PowerMat Wireless Charging Unit

galaxy s3 covers

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Our homes are covered in wires. Behind our bookshelves, under our desks, cords and cables are everywhere. We use so many things on a daily basis that require power, and for every one of them, there is a wire giving it the juice it needs to function. Everyone who owns even a small number of electronics has, at one time or another, thought in their minds “if only they could invent wireless electricity.”

The PowerMat is one of the most talked-about gadgets to hit shelves this fall. A wireless charging mat, the general concept of the mat is simple: place your electronic device on the mat, and it will charge. It is, in effect, trying to invent wireless electricity.

The idea of the PowerMat is pure sci-fi when you first hear about what it can do. While it’s true that you can drop your electronic device on the mat and have it start charging wirelessly, there’s a little bit more to it than that. A catch, if you will. Read on to take an in-depth look at the product and what all wireless charging really entails.

The PowerMat is going to need reviewed with a few different angles in mind. It’s easy to look at the thing and focus only on its innovative design and “coolness” factor, but we’ve also got to take into account its practicality, value for your dollar and all that other stuff. But first, let’s get an overview of the thing…

We’re taking a look at the Home & Office version of the mat. This is one of two variations of the PowerMat available, with the other being a travel version that folds up and can be taken with you. The Home & Office version is a sturdy product designed for stationary use.

The box is catchy and well-designed. It shows the mat being used with some popular electronics, tells you simply how it works and looks great. The way it opens is very sleek, as the outer packaging is a sleeve to the inside product which slides out.

The PowerMat itself sits on top of the inner packaging. By itself, it resembles a small skateboard, flat on top with a tapered bottom.

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The PowerMat’s construction is solid and the neutral black and chrome colors make it suitable to fit into any home environment. I placed it on the black end table near my desk for testing, and it actually looked very nice. It’s not an awkward piece of technology that stands out as an eyesore, which is awesome as this unit is meant to be left out at all times.

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The only connections on the PowerMat are in the rear. They include the unit’s DC input and a USB port which we’ll get to in a bit.

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Removing the PowerMat uncovers the rest of the box’s contents, which include printed materials, the power cord, and the equipment used to make the PowerMat work. With that, let’s get into testing…

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Specifications:

PowerMat Wireless Charging Unit

Slim, sleek charging mat for home or office

Wirelessly charges up to 3 Powermat-enabled devices simultaneously (plus one USB power port). Works with all Powermat receivers. Universal Powercube with 8 tips is included to enable you to charge hundreds of different devices.

Includes:

Home & Office Mat

Universal, international power supply (Energy Star level 5, 100-240V) with built-in cord management

Powercube Universal Receiver with 8 tips

Other receivers sold separately. iPhone, BlackBerry, Sony devices not included.

Charging Positions: 4 (3 wireless, 1 USB port)

Dimensions: .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

Getting the PowerMat ready for use is as simple as plugging in its power cord to the back. Yes, even wireless charging will require one wire for the dock – this isn’t pure science fiction. But, since the PowerMat can charge up to four items at once, you have the potential to eliminate a couple charger wires and power up four things with just one wire. The unit’s power cable is nice, folds up and allows you to wrap the wire around it if you need to take it somewhere. It’s very much like the Apple power cord for laptops.

So how does it work? Like this – the device you lay down on the PowerMat doesn’t just charge as it is. You have to “enable” your device to be PowerMat ready. What’s that mean? Let me tell you. That either means attaching one of the PowerMat holsters to your device (sold separately) so that it can communicate with the mat when set down, or attaching it to the PowerCube. Since the PowerCube comes with the package, we’ll look at that first.

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The PowerMat works through magnetic induction. The PowerCube is essentially a magnet square that hooks up with the magnets inside the mat, building a connection and charging your device. The PowerMat comes with one PowerCube and eight different tips for it, depending on what type of device you want to connect. The tips are Micro USB, DS Lite, Dsi, Sony, Samsung, LG and Apple – which in reality, will allow you to power up hundreds of devices. You can connect any compatible device to the PowerCube via the appropriate tip, lay the PowerCube down on the PowerMat, and it’ll charge your device wirelessly. Behold the PowerCube charging my Nintendo DS Lite and iPod.

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As you can see, the charge light is illuminated on the Nintendo DS.

Placing the PowerCube down on the PowerMat is fun. You can feel it connect, feel a whirring sensation as the mat begins charging your device, and it plays a little sound to let you know it’s connected. It also illuminates a little LED on the front of the mat. Magnetic induction is pretty sexy.

The PowerMat has three spots to charge things, as well as the USB in the back. Sure, the USB requires a cable, but it’s sort of a little bonus thing for the heck of it, so don’t complain.

Now, you might be thinking this isn’t all that special. If you still have to connect to a PowerCube, what’s the point? You could just as easily connect to a normal charger. That’s very true. If you only use one or two gadgets, this thing won’t do you any good. There are, however, many gadgets that have PowerMat holsters which you can leave attached to your device at all times. Then, when you get home, it literally is just drop-and-charge because the PowerCube is built right into the holster and you don’t have to connect anything.

Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to that, too.

First, these “receivers” are only available for a limited number of items. For some, like the iPhone, they come in the form of a case that wraps around your phone. When you need to charge, you just pop the thing down on the mat and you’re in business. The problem with this, aside from the fact this receiver will cost you an additional $40 on top of the $100 you already paid for the PowerMat, is that it’s the only case you will be able to use for your phone. It also adds bulk and is very obviously a PowerMat holster. Personally, I have an Otterbox case on my Blackberry Tour that I wouldn’t replace for anything. So, even if there was a PowerMat receiver case for the Tour (which there isn’t yet), I wouldn’t use it.

Other receivers don’t come in the form of a holster, but in a little dock, like the one I received for my iPod (which, by the way, is the only device I own for which there is currently a specific receiver on the market).

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Placing my iPod into this little receiver dock, I can then put it on the PowerMat to charge. Or, you know, I could put it into my iHome, which is where I usually charge the thing. That’s actually easier, and is something I already own. Since this little dock isn’t always attached to the device, it’s an extra step to connect it then put it on the mat. It’s just as easy to plug into a cable. While the PowerMat receiver helps me eliminate that cable from under my desk, is a $100 mat and a $30 iPod receiver worth getting rid of one cable?

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The PowerMat also comes with a little plastic square container to keep your most-used PowerCube tips. A couple fit in there.

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The PowerMat charges your device every bit as fast as the stock charger, if not occasionally faster. Another sound plays when your device is removed from the mat, letting you know the connection has been broken. And just like when you apply it, you can feel the pull of disconnection when you pick it up.


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Conclusion:

Considering the PowerMat isn’t necessary by any means, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s a justifiable purchase. That mainly depends on personal preference, and how much money you have to blow. Sure, it can spare you a few cables under your desk, but are a few cables really that important? For me, there are so many cables under my desk that I wouldn’t even know they are missing.

It’s undeniably a cool piece of technology, its design is fabulous, and if wireless charging is your thing, it’ll probably be worth it to you. There’s a big element of “awesome” that comes with the device, and it’s likely to turn some heads. After all, PowerMat’s commercial for the item shows a bunch of people standing around in amazement that “the thing is !@#$ charging without any !@#$ wires!” With three wireless and one wired methods for powering your device, it allows a lot to get done at once.

But, if you use a lot of devices that don’t yet have receiver support, or already have holsters or cases on your devices that you don’t want to sacrifice for the receivers, it won’t do you much good. The unit only comes with one PowerCube, and buying more than one of those defeats the purpose. And for now, most things do need to be plugged into one.

I also don’t find the little dock connection for the iPod to be all that exciting. I’d much prefer a typical phone-style case for it, too. But, if you do use a lot of supported devices, don’t already have cases on them, and have a good $200 to spend on wireless charging, then sure, go for it. It’ll add some ease to your life.

Overall, the product seems more like a gimmick than something with practical use for a lot of people. I can’t imagine spending a few hundred bucks, then carrying around all sorts of gadgets with PowerMat receivers attached to them just because I want to get rid of some cords. For now, at least. The thing that will really make PowerMat a success is when manufacturers start building the magnetic receivers into the insides of the units and shipping them that way from the start. Then, wireless charging will really take off.

Still, this is the best attempt any company has made yet at wireless charging. It’s the finest product available to do what it does. There is no doubt that given a little more time, nearly every device on the market will have receiver support, and they will continue to design them to be more compatible with other customizations to your gadgets and (hopefully) bring them down in price. I’m more excited about the future potential than what we have right now. Until then, it’s up to you…

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Pros:
+Lots of potential
+Easy to use when you’ve got the right gear
+Just plain cool
+Solid construction and design
+Functions very well, charges quickly
+Lets you get rid of a few stock chargers

Cons:
-Will cost around $200 to fully utilize it as a wireless charger, if you even can
-All receivers are sold separately
-Limited selection of receivers available, which limit its overall usefulness

Grades:
Overall score-7-10
Design score-7-10
Performance score-7-10
  • Dani

    I agree that it will be much easier when manufacturers will get on board but still, the powermat as is, is a big progress. As someone that’s not emotionaly attached to a cover I had no problem using the cover that came with the mat for my Blackberry. We bought another cover for the iPhone and use the tips for the other devices at home. Using one wire (from the mat to the AC) instead of the four we used before is very convenient and in my opinion, a step forward.

  • http://na Kilamon

    A better use for this would be a custom table where you’ve sunken the powermat in to the table so that it’s flush with the rest of the surface. That would be very slick then since you’d be able to truly eliminate and hide all the wires. As time wears on, you’ll see more devices start to appear for the powermat, too, I’m sure.

    I note that the tester didn’t notate the distance from the mat to the block. Was any testing done to show how far away the block and the mat can be before charging will initiate? What if the mat were placed under a couch and the block attached to your laptop? Will that charge? What about the iphone in your holster in the same scenario? It seems to me like the tester isn’t thinking outside the box here.

  • Jeff J

    There was no mention of how far away it can be because that isn’t a variable. The thing has to be flush on the mat, one one of three particular diodes within the mat for charging to start. You can’t even simply place the unit anywhere you please on the mat itself – it has to be on one of three specific locations. That’s why the review says it can charge three items. There are three spots where they can sit.

    It works with magnetic induction – aka magnets – so obviously they have to be connected for it to do anything. Magnets don’t work from two feet away. Or two inches away.

  • gary n.

    Good review. I got one of these for my bday. Its cool but not all that exciting. Like you say, not enough support for it yet. I’m happy with one I got as a gift because it was free to me, but I wouldn’t pay for one seeing how it works. Not yet at least.

  • Mike

    I used to work for a company in the UK that pioneered this technology. We were working on a true, universal, drop ‘n charge concept. This was “any device, any orientation, any position” charging. It was brilliant to demo – customers were astounded at what it could do.

    But the main issue was the “chicken and egg” syndrome – mobile phone companies didn’t want to enable devices until there was a critical mass of charging stations out on the market, and no one wanted to buy a charging station until there were enabled devices. We went down the “dongle” path as has been done here, but there really wasn’t enough market interest to justify the development costs. And without the “drop ‘n charge” feature, companies just really weren’t interested. It seemed USB charging was a quicker and cheaper route to removing the need for a charger for every device, and that’s very much where I see the portable electronics market heading at the moment.

    The other issue was technical – charging a battery produces heat, and beyond 45 degC your average Li-Ion or Li-Po cell cannot be charged. Even with high efficiencies, its not difficult to raise the battery temperature beyond this (your current mobile phone will probably run pretty close to the wind as it is!). So, unless you can get the pad to cool the device whilst its charging, or battery technology takes a bit of a quantum leap, there is a real challenge to get this sort of stuff working in a way that consumers would want to see it work.

    But, having said all that, you’ve gotta start somewhere and these guys at least have managed to get a product to market!!

  • Bote Man

    Let’s see…$140 to charge my phone??

    No thanks. I’ll endure the agony and hard labor that is plugging in a USB-mini cable to my phone. I have important issues to occupy my time.

  • Steve Dude

    Great article. You exposed a very poorly advertised item. Just wonder how may people will get took this christmas!

  • Brandi

    Good article. My only question is, what about those who need to charge on the go. If I want to go visit family, I have to drive 6 1/2 to 7 hours to get there. Can I still use a car charger with the powermat battery door attached? I can’t seem to find any info on that. Or, what if I’m somewhere that doesn’t have a powermat… can I still use the wires to charge ? I know it comes with a “travel mat” but let’s be real, that’s a bulky thing to put in your purse and if you have to plug it up….

  • http://jay_williams75@hotmail.com Jay

    Power Mat sounds like a powerful waste of money.

  • Chassis

    Interesting, what if i need to use my phone while its charging. Do i stick my head against the phone while its lying on the mat? Morever, it takes about the same effort to put my phone on a regular dock, why do i need to spend $140 just to eliminate metal contacts. I think this device is utter rubbish. It’s benefit doesn’t even come close to it’s cost.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    More false advertising or poorly advertised junk made to trick and deceive the public…There is nothing wireless about this powermat (unless you spend even more money on a docking station)…

  • Phil B

    My wife just bought two of these, one as a gift and one for us. We are totally upset! The box shows no wires hence the term wireless, however you still have to plug something (reciever) into the phone and then the powermat is pluged into the wall. We are taking ours back for a full cash refund! NOT HAPPY AT ALL

  • http://www.powermatcharger.co.uk Powermat Charger User

    Agreed it can be an expensive product to buy but it does come into its own when you have multiple devices to charge. Basically it works for me as it saves me having multiple chargers all lieing around and i can simply leave my iPhone on charge when im at home and dont have to scrape around for the right lead or find the plug. My living room now looks a lot less cluttered and my plug sockets are free now.

  • Will

    This is one of those times when people should really do their research on a new item before they buy it. I waited 6 months before getting one of these. I checked the company out back in December, and just the other day decided to get one. Unless you have a device with an offered holster/battery/case, don’t get this. If you do have one of those few devices, and don’t mind the case, GET IT. This is a fantastic product, both as an office novelty and practicality. Only con that wasn’t mentioned:

    If you have a cell phone, the Powermat will interfere and weaken the signal of your phone, so make sure to put the station where you have at least 4 bars normally. Otherwise you end up like me getting text messages 1 hour later from when the phone should have received it. Lol!

  • Todd Washburn

    this is a great solution for me. my cheap blackberry usb port finally broke and I was about to be out of luck when I cam across this device. It was either get a cradle where I would have to take the battery out every time i wanted a charge, or i can just simply plop it down on the mat to charge. Even better, instead of dealing with a cord when someone calls during a charge, I can just pick it up and put it down without using the plug. Not for everyone, but it works for some and especially if you have a situation like myself.

  • guest

    what do they mean by “Enable” your device? The text says that you can “enable” your device by attaching it to the powercube. For How Long? 1hr? 2? 3? 1 day? 2 days? a week?

  • Daddymalony

    i was amazed by this technology until i just read you have to plug in the power cube, this would be good for an electric car but in this case a complete waste of time.

  • Dalmat3

    just another money milking machine…but wait. some croatian scientist is working on truely wireless charging…
    induction was understood and perfected by nikola tesla originally, so giving the baby to mother is fine

    we dont want any limits…we want charging all the time, everywhere
    home, office, train, car mall, plane…concept is simple…even earth’s magnetic field has some guidance potential
    “by 2013, you’ll all want and have television sets operating wirerlessley, and most kitchen appliances too anywhere near your home” japanese already have TV set doing this…10′ away (not the best but hey, its a start)

    furthermore,
    with relay stations and confining/streamlining/aplifying those energy fields…to highways and busy routes, we will be able to power even our vehicles.
    modulators will be able to switch electron’s energy orbits and release/utilize this to execute any task. we will need -rapidly- supersafe and reliable temporal and spacial corridors to evade/avoid/prevent being pulverized. being properly grounded will soon not be enough. who will really get wealthy?
    one who deciphers atom transfer…beyond 3 molecules away. once again, light will take the lead. other things will piggy back
    what will we do? i dont know exactly…perhaps search for God full time? nothing else seems to make any sense

    so,
    our children will refuse to believe we were so behind …current powerfull lobying/marketing by existing industries still keep the rug over our eyes.
    Q: what would happen if copper was not needed in such quantities to those who hold that stock?
    or to those who have factory set-ups for production of internal gas guzzling combustion engines?!
    **enter cricket sound**
    they dont want to let that golden chook loose yet. for now: do buy but discriminate bad from good from best!

  • WOW!!!!

    This is very helpful info. The manufacturer’s documentation avoids any clear explanation of what “enabled” means, undoubtedly because it diminishes the usefulness of the product and means you’re going to have to spend more money for it to be conveniently useful. There is too much wow-and-awesome language from the marketing folks and not enough practical information on how you make the thing work.

  • guest

    i hate this dum product and whoever made it is really dum

  • Frankez99

    Count me in as deceived; well….my wife as she purchased it for me as a gift. Boy, watching those commercials and LOOKING AT THE BOX doesn’t clarify anything in regards to “enabled”. The only thing I enabled with this device is my cars ignition as I took it back to the PX.

    Sure, just drop your device on it and it’ll charge! Not…..

  • Randall

    Wow this is great I get to plug my device into a magnet and it is cahged, why not just plug it into the wall be simplier

  • Stunzeed

    Yay! This busted-a$$ product turned into a $150 dollar charger for my friends I-phone and turned his phone into a candidate for the “the biggest loser” because it fattened it up with it’s “enabler” (which he didn’t even know he needed until, whoops, just dropping his phone on the pad wasn’t doing anything after 5 hours). Now my buddy has seen the light and will be taking this overpriced POS back. I win, he loses….shoulda’ listened!

  • George2

    Waste.  Connection easily breaks.  Did not last a week.  Just purchas another charger or battery.

  • http://twitter.com/nstukltd Network Training

    Nice post on PowerMat induction chargers. Wonder if they will really catch on??

  • mohammed

    can you just charge iphone or ipod without a sleeve because charging dock broke

  • mohammed

    I broke charger dock on iPod can you charge without sleeve

  • Jeff Herd

    Wireless Pad and cases are very helpful devices in office, home and other places and would be recommend to every one, Enjoy and Feel wirelessy with CHOETECH Wireless Accessories.

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