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Get an intelligent USB car charger with Lightning cable for $16.99

From the Cheapskate: A must-have for every road warrior, this cigarette-lighter adapter also includes two 2.1-amp USB ports. But can you trust the user reviews?

CNET's Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.


inatech-usb-car-charger.jpg
Inatech

As I mentioned earlier this week, it's time to rethink the way we charge our mobile devices. Modern phones and tablets just can't get enough power from the average USB port -- the kind you find on most laptops, wall plugs and even car dashboards.

I've learned the car lesson the hard way, thinking my years-old no-brand cigarette-lighter USB adapter would effectively charge my iPhone 6 Plus. Not even close.

Thankfully, newer adapters provide more juice, and they're even smart enough to deliver the correct amount of current depending on what's plugged in.

Like this one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Inateck Online has the Inateck dual-port USB intelligent car charger with built-in Lightning cable for $16.99. That's after applying coupon code ZVPMT2DW at checkout. Shipping is free for Amazon Prime subscribers.

Although the braided, nylon, MFi-certified Lightning cable is a big draw here (at least for the iDevice crowd), the charger also comes with a 4-foot Micro-USB cable. And with its two 2.1-amp USB ports, it's fully capable of powering non-Apple devices as well.

It's not clear if you can actually charge three items at the same time, but at least the plug has "over-current" protection, ostensibly to trip its own circuit in the event of over-heating.

Now, about the user reviews: There are 23 of them, all five stars. If you read closely, you'll note that at least a few say, "I received a free sample in exchange for my unbiased review."

This is not an uncommon practice. I've seen several products that came with a card in the box saying something along the lines of, "Review us on Amazon and we will refund your purchase price!" (Having not purchased the Inateck charger myself, I don't know if that's the case here. It may simply be that the company offered select users free samples in exchange for reviews, not a refund after the fact.)

Shady? More like shades of gray. Often when you see nothing but glowing, five-star reviews, you wonder if perhaps the company stuffed the ballot box, so to speak. Here, you've got some (not all) reviewers disclosing that they were given a free sample, and noting that they were asked for an unbiased rating. And then backing up those ratings with detailed, hands-on experiences. To me that seems open and fair.

That said, if you're offered a full or partial refund on something you bought, aren't you more likely to review it favorably? Food for thought.

Luckily, we're not talking about cars or computers, here. It's a USB charger, one you can get for $3 off. For me it fills a need, so I'm buying one. Because the cable is MFi-certified, and that certification costs money, I'm assuming it's a better product than the super-cheap no-brand stuff I've purchased in the past.

Your thoughts?

Bonus deal: Who says home-security and monitoring cameras have to be expensive and complicated? If you want an affordable and easy way to stream live video to your phone or tablet, check this: Groupon has the Izon View Wi-Fi video camera for $59.99 shipped. Even better, get a two-pack for $99.99. Compatible with Android and iOS, the cameras offer motion detection, night vision, cloud recording and more. Usually a single sells for $100, so this is a pretty solid deal -- even if the reviews are somewhat mixed.