Review: Griffin PowerJolt iPod Auto Charger
Pros: A sleek, visually neutral iPod car charger with included black USB-to-Dock Connector and USB-to-mini USB cables. Compatible with iPod shuffle and all Dock Connector iPods save 3G, also compatible with recent mini USB-equipped iPod accessories. Includes an unlock code for free iPod music filling software.
Cons: Lacks audio out, uses simple power light.
Sleeker? Better? Cheaper? Griffin’s new PowerJolt iPod Auto Charger - not to be confused with the earlier PowerJolt USB Auto Charger (iLounge rating: B) is all of the above, and thereby one of the best car charger values we’ve seen. At $20, it’s an especially welcome surprise from a big accessory company, particularly given that iPod accessories have been trending in the “more expensive,” “so what” directions lately, leading iPod owners to turn to no-name, less impressively made options rather than quality ones like this.
There’s nothing magical about the package here: as with the earlier PowerJolt, you get a slim, small car charger with a USB port on its front, eligible for connection to the iPod shuffle or one of two included USB cables. Griffin now includes a very slick black iPod Dock Connector to USB cable - see that, Apple? - as well as a matching mini USB to USB cable. The company also includes an unlock code for iFill LE - a limited but still entirely usable version of its Internet Radio track downloading and tagging software - in each package for free.
You can charge your iPod with the the first cable, or connect the second one to any accessory that has a pass-through mini USB port on its bottom. As such, the new PowerJolt is ready to use in your car with Griffin’s recent bottom-mounting iTrip models, XtremeMac’s AirPlay2, and other add-ons. You can also pull both of Griffin’s cables and connect any other USB charging cable, such as one you might have gotten with a cell phone. We’ve tested all of these options with the PowerJolt, and not surprisingly, they all worked properly.
The new PowerJolt is sleeker and easier to fit in tight spaces than its predecessor, as well. Some people complained about the gawdiness of the older design, which fused molded white and gray plastics into a unique, not quite beautiful bulb. Griffin’s new design is perhaps intentionally unremarkable, but blends into dark car interiors perfectly.
This isn’t to say that PowerJolt is functionally perfect. Like many of the lower-end chargers we’ve seen, it lacks an audio ouput port for your iPod - useful if you want to hear your iPod’s music at peak quality - and uses a very simple power light rather than the more complex ones found on competing products from companies like Monster Cable. These omissions are relatively trivial, though, in light of how much it does right, and put differently, if you’re looking for a more deluxe solution, you’ll need to look elsewhere, and spend more to get it.
Because it can now plug into iPods, new iPod accessories, and other USB charge-capable devices, the new PowerJolt is one of the more versatile low-end iPod car chargers we’ve seen. At $20, it’s also very affordable, and certainly the best designed and built one we’ve recently seen at that price level, a key reason for our high recommendation. While we’ll note that Belkin has recently started to shift the value equation a bit, packing in car chargers with its FM transmitters at no extra cost, those chargers are rather intentionally limited to use with those accessories, and can’t be used with unadorned iPods. If you need something that will work with any recent iPod and not offend your visual sensitivities, PowerJolt should be at the top of your list of options.