Powermat Portable Mat Review

Powermat Portable Mat Review
Powermat made a name for itself with its innovative product as much as its controversial commercial, so how the hell does it work?  Inductive charging is not new; Palm’s Touchstone made the Pre an immediately more compelling product last summer, and chances are many of you have used it with video came controllers.  Powermat is a bit more ambitious by aiming to bring wireless charging to the masses with their lineup of mats and adapters.

The idea is pretty simple: enable your device by replacing the battery door or slipping on a case with the Powermat receiver and place it on the mat.  It’s really that easy, and the idea is quite ingenious.  There are currently three versions of the mat available: our review unit is the portable mat and there is a 2 and 3 device home and office mat as well.  The portable mat can charge 3 devices simultaneously and conveniently folds up on itself for portability.  It comes with a magnetic carry pouch that will store the folded mat and AC adapter.

All versions of the mat come with a Powercube, which is a receiver with a miniUSB tip for plugging in devices without a receiver available.  There are several adapter tips included: microUSB, Nintendo DS Lite and DSi, Sony, Samsung, LG and Apple.  The Samsung adapter is a bit curious as it’s their older model and not the most recent 20-pin adapter still found on a few phones like the Sunburst.  The cube is a nice way to increase the compatible device list, but in reality we’re not sure why you would go to the trouble of setting up the Powermat only to plug your device into it.  The mats have a USB port as well, just in case there isn’t an adapter for your device.

When devices are placed on the mat it makes a sound and an LED light illuminates.  There are controls for volume and brightness integrated into the mats alongside the USB port.  Thankfully the volume adjustment allows for muting the Powermat.  The sound is kind of cool at first, but gets annoying very quickly.

Right now there are three things that we see holding the Powermat back: price, size and availability.  The entry price is a bit steep ($80-$100 for the mat) but once you own one it’s just $30 for the cases, around the same price as an extra AC adapter.  A bigger issue is the size that the receivers add to the device; in this day and age we want our devices to be as thin as possible and the Powermat receiver adds some considerable thickness.  Lastly, and probably most importantly, is receiver availability.  Currently there are backs available for various current BlackBerry devices including the Tour, Bold and Curve series, the iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as Nintendo DS.

Still, the Powermat is very cool and they have big things planned.  They announced a wireless version of their portable mat at CES, and updates to their current mats should make them much smaller and more portable.  In our opinion, what they really need to focus on is receivers.  Until there are receivers available for the latest smartphones at or near launch, this very cool product will be relegated to niche status.

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