The K-Tor Pocket Socket – It’s ok.
Truthfully, I’ve put off this review for a while because I really wanted to give this product as fair a chance as I can. It’s not a bad product, but it’s a long way from being a good one. The K-Tor comes in a nice, light weight and space efficient oval shape. To maintain the light weight, the K-Tor is made out of plastic, and while that isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, it does lead to a few issues. There is the main body housing with a crank arm that has a fold out handle and is secured by a rubber band – and this is where I think there are some improvements that could be made.
First Issue – Rubber band: I’m not super excited about having to stow a product using a rubber band. If it gets lost, there is nothing from keeping the crank arm from turning or being shifted (possibly broken) while packed away in a carry bag. The arm itself is pretty loose at the connection point to the main housing and will bend about half an inch in towards and away from the body.
This leads to the second issue – Creep: Because of the looseness of the arm and the length of travel, when you are cranking away at full speed and the device you are trying to charge takes more applied force, you are going to bend that arm inwards and it’s going to scrape against the main housing, which will create gashes along the edge. I think that a product that even sees moderate use should not be tearing itself up so easily.
Third Issue- The grip: while the body of the k-tor will comfortably fit in my medium sized hand and there are raised bumps to aid in traction, the consistency of the plastic used is very slick. When you are trying to charge a high-draw piece of electronics and the torque increases a few things happen. The first thing that happens is on the up and down strokes, the force you exert on the crank arm puts lateral twisting on the body housing 90 degrees to the motion. What this effectively does is wiggle the housing out of your grip, then you have to re-adjust and start the cranking over. Second, Since the head on the crank arm is smooth and has no gripping surface, if (read when) your hands get sweaty, it will slip out of your grip.
Fourth Issue – I’m not 18 anymore: Though, in my sexually frustrated prime, I could have probably jump started an 18 wheeler with the K-Tor, I’m 34 now and only monetarily frustrated. While I would say the K-Tor excels at charging rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries with ease, high draw electronics such as my iPhone turn into a workout routine from PX90. Though you’can’ (tm, all rights reserved) charge a smart phone, it takes a large amount of effort for very little gain. For my test I ran my iPhone until it had just turned over from a green bar to a red one, I cranked as hard as I could (and realized points 2 and 3 above) for 20 minutes before the bar turned green again. Turning the phone off and attempting to charge it that way merely resulted in the phone turning itself on and causing the torque to go through the roof. Since el-cheapo, basic cell phones draw far less current than smartphones, I imagine they would probably benefit more from the K-Tor.
Fifth Issue charging unit size: AC charger adapters come in many shapes and sizes, and since the K-Tor body is only an inch and a half wide, if your charger is wider than that, it will impact with the charging arm while you’re trying to turn it and charging will be impossible. You can use an extension cord, but since DC looses power over distance, you’ll want to use one that is as short as possible, but you’ll still have diminishing returns.
The Good: The charger does work! You just have to experiment and find out exactly what devices it will be most efficient with. In my experience, it is great for rechargeable batteries with an AC adapter (the plug on the K-Tor is an AC plug only, but it outputs 10W 120v DC current). I have a charger set for CR123A batteries that I use for flashlights and lasers for my weapons and if you happen to need to recharge out in the wilderness or on location, the K-Tor would work just fine.
I wanted to get a feel for what kind of results I could expect for the amount of cranking one would have to do. To figure this out, I went to the most logical source I could think of: camcorder batteries. I use Sony Camcorders for work and they use NP-FV100 bricks. I inserted one of the partially charged batteries into the camera to check the baseline minute reading, then I attached the battery and AC charger to the K-Tor and cranked away for 15 minutes. Then I put the camcorder battery back into the camera and checked the run time. Fifteen minutes of cranking ended up giving me forty-four extra minutes of camera time! So, once you understand the application of the K-Tor, you can apply it where it is needed effectively. There are things the K-Tor can charge extremely well, and others….not so much.
Overall I would say that the K-Tor basically does what it says it does, just not exceedingly well. I think there are a few things that could be changed that would make this product much more effective. The first thing I would change is the construction material. Because of its somewhat flimsy nature, I’d ditch the plastic in favor of aluminum, that would eliminate the bending and scraping that happens with regular use. I would put physical handles on the main body and on the crank arm that you could wrap your hand around and grip instead of trying to hold onto the cumbersome body and half moon knob. And, just for convenience sake, I would add a USB port next to the AC plug. While it is nice that you can use wall charger outlets, many of today’s electronics charge strictly using USB and using an AC adapter can cause a loss in efficiency. Lastly, I would make it so that the crank handle is designed to lock into the housing body so you don’t have to worry about hunting down the rubber band when you want to stow the unit. As an initial product, the pocket is a start, K-Tor has also come out with a pedal unit, capable of outputting 20 watts with 120v. This looks like a much more promising product as it has for more applications (such as charging a car battery or being used with an inverter to run multiple electronics). It’s a good thing they’re partially marketing it as an exercise device.