mFuel SPD-11 Universal and SPD-9 Notebook Power Banks

By Daniel Dern  |  Posted 2008-04-02 Print this article Print


The mFuel Power Banks look classy-like high-tech aluminum bricks, rather than the slab shape of APC and other models. This may be easier for to pack and carry-or not, depending on what other gear a user has.  

mFuel adds more features, whichmeans more complexity and confusion, by including world jacks in the accessories. And instead of having power tips in pairs, one for each end of the cable, mFuel uses a "Universal Power Adapter," which has all the power-in jacks for AC adapters. (This approach makes some sense, rather than incorporating the adapter into the battery, but it also means one more thing to keep track of.)

mFuel uses "Power Pucks"-retractable cables that ends can be attached to, letting them double as power cables or as Ethernet and USB cables. The less-cable-while-packed design is nice, but mFuel complicates matters by having two different types of cable: red cables, which can carry power or data, and yellow ones, which are only good for data. Confusingly, the yellow cable connects close to the power-in side. And the cables are not labeled even with icons, increasing the chances of confusion. mFuel really should include a kit of labels.

Like APC's UPB90, the mFuel has an LCD displaying its estimate of remaining time (based on what's currently connected), and power level or time-to-charge or both.

I've been using the mFuel SPD-11 to power my IBM ThinkPad T40 and also to charge my cell phone. The first time I tried it, the SPD-11 went from claiming it had about 2.5 hours of power left to abruptly beeping and running out of juice. Since then, it's been better behaved.

mFuel includes a zippered pouch, with useful inside pockets to keep Pucks, tips and other items from getting lost, but annoyingly, the main zipper broke early in the game. Not a big deal-a Ziploc bag will do-but it's annoying.

A bigger concern: The mFuel tip for my ThinkPad T40 periodically stops fitting properly in my notebook, losing its connection. The notebook keeps working, but it means paying attention to the charging status.

Conclusions: Any battery in a storm

The APC UPB90 and mFuel models have LED displays, and can autosense and set their output voltage. Both can power and recharge mobile devices as well. Other than price, the biggest difference is shape: If possible, users should try fitting each battery in a computer travel bag to see which is least inconvenient, and also try using them with a notebook on an airplane-tray space.

Users with really big notebooks should consider getting two batteries. (And pack a charger with AC/car/airplane plugs, to refill when possible.)

Daniel P. Dern ( is an independent technology writer.


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