Review: Henge Docks Gravitas Dock with Lightning Connector
Henge Docks' Gravitas Dock with Lightning Connector ($89) is one of a handful of products that's just now shipping, a year after it was first introduced at the 2013 CES. The company is best known for its Mac docking stations, with this product being its first foray into the iPhone and iPad accessory market. As the price suggests, it's a premium dock, with a premium look and feel. Functionally, it does everything Apple's iPhone 5c Dock and iPhone 5s Dock do for $29, although this one includes a Lightning connector, rather than requiring that you provide your own cable. A USB-to-USB cable is included for charging and syncing, and there's an audio port to connect to sound systems. Henge Docks promises continuing adapter support as new products are released, and to accommodate cases; iPad (4th-Gen), iPad Air/mini, iPhone 5/5s, and iPhone 5c inserts are included.
Made of a metal alloy that’s supposedly 265 percent denser than aluminum, the dock is a truncated cylinder coming up to 2.5” at its highest point, and weighing over 2.5 pounds. That heft is very evident, and it’s intentional. The idea is you’ll be able to lift your device out of the dock without having to hold it down. There’s also a rubber pad on the bottom to further prevent movement on a desk. Located in the center of the dock, recessed in a channel running its entire width, is the Lightning plug. Surprisingly, the plastic housing around it is roughly the size of what’s found on many third-party cables, and can accommodate some cased devices. Henge Docks specifically warns against using Gravitas Dock without one of its plastic adapters in place, though. From the user guide: “Use of the dock without an insert may result in damage to the device. Sharp edges may be exposed on insert removal.”
With the four adapters that are included, case compatibility is eliminated. Each adapter is molded around the contours of the corresponding device, with a divot in the front — matching one in the metal — for access to the Home button. There are also audio output ports on either edge; they don’t augment the sound at all, but there’s no quality loss, either. Instead of angling the docked device back, Gravitas holds it almost perpendicular, at about 83°. The inserts are removed relatively easily, and the two iPad adapters have raised backs for support. When it comes to lifting out the device, iPhones came out without issue. The iPad Air, iPad mini, and fourth-generation iPad all required us to hold the base down, though. Henge Docks promises new inserts for future devices, and says it will be partnering with case companies for case-specific inserts.
Both syncing and charging are properly supported through Gravitas — mostly. While the connection allows proper communication to iTunes, and draws power no matter what’s plugged in, it doesn’t seem to support full 2.4-Amp or even 2.1A speeds. For example, when we had a first-generation iPad mini plugged in, it was only drawing around 1.7A. That’s not a huge problem, but it is somewhat surprising. Also surprising, but in a good way, is how audio is handled. Up until now, Apple’s Lightning docks have been the only ones to handle both audio and power through the Lightning port; Belkin’s Charge + Sync Dock with Audio Port, for example, has a second plug. The quality of the audio is the same as Apple’s, although the volume is a few decibels lower. Henge Docks disables wired iTunes syncing when an audio device is plugged in.
Gravitas Dock’s price immediately limits its appeal to those willing to pay a premium for design, as most competitors cost roughly a third the price, although some require a user-provided cable that can add an extra $20 to the cost. This one is more attractive than most, and supports larger iPads, which many other docks do not. If you’re willing to go against the instruction booklet, it even allows cases, which would be a huge win if it were officially supported. On top of all that, it’s the first third-party dock we’ve seen with direct audio off the Lightning connector. For those willing to pay a premium, the dock is a nice purchase, although we certainly wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, earning it our B- rating.