Review: Incase Combo Charger for iPod, iPhone & iPad
Though months have actually passed, it feels like only yesterday that Incase released the Combo Charger for iPod & iPhone, a hybrid home and car power adapter that we liked. With the iPad now in stores, Incase rapidly updated last year's model to become the Incase Combo Charger for iPod, iPhone & iPad ($40), preserving the same price and aesthetics while changing a couple of features.
On a positive note, the new Combo Charger has the same general look and feel as its predecessor: it uses soft touch black rubber to cover a 4.25” long car charging bulb with wall blades on one side and a car charging plug on the other, using glossy plastic for the side that faces outwards in a car or upwards in a wall outlet. A second color is not yet available for iPad users, but the prior iPod and iPhone Combo Charger was also released in a white and gray variation. Incase uses an illuminating white leaf on the glossy side to let you know that power’s running to the USB port, and as with last year’s model, provides no audio-out from the accessory—it’s solely for power. No iPad-ready charger currently offers audio output, but we expect that will change in the months to come.
The USB port is the focus of Combo Charger’s two big changes. First, there’s only one USB port—last year’s model included two, making better use of the relatively large bulb’s body, while enabling users to connect two devices at once for charging. But the bigger difference is under the hood: the iPad version of the Combo Charger is capable of outputting three different levels of power: 0.5 Amps for iPods, 1 Amp for iPhones, and 2.1 Amps for iPads. Consequently, any Apple device you connect to it indoors or in your car will recharge as fast as it’s capable of charging—a real boon for the iPad, which can take as long as 16 hours to fully replenish its battery if it’s not fed enough juice.
We had no problem charging iPods, iPhones, or iPads with the new Combo Charger, and it worked as promised when connected to the wall and when used in the car. Incase discloses on its web site that the Charger may feel warm to the touch when it’s in use, and with the iPad, we did notice the warmth—thankfully, it’s nowhere near as hot as some of the early iPhone-only chargers we tested, as Incase is apparently using cooler-running parts. The single biggest ease of use issue with the Combo Charger turns out to be its size, which will require you to make a little extra space on your wall outlet, or turn the bulb upside down. Incase’s nice roughly 40-inch USB-to-Dock Connector cable matches the Charger, detaching for use with your computer or for easier storage; the wall blades also fold inwards to lower the accessory’s profile in a bag.
If there’s any other issue with the Combo Charger, it’s just the price: to the extent that dual-port, dual-purpose chargers were just about right-priced at $40, Incase is charging a premium here for the novelty of iPad compatibility, and it goes without saying that you can add a car-only iPad charger for $25 or less to the wall charger that comes with your iPad. For that reason, travelers are the primary audience for this new version of the Combo Charger—all-in-one convenience makes it a solid option for people who don’t want to carry two separate accessories around, and are willing to pay a little extra for the versatility.