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Charge your iPad from any USB port for $5

Typically a laptop can't charge an iPad, but with this magic dongle, it can. And it's $25 less than a competing product.

For a mere five bucks, this little adapter lets you charge your iPad (or other tablet) from any USB port.
For a mere five bucks, this little adapter lets you charge your iPad (or other tablet) from any USB port. Meritline

At CES last month I encountered Digital Innovations' ChargeDr, a small USB dongle that promised to do the seemingly impossible: boost the power output of a typical USB port, thus allowing it to charge an iPad (or other tablet).

I got it home, tested it, and discovered that, hey, it actually works! Technically speaking, there's no actual power boosting going on, but who am I to argue with this weird science? Without the dongle, my iPad says "not charging." With it: "charging."

And my tests bear out the claim. My iPad 3 went from 30 percent to 75 percent in about 2.5 hours. Not bad for a lowly USB port.

My only real gripe with the ChargeDr was the price: $29.99. (Also, anyone who wanted one would have to wait until March; it's still not available for purchase.)

Guess what? Meritline sells a USB Charging Adapter for iPad for $4.99 shipped. It looks virtually identical to the ChargeDr and promises to work the same magic. Could it really?

I had to find out. So I bought one. It's a smidgen smaller than the ChargeDr, but functionally they're the same: Meritline's generic dongle works. With it I can charge my iPad from my laptop. Without it, I can't.

As an added perk, of sorts, the dongle blocks the PC from actually detecting the tablet, meaning it won't attempt to sync. That's handy if you're using a borrowed or business-center PC for charging.

About a dozen Meritline customers rated the $5 dongle 4.6 stars out of 5, with at least one noting that it works nicely with other devices as well, not just iPads.

I'd say if you travel a lot and want one fewer AC adapter to bring along, this is five bucks pretty well spent.