Powering up accessibly: a review of the Energrid VS820PD
As I integrate more technology into my daily routine, one of the challenges I face is providing power to all of the equipment. Along with my iPhone and braille display, I frequently carry other things that need to stay charged such as the external microphone used with my hearing aids. This device is essential, maintaining my ability to communicate with companions or the general public in complex settings. Recent unofficial support for connecting some braille displays to iPhones over USB is yet another reason to have external power as the adapter requires more power than the iPhone itself can supply. In an increasingly connected world, many others are also using more hardware such as Bluetooth keyboards and headsets in order to maintain or even increase their independence. Over the years, I've tried many external battery packs or “power banks” with varying degrees of success. One issue with most power banks on the market is the flashlights which can be turned on by mistake. As someone with no light perception, this can be problematic if I’m seeking to charge a device only to find the power bank completely drained. Similarly, determining the amount of charge left in the power bank also typically relies on lights on the device. I can use an app to get sighted assistance, fire up a light detector app or consult the nearest sighted person. However, that is not always autonomous, convenient or feasible. When I would only charge one or two different devices on these external battery packs, I could mentally track how much juice I had left to some degree. For example, a 20,000 MAH battery pack would charge my iPhone approximately 6 times from 0%, or up to 8 times if the iPhone’s battery was not fully flat when charged. As the demand for USB power increases and my technology needs continue to evolve, keeping track of this math is becoming a complex task. The Energrid VS820PD power bank seeks to address some of these issues and a few more I’ll discuss below.
The Energrid VS820PD is rectangular, measuring 5.5 inches long by 2.8 inches wide by 1 inch thick and weighs 13.2 ounces. Its physical profile is larger than other similar power banks because it contains a vibration motor and a device which produces beeps. It features only one button on the upper right corner. On the top surface, there is a smooth area which should be the furthest thing from you. The smooth portion of the surface is a series of lights which flash to give the user the amount of power remaining. A USB-C cable is included with the power bank, but no wall charger. On the front of the device, from left to right, you will find the standard USB-A port used by most legacy devices, a more modern USB-C port for charging an external device or the power bank itself and the Micro-USB port.
How It Works
Setting this battery pack apart from the competition is the audible or tactual feedback for not only determining the level of battery remaining, but also getting confirmation that the device you have plugged in is charging. For devices such as iPhones, this may not be such a big deal since the iOS device will confirm it's charging. I have several other devices which will not give this information in an accessible way. If I have no idea how much charge is left on my battery pack, I have no way to know if the device I've connected is actually charging or not. Pressing the button on the upper right corner of the VS820PD gives you the battery status through a series of vibration patterns. If the battery is 0-25% full, you will get a single vibration, 26-50% will produce 2vibrations, 51-75% will vibrate 3 times, and 76-100% will emit 4 vibrations. You can also have auditory feedback, which produces beeps along with the vibrations. This is toggled on and off by pressing and holding the button for two seconds. The beep is quite high pitched so may not be useable by those with high frequency hearing loss. The non-visual feedback doesn’t end there. If your device is charging, you will get confirmation through the VS820PDin the form of beeps or vibrations. These will be delivered in the form of two vibrations and/or two beeps, followed by a pause, and then two more. If connecting a second device, you will receive another confirmation. When charging the VS820PD, it vibrates once to confirm it is plugged in. You can then press the button to determine how much charge the power bank has. The only drawback to this is that there is no differentiation between the 4 vibrations once the battery bank reaches 76% and when it is fully charged. The lights on the surface of the device do give further feedback as to how much the battery pack is charged by having the 4th light flash instead of a solid light. However, that is the only way this information gets conveyed. Since the vibration motor is clearly able to produce both a short and long vibration, it would be helpful if that could be used to give more precise information as to the battery status. If the suggested option of a series of long and short vibrations is not possible, having the power bank emit 5 vibrations to indicate it is fully charged may also work.
At $100, the Energrid Accessible Portable Power Bank and Charger is far from the most economical power bank on the market. The Anker PowerCore 20000 retails for $60 on Amazon. This power bank does not have a flashlight, however it also does not offer the peace of mind of knowing how much charge your power bank has. The above mentioned power bank from Anker, like all other mainstream power banks, provides no non-visual feedback to indicate that a connected device is charging. For the blind or DeafBlind consumer, the question when considering the various options comes down to a healthy balance between affordability and functionality. If you want to spend $69, for example, the Anker PowerCore 26800 which packs 26,800 MAH, may be a strong contender. It not only has a higher battery capacity, but also has the ability to charge up to three devices at a time. Again, though, you will not get the non-visual information about the status of connected devices and approximate battery percentage left on your power bank. Also worth noting about the higher capacity power bank from Anker is that it weighs 1.1 pounds, so is a bit heavier to carry around. AT Guys, the reseller of the Energrid VS820PD in the U.S, also sells a thinner and lower-capacity (10,000 MAH) version for $75. For more information, Please see the product's page on the AT Guys website, where you will also find accessible documentation in audio and PDF format.
Devices Accessory Was Used With
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Thank you for your well written review. It was very cogent. In response, though, I have one question, and I mean no disrespect. I am hoping you will understand that the question comes from my own desire to understand why you and I would need the bells and whistles? sure, if those bells and whistles were competitively priced, I would buy one. In fact, smile, I did buy one some years ago. I like bells and whistles, But this question of mine still nags at me. It is:
Why would you or I or anyone who is blind need buzzers and beeps for a power bank?
Think about it. If we have a wall outlet handy, we charge it. If our device is running low, we charge it. Buzzers and beeps are irrelevant.
Buzzers and beeps don't change our behavior. Whether we have them or not, we still charge the power bank when we can, and we still charge our devices when we can. Can you think of anything else?
The only thought that comes to me is that those buzzers and beeps give emotionally fragile blind people a little reassurance. Maybe a little emotional empowerment? Maybe some of us need that sort of thing? I sure don't know.
But still, buzzers and beeps or no buzzers and beeps, our behavior is the same. Whether we have those buzzers and beeps or not, what we do with the power bank remains unchanged.
Bottom line, why would you or I or anyone else need them, especially if we're paying so much more, unless we just happen to like buzzers and beeps?
Sorry. I forgot to mention I've been totally blind since the age of twenty. I also forgot to mention I bought a 20,000ma power bank from Amazon a few months ago for six dollars, thanks to coupons. It doesn't have any buzzers or beeps. Smile. Works fine, though.
Perhaps it's my desire to insure that I'm able to perform my job and other functions reliably. For me, as a blind hard of hearing person still depending on that hearing as I noted above, a dead microphone means I can't communicate. A dead microphone battery without a good charging source means I flopped. It also looks unprofessional if you show up to a meeting and are clearly not prepared because your stuff doesn't work. Is it necessary for everyone. No way, which is why I provided links to other products on the market. It boils down to individual choice and what your top priority is. So this wouldn't be the thing for you I understand, and that's totally respectable. Smiles.
Emotional fragility? Hmm, that's one heck of a toxic stretch.
Seems like it would be useful to know when I'm down to the final few charges. A note to self moment: "must remember to pop that on charge when I get home". I suppose the decision of whether it's worth paying over the odds depends on whether someone has a robust routine or not. Might pick one of these up to live in my recording bag if I can get hold of it in the UK. Thanks for the review.
I completely understand the problems associated with an uncharged microphone and also how very important it is to present competence at every interaction with the sighted in a professional world. I, too, am hard of hearing. I, too, use a microphone. Until a handful of years ago, I was practicing law and also serving as a judge pro tem at the county courthouse.
Both as an attorney in private practice and as the judge in many lawsuits, it was absolutely essential to hear everything. However, being cursed with a mind that doesn't quit, I tend to see things outside the box. In this case, I still don't see any difference in my own behavior with one product or another. I would still charge the power bank at every opportunity. I would still charge my device to keep it near 100%.
Rueful smile. I would also have a second, possibly even a third microphone charged up and in my pack before I left home every morning. I would also use a battery case for my phone and have a spare in the pack. For overnights or longer, I would bring multiple power banks, particularly when my wife and I go camping. Smile. We even bought a car that has a couple power outlets.
So, I thank you for your courteous reply. Some folks get bent out of shape when I ask questions or use characterizations that might lead them to feel uncomfortable. Emotional fragility was one such. But as you seem to say, we each have our own path to follow. Mine is overkill.
By overkill, I mean I would have 2 or 3 microphones charged up and with me when I left home in the morning. I would have my charged phone in a charged battery case and a charged spare in my pack. For camping, I would bring a couple fully charged power banks.
There seemed to be a technical problem on the website. I couldn't see the rest of my last post. If I'm repeating myself, that's why.
Anyway, joy to you and yours. I do have one last question, though. What is your job?
I'm also conflicted about whether this would be worth the extra expense for me. I usually go by, two is one, and one is none, so you need three or more. And yes, I lug around a backpack full of extra stuff.
If you know the charge level, it might mitigate the need for the backup batteries, but things have a tendency to stop working, and I have a box full of lithium batteries that no longer charge. Buying three of these to be sure I always have power would be a bit painful to the budget...
I bought one of these as well. I like it. Bruce I can now make the choice myself if I want to charge it or not. Example if I am just going out on the town and 50% is going to be enough I can not make that choice. WIth my other packs that don't have this accessable functionality I am constantly charging them to be safe. I just like having that peace of mind. I think people have said it maybe its not worth it to everyone to have, but for me I have found the value in just knowing where the battery is at. I also have the anker one Scott mentioned and my frustration is I have know idea how much battery is left it's a powerful pack, but I feel like I never utalize it fully do to my lack of knowlege of where it is charge wise.
When I was sighted looking at something to check charge was easy. Rechargeble batteries are not if you are blind. I do like the feedback that I get via tone or haptic to know what my battery level is. I use it to charge my AirPod pro and Beat flex. also will use it for my watch or iPad 9 gen beside iPhone 12 pro. Yest the iPad and iPhone give you feedback but if you are doing something you might not hear it. Sad that we need to spend much for it. Amker could add accessibility without no issue but they probably do not care or were ask. I had amker which is nice and gave it to a friend she is sighted and loves it..
Sadly, my financial situation is such that I can't afford to purchase 3 microphones. I'm about to get a back-up actually. So for me, it saves money to get a reliable battery bank over purchasing a microphone that costs severl hundred dollars. However, that's my approach and it works for me, certainly what works for you is good for you. Having options is great, right?
I run a a technology center for those who are DeafBlind on Long Island. Thanks for writing and the discussion!
Thank you for your compliments on the review! That the review is appreciated makes me motivated to continue writing them!
I have been curious about this product, and now feel better-informed to make a decision about purchasing. Thanks for this, Scott.
I had heard that this type of power bank was no longer available. I'm glad to see that this is not the case. I think it is good to have options, and if one of these is a power bank that is accessible, nobody should be made to feel ashamed for choosing this option.
does it have wireless charging and Magsafe features?
Scott thanks for an awesome review. It simply amazes me how many want or expect accessibility for nothing. This isn't that much more for a battery that gives us the info we need to know so we have reliably charged electronics. These same people won't complain one bit about paying $1000 for a phone they could just use a cheap android phone or flip phone but pay for something that will improve your life nd make it easier and they complain.
I think it would be good to have one of these. The article does help a lot in understanding what the power bank does, and as I said before, I felt conflicted.
Dennis Long, accessibility does cost more, and in many cases, I'm alright with paying more for something that is more accessible to me. There are other ways of figuring out how depleted a power bank is, and I tend to think outside the box. If there were a small device that could indicate whether a LED light beneath it were active or not with a tone or click etc, I would rather have that than an accessible power bank. I read a bit on how the power banks are measuring the charge left in the battery, and there are other options for determining this that show promise if one has accessible measuring equipment. I've had too many lithium power banks lose their capacity, as in not being able to charge anymore, long before their estimated lifespan/charge cycles are up, perhaps because I live in a hot desert.
I very much disagree with Bruce Harrell that most people would behave the same with an accessible power bank than an inaccessible one. I have the power bank, especially a 20,00 MAH one, so I don't have to worry about whether I'm going to have to find a power outlet, and I'm more apt to top it off constantly if I don't know how much charge it has left. The questions for me, are, speaking completely from personal experience, how much faith am I going to put into one single power bank to work for its expected lifecycle, rather than no longer charging after about a third of its lifecycle, or is the fully charged power bank I haven't used in a week or month going to have any power when I need it? Is having two inaccessible power banks more reliable than one accessible power bank, and more affordable on my budget?
Miung: the only way you would be able to charge through these methods would be if the wireless charger itself was plugged into the battery. The same is true of MagSafe.
Thank you both for the compliments!
I agree with you, Jo without an E, there's no shame in choosing what works for you. Your money is yours, afterall, so you should feel free to spend it as you see fit. If the accessibility isn't worth the investment, no judgment here, but also the same is true if an individual finds it worth having. I, personally, found it worth the money, so I purchased one. If people want to call me emotionally fragile or whatever, that's fine, I'm so emotionally fragile that I'm ok with being called such. If it works for the individual, awesome, if something else works better for them, also awesome. The right solution for me may not be the right one for someone else. For example, I have no need for AirPods or other noise canceling earbuds. However, why would I judge if someone else finds them useful or not? I think it's great that people make their own choices. It doesn't apply to me, but that doesn't mean it's not the most helpful product to others. We have lots of options on the market, but I find it absolutely laughable that people judge one another for making an individual choice. I admit to doing this myself, back in 1992 when I was a 10 year old. LOL.
Hi all. I had the first version and after awhile, I found out that it actually came apart, the plastic casing. so I'm curious if the quality is a little better. i'm not exactly thrilled you get the charger and a cable and that's it. I'm not happy spending the hundred plus more, which i can't find on atguys.com, to buy the adapter. I only have one 20wt adapter for my phone and one USBC cable, so my options are limited right now. I agree, if it works, awesome.
Quality is good. I like it very much and appears to be nicely build. With it you can charge 2 devices,
I'm not worried about the charging capabilities, but the actual build of the device. I guess I'll buy one, and if it sucks, return it. Thx
It is built well. I think you will like it.
It feels like it is more solidly constructed. I also think the plastic it is made from is a better design, since the first generation had a glossy surface which made the device slide around quite easily. I can't give you an answer as to how well it stands up to ware and tare, I've only had mine for about 90 days. So far, so good.
First, I hope Scott keeps writing! smile
Second, I believe I bought my own accessible 10,000ma power bank around 5 to 8 years ago. It has that shiny plastic easy to slide surface, but the surface has never been any trouble. I commonly use my old, "accessible" power bank when I go camping, and sometimes for long trips by air or long drives. Hmm. What other kind of travel is there?
Anyway, it has functioned flawlessly, and I haven't noticed any sign of deterioration. It's a good product, or at least, mine is.
In comparison, the 20,000ma "non-accessible" power bank I picked up from Amazon last year for six dollars and a coupon has twice the power and also meets all my needs. 4 lights indicate battery level, so all I need is a sighted person or a light sensor if I'm feeling uncertain. It also has a switch/button that has to be pressed before plugging in a device to be charged. This prevents accidental discharge, I suppose, although I have no idea how it would accidentally discharge without it.
The reason I didn't even think of buying another 10,000ma, "accessible" power bank was that I realized my behavior wouldn't be different in any way if I instead bought the six dollar, double-the-power 20,000ma "non-accessible" power bank.
There was also the money. i could buy fifteen of the 20,000ma $6 power banks for the price of a single half-the-power, 10,000ma, "accessible" power bank.
In sum, the accessible version works great! Smile. So does the non-accessible version, all fifteen of them.
Thanks. As I have two iphones to charge sometimes, I'll have to decide if I want the power bank. Ido want something as the magnetic charger I bought off Amazon was a total loss. gonna sell it. I might just go for the 20ma power bank since i'd love to have more than a few charging cycles. Still not thrilled you don't get an adapter in the box. I meani have a few one amp power bricks but nothing stronger.
Hello. Last week during Easter, visited family, took the charger and work well. Charged my iPhone 12 pro and Series 7 from Thursday to Sunday without no issue. However on Sunday, when I push the status button, I heard the 4 tones and within 4 seconds I also heard one 1 tone follow by another similar in duration to 10 minutes from a haptic time in a watch.