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Review: Black and Decker – Electromate® 400 AC/DC Portable Power Station/Jump-Starter/Compressor

On my recent 1-week family road trip, I decided to try the Electromate-400. This handy travel companion can save you a lot of hassle in an emergency, but is quite useful even otherwise. Here are some of its neat features:

Power pack – My primary reason to buy the Electromate-400 was to use it as a power pack. I have been using the 12-Volt to 120V AC inverter to run the portable DVD player for kids on long drives. But one of the annoying problems with this is that whenever I stop the car for taking a little break on the wayside or to fill gas, etc, the power from the inverter gets turned off and so does the DVD player. So I have been looking for an inverter with a power-pack for a while, and this one seemed like a good choice, with its built-in rechargeable battery. But the Electomate-400 does more than that –  it provides two 120V AC outlets, along with two 12V DC outlets. So many of the gadgets that you would run off the “cigarette lighter outlet” in the car can go on this directly.  So you really have two choices: plug in  120V AC appliances to the inverter output, or 12V DC appliance to the DC output. The nice thing about the DC output is that is comes off directly from the internal battery, and so does not require the inverter to be running. The power pack can be charged from the car’s 12V outlet while it is being used, or from a 120V AC household outlet when at home (or your hotel). Having this in the car made it very convenient for passengers to use the portable DVD player without being interrupted by minor stops for filling gas, etc.

The power pack can be quite useful at home too. There was a general power outage recently in the neighborhood where I live which lasted a few hours.  I used the Electromate to power a flourescent lamp that lit up our family room adequately until the power got restored.

 Jump starter – If your car battery got drained for some reason and you needed a jump start, this feature may be able to get you back on the road without having to wait for AAA or someone else to give you a jump start. This also includes an alternator voltage check and polarity check feature. I got a chance to try this feature not during the trip, but a couple of months later. Just as we got ready to go out for a family lunch, I found that my Honda Pilot wouldn’t start due to a low battery. I opened the hood and hooked up the Electromate to the battery as the instructions said, and turned the ignition key. And Voila! The SUV started on the first attempt!

Air compressor – Have low air pressure on your tires? You can use the air compressor with the built-in pressure gauge to set your tires to correct pressure if you are far from a gas station. This can be handy to check your tires every morning before starting your drive for the day. This can also be used to pump up sports equipment such as basketballs, inflatable tents, floatation devices and so on.

Built-in LED light – Although not very big, the built-in light can be useful if you need an emergency light or work light. For example, if you are trying to pump air into the tires in the dark, the light can be very useful.

Handy portable unit – Built like a boombox, the Electomate-400 is easy to carry with you, so you can move it from your car to our home or hotel room without a sweat. If you are camping or having fun in a park or a beach, this can serve as a very useful power source to run your lights, music players, small TVs or notebook computers.

Priced at around $99, the Electomate-400 is a useful gizmo to have in your car when you go on long road trips. It is very compact, portable and quite easy to use. It is a very handy power-pack that can make your trip more fun, and can give your car a jump start or pump air to your tires in an emergency.

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