The prevalence of gadgets and electronics using USB as an interface for power has had us clamoring for an all-in-one charging device for years. But for every USB-powered product, there seems to be a dozen more that utilize some sort of propriety power connection port.
We've seen items like the Powermat that provide a wireless dock to transfer a charge, but the custom outfits you must wrap your gadgets with can get expensive and cumbersome. For these reasons we were intrigued when the Idapt i3 came across our desk.
Though it's not flawless, the Idapt i3 Universal Charging Dock does a good job at simultaneously powering up to three devices, but a few annoyances keep it from being a must-buy.
The Idapt i3 itself is small enough to place on a nightstand or end table, measuring only 1.25 inches high by 6.5 inches wide by 5.25 inches deep. The device is available in a number of colors, all listed on Idapt's Web site.
The product is simple enough: three interchangeable power slots line up in a triangle formation. Each unit comes with four "tips" that protrude a specific interface for charging, with the port's name labeled right below the attachment. When purchased at a retail outlet, six tips come with the package, at which point you'll need to buy additional ones at the Idapt Web site ($10 each). However, when purchased directly from Idapt, you're given the opportunity to pick and choose four tips that will suit your needs.
The six tips we received in our review unit were primarily for cell phones but also included Mini- and Micro-USB, along with an iPhone and iPod dock connection. We were also sent extra tips for our Sony PSP, Nintendo DSi, and DS Lite.
Removing and replacing tips is a snap. Two release buttons flank each charging port and when pressed together, the tip pops up, allowing you to remove the attachment. You can move any tip to any location on the dock, but unfortunately you cannot change the front/back orientation of any of the tips. Though this may not sound like a major issue, it was a bit awkward having our HTC Evo 4G facing forward, and our iPod Touch with its back to us. It's certainly not a deal-breaker, but a notable inconvenience.
During our time with the Idapt i3, we had to test out a few different tip locations to satisfy all of our gadgets. Since charging ports vary by device, there's a certain interweaving harmony that needs to be achieved. Of course a larger surface area would have solved this issue, but we'd rather have a more compact charger instead.
We also wish each tip adapter had some sort of cushiony or padded bottom so that our devices didn't rub up against hard plastic. It's a minor peeve, but it would certainly give us peace of mind when attaching those gadgets that have fragile finishes. That said, it's tough to ask for some sort of cradle, as each device varies in shape and size.
Out from the base of the i3 protrudes a standard 3-foot power cord. Next to that port is the i3's on/off switch. We noticed a bit of buzzing coming from the charger when certain items were plugged in, but everything seemed to be in working order. Also, when using our PSP tip, it took a bit of trial and error to get the gaming system to lay flat enough to begin charging, so we recommend doing so with all your devices, especially if you plan on leaving them alone for an extended period of time.
Priced around $50 online, the Idapt i3 should be the only charger you'll need for some time. Idapt will continue to produce tips for newer products, and the swappable ports ensure that future items can be supported. Idapt just announced the i4 ($60), which adds a built-in USB port at the base of the unit. We like the Idapt i3's range of charging abilities, but if it's just USB charging you're in need of, there are much cheaper alternatives.