Music players don't get much more simple and straightforward than the iPod Shuffle. The entry-level Apple player wins points for its ultratiny size and jogging-friendly clip-on design. But even if you can live without a screen, the Shuffle's included charger is something of a drawback. While it'd be a stretch to call the adapter "large" or "bulky," it's annoying to tote the charging pad (and its attached 36-inch USB cable) whenever you take the Shuffle on a trip--doubly so when you remember that the original Shuffle's built-in USB plug made that model a truly plug-and-play affair. For anybody who wants to leave the Shuffle charger at home, there's at least one worthwhile alternative: the Monster iSlimCharger for iPod Shuffle.
The iSlimCharger is pretty much a miniaturized version of the default Apple charger that's included with the Shuffle. The cable is dropped completely, leaving you with a small USB dongle that's no larger than the Shuffle itself--just 1.83 inches by 1 inch by 0.25 inch. Plug the iSlimCharger into the Shuffle's headphone jack (which doubles as its charging port), and then slip the combined unit into any standard USB jack, and you're done. The iSlimCharger even has a tiny wedge that slips behind the Shuffle's clip, providing a nice, stable fit.
The iSlimCharger will charge the Shuffle from any standard-powered USB port--which means it should work with nearly any PC or Mac, as well as any Apple or third-party iPod charger. When connected to a computer, you can also use it to sync the Shuffle with your iTunes software.
The iSlimCharger worked exactly as advertised, providing charges and syncing with a clip-on Shuffle just as well as the default Apple adapter. If we were to nitpick, the only real flaw with the iSlimCharger is that it might be too small--we could easily see misplacing it, or losing it in the folds of a laptop bag or luggage. Likewise, you'll want to keep the charger--and the Shuffle itself--away from any small children and pets, because they could be a possible choking hazard.
It's worth noting that the iSlimCharger isn't the first such minicharger for the Shuffle. A quick perusal of iLounge.com found the very similar Marware USB Travel Dock ($20), Incipio IncipioBud ($6), and Carrot Idea USB Flexible Dock ($10). While any of those will probably work just as well, the Monster may be easier to find at some retailers, and it's backed by a one year limited warranty.
The Monster iSlimCharger for iPod Shuffle lists for just $20. That's cheap, to be sure, but--given that the Shuffle itself sells for less than $80--we'd like to see the price dip closer to the $10 point found on some of the aforementioned competing models. Still, if you're an avid Shuffle user looking to cut the clutter when you're on the road--or have fewer cables on your desktop--the Monster iSlimCharger is an easy recommendation.