Review: Belkin 2-Port Car Charger + Car Charger with Lightning Charge/Sync Cable
Compatible: iPad (4th-Gen), iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPod nano 7G, iPod touch 5G
While it would be a stretch to call the increased availability of Lightning-ready car chargers "exciting," we're glad to see more and better options headed to market. Following up on its late 2012 Car Charger with Lightning Connector, Belkin has released two "step up" options: the Car Charger with Lightning Charge/Sync Cable ($35) and 2-Port Car Charger with Lightning Charge/Sync Cable ($45). While the first version featured a "captured cable" that could solely be used for in-car charging with its permanently-connected 10-Watt/2.1-Amp charger, these new versions come with detachable USB cables that you can disconnect and use for other purposes as needed. Apple charges developers a premium for "charge and sync" capable Lightning cables, versus less expensive charge-only cables, so the added prices are now being passed on to customers.
In addition to the Lightning cable, which works with the latest iPhone, iPod, and iPad models, what the $35 Car Charger with Lightning Charge/Sync Cable gets you is a matte black charger with a bright green ring around its rim, and a tiny green power light that illuminates when power’s flowing through it. Like the $30 Car Charger with Lightning Connector, this model puts out 10-Watt/2.1-Amp power sufficient to recharge most iPods, iPhones, and iPads at full speed, falling short only of the 12-Watt/2.5-Amp refueling capabilities of third- and fourth-generation iPads.
Apart from cosmetics, the only differences in this model relate to the Lightning cable. Belkin has narrowed the Lightning housing to further improve its case compatibility, and added a USB plug at the end that can connect to a computer, wall adapter, or other charger. The cable remains a little over four feet in length—longer than Apple’s Lightning to USB Cables—and apart from its black coloration, substantially similar. It connects to the Car Charger’s single USB port, and works exactly as expected.
The 2-Port Car Charger with Lightning Charge/Sync Cable is a somewhat different story—it doesn’t look or feel much like either of its squat, less expensive predecessors. Measuring nearly 3” long from end to end, this version will extend at least 1.25” beyond your car’s charging port thanks to a bulging circular end cap with two USB ports inside. While the 2-Port Car Charger looks merely like a mix of matte and glossy black plastics when turned off, the end cap is actually coated in a slightly grippy rubber, and a bright blue power ring is hidden behind the glossy front plastic. Turned on, the 2-Port Car Charger looks a little more exciting than it does when powered off.
Just like its less expensive brother, the 2-Port Car Charger comes with a single Lightning cable, and it’s identical in every way. It’s worth mentioning that you’ll need to self-supply a second cable to use with it, which at Apple’s current pricing means an additional $19 expense—an annoyance for sure, but consistent with how prior dual-port chargers have been sold. You also have the option to connect a non-Lightning cable to the second port, which might be useful if you plan to recharge an older Dock Connector device, or some other accessory with a Micro- or Mini-USB connector.
Unlike most (but not all) two-port chargers we’ve seen, Belkin’s design is capable of quickly charging two iPads at once—there are actually two 10-Watt/2.1-Amp USB ports here, rather than the common competing combination of one 2.1-Amp iPad-ready USB port with an iPod/iPhone-ready 1-Amp USB port. While we’ve seen some extremely compact twin USB chargers, Belkin appears to have designed this one with sufficient space to let the two iPad-ready ports breathe rather than overheat; they worked exactly as expected. Within months, there will likely be rivals to this charger with at least one 12-Watt/2.5-Amp output, but for now, the 2-Port Car Charger is as powerful as Lightning options get.
Not surprisingly, the only thing that will prevent some users from considering these Car Chargers is their pricing. At $35, the single-port Car Charger doesn’t offer any in-car functionality that the “captured cable” $30 version lacked, unless you really want or need to be able to detach the Lightning cable for other purposes. It’s worthy of the same limited recommendation, solely because of the relatively high pricing for a commodity charger design. By comparison, the $45 2-Port Car Charger is more distinctive because of its additional functionality, though it’s not terribly different price-wise from separately purchasing an Apple Lightning to USB Cable and an otherwise comparable earlier twin-port charger such as Scosche’s reVolt C2. For now, it’s good enough to merit our general recommendation; if the price falls, we’d give it even more serious consideration.