When we saw Powermat’s offering at CES 2009 we were pretty excited. After all, who doesn’t want to ditch the always cubersome plug in process for all their mobile gadgets. But like most gadgets, especially those that offer a game changer to the industry, skepticism is abound. So does the Powermat live up to all it promises to be?
First, let me note that I’m an iPhone user. For some reason PowerMat’s PR company failed to send me the necessary compatible skin, so with that said I wasn’t able to give the device what I feel is a true and full blown iPhone perspective review. On the other hand they did send me a shit load of ‘receivers’ (that’s what they call the attachment to make your mobile device compatible with their charging pad), which included one for the Blackberry Curve (8300/8310/8320/8330/8350i), Blackberry Bold, Blackberry Curve 8900, iPod Touch (2nd Gen) and an iPod dock that is compatible with the iPhone.
There are a two Powermats to choose from – I received the Portable Powermat. It’s a foldable 3 piece device that includes the Powercube universal charger, 8 compatible tips for all your devices and a magnetic locking carrying case. When folded its footprint is about the size of a coffee table sized coaster, and about 2-inches high. While I’m not a huge fan of the universal charger – I think it defeats the purpose of the device since you have to still plug something in – it does offer an all around charging resolve for any of your gadgets.
The receivers themselves add some significant bulk to your mobile products. While I didn’t receive one for my iPhone, the iPod Touch receiver though not massive in size, adds some relative girth to the portable player. The Blackberry receivers on the other hand replace the device’s battery cover, which make their integration a bit more seamless, practical and less bulky.
The PowerMat itself of course needs to be plugged into the wall, which in this particular setup included a plug with a its own spindle making for easy storage and transportation – it too fits neatly in the carrying case. When a ‘receiver’ is properly placed on the Powermat it denotes this by sounding a tone and illuminating an LED (both of their intensities can be adjusted by up to 3 levels (on, half, off) by locating the two buttons on the rear of the Powermat). Adjacent to these buttons is an additional USB plug for those devices that don’t have a compatible receiver and/or you run out of space on the Powermat’s surface.
Since I primarily use an iPhone I was stuck with the iPod Dock receiver. It features an adjustable back for a variety of iPod sizes and has zero wow factor to its build or design. In fact, it felt a built cheap, although I had no problems with mounting my iPhone into the serial port or charging the smartphone. At first glance the two buttons appears to be a release mechanism for what appears to be a ‘locking dock’, but are in fact used for adjusting the back of the receiver to insure a snug fit no matter what iProduct you’re using.
The big question that’s been floating around since the announcement of Powermat is whether or not it can charge products in an energy efficient manner – in other words how much juice is lost when using inductive (magnets) charging. In my experience the charging times appeared to be exactly the same as using a good old fashioned wall plug. Powermat claims their portable power cord to have an Energy Star rating of 5, but their box and actual product seems to be devoid of this logo or mention. Unless you’re a super green, you’ll have no problems over looking this concern.
What I do like about the Powermat is its ability to potentially declutter one’s desktop and wall socket of multiple cords and plugs. Of course, each product will need its own receiver, which will be both costly and add some bulk to your mobile devices. But this begs the question: how many mobile products do you own that need charging on a regular basis? Ironically, as the wireless age has matured many of our products – PDA, cell phone, gaming device – have become all in one devices; case in point the iPhone. So at the end of the day I only really found myself using the Powermat to charge my iPhone, which could have been done just as easily as plugging it into a wall or connected dock, though I did like the ability to remove my iPhone from charging at a moments notice without damaging a cord or connection.
Despite my review sounding a bit skeptical, Powermat has a produced a solid set of products. It’s a tad bit on the expensive side, but if you so choose you could forgo the ‘receiver’ option and just use the included universal adapter. Aesthetically, the Home and Office mat are more attractive, but the Portable Mat offers more versatility and is ideal for anyone travelling and doesn’t want to lug around multiple power packs from location to location. When and if Powermat can provide their tech and IP to OEMs is when I believe the tidal wave of wireless charging will fall into place and we’ll no longer have to purchase the receiver skins. Course, by that time rolls around Apple will have their own version in place much like the Palm PRE.
- Aesthetically cool
- Removes the need for multiple power cords
- Includes carrying case, universal charger
- Power cord Energy Star 5 rating
- Receivers add bulk to any device
- Always plugged makes it not so green
- Not really wireless charging b/c mat has to be plugged in
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