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Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System review: Compact and sophisticated wireless charging

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Powermat was the first company to popularize the idea of charging mobile devices through inductive, or wireless, charging. A new gadget, the $99.99 Powermat 24-Hour Power System, promises to provide just what its name suggests. The first Powermat product under the venerable Duracell brand, the 24-Hour Power System indeed serves up wireless charging plus a backup battery to keep phones from dying when you're out on the town. Still, though handsomely styled and compact, for now the Power System is most useful for iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S3 owners.

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7.7

Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System

The Good

The <b>Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System</b> charges phones without messy wires. The light, compact kit includes a useful portable battery for power on the go.

The Bad

Powermat technology is not currently built into any phones, and cases are available for only two handsets. The Power System only charges two devices at once.

The Bottom Line

The Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System is great for keeping two gadgets powered all day, but is best suited for iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S3 owners.

Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System keeps you covered (pictures)

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Design
If you're familiar with Powermat's past line of wireless charging devices, the Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System won't prove to be too much of a shocker. That's because it isn't a huge leap forward in terms of functionality or overall design. Just like the Powermat products before it, the 24-Hour Power System primarily consists of a flat and compact rectangular charging pad with smoothly curved corners. The mat itself is available for purchase separately for $49.99 and comes in a choice of white or black.

The charging pad is slim, small, and lightweight. Sarah Tew/CNET

While older Powermat products had a matte coating, I like the glossy surface this new Powermat series sports, and the metallic-silver accents that run along the mat's edges and bottom side. I'm sure this aesthetic choice wasn't an accident since it's strongly reminiscent of modern iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Android handsets. Two adhesive strips sit on back of the Powermat that help keep the charger secure when placed on tables or desktops. Thankfully these strips aren't permanent, so you can pick the mat up and repeatedly reposition or remove the strips if you choose.

A case for the Samsung Galaxy S3 (shown here) or fourth-generation iPhones enables wireless charging. Sarah Tew/CNET

Duracell also bundles with the Power System either a special case for the fourth-generation Apple iPhone (4 and 4S) or one that fits the Samsung Galaxy S3. Both cases enable these phones' batteries to be charged wirelessly via the Powermat. While the stock iPhone case comes in a range of seven colors, Duracell only ships the Galaxy S3 version in white. The company, however, just announced a new partnership with case customizer Coveroo that will allow people to stencil their own cases with personalized paint jobs.

The third piece of this Powermat's puzzle is the Portable Backup Battery. The battery, a square unit about the size of a small tape measure, is both compact and light (2.9 ounces). It also is clad in the same futuristic styling as the Powermat charger.

With the inclusion of the Backup Battery, it's clear that Duracell envisioned its product as offering users extra power on the go. Also, while the charging pad itself isn't precisely meant to pack up neatly for travel, it weighs just 6.4 ounces (9.28 ounces with battery) and is about a third of the size of competing products such as the Energizer Dual Inductive Charger. The Powermat's AC adapter is crafted with an eye toward mobility as well, featuring a wide channel where the cord can be wrapped and neatly stowed.

The battery charges through wireless or wired Micro-USB connection. It also has an Apple connector and Micro-USB cable. Sarah Tew/CNET

Features
At its core the Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System is designed to be just what its name suggests, a charger built to cover mobile phone users around the clock. To this end the Powermat charger features two spots to accommodate two devices. Depending on which version of the Power System you buy, you'll be able to charge either a Samsung Galaxy S3 or fourth-generation iPhone wirelessly right out of the box using the bundled special case.

One nice flourish I've always liked on Powermat products is how certain it is when you're charging successfully. When you begin to place a Powermat-equipped phone on the mat you first feel a strong magnetic tug that's hard to ignore. This pull guides you down to connect the device with the mat with a solid thunk. If that wasn't enough of a clue, the mat chimes with an audible rising tone and illuminates a small LED when the connection is made. Pulling a device off of the mat causes a falling chime to play and switches off the light.

You can also place the Portable Backup Battery on the mat for wireless charging. Duracell claims the battery provides up to four full phone charges, and four lights on the side of the unit flash to indicate both charge level and charging status. To power up mobile devices, by passing juice through the battery either from the mat or via the battery itself, the gadget has both a wired Apple connector and a Micro-USB cord. Another nice touch is how the cables tuck elegantly away into recessed wells for storage.

Unlike the Energizer Dual Inductive Charger, however, the Powermat lacks a USB port for charging a third device. Also, if you're hoping that you'll find Powermat technology already integrated into smartphones you'll be disappointed. In contrast to the Qi wireless power technology, which is already taking steps toward its goal of becoming a true, ubiquitous standard, no handsets at the moment natively support Powermat charging.

The Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System is made to charge two devices at once. Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course, Duracell has recently announced deals with corporate partners such as Starbucks and Delta Airlines to deploy Powermat technology themselves. For example, you can now charge Powermat products at select Starbucks locations in the Boston area and in some Delta Sky Club lounges, including at JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York.

Performance
Duracell told me that users can expect the Powermat 24-Hour Power System to operate similarly to traditional wired AC chargers that came with their handsets. Indeed, much like my experience with the Energizer Dual Inductive Charger, the Power System took about as long to charge my Samsung Galaxy S3 (via wireless case) and HTC Droid DNA (through the Portable Battery) test devices as it does using their own power bricks.

That said, I did run into the same glitch trying to power up my HTC Droid DNA as I did with the Energizer Dual Inductive Charger. When the phone's battery was completely drained, the DNA refused to accept power unless I connected it directly to a standard USB cable. That said, I have sneaking suspicion that this is caused by a fault in the Droid DNA's software, since I didn't encounter this problem with other phones with dead batteries.

As advertised, the Power System kept my handset juiced up and ready for action long into the evening -- bearing in mind that as an office rat I tend to sit all day next to AC power. I found the Powermat, like other inductive chargers, made maintaining a strong battery level effortless. Dropping my phone onto a pad is much easier to remember than plugging it in. The extra electrons offered by the Portable Backup Battery are icing on the cake but serve as welcome insurance.

The cases add thickness but also the convenience of wireless charging. Sarah Tew/CNET

One caveat though is that the Backup Battery's true supply really depends on the size and capacity of your handset's battery. For instance, to top off the Droid DNA completely from zero charge used up two of the Backup Battery's four rated device recharges. Those who have invested in previous Powermat products will be happy to know, however, that their legacy products are compatible with these new Duracell-branded Powermat gadgets.

Conclusion
The beauty of inductive charging systems like the $99.99 Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System is that they go a long way to help make charging up mobile devices an afterthought. With the Power System set up on your home or office desktop, remembering to drop your phone onto its charging mat uses less brain cells, in my view, than taking the extra effort to find a free USB cord.

I also like that this Powermat system works with any older Powermat chargers you may have bought. Combined with the bundled portable battery, you'll be able to keep your phone nicely juiced up and ready for duty. Of course, the $100 sticker price of the Power System qualifies it as a luxury considering you could just as well get by with a standard wired charger. It's also a bummer that Powermat technology is as yet not integrated into any handsets, unlike the competing Qi wireless power solution. For Qi-capable phones, I suggest the $89 Energizer Dual Inductive Charger. It's not as portable but will charge Qi handsets without bulky sleeves. If you plan to take your charger on the road or spent lots of time away from AC outlets, the 24-Hour Power System is your best bet.

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7.7

Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7