Wednesday, 02 November 2011 14:30
A gadget that is portable and designed to support and charge hundreds of devices wirelessly should interest consumers in this world of on-the-go devices. It certainly caught my interest; that is until I tried to use it.
The concept behind the Powermat is very simple, and on paper it looks like a great solution to replace the collection of chargers many consumers have under their desks. It comprises a charging mat and a device-specific receiver that houses the device of choice. The receiver is placed on the mat, which draws power from a wall outlet and charges the device.
Perhaps the most appealing feature is the power management. Magnetic attraction between the receiver and the mat ensures the device is perfectly aligned for charging. Communication between the mat and receiver determines how much battery charging is needed, and over what period of time this should last to ensure a safe and energy-efficient charge. Once a device is fully charged, power transfer to that device is shut down.
Several models are available in the range, of which our testing unit was the Powercube that offers space to charge three devices wirelessly and support for one wired USB connection. Inside the box, the mat power supply comes with adapters for both local and international outlets, as well as a handy traveller case.
The receiver case we tested is designed specifically for the iPhone 4. With a similar look to the buffer cover supplied by Apple, the hard plastic cover has a back plate that interacts with the mat in order to receive the charge, and a connector at the bottom where the phone slots into.
It serves a double purpose in that the receiver can be used as a cover. The design allows access to the device's volume buttons, and holes on the bottom front and back ensure the sound and camera remain functional.
Once the receiver was fitted, charging commenced when the phone was placed on the mat. An audible notification sounds to indicate that the receiver is placed in a chargeable position, and LED lights situated on the front panel of the mat light up to indicate when the device is fully charged.
In the real world, it doesn't make sense
Being men, we unpacked the box, plugged the mat into the power supply and placed our BlackBerrys and HTC smartphones on it. Nothing happened.
After a few minutes, which were slightly more exciting than watching grass grow, we decided to consult the supplied manual and learned that we needed separate, compatible receivers for both the BlackBerry and the HTC. Since we only had one for the iPhone 4, the only way we would be able to charge our devices would be via the supplied wired USB cable.
The alternative was to purchase individual receivers for our devices, or to purchase the universal adapter.
In the first scenario, we would have had to spend additional money to cover a range of different devices, while the second option would only allow us to charge one device at a time.
The receivers aren't the most fashionable of accessories, which means that after charging, most people would probably opt to remove it. Most device manufacturers have moved to the standard mini-USB connector that can be used for both charging and data transfer between devices and PCs. Most consumers now have the option to use one charger across various devices and brands.
Taking into account all the Powermat has to offer, all additional receiver purchases I would need to make for my various devices to charge, and the fact that I mostly use one charger currently to achieve the same result, I would not recommend the product.
As mentioned previously, the only true impressive feature is the power management the Powermat offers. However, if we adapt our lifestyles and unplug chargers once we are done, that also becomes irrelevant.
If this were simply a mat that allowed the user to place the device on it and charge it without the need for a compatible receiver, then I would love it.
But it isn't.
Good: The power management features make this a great device for overnight charging.
Bad: Even though it can charge multiple devices, individual accessories need to be bought separately to achieve this. This makes it a costly exercise.
Price: R1 099 from Digital Planet
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