If you are anything like our team, you have been waiting for this day to come. No longer do we need to fill power boards with dedicated adapters for each and every device, or try to scab missing adapters from colleagues who work on other titles. Now, we need only drop our device of choice onto the skateboard-like Powermat and it will begin charging with a cheerful electronic chortle of recognition from the mat.
Although this kind of charging has been rumoured for a few years now, we first laid eyes on the completed Powermat product in coverage from this year’s CES show in Las Vegas. A few short months later it is on sale in New Zealand.
The process itself is called inductive charging, whereby an electromagnetic field is used to transfer energy between two objects. You may already have an electric toothbrush that charges in this way. The smarts that the Powermat offers are the ability to charge multiple different devices with different power requirements.
As I mentioned, the mat is in the shape of a small skateboard and has a non-slip rubber back to ensure it stays in place on your desk or table. Mains power to the mat is supplied by a standard 100-240v adapter.
On the mat’s surface there are three charging positions indicated by circular indentations. A standard USB plug is also provided should you want to connect a fourth device for charging.
As this technology is still in its infancy, you can’t actually just drop your phone, Nintendo DSi, iPod, or other device on the mat to power up. You need to attach a Powermat receiver to the device first.
There are cases for the likes of iPhones, battery doors for BlackBerries, receiver backs for Nintendo devices and a receiver dock for iPods. For anything else, there is a USB receiver unit called the Powercube that sits on the mat and provides eight different adapter heads for Sony, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, LG and other devices.
The receiver units and the mat conduct a ‘conversation’ to tell the mat exactly how much power to supply and to shut off when the device is fully charged. Of course, in the near future, Powermat receivers will be built into devices and it won’t be necessary to add the bulk of a receiver unit.
When you place a device on the mat, magnets pull it into the correct position, the mat gives that recognition chortle I mentioned and your device’s screen lights up to show it is charging. It is very cool.
Charging seems to be as rapid as via a standard adapter, and even when charging three devices simultaneously we noticed no slow down in charging times.
In tests we charged an iPhone via a case receiver, a Nintendo DS Light via a receiver back, a blackberry Pearl via a battery door receiver and a Nokia phone via an adapter on the Powercube. All charged successfully without any hiccups.
At $250 the Powermat certainly isn’t cheap and the receiver backs are another $60 each, but the ease of use and faultless performance recommend it as a technology worth having. I mean, just think about it, no more cables and adapters.