Wagan Power Dome EX Portable Power Device
The market for 'Portable Power Devices' as they have become known, is rapidly increasing. Due in part possibly to the state of the economy, but most likely because of increased threats in travelling abroad, camping and travelling within Australia is at an all time high. On a recent holiday to Narooma on the south coast of New South Wales this was clearly evident by the number of camper trailers, motorhomes and campsites, particularly when compared to the same time in previous years.
- Monday 29th March, 2010
Exceptional build quality. Many features in one compact unit. Fantastic value for money.
No removable work light. Light not overly bright.
With so many uses and applications, we thought we would take this newly created category of products and investigate some of those on offer to the market today. One only needs to go into a typical autoparts retailer today such as autObarn or Super Cheap Auto and the range of portable power devices is taking up more and more real estate.
MEA were provided with one of the latest products on the market in this category by the Australian distributors for Wagan Tech (Zylux Distribution). As I opened the box of the Power Dome EX I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. The feature and application list alone is extensive, and surely this compact unit in front of me can't really do all of those things?
- Portable & Rechargable Power Source (240V)
- 600 Amp Cranking Power Jump Starter (12V)
- Heavy Duty Jumper Cables & Clamps
- 260 PSI Air Compressor
- Tyre Pressure Gauge
- 1 x AC 240V Outlet
- 1 x 12V DC Outlet (Cigarette Lighter)
- AM/FM Radio
- 1 x USB Port (5V)
- Audio Input Socket (3.5mm Stereo)
- LED Lights (Torch)
What was immediately impressive was the build quality of the Power Dome EX. A heavy duty black rubber surround protects the unit and certainly increases the ruggedness of the device. When travelling space within the vehicle or trailer is often limited, and despite the capability of the Power Dome EX it's quite compact being not much bigger than a car battery itself. A solid carry handle on top allows the unit to be carried around, Weighing in at 9kgs the unit is light enough to carry around.
The Road Test
Normally this is where we would road test a product for review, but in this particular category we headed into the garage! Wagan Tech recommend a good 48 hours of charge from the provided 240V power adaptor to ensure the internal batteries are conditioned for use. We didn't have 48 hours to spare, so opted for an overnight charge and 24 hours later returned to put the Power Dome EX through it's paces.
One of the applications for this product we're told is tradesperson, with just one of the attractions being the humble AM/FM radio. This didn't immediately make sense to me, but then after further discussion it became apparent that on all work sites today, all electrical appliances must be inspected and tagged for safety. This can be costly and inconvenient for a tradesperson, particularly when it's just a radio. Once the Power Dome is charged, the radio can be operated from the internal batteries. Solid tuning controls and knobs are provided on the Power Dome. The radio is straight forward, and our only criticism in this area would be that given the device is rugged, the steel telescopic antenna is probably one of the first things that could easily be broken. A flexible, rubber antenna would be more suited to this device in my opinion.
So what about if I'm out in the middle of nowhere and there is no radio reception. No problem! With a 3.5mm stereo input jack, out came the iPhone and away we went with our entire music collection ready at our fingertips. The Power Dome won't set any sound quality records, but as the ideal background music when camping, working onsite or around the garage there are no complaints here.
One handy feature of the Power Dome in particular compared to other products on the market,is the inclusion of a 5V USB power port. This is also convenient for charging your iPod or other similar devices when away from the power grid.
The Power Dome is rated at 400 watts of power through the inverter. A single standard Australian 240V socket is provided with a convenient on and off switch at the socket. There was a little confusion here, as the switch has two on positions, and one off. The first on position appeared to have no purpose. The second on position physically turned on the power socket. After a little investigation it would seem that this product in the USA has two 120V AC outlets, and the switch allows you to swap between the two. For the Australian delivered units, there is only one 240V AC outlet, but the two way switch remains.
To give you an idea of power capability of the Power Dome EX, a laptop or a small portable fridge (45w) could be operated from the 240V outlet for about 4.5 hours. Something more power hungry like a power drill for example (350w) would last approximately 1 hour before needing recharging. A small portable light or small stereo system however could easily last for the best part of a day before recharge would be required. Safety has not been overlooked here, with inbuilt Overload and Short Circuit Protection.
When it comes time to charging the Power Dome EX there are two options. When around the house or back at a powered camp site, it can be charged from 240V with the supplied power adaptor. When out on the road and travelling between towns, the Power Dome EX can also be recharged from a 12v DC power source, and a cigarette lighter power adaptor is also supplied. Wagan Tech recommends a 24 hour charge to fully recharge the unit from 240V, and as little as 12 hours when recharging from 12V DC. At the touch of a button a needle gauge indicates the charging progress, as well as the current charge of the units batteries at any time.
Remembering this unit has heavy duty battery jumper leads, as well as a compressor it is extremely compact and well designed. The jumper leads fit neatly into a recess in each end of the unit, while the air hose for the compressor tucks away in a compact compartment in the side. We just happened to have a spare wheel in the garage so the first thing we did was completely deplete the air. While a little bit slow compared to your service station air compressor, the convenience of having the ability to pump up your tyres while on the road is fantastic. This is particular useful when on holiday with bikes and also in 4x4 applications where the tyre pressures are often changed to reflect the driving surface. We pumped up our spare car wheel in no time, and repeated the process 4 times without the Power Dome EX even missing a beat. I believe we could have used the compressor to pump up another 4 vehicles before it may need recharging.
After returning from our holiday mentioned early on in this review, one of our other vehicles had the annoying flat battery syndrome from not being started in some time. Rather than having to shift cars around, and risk the electronics on newer vehicles when jump starting, out came the Power Dome EX and within seconds the car was jump started and on it's way. The jumper leads are an ample length and should not pose any problems when jump starting in a variety of situations. In the case of the Power Dome EX, the clamps on each end are also well terminated, a problem often associated with cheap jumper leads.
We even took the Power Dome EX with us out on boat while holidaying. The radio was convenient, along with being able to charge our mobile phones while out on the water. There was also peace of mind, knowing that not even a flat battery would have bothered us given we could jump start and be on our way back to shore again.
The final feature of the Power Dome EX is the built in 5 LED Worklight / Torch. There's really only so much you can talk about from a torch. The LED's should ensure trouble free operation for many years without having to fumble your way through spare globes just at that time when you need it. It certainly could have been brighter but we used this recently when a friends vehicle broke down at night time, and it certainly was adequate in providing some light on the situation. Our only suggestion here is that the light could have actually been removable from the unit, like a typical lead or work light. In our case, we had to hold the 9kg Power Dome up high for some time to provide light in this particular case.
Overall the Wagan Power Dome EX (400W) is the obvious outcome of much research, development and application testing. The unit demonstrates exceptional build quality, an abundance of the right features for typical applications, along with backing it up and delivering on all promises the Power Dome EX makes. After having the unit in our hands for some two months it's certainly proven it's worth particularly at the very reasonable recommended retail price of $299. This is a worthwhile investment for any home workshop and garage, and especially for those travelling and touring.
The Power Dome EX would certainly rate in our top 10 must have garage tools / accessories and we wouldn't be without one. We have touched only on a handful of applications for this product, and your particular situation and interests may show many more ways in which the Power Dome EX would be beneficial.
At the retail price, we have no hesitation in thoroughly recommending the unit's quality, ability and convenience.
Wagan Tech is distributed in Australia by:
Phone: (03) 9482 2203
Fax: (03) 9486 2297