Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Hands on with Toshiba's fuel cell charger

Martyn Williams | Oct. 28, 2009
My first reaction to the Dynario was to its size.

Over the last few days I've charged two cell phones, a PSP, an iPod 5G and a handful of other music players and devices and things have gone pretty much flawlessly. The only annoyance was the need to charge the internal battery of the fuel cell. I didn't know what was happening at first and couldn't figure out why charging of my phone hadn't begun but a call to Toshiba sorted that out.

Refilling is easy and, thankfully, appears to be very well engineered. A small connector ensures the refill bottle is correctly inserted and only then will valves in the charger and the bottle open to allow methanol to be squirted inside.

A refill bottle of methanol holds 50 milliliters so can refill the Dynario's internal 14ml tank just over 3.5 times. Toshiba estimates one refill is enough to charge a cell phone battery twice so a bottle should last about 7 charges. Your mileage will vary according to the gadgets you're recharging and I feel like it was lasting a little longer than advertised, although I didn't measure it.

The fuel cell won't work with every portable device. Its 5 volt, 500mA output is suitable for charging most gadgets that accept power over a USB cable or others that use a single lithium-ion battery or several batteries in parallel, but not those with batteries connected in series. You can get a quick idea by checking the voltage on the battery or in the gadget's manual to see whether it's 3.6 volts or 7.2 volts. The former is OK, the latter is not.

And even then not every product will work. Some products implement proprietary power control signalling on the USB connector so won't be able to talk to the Dynario, but in general you'll should be safe with most mainstream gadgets. Toshiba tested many products available in Japan and found about four out of five worked fine. Some are listed on the company's home page but the list isn't exhaustive. For example, it lists the latest PlayStation Portable, the PSP-3000, but I found it also worked on the original PSP-1000.

An important device missing from the compatibility list is the iPhone 3G. Toshiba said it tested several phones and found some accepted the charge and others didn't. It's hoping to fully support the iPhone in future versions.

For now the Dynario is being offered in a limited batch of 3,000 and only via Toshiba's Japanese online store. Overseas sales are being considered but no plans have been announced.

The Dynario is probably most useful for frequent travellers or heavy users of cell phones as a convenient way to charge while on the move but if that travel involves aircraft it becomes less useful. With its 14ml reservoir fully loaded, it can be taken in an aircraft cabin but not put in checked luggage. Refill cartridges, though, cannot be taken on aircraft at all. Nevertheless, the Dynario could also find use in areas where the electricity supply is bad or as a device for use after natural disasters when power might be out.

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.