As a gadget reviewer and having a high level of gadgets in my daily repertoire, the amount of chargers I have to remember, tag and keep track of is staggering. As a result I have been keeping an eye on wireless charging systems for a little while. When Powermat announced their launch in April, Simms International was more than happy to send me a loaner to test drive.
The Powermat wireless charging system is billed as the solution to every household's problem with lost chargers and tangled wires. Let's see just how well it does the job.
The Powermat system comes in a few components - the charging mat, Receiver and Universal Receiver. The concept is simple, the Mat connects to the wall point. For supported devices there is a Receiver and for legacy devices not directly supported there is the Universal Receiver.
The Mat itself looks like a small skateboard (sans wheels), it is a smallish board with a matt black surface and silver trims. The receiver is a small squarish block attached to the back of a case, making it a relatively seamless integration to a supported device. Lastly the USB tether for legacy devicecs is just a small square box with the appropriate connector attached. The idea is that the Receiver sits on the Mat no matter which device you are charging.
As part of my review kit an iPhone 3G Receiver case was included for my phone. Getting started was child's play requiring only the Mat to be plugged into power and my phone to be inserted into the Receiver case. The Mat supports up to three devices concurrently and there is a magnetic attraction between every Receiver and each access point on the Mat. By design this assures that the alignment is precise and the charging will be efficient.
An audio confirmation indicates when a connection has been made and that the device is taking on current. A similar audio confirmation indicates when the device is removed from the Mat. A light indicator provides the visual confirmation that wireless charging is occurring.
Lastly there is a power cube with interchangeable connector tips to charge your legacy devices. While this is not technically "wireless charging", it still eliminates the need for a separate charger, cord and wall point.
For the iPhone the Receiver case adds a little bit of bulk all around the phone. Particularly at the bottom the Powermat case connects to the iPhone dock and converts it to a micro USB port. The speaker and microphone ports have a mesh for sound to pass through. On the back the Powermat badge stands out away from the case but not hugely so.
The Powermat system has a RFID handshake between the Mat and the Receiver which allows the Mat to determine the amount of power needed to be transferred. When the device reaches full charge, power is cut off automatically to save energy. At this point the system will monitor the status of the battery in the device and initiate charging if the battery has been used to return it to a full charge.
Both the visual and audio notification can be adjusted for intensity and volume levels, or can be turned off entirely.
There is an USB port to support charging of a device via USB.
A bit of thought has been put into the design of the Powermat, the power brick which features built-in cord management. The bundle comes with a case to store the essential connector tips in.
The Powermat is such a simple product to use that there is little room to fault. One thing that was mentioned by my wife was that the Mat took up a fair bit of room on her bedside table. Ideally she would like to see a mini version that handles a single device which would be perfect for her use.
* Charging Positions: 4 (3 wireless, 1 USB port)
* Dimensions: 1.65 x 31.12 x 11.59 cm (0.625" x 12.25" x 4.5625") (HxWxD)
* Input Voltage: 100-240V AC, 50-60Hz universal
* Output Voltage: 18VDC
* Output Current: 0.83A
* Standby Current: 0.011A
* Adapter Power: 15 Watts
The Powermat system is available in a number of bundles with additional Receivers that adds to the capability.
* iPhone 3G and iPod Touch
* Apple Universal dock for any docking iPod or iPhone.
* Blackberry battery door solutions to suit the Blackberry Bold 9000, Curve 8900, Pearl 8110 series and Curve 8300 series.
* Nintendo DS Wrap options for charging Nintendo DS Lite or DSi
* Universal Powercube with mini USB and 9 interchangeable power tips allows you to charge LG, Samsung, NDS Lite, NDSi, PSP, Nokia (2mm), Sony Ericsson and micro USB devices.
Models supported by tips: Motorola, Nokia, LG, Samsung, Sony/Ericsson, Blackberry, Palm, Nintendo – DS Lite & Dsi, Sony PSP, Gamin GPS, Tom Tom GPS, Kodak digital cameras (selected models), Motorola, Plantronics and Jabra headsets.
The Powermat certainly works as advertised. It was an absolute breeze to setup and completely intuitive to use. It was certainly nice to come home and just drop the phone onto the Mat to get some juice. Best of all before I go to bed when the room is completely dark I can just put the phone down and get the notification that it is charging without having to fumble for a cable.
Four variations of the Powermat Home & Office Mat and Receiver are available in Australia through Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, David Jones and selected Myer stores. These are: Powermat Starter Kit, Powermat iPhone bundle, Powermat Blackberry Bold 9000 bundle and Powermat iPod/iPhone bundle. The Powermat Mat remains the same in all bundles and permits up to three devices to charge simultaneously as well as a built-in USB port. More details are available here.
In Australia the Powermat retails at AUD$199.95 (RRP) with additional receivers at AUD$49.95 (RRP).
In the US, the Powermat retails at USD$69.99 with additional receivers ranging from USD$29.99 to USD$39.99. There appears also to be a portable mat available in the US market for USD$99.99.
Powermat has brought to my notice their wireless charging mat for iPhone which is a smal form factor single iPhone charging pad. More details here.