For the last few weeks, I’ve been testing out both the RAVPower Wireless Charger and the xRobot Power Bank, two unique takes on the conventional way to charge your devices. While both products come from the same family, their functionality couldn’t be farther apart. Let’s take a look how both worked.
Qi-Enabled Wireless Charger
If you’re not familiar with wireless charging, it’s a process that works through electromagnetic induction. You set your device down on a pad that’s plugged into the wall, and it’ll begin charging. The RAVPower Wireless Charger follows the same principles. It’s Qi-Enabled, meaning that’ll it’ll support any phone or device that follows the Qi inductive power standard. RAVPower claims that the charger will work with the following devices right out of the box:
- Nexus 4
- LG Optimus Vu2
- Nokia Lumia 920
- HTC 8X
- HTC Droid DNA
The charger can support the iPhone, which is the device I tested it with, but not without a special case for the phone that includes the needed wireless receiver. Although I was supplied with an iPhone 5 compatible charging case, RAVPower doesn’t sell one, and they have stated that they have no plans to. You can grab the case I was sent on Amazon here, although it’ll set you back another $20.
Using the charger is pretty simple. You plug in the pad using the included USB cable and AC adapter (it can also be attached directly to a computer), and you’re ready to go. If you’re using an iPhone, you’ll have to also put on the special wireless charging case. If the case I linked to above isn’t your favorite, there are others on Amazon that will likely support the charger as well and provide more protection to the phone.
Simply placing your phone onto the charging pad’s surface will cause it to begin charging. You’ll hear a short beep from the charger and a small LED light will flash on the pad, indicating that your phone is charging. Although it works best if you set your phone right in the center of the pad, I found that it’ll still continue to charge if you set it down sideways or towards the edge. I was even able to maintain charging when I lifted the phone about a millimeter off the pad. It’s pretty neat the first time you try it out.
Of course, nothing is perfect. There are drawbacks to wireless charging. RAVPower claims that the charging speed when using inductive charging is about 75% of what you’d get over a wire, and I found that claim to be true. It’s noticeably slower to charge your phone this way. Although it’s not a problem if you’re just setting your phone down for the night, if you’re looking for a quick charge before you head out with your phone, it’ll be disappointingly slow. The charger is also advertised as being able to recharge “more than 500 times.” I can’t be certain as to what this means, but I would assume that perhaps either performance of the charger drastically degrades past the 500th cycle, or that the device stops working altogether. While 500 charges is probably enough for a few years for one device, it’s something to watch out for long term.
Finally, if you’re using an iPhone with the charger, having to use a specialized case to charge it isn’t a great solution. While this isn’t a problem unique to the RAVPower charger, it’s something to consider either way. Since the case interfaces with your iPhone using the lightning connector, you’ll lose access to the port for syncing or charging through a cable unless you remove the case each time.
Overall, I found the charger to be fascinating from a technology perspective. Wireless charging is still in its infancy, and RAVPower’s attempt at creating a “universal” wireless charger isn’t bad for a first try. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you think the ease of use outweighs the drawbacks, you can pick it up here on Amazon for $39.99.
xRobot Power Bank
The xRobot is perhaps the more practical of the two devices I tested. It’s a pretty standard 6000 mAh external battery for your devices, with a few extra features. Unlike most battery packs, which include only a USB port for plugging in your device, the xRobot includes built-in 30 pin, micro USB, and standard USB connections for easily charging a wide variety of devices. It can also simultaneously charge two devices, since the cables are built in.
To charge the xRobot, you can use the built in USB cable and charge it from a computer, or AC adapter if you happen to have one on hand. Once it’s fully charged (it’ll take a while), pressing the button on the face of the device will light up 1-5 LEDs to show you the current charge status. Plugging in your device to any of the included ports will instantly start charging it. In my tests, with a fully charged xRobot, I was able to charge my iPhone 3 times overnight before the device was empty. This is a little surprising, considering the iPhone’s capacity is only 1,440 mAh, but then again, my iPhone was powered on and in use much of the time it was charging.
The only major drawback of the xRobot is its lack of a Lightning connector. I would expect that RAVPower all introduce a newer model soon, but right now, you lose the value of having built in cables if you own a Lightning device, since you’ll need to use your own cable anyway.
There’s nothing exceptionally groundbreaking about the xRobot. Its built in cables are convenient, but only if you use iOS devices made before 2012. As an external battery pack, however, it does a fine job, and works well. You can pick it up on Amazon for $39.99.