Hands on: Energizer Power Max P18K Pop review

Part smartphone, part dumbbell

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

Energizer has created a phone with a wonderfully enormous battery – but you'll need to be a bodybuilder to use it in long bursts.

For

  • Massive battery
  • Impressive front camera setup

Against

  • Enormous body
  • Slow to use
  • Incredibly heavy

Energizer is a prolific smartphone manufacturer, with 26 devices shown off at MWC 2019, but its most interesting devices are the Power Max series of huge-battery phones, and the Power Max P18K Pop is the company's most recent instalment.

With a massive 18,000mAh power pack, and dimensions to match, it's certainly a monster of a machine. But is it just a novelty item, or would it be a viable smartphone for everyday users? We got hands-on with it to decide.

Energizer Power Max P18K release date and price

Energizer was unable to confirm a release date for the Power Max 18K Pop other than the vague "summer" – so possibly June-August of this year. Since the device's predecessor, the Power Max 16K Pro, wasn’t widely released, we're just crossing our fingers that this phone releases at all.

When the device does become available, it'll cost €599 in Europe, which converts to roughly $680, £515 or AU$950. That's a pretty steep price for a phone that, other than its behemoth battery, has no particularly special features.

Display and design

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The device compared to a Pixel 3. Image credit: TechRadar

The device compared to a Pixel 3. Image credit: TechRadar

The Power Max P18K Pop is absolutely huge in terms of thickness – Energizer hasn’t revealed the dimensions, but it looks to be about the height and width of a typical ‘Plus’-sized phone, and perhaps three times the thickness – so more like 20mm than the usual 7-8mm.

Close your eyes and heft this thing in your hands and you could be forgiven for thinking you were holding an actual brick – you won’t be slipping this phone comfortably into your jeans pocket.

We had trouble wrapping our hands round it, and although the rear buttons were strategically placed to be easily reachable, it was often a stretch to reach the sides of the phone to use apps or features.

The Power Max 18K Pop is remarkably heavy for a phone too, and we started to feel the strain of holding it during the course of our hands-on. Of course this weight is the result of the battery, but the Power Max 18K Pop felt a little too heavy to be a viable device for use during traveling or working outdoors, two situations in which a massive battery would be useful.

Other than its massive girth the device is rather standard in terms of design – it has a USB-C port on the bottom (though no headphone jack), while on the right side are volume and power buttons, and, below these, a fingerprint sensor. The low position of the sensor is helpful, as it's easy to unlock the device even if you can't wrap your hands around it fully.

Battery

If you're considering buying the Power Max P18K Pop it'll probably be because of that massive battery – at 18,000mAh it’s the biggest battery in any smartphone, and it'll undoubtedly last for days. 

Of course size isn't necessarily the best indicator of a battery’s lifespan, but when most phones have power packs of around 3,000mAh, we'd expect some serious battery life from the Power Max P18K Pop. During our hands-on time with the device the battery percentage didn't drop at all, despite us fiddling around with settings and playing with the camera.

Energizer claims the handset is good for 100 hours of music playback or 90 hours of calls, and based on the size of the device this sounds plausible.

The phone also comes with fast-charging and a power-share function that lets you use the Power Max P18K Pop as a power bank to charge other devices via USB-C.

Camera

The battery isn't the only novel aspect of the Power Max P18K Pop – it's also one of the first devices to have a pop-up selfie camera with two lenses, one at 16MP and one at 2MP. 

Pictures taken with this camera looked great, with good contrast and vibrant colors and impressive depth rendering. There was a noticeable on-screen delay when trying to take pictures with it however, even compared to the rear camera, so it's probably not the best device for action selfies.

The rear of the handset has a tri-lens setup, with a 12MP main sensor joined by 5MP and 2MP lenses. The picture quality wasn’t amazingly detailed, and it took quite a long time to focus – all in all we weren’t as blown away by this camera as we were the selfie-cam.

You won't find many photography options on the device, with no panorama or other popular image modes. That was okay for the front-facing camera, as picture quality at the default settings was more than adequate for selfies, but the rear camera could have benefited from some extra functions.

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Features

The Power Max P18K Pop is powered by a Mediatek helio P70 chipset, has 6GB RAM and 128GB memory, and runs Android Pie, the latest version of Google’s mobile OS. 

We found the phone was slow to open apps, and when we tried to search the web there was a significant delay before receiving results. Scrolling through the interface was a little faster, butAndroid Pie always felt a little sluggish to use.

We even found it slow when no apps were running in the background – it feels like if you were multi-tasking this thing would probably run at a snail's pace.

Other than its battery and camera there are no unique or interesting features on the Power Max P18K Pop, and so ultimately the phone felt like any other sub-par Android handset. 

Early verdict

Having spend some time with the Power Max P18K Pop,, we wondered who might actually use such a phone. 

Its massive battery capacity and great selfie camera would make this a good option for someone who wants to throw it in the bottom of a rucksack and travel – although if you’re were flying you’d need to be wary of it putting you over your weight allowance.

The Power Max P18K Pop, therefore, is probably more of a novelty handset rather than something that will have widespread appeal – few people truly need a device with a 18,000mAh battery, and it feels like too much of a burden to use.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.