Review: Griffin PowerBlock AC Charger for USB iPods/Devices
Pros: A well-made, attractive alternative to Apple’s iPod USB Power Adapter, with an included iPod-to-USB cable that’s the equivalent of Apple’s in quality. Provides quality wall charging for iPods, nanos, and shuffles.
Cons: Price point may be identical to Apple’s or lower, depending on the store where you find it.
No change to iPod pack-ins has bothered our readers as much as Apple’s decision to drop the previously included wall Power Adapter from every iPod’s package. For months, your choice was simple: charge your iPod from your computer, or go out and spend $29 (plus tax and/or shipping) for Apple’s iPod USB Power Adapter (iLounge rating: B), a price which many people found objectionably high for something so simple.
Bear with us for a moment on this one. According to Griffin, the company’s new PowerBlock AC Charger ($30) will - despite the obviously similar MSRP - sell for $10 less than Apple’s USB Power Adapter at stores that carry both products. Functionally, the PowerBlock is nearly identical: it includes a small white power brick with fold up blades for portability/traveling, plus a USB-to-iPod cable identical to the one Apple includes with iPods and nanos, or sells separately for $19. While not strictly necessary, the second cable lets you keep one connected to your computer while the other’s attached to PowerBlock.
As expected, PowerBlock works in a very simple way. You plug the cable into the PowerBlock and iPod, then the PowerBlock to the wall, and your iPod properly recharges. If you have an iPod shuffle, you can skip the cable part and just plug the shuffle directly into the PowerBlock’s USB port. As with most of the chargers we’ve used, our review units worked just as promised and expected with our test iPods.
Given its MSRP, PowerBlock’s appeal to any given reader is going to depend significantly upon one major factor: the actual price you can buy it for. A quick check of Best Buy reveals that the company’s actually selling Apple’s USB Power Adapter for an $11 markup - $40 instead of $29 - with PowerBlock selling for $30. Amazon.com’s Marketplace shows Apple’s Adapter at around $29, with PowerBlock at $22. Through both merchants, PowerBlock is a better alternative than Apple’s product on price alone, even if you ignore the included USB cable, but it remains to be seen how this will play out elsewhere. Paying $30 for PowerBlock at Best Buy is no better than paying $29 for Apple’s adapter at an Apple Store or Amazon.com.
If both products were in the same store at the same price, we’d still pick PowerBlock first because of its included USB cable, and if there was in fact a way to get PowerBlock for $20, we’d jump on it as an ideal alternative to the official iPod USB Power Adapter. Our rating recognizes its superior value to Apple’s part regardless of price, but if you can find it for $20, consider it a highly recommended, A- product rather than a B+ one.