Staying Power-Full and Connected, Part 1
September 19, 2011 | Permalink
We could start with something about getting a charge out of travel or any number of other bad puns, but we’ll spare you (well, okay, we did just slip one in). In point of fact, keeping our cell phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices juiced up is serious business—literally. It can also be a huge hassle, not to mention enormously expensive if you succumb to the sales pitches all over the Internet for battery chargers that don’t really give you much of a charge (oops, sorry—couldn’t resist). We’ve weeded through a number of these to come up with a few that get solid reviews as well as a caution or two—from techies and us average-folk users.
Everyone’s experienced the find-another-outlet scramble when trying to charge multiple devices. Add to that the untangling and sorting of USB cords before plugging in, and you have a recipe for irritation. A great compromise to the problem of needing multiple outlets and cords for all your electronics is a charging center—a compact device containing up to six charging stations or docks to which can be attached manufacturer-specific adapters (sold separately). Two of the top charge centers out are Callpod’s Chargepod and Chargepod V2. Chargepod is designed for phones, MP3 players, cameras, gaming and other mobile devices. Compatible with over 3,000 models, it is less than three inches around and under two ounces. With its ability to work through a wall outlet or a car charger, the Chargepod is perfect for travel. Almost as compact is the Chargepod V2 (about $200). It’s powerful enough to recharge laptops (PC and Mac compatible), e-readers and portable DVD players, as well as cell phones and other smaller electronic devices.
(Almost) No Wires Charging Pads
No wonder the dream of a universal charging pad remains strong. With these “wireless” (you do have to plug in the pad itself) charging pads, you can drop your phone onto the surface without fumbling for a charging cord and connection. The problem with the existing charging pads like MyGrid, WildCharge and Powermat (this one tends to get the best reviews) is that they still rely on pad-specific contact charging, meaning that you need to switch out the standard back panels of your devices for the special backs (also called clips, sleeves or doors, depending on the manufacturer) designed to receive the charge from the mat. In most cases, these replacement backs are thicker and not especially aesthetically pleasing. Still, for some users, the convenience of not having to always fumble with wires and connections is worth the $75-$100 that charging pads run. And the pads’ lightweight and generally modest sizes mean travelers can easily pack the charging pad to plug in at their hotel.
Wireless Portable Chargers
Of course, the ultimate in wireless charging is solar units. These are handy if you are both in a sunny location and away from any outlets. However, because they charge very slowly and are often expensive, most reviewers and users are waiting for technology to catch up to practical needs. There are, however, battery operated chargers (including some with rechargeable batteries) that can give you fast and efficient charging capabilities when you’re on the go. Again, Callpod comes home with a couple of winners in their Fueltank chargers (UNO at $50 and DUO at $70), according to the top tech review site CNET. They may sound a bit pricey, but because they run on rechargeable lithium ion batteries, you’re going to get a lot of use. Additionally, you’ll be relatively environmentally friendly at the same time!
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