Gadget of the Week: Powermat Wireless Charging Pad
Price: $99.99 for either the home or the base station. $29.99 for a receiver for a Blackberry or Nintendo DS receiver. $39.99 for an iPod/iPhone receiver.
Summary: If you have multiple devices and are sick of the clutter of wires, the Powermat can reduce the multiple fire hazards into a single wire. Once the Powermat is set up and a receiver is installed on your device, you can charge your device by simply placing it on top of the Powermat. The device will then charge without any plugs or wires. The Powermats can charge up to three devices at once, seriously freeing up outlets and space. The home version of the Powermat is sleek, stylish and functional. The travel Powermat trades the style for form factor and portability. The Blackberry receivers are built into unobtrusive replacement back battery covers, while the iPod/iPhone receivers are embodied in a full case. If you have only one device, then the Powermat probably isn’t much more than a novelty item. But if you have multiple devices that you charge often, the Powermat can be a useful and stylish addition to your home or office.
UnBoxing and Setup: base stations are simple to set up, they are just plug and play. Similarly, the Blackberry receivers are easy to install, just remove and replace the back battery cover. The iPod/iPhone receivers take a few more seconds to install because they require snapping in a pretty hardcore case, but are nonetheless pretty easy.
Learning Curve: Each Powermat has three charging points where you have to align your receiver in order to begin charging. However, there are magnets set up to give a little pull and guide you to where those points are. Its really fairly simple to find. When the receiver aligns with the charging point, the Powermat makes a cute little charging noise and a white LED shines below the charging gadget. It works right away, but you might get more honed at finding the alignment point over a period of a few days of use.
Home Version: The home version has a silver/gray brushed plastic outer rim and a black brushed plastic charging portion. On the underside is a rubber skin to provide friction so that the powermat will stay in place. Overall it has a solid build quality and a very stylish look that you wouldn’t mind having displayed on your counter or desk.
Travel Version: The build quality of the travel version of the powermat seems below that of the home version. The plastic seems lighter and weaker than that of the other unit. The whole unit is black, with small black rubber tips underneath for traction. It is made out of three separate charging portions that are connected with two links each. You can fold all three portions for easy transport, as well as kind of modify how many charging ports you have showing during use–kind of like an origami charger. The travel version has the same functionality as the home version, but the flash of the home version is given up for the ability to fold and travel. To make up for the seeming blandness of the travel version, it comes with a cool travel case that holds the adapter and the travel powermat.
Receivers: The powermat only comes with a powerbube. In order to make the powermat a cool and useful addition to the home it has to be able to charge multiple things at a time without wires. So when factoring in the price for your powermat, you should really include the price of two or three receivers as well. The receivers are mainly a 2 inch by 1 inch magnetic inductor that sits near your battery. For devices who back-panel can be removed, the receiver is built into a replacement back. So for the Blackberry, the replacement panel slides on easy and the receiver only adds to the phone’s thickness minimally. But for devices that have a built in non-removable battery *ahem iPhone* the receiver had to be built into a protective case that completely covers the phone, adding significantly to the iPod/iPhone’s size. If you are the type of person to use a protective case anyway, this isn’t an issue at all. But if you like to carry an iPod/iPhone around without any case, then putting on a whole protective case just to charge might be a little much.
PowerCube: A PowerCube is the only receiver included with the purchase of a powermat. The powercube has a receiver so that it can power up when placed on the powermat, and interchangeable plugs so that you can connect the powercube to any device. But, I think the powercube just doesn’t make any sense. The whole product is directed at reducing the clutter of wires. But when using the powercube to charge something, you are once again plugged something into the wall and plugging something into the device. So what are you gaining? It would make more sense to include a free device specific receiver with every order.
State of Technology note: Someone complained to me “this isn’t real wireless charging, there is still a wire in the wall and you still have to put your device onto the pad!” To some extent they are right, the future of wireless charging is being able to have your phone charge when in a 100ft proximity to a wireless power source, without having to place it on a mat that is plugged in. Just picture it, you come home with your phone in your pocket and the phone automatically starts charging–IN YOUR POCKET. But until then, the powermat is a step in the right direction. While the power isn’t transmitted through the air, the powermat takes a single power source and gives power to other devices without having to have a physical wired connection. Progress.
Final Verdict: When calculating the full price of the powermat setup, you should include the base and three receivers (probably two phones and an iPod)–$199.96. Whether you are buying this for yourself or starting a wish list for the holiday season, the powermat is a pricey but fair investment to make life wire and hassle free. My wife and I have both been using it for a few weeks now and it has definitely freed up outlet space (we only have two outlets in the bedroom), reduced dangly wires, and encouraged us to charge our devices more often because it feels so much easier. When choosing between the two version I would stick with the home version. While the travel version works exactly the same and offers some neat compact foldability, I feel like those who are often on the road would just use a plain old plug when traveling and save the wireless charging for home use.