chargers and supplies on the bike, many of us need portable power banks to top up our devices while we’re on the go, or when camping.
With portable power banks available from less than £20 on Amazon, why would you consider a pack costing ten times as much?
This is the bundle version, which includes a case and charger, along with two cables
There are two versions of the Omnicharge Omni 20+ available: the one I’m reviewing –which has a mains power outlet – and another that substitutes this for a second USB-C socket and some other, useful features (see later in the review). I’m testing the 230 V European version, available from Amazon (not an affiliate link), but there’s also a 120 V unit available for American buyers.
This is a lot more than just a power brick, with a variety of features that will suit more demanding users…
I’ve got the ‘Pro’ or bundle version, which also comes with a carry case and a high-power 57W wall charger with UK and European adaptors that clip securely over the US plug built into it.
You can read the full instructions for the Omnincharge Omni 20+ here.
The 20+ can be easily configured using the monochrome OLED screen
Of the two front-mounted USB ports, the top one is QC 3.0, which is a fast-charging standard by Qualcomm. While this outlet will charge any standard USB device at 5 V, if a QC-equipped device is connected, it can be charged much more quickly.
QC 3.0 is the latest version, but it is backwards compatible with older devices:
3.2-20 V, 18 W
5V, 9 V or 12 V, 18 W
5 V, 10 W
In QC 1.0, that 10 W output meant that the maximum charge was 5 V at 2 A, because P=VA (Power in Watts equals Volts times current in Amps). Newer devices, particularly smartphones, can be charged faster with higher voltages, so while 5 V at 18 W could put out a current of up to 3.6 A, charging a phone at 9 V can be a lot quicker, and that 18 W would still allow 2 A to be delivered.
QC 3.0 allows even higher voltages to be used (though at reduced current due to the same 18 W output), which some devices can take advantage of. This standard also includes Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage (INOV), which adapts the output voltage to suit the needs of the battery being charged – right through its cycle – and is claimed to be even more efficient.
The 20+ strikes a good balance between size and performance
Rated at 71 Wh, the Omni 20+ should be able to deliver 14,200 mAh at 5 V. Put simply, for a duration of one hour, powering a 5V device, it should be able to pump 14,200 mA (or 14.2 A) into a device.
But it’s not that simple, and even using inline meters to test the current being drawn, there are too many variables for me to be able to say exactly how much charge it’ll give YOUR kit.
My testing involved charging a Samsung Galaxy S10, a GoPro Hero 5 and Hero 7 (both use the same 3.85/1,220 mAh cells), an iPad Air 2, a 15” MacBook Pro and my Canon EOS 80D battery through a mains charger.
My Canon camera can’t be charged via USB, so the mains socket on the Omni 20+ is vital for on-the go charging. Drawing around 12.15 W according to the Omnicharge screen, the DSLR’s pack was full after 2hrs 15mins and the Omni 20+ had 72% capacity remaining.
This result was the same with the unit’s output set to 230 V AC as it was with it set to 300 V HVDC, the latter having been done by mistake; fortunately the switching-mode charger dealt with it. This is a pro-level device and needs to be treated with respect… check the output before you plug in.
Do keep in mind that the maximum output of the main socket is 100 W, which at 230 V means a device can only pull up to 0.4 A, but that’s more than enough for most mains chargers.
The direct laptop charging cable is sold separately
The round DC output socket only comes live when you’ve gone into the menu (double-tap the power button), and selected one of the four voltage outputs. Charging my work 15” MacBook Pro, I was able to use 20 V, but it’s vital you check what your device is capable of to avoid any damage.
The DC to Magsafe 2 adaptor is $19.99 on the Omnicharge site, though I did find it at some UK camera stores for as little as £9.99. The adaptor cable for PCs includes tips to suit Dell, Lenovo, HP and universal 5.5x2.5mm Barrel Port, and retails at $29.99. Of course, more and more laptops are powered by USB-C now, so there’s becoming less demand for these. There’s also a DC to Surface Pro adaptor available for $19.99.
My MacBook’s battery is on its last legs, but the full Omni 20+ took it from a totally dead computer to 83%. It couldn’t quite fill this large battery up, but it’s more than capable of getting you out of trouble. I’ve also written much of this review while keeping the laptop at 100% with the Omnicharge for nearly two hours, though this will vary greatly depending on the power requirements of your laptop, what software you’re running at the time, and whether any external drives are plugged in.
Of course, the mains outlet can be used to power any laptops’ own charger, but this is a lot less efficient – in my testing, charging the computer through the mains adaptor used around 25% more power. It’s also worth noting that a heavy charging brick can make it difficult to position the Omnicharge – especially if you’re having to go through an EU to UK adaptor – though for most purposes, the 20+ can be stood on any of its sides.
Omnicharge claims one to two charges of a tablet, but of course they’re available with a range of battery capacities. The 20+ charged my iPad Air 2 back to full with 49% charge left, so it’s not that far out in this case.
My Samsung Galaxy S10 takes advantage of the fast-charge capability of the upper USB port on the front – and the USB-C port on the side – the 20+ showing 82% after charging the phone to full from flat in only 1 hr 40 mins.
The wireless charging is also high-speed-enabled, delivering up to 10 W and leaving 76% in the Omni 20+ after a full charge to the phone took 2 hrs 40 mins. You do have to ensure the phone sits across the back of the top of the unit in order to cover the coils as it can be quite fussy on position – a location marker on the device would have been handy to have printed here, but check the output shown on the screen – if it’s under about 4W you haven’t got the phone in quite the right place. This link from Omnicharge explains how to find the best spot.
I like having the wireless charging, but to be honest it’s something I think’s more useful on a mains-powered device that’s always ready to drop your phone onto. I charge my Galaxy on a cable every night, and for topping up from a brick while on the go I want it as quick and efficient as possible, so tend to use a cable (which is easy to keep in the bundle’s carry case). Still, if you have the 20+ plugged into a charger on your desk, you know it’ll always be ready to go, and you can drop your phone on it to keep it topped up.
Charging my GoPros, running them to flat with 4K recording and letting them cool, then charging them again, I managed 8.4 full charges, which is in line with Omnicharge’s claims of up to 10 charges of an action camera and certainly makes this a useful device to have when I’m out shooting video.
The Omnicharge devices use 18650 cells (similar to big, fat lithium AA cells). Just like those in Tesla car batteries, these cylindrical cells might not appear to be making as efficient use of space as the pouch cells found in many cheaper power banks, but they’re less prone to swelling and hence potentially safer. They’re also cheaper to produce.
Early in production Omnicharge used BAK-branded cells, which caused some arguments on forums, but when I asked the company if they’re what’s still in there, I was told that Omnicharge is “very keen on listening to customer feedback, and given the sentiment around the BAK cells, promptly made the switch to LG cells. All of the current product line has been using those cells for some time now.”
But just to be sure, I opened up one of the units I have on test. The 20+ and the Mobile proved too hard to crack, but the Ultimate’s removable battery yielded to my butchering, and inside were 12 LG INR18650MH1 cells, which are each rated as 3,200 mAh at 3.7 V. That’s a total capacity of 38,400 mAh, or 142 Wh, which is what’s claimed on the packaging.
The Ultimate charged my GoPros 16.25 times, which is just under double what the Omni 20+ achieved. Given that it has half the number of cells inside, I think it’s a fair conclusion that the 20+ has cells with the same 3,200 mAh rating inside.
The only question remaining is whether I had a ‘special’ version for review, but they were fulfilled by Amazon, not sent direct, and Omnicharge didn’t know I was going to crack one of these units open… in fact, nor did I until I’d seen comments online questioning the tech inside while compiling this review.
Over the last two months I’ve had this device cycling numerous times, but it’s of course too early to comment on long-term durability. However, the overall build-quality inspires real confidence, and while there are much cheaper (and lower-specified) battery packs available, this really does give the impression of something that’s built to last as long as possible.
The 20+ is capable of outputting 230 V AC and 300 V HVDC
It concerns me a little that there’s no safety cover over the AC/HVDC terminals; touch the button on the front panel and the socket goes live, delivering a potentially dangerous shock if anything metal is inserted.
You’d hope nobody using it would be daft enough to poke scissors or paperclips into the socket while the outlet is turned on, but I do think it’s worth using the hard case to ensure nothing could accidentally find its way in there while it’s in your rucksack or luggage. I hope to 3D print a small cover that’ll plug into the holes; if I’m successful, I’ll post a link to the STL file here.
USB-powered RC chargers can be juiced up on the go with the 20+
Rated at 71 Wh, with the 3.85 V of the GoPro cells that equates to 18.4 Ah (18,441 mAh), or 15 1,220 mAh GoPro batteries. So why did it only charge almost eight and a half of them? I asked Dr Thomas Mansfield, a Chartered Engineer, why power banks don’t always deliver what we might expect.
Dr Tom explained that while they’re much more efficient than the old nickel metal hydride (NiMh) technology, lithium ion cells still aren’t 100% efficient, and battery capacity can be claimed in various ways. This could include calculations from first principles (not testing) that may assume the calculation stopping at a lower voltage than a device’s cut-offs, which are used to prevent serious damage to the cells during discharge.
The capacity I as a user can measure will vary a lot depending on the current being drawn, temperature, duty cycles and other variables. Plus, a typical use scenario is not a constant load, which would be required to properly test a battery.
The group of cells that make up the Omnicharge battery go through circuits that regulate the voltage to what’s required by the device being charged – if it’s through USB that means that the 6 3.7 V cells that total 22.2 V in the 20+ are being stepped down to 5 V to output to the GoPro. The GoPro itself is then taking that 5 V and running it through its own charge circuit in order to juice up the 3.7 V cell inside. That’s a lot of opportunities for inefficiency
The results I got from this Omnicharge were in line with other power banks I’ve used, so if all you want is a basic charging brick, this is probably over-kill, but what you’re paying for is the high power delivery, extra features, the build quality and potential longevity, plus the durability of the good-quality cells inside.
The Omnicharge 45W charger can be used in pretty much any country
The charger that comes with the Pro bundle has a 45W USB-C output that allows you to charge the Omni 20+ in less than three hours, or indeed fast-charge your phone or other compatible devices. You can still use the Omnicharge to power other devices at the same time, though if it’s flat you will of course be limited to the input power.
However, the wall charger does also have a standard 5 V USB socket capable of up to 2.4 A, which can be used at the same time as the USB-C outlet.
The case is expensive, but very good quality with handy elastic straps on the inside of the lid with plenty of space for cables.
The wall charger is certainly versatile, and its high power output is very helpful, the 20+ using the full 45 W to charge very quickly. You can use any standard USB charger for slower charging; my 18 W Xtar QC3.0 wall adaptor worked fine, though it did only deliver 15 W of charging power – three times less than the Omnicharge so about three times slower to charge.
According to the FAA, the largest rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can be carried on an aeroplane is 100 Wh, so with a rating of 71 Wh, the Omnicharge Omni 20+ should be fine to fly with. As it’s classed as a ‘spare or loose’ battery, rather than installed in a device, it must often only be taken in carry-on baggage, not put into the hold.
EasyJet allows batteries up to 160 Wh to be carried in the hold or carry-on, while BA says that it gives ‘operator approval’ for packs up to 160 Wh, but that you should print this page and carry it with you. That might well be the case with other airlines.
Virgin Atlantic insists that power banks between 100 Wh and 160 Wh must be approved by them before travel.
Surprisingly, Ryanair allows batteries up to 160 Wh, and doesn’t charge you more for them either. Yet.
The 20+ seems to be well within the limits set by all airlines, but they can vary so if in doubt check with every company you’ll be flying with. Sometimes you just need permission to carry a large battery, sometimes they won’t allow it at all, though this is typically only a concern with the largest packs, like the Omnicharge Ultimate.
I’ve also tested the Omnicharge Mobile 12,800 and the huge Ultimate, and while each has its own distinct advantages that could make them the right choice for you (click the links to read the reviews), I have to say that the 20+ seems to be the most versatile and accomplished device. It’s not the smallest power bank, but it’s not too big to pop in a bag or pannier, yet it has the ability to really support an adventure rider on a journey of several days between power sources.
Over time I’d imagine the value of having a mains output on the Omni 20+ will become less valuable – most devices can be charged via USB now, and 100W isn’t going to power anything much beyond a charger or small power supply; it’d struggle to power my router, for instance, and if I was that desperate for the internet I could set up a hotspot with my phone and 4G, keeping it powered via one of the USB outlets.
If you’re not going to need the mains capability, I’d consider the 20c+, which gives you an additional USB-C outlet instead, though you do also lose the barrel connector that can be used with laptop adaptors.
On the other hand, if you have a more modern USB-C chargeable laptop, you do get the benefit of the 20c+ also acting as a file-transfer hub, allowing you to share data through the two USB-A and one remaining USB-C port, which is a brilliant addition; once I have a new laptop this is probably what I’d prefer to have.
Whichever you choose, this is a truly versatile and powerful battery pack. There may be cheaper alternatives for boosting your phone’s battery, but the Omnicharge Omni 20+ is an exceptional product that’s very well made and could offer a real solution to many vloggers, adventure riders and professionals.