We've seen wireless charging solutions before-- that is, pads onto which you can drop your drained gadgets, sans adapters-- but Powermat's system takes the cake, thanks to its green power distribution, smart design, and, best of all, support for laptops.
Although it uses magnetic induction, just like the others, Powermat still made this budding technology prettier and more environmentally friendly. These products will be available later this fall, but in the meantime check out our photos, first impressions, and video of a laptop charging with a mat, an industry first.
The Powermat system doesn't include just one product, but rather, a series of designs that cater to different lifestyles and, well, gadget choices. For one, there's a classic mat onto which users can lay, perhaps, three phone side by side. Then there's a three-way travel version, that users can fold up like a map while on the go. Finally (my personal favorite), there's a modular map, whose tiles users can unsnap and arrange any way they like. So, if you're in a hotel whose desk has more length than width, you can stack the ties on top of-- not next-- to each other. One mat comes with an alarm clock (for, among other things, decoration); another comes with a single speaker.
Like other charging systems, phones must be in a special case while charging (the company's Web site lists supported brands, but not models). Cameras and GPS plug into a cord, at the end of which is a disc that sits on the charging mat (this disc comes with different tips). The company's small iPod docks that sit on top of the mat, receiving the charge. Mats will cost $100; cases, discs, and docks, $30.
Thanks to an RFID reader built into the mat, Powermat's products can tell to what extent gadgets are charged, and can stop charging them once they're full. It's no wonder, then, that Powermat has already won Energy Star's highest rating. Indeed, this is one of the biggest reasons we think Powermat is worth it.
You can make the argument that to plunk your stuff down on the mat-- along with cases, docks, and wired discs-- doesn't exactly achieve the dream of wireless charging. But you'll save outlets by just plugging the mat into one, and whatever you do charge will absorb just the power it needs. That's marginally good news for your electric bill (green gadgets save, on average, about ten dollars each a year, if that), and even better news for the environment.
Support for Laptops
The holy grail of wireless charging is being able to set a laptop down on a mat and watch the battery percentage rise. Alas, Powermat doesn't achieve this, but it does still support laptops, something other wireless charing solutions don't do. Here's how it works: there's a special disc, called PC+, which plugs into the notebook's USB port. Set the disc down on the mat, which, of course, is plugged into the wall, and the notebook will start charging.
In this case, in particular, it helps to remember the green benefits. If it weren't for that, toting around a mat, A/C adapter, and corded disc wouldn't be more convenient than toting just the notebook charger (unless,of course, you have lots of gear, in which case you might save yourself from packing many A/C adapters). When it comes to other gadgets, though, especially phones, the convenience of placing it on a mat-- and tucking those adapters out of sight-- is undeniable, even if you do have to dress your phone in a special case.
Powermat is the Best Cell Phone Accessory of 2009 CES!