Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, Automoblog earns from qualifying purchases, including the jump starters featured here. These commissions come to us at no additional cost to you.The 1200A jumper starter in this review was provided to Automoblog by Shell.
The 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter and other similar units provide the convenience of on-demand power when your car battery dies. Instead of waiting on a friend with jumper cables or for roadside assistance, you pop the hood, hook the unit to your battery, and fire up your car. Things like a Shell jump starter are great for winter emergency kits too.
This review covers the 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter (16,000 mAh), available for about $130 on Amazon (as of this writing). The 1200A will handle all passenger vehicles, including sedans, trucks, SUVs, and minivans. It can also jump vehicles with smaller displacement diesel engines (up to 3.0-liters).
By contrast, the 800A version (12,000 mAh) of this Shell jump starter is about $40 less on Amazon. The question is, do you need to spend the extra money for the 1200A? To help answer that, we will take a few moments to go through the 1200A version of this Shell portable jump starter, then compare and contrast it with the 800A version.
What Comes In The Box?
The 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter comes with jumper cables, a car charger (2.4A output), one USB-A to Micro USB cable, one Type-C to Type-C USB cable, an owner’s manual, product warranty registration card, and a carrying case.
The unit itself includes a built-in LED flashlight and a charging bank, both of which are helpful. The charging bank has two USB-A ports, an input/output Type-C port, and a micro USB port. The 12V jump port, where you connect the cables, is just to the side of the power button and battery level indicator (battery level for the Shell unit, not your car battery).
Shell recommends charging the unit immediately after purchase, after each use, or every three months to prolong the internal battery life. To charge, connect the included Type-C cable to a USB power adaptor and plug it in. If you are on the go, you can charge the unit via the included car charger.
1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter Specs
Weight: 3.1 lbs.
Dimensions: 9.17 x 3.46 x 1.42 inches
Amperage: 1200 amps
Voltage: 12 volts
Wattage: 10 watts
Warranty: Two years
Manufacturer Part Number: SH916WC
Jumper Cable Connector & Status Indicators
A black casing, complete with a status indicator light and a boost button, encloses the jumper cable connector (look for the little blue piece on the end of the casing that plugs into the actual Shell unit). When you attach the jumper cables to the Shell unit, the status indicator will blink in green. Once connected to your car battery, that light will turn solid, indicating you are okay to proceed with the jump start. Shell recommends not attempting to jump your vehicle more than four consecutive times.
If there is an issue with the connection, the Shell portable jump starter will let you know beforehand with visible and audible cues. For example, if the green light is off and there is continuous beeping, it could mean one of several things, including a loose connection or reverse polarity (the positive and negative clamps of the unit are connected to the wrong terminals on the battery). There are additional notifications if the jump starter is running too hot or at risk of short-circuiting.
The only downfall here is the short length of the jumper cables. Even a slight increase would be beneficial, especially as there is enough room inside the carrying case to accommodate longer cables. If your battery is tucked away under the hood, you might have to get creative in how you maneuver the unit with its shorter cables.
The Boost feature generates the highest possible current, but Shell recommends using this only when absolutely necessary. It’s advisable to attach the clamps first to your battery, then press the Boost button on the jumper cable connector. Doing this will lessen the chances of accidentally touching the clamps (which will give off a spark) and damaging either the unit or your vehicle’s electrical system (or both).
If your car still does not start after using the Boost feature, it’s best to call a tow truck and talk with your mechanic.
Charging Bank & Flashlight
You can power other mobile devices with the included USB cords via the unit’s charging bank. During an emergency, the integrated charging bank will be worth its weight in gold. If you end up stranded due to a blizzard or car trouble, you can easily charge your phone or tablet with the 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter.
Likewise, the unit includes a built-in flashlight with four settings: a standard light, white floodlight, a red strobe, and an SOS flash. Like the device charging capability, the flashlight settings would be invaluable during an emergency.
800A Verus 1200A: Which One Is Best?
The 800A and the 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starters are similar in a lot of ways. Like the 1200A, the 800A has the flashlight and charging bank in case of an emergency, reverse polarity and overheat notifications, and a carrying case. Both units can handle a variety of other vehicles, including motorcycles, boats, campers, and snowmobiles.
Here is a quick look at the key differences between the two units:
Capacity & Capability
The 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter offers 16,000 mAh versus the 800A at 12,000 mAh. This is the most important difference between the two units.
The letters “mAh” stand for milliampere-hour, a standard unit of measurement that represents how long a battery can discharge its stored energy (i.e. how long it can last). On average, higher mAh is associated with longer battery life and more overall capability.
In terms of capability, the higher mAh of the 1200A unit allows it to jump gasoline engines as large as 7.0-liters, whereas the 800A will not handle anything over 6.0-liters. Likewise, the 1200A unit will accommodate diesel engines up to 3.0-liters. However, the 800A cannot jump a diesel engine over 2.0-liters in displacement.
If you drive a larger truck with either a Duramax, Power Stroke, or Cummins, neither the 800A nor 1200A will cut the mustard. Consider upgrading to this Shell Rotella unit instead.
The 800A is smaller than the 1200A (2.42 lbs. versus 3.1 lbs.), making it easier to stow.
Given its smaller size, the 800A will charge anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours quicker than the larger 1200A. However, the 2.4A car charger only comes with the 1200A jump starter.
The 1200A Shell Portable Jump Starter provides the convenience of on-demand power if your car battery dies.
Helpful features include a built-in LED flashlight, a charging bank for smartphones and tablets, and reverse polarity protection.
Making The Right Choice
Some of this will come down to necessity. For example, if you own a late-model GM truck or an SUV with the 3.0-liter Duramax, or a late-model F-150 with the 3.0-liter Power Stroke, the 800A may not be enough if you need a jump. In that case, the 1200A is well worth the extra $40.
The 1200A jump starter, with its higher mAh, will have a longer internal battery life, meaning it will better supply the necessary juice to your mobile devices via the charging bank in an emergency. That, too, could be well worth the extra $40, especially during the winter. The flashlight and emergency SOS lights will run for longer too.
On the other hand, if you have a “regular old” sedan or SUV, the 800A Shell jump starter will do the trick. You can save the money – just make sure all of your devices are charged before you leave home.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.