by Adam Marks on Wednesday, Mar 14, 2012
Although the HP Pre3 was only officially released throughout Europe for just a few days before HP pulled the plug on webOS hardware, a lot more AT&T (and a few Verizon) Pre3s made their way to eBay and other "unofficial" channels. Unfortunately, since HP will not support the device or make any additional accessories for it, it appeared as if spare or extended Pre3 batteries would never see the light of day, even if you simply needed a replacement for a defective battery. Luckily for us Pre3 owners, Mugen Power Batteries decided to produce two sizes of extended batteries, the 1400 mAh "SL" extended battery for $46.95 and a 2800 mAh "XL" extended battery for $98.95. As compared to the stock Pre3 battery that clocks in at 1230 mAh, these batteries will give you an additional 14% or 128% of battery life, respectively, before your phone needs to be plugged back in. The 1400 mAh SL battery--which we previously reviewed--is only slightly bigger than the stock battery, essentially making it more of a spare battery than an extended battery. With no other source of spare batteries for the Pre3, having this option for a spare or replacement battery is great. In addition, since Mugen's SL battery is the same physical size as the stock Pre3 battery you can continue to use your existing touchstone-enabled back cover for the Pre3 with no issues
However, if you are looking for some more heavy-duty battery life for your Pre3, you may instead want to consider the 2800 mAh XL battery from Mugen. After putting our review battery through its paces, our overall reaction was quite favorable. While the battery's capacity is twice the size as the SL extended battery, it is also physically bigger, weighing 1.7 ounces (48 grams) as compared to .85 oz (24 grams) of either the stock or SL extended battery. As a result of the larger size, it also requires a larger back cover for the phone which is included with your purchase. For this review, we will focus on both the affects on battery life but also the affects of the larger back cover.
Simply put, I never had an issue making it though an entire day with the 2800 mAh battery. Where I would usually run down the stock battery completely within 10-12 hours without putting in on the charger throughout the day, I was consistency able to range 30-36 hours on a single charge of the XL battery, with just under 40 hours being my max. In fact, the first time I took the XL battery for a spin (which was still during the calibration period that Mugen recommends), I got 33 hours of battery life before I hit 5% with moderate usage. For a true test of how long this XL extended battery would last, I used it in the hospital on the day my son was born. At the hospital, I took the Pre3 off the charger about 7am and between taking lots of photos, constant emailing and text messaging, tons of phone calls, along with some internet browsing and even some tweeting when I had a chance, I probably used the phone more that day than any other. I never had a chance to look for a charger throughout the day to top off the battery, yet was still only at 17% when I finally called it a night around 11pm.
Interesting, although the battery is listed as a 2800 mAh battery, the Dr. Battery app reports the battery as only 2700 mAh. We did reach out to Mugen for a comment on this and their exact response was that they "calculate [their] capacities based on the number of cells [they] insert in the battery. That is a SUM() of capacity units, so if phones show something other than what's written on the battery box it means a discrepancy of the app algorithm that calculates the battery capacity." Regardless if it was 2700 or 2800 mAh, though, the battery life that we got out of the battery was nothing less than amazing and this was a total non-issue for us.
With the larger physical size of the battery, Mugen needed to include a larger replacement back cover. At its thickest, the back cover extends the phone by about 1/3 (9mm) of an inch over the standard back cover. It has a similar matte finish as the regular cover with the expected holes for the camera and flash, external speaker, rear microphone, headphone jack and ringer switch, along with the built in volume rocker and power button. Gone are the chrome pieces for the volume rocker and power button, instead replaced with black plastic pieces. Those pieces are a little more flush on the extended back cover as compared to the stock cover, as is the ringer switch due to the steeper angle of the back cover. I actually found this to be an improvement, as I often accidently flipped the ringer switch with the stock cover when putting my phone is a case or my pocket since it stuck out a bit, but never did this with Mugen's extended back cover.
The additional weight and thickness of the phone takes a little getting used to, but after a few days I found myself not caring about those aspects of the hardware change. Sure it was thicker (and quite thick by today's phone standards) but the extra battery life was worth it. However, there were a few other trade-offs that came with the extended back cover.
No Touchstone charging coils. While the need to charge the phone was not as important with the extended battery, I found myself really missing the ability to dock my Pre3 on the Touchstone. Without Exhibition Mode even the simple task of checking or interacting with my notifications was not as convenient, especially while driving in my car. And, while touch-to-share with the TouchPad is not something I used often, it was disappointing not to have it those rare times I did want it
Camera flash. One of the biggest issues for me with the back cover was during my day at the hospital when my son was born. I am not sure why, but the camera's LED flash often causes a really bad glare in my pictures while the extended back cover was on the device. As you can see in the test shots below taken of some of my daughter’s artwork using both the regular and extended back covers, the glare from the extended back cover makes the picture practically worthless. I hope that Mugen can try to redesign their back cover to fix this, otherwise you better get used to turning off the flash when using the extended back or taking the cover off altogether to get a shot
Quality of the matte finish. After about a week of use with the extended back cover, I started noticing that the matte finish started to wear away, revealing a black shiny surface that was reminiscent of the back from the original Palm Pre or the TouchPad. Although this is purely a cosmetic issue and does not affect the function of the device, it does make the phone look cheap.
Although there were some pretty significant negatives of the extended back cover as compared to the positives of the additional battery life, we can not rave enough about how awesome the battery life was with this 2800 mAh XL battery. But if you want a battery that will typically last you one-to-two days with moderate use, you have to be willing to accept those drawbacks. Or, you can do what I plan to do: on a daily basis where I expect to be around the house or office where I have a touchstone in every room or in the car where I have a touchstone mount, I will stick with either the stock 1260 mAh battery or the Mugen extended 1400 mAh SL battery. However, for those days when I am travelling, on vacation, or out for an extended period of time (like at a hospital for the birth of my son), I will swap in the extended battery and just be cognizant of the fact that I can't take a picture with the flash. That way you can still get the long battery life on those days you need it, but still have all the benefits of the phone's regular back cover when you would expect have access to a charger.
We are also hoping that someone will be able to modify the extended back cover to work with the Touchstone charger, similar to the way that TouchstoneMods.com was able to modify the extended back cover for Seidio's 2600 mAh extended battery for the original Pre or the way people have been able to add touchstone charging to the Evo 4G or the Galaxy Nexus. Or, maybe even Mugen will figure out a way to add touchstone charging to their extended back cover (we can only hope!).
Regardless of the drawbacks, though, if battery life is extremely important to you have you have $98.95 available to spend, we highly recommend you check out Mugen Power Battery's 2800 mAh XL extended Pre3 battery. And if you want to save a few dollars, don't forget that you can "like" Mugen on Facebook or follow them on Twitter at @MugenBatteries to get an additional 7% coupon code. And thanks again to Mugen for supporting webOS and the Pre3!