Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Update 11/24: This article was originally published on November 12, 2021 Due to a technical problem with the campaign, the Elexet Apollo Ultra was pulled from Indigogo, but returned today. The text of the article remains the same as the original, but the promotion links have changed.

Over the years, we’ve moved away from the norm of a 5W USB adapter, with iPad and Nintendo switches being able to charge at 18W, while modern laptops have been able to draw up to 140W. At the rate of charging on a (somewhat) standard USB-C connector, this explosion has been great for customers who can now mostly charge their stuff with one or two well-positioned adapters. But, it is more difficult to choose the right power bank to keep all your devices top up on the go.

Enter Elecjet, a small company that is making a niche for itself using graphene in adapters and power banks. It launched its first “Graphene-enhanced battery power bank” on Indiegogo in 2019 and is now back. Elexet Apollo Ultra. It is a 37Wh (10,000mAh) power bank with several notable features: It can be charged at 100W and can output up to 87W across its two ports.

These numbers are too high. On the output side, most 10,000mAh battery packs top out at around 18W; It is the only chunkier charger that reaches figures like 65W. In terms of the input of things, you see about 30W as the top of a high-end portable charger. (There is a market for “laptop power stations” that in some cases can meet the best inkjet input and output numbers, but they are usually heavy units.)

My personal power bank at the moment is a 20,000mAh anchor powercore, which is about 25W output and 30W input maximum. Although it is twice the capacity of the Graphene model, after about a month of using the Elexet me pre-production unit, I do not want to go back.

Before I get into that, what does a “graphene-enhanced battery” mean? Elekjet nowadays takes the lithium cells inside each device and plays with the chemistry. Its “compound graphene cell” mixes a graphene solution with lithium at the cathode and then adds some layers of graphene to the anode.

What you get from this spray of graphene is a much improved performance at the expense of size. Thanks to the low resistance and high thermal conductivity, the graphene-lithium composite cells of Elektz can theoretically charge five times faster, and run through five times more charge cycles, but are about 25 percent less energy dense than regular lithium. Thus, compound graphene batteries are faster and cooler, but will have smaller or larger capacity than the batteries we are using.

I’m not really close to pushing the Apollo Ultra to its mentioned 87W limit. My regular charged devices are an iPhone 12, a Nintendo Switch and an M1 MacBook Air. It happily charges my Nintendo Switch at 18W, my iPhone at 20W, and my MacBook Air at about 45W.

This last image is actually more than the charger that came with the MacBook Air, but when plugging a 65W Apple charger from a MacBook Pro, I saw basically the same image, so it seems to be a safe rate for the battery. I did some testing on a friend’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, though, and found that the device was able to charge at the same speed as the 65W charger it came with, so I have no reason to doubt the output claim.

As far as claims are concerned, it’s extremely tight, but the Apollo Ultra’s USB-C port outputs up to 65W, and its USB-A port can handle 18W. With the PPS power spec it can output at 68.25W, but none of these adjustments add up to the claimed 87W output figure.

Output aside, the main advantage for me is how fast you can charge the battery. I quite forgot, and would often be ready to leave home with my phone on a low battery, and then go find my power bank empty. I’m sure it will still happen, because I don’t want to change now if I don’t learn to be adequately prepared for life at 36 years old.

But being able to charge the Apollo Ultra so fast means it’s not really a problem. Plugging it in for about six to seven minutes gives me enough juice to charge my iPhone from 100 percent red and to be honest, even just a few minutes before I walk out the door my phone delivered me home without dying on me. Although pre-production units are limited to 87W inputs (and therefore take about 35 minutes to charge), the final, 100W version will be fully charged from 0 in half an hour. It’s like a safety net for my own stupidity.

Its small size, at least compared to my regular power bank, is also a plus. 130 x 68 mm, the bank of the Elexet has the same footprint as the iPhone 13 Mini and is about 17 mm thick. It’s completely pocketable for most people, or at least jacket-pocketable, which I can’t say about my anchor. Also, in my opinion, it is quite attractive for a power bank, with nice quality white and black plastic, and an accurate display that shows the percentage of battery. After sharing for years how much energy is left with the four small LEDs, it is nice to have so many degrees of accuracy.

For what I like about its size and build quality, the overall capacity of the Apollo Ultra is quite low. It can handle about two-thirds of a MacBook Air’s charge, two-and-a-half switch charges, or a three-ish charge of a modern smartphone. It’s … absolutely fine. But at that rate the benefits of being able to charge something at 65W if the battery runs out in 35 minutes are somewhat limited.

What I really want is impossible with today’s technology: something of this size, just like performance, but double the power. In the future, Elexet says it will be able to shorten the power module to alleviate the density problem, and claims that it has “a new battery under the wraps” that could go much closer to regular cell density.

In the meantime, it would be great to see Elektjet add more large capacity batteries to its current Apollo Ultra range. Some options will be better, so buyers can choose their suitable compromise. A 55Wh battery pack will only be 50 percent larger, but will handle a variety of devices. Even a 75Wh battery will only double the volume.

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