As a photographer and general content creator, I often find myself in remote locations with depleted batteries and no convenient power outlets to charge them. As such, portable power banks are an essential part of my kit whenever I travel out into the wilderness.
However, as useful as a power bank can be, there’s no denying that few electronics are as bland in terms of design and available features as those that deliver the sweet nectar of electricity to our various gizmos and gadgets. That might be changing, though, with battery banks such as the Shargeek Storm 2.
Your average power bank tends to be a nondescript black box with ports and a button on one end. The Storm 2 and the smaller Storm 2 Slim are evidence of what a big difference a little bit of creative design can make. These battery banks take inspiration from the third-party video game controllers and pocket calculators of the 2000s by choosing to put all of the electronic guts on full display beneath a clear plastic shell. That’s a look that could easily appear tacky if not well implemented, but thanks to a well-coordinated and polished cyberpunk design, the effect is quite appealing.
Another example of this is the Shargeek Retro 35W GaN Charger, which brings a unique and attractive design to a device that’s traditionally as bland as possible. While I’ve never counted, I must own over a hundred charging bricks by now, and between them all, there are probably only three or four noticeable differences in design. This makes it all too easy to grab the wrong one when you’re in a hurry, or when piled haphazardly in a bag, you may waste precious time identifying the charger you need as you encounter a needle-in-a-haystack-type situation.
The Retro 35W is made to resemble an antique computer of the sort you might remember from your high school computer lab, and it features a glowing screen that changes color based on power consumption and charging speed. The Retro 35W goes a step further by providing a template for users to print their own designs on clear sticker material if you want to replace the default smiley face.
The point here is that the exterior casing of a battery or a charging brick is basically just a piece of molded plastic. It can look like practically anything your imagination can dream up, and Shargeek has taken the initiative to spice up an otherwise drab device we use in our daily lives.
These batteries aren’t just pretty to look at, as they include a great deal more utility than many battery banks I’ve used. This is particularly true of the full-sized Storm 2, which includes DC and USB-C in/out, as well as USB-C 2.0 and USB-A out. The Storm 2 Slim is a little more limited in terms of ports, only including USB-C int/out and USB-A out.
What really stands out is the LCD panel built into both batteries. This maintains the cyberpunk-style aesthetic while providing a lot of important information not normally imparted by typical battery banks. It imparts live readouts of temperature, voltage, remaining battery life, and output distribution. Furthermore, it allows you to adjust the output voltage to suit specific devices and charging scenarios.
This display functionality reminds me somewhat of the iSDT Smart Battery Charger I recently purchased to aid in my review of the DJI O3 Air Unit. That device is much more advanced and designed for highly specialized hobbyist use, but I’m coming to realize that even a minor amount of onboard control in a battery bank or other charging device can be a desirable feature.
As previously mentioned, the Retro 35W combines style with substance via its glowing screen, which indicates charging status and speed with coded colors. It really doesn’t take more than a basic processing unit and some programmable lights or a tiny LCD display to elevate a boring tool into a smart sci-fi gadget.
The trend among manufacturers to fight e-waste is to no longer include a charger with their devices. Understandably, a lot of people aren’t happy about this, even though they probably already own a perfectly adequate charger. Much of the desire for a new charger with a new device likely boils down to old chargers going missing because little black plastic boxes are pretty easy to misplace.
Owning a charger like the Shargeek Retro 35W might likely help people not to lose an otherwise forgettable object. That is true of my wireless charging station, which is shaped like the Millennium Falcon. I’ve owned a few wireless charging stations over the years, but one’s missing, and the other is rarely used. I prefer to charge my phone on the Millennium Falcon because it’s cool, and the same now goes for the Retro 35W.
By injecting a little bit of fun into boring things, we care a little bit more about those things, and we don’t so easily lose things we care about. Therefore, making banal objects fun is a simple, harmless way to plug a few leaks and play a small part in the fight against the flood of e-waste.
Not every battery or charging brick needs to be flashy and unique. There needs to be unobtrusive, nondescript products available for any type of electronic because, in certain settings, simplicity of design is called for.
However, there’s no need for starched shirts to be the norm, which is what the Shargeek Storm 2 and Retro 35W prove. A small infusion of fun where one expects boredom is never a bad thing, and it might just make the world a better place — if only by the slimmest of margins.