Review: Fuse PowerSlice Universal Charger
Price: $45 + $10/Tip
Compatible: Dock Connecting iPods and iPhones
While the majority of iPod and iPhone chargers we've tested over the years have been sub-$30 cables designed to refuel one device at a time, several companies -- blueLounge, Griffin, iHome, and XtremeMac -- have developed multi-device charging solutions with greater versatility at higher prices. The format has generally been the same: two or more Apple devices sit side by side or in front of one another on a little platform, with price tags starting at around $60. As a relative newcomer to the Apple accessory space, Fuse needed something different to stand out from the pack, and that's what it's accomplished with PowerSlice ($45+), an aggressively-priced six-inch circular platform that's capable of charging four separate devices at once. By placing up to three devices vertically in an arc on its top, PowerSlice can charge more items in a surface area comparable to its less capable rivals, though there are a few caveats that prospective buyers should consider before making a purchase.
Whereas competing charging stations ship with everything that’s needed to start charging iPods and iPhones right away, and can’t be customized much thereafter, Fuse has taken a different approach with PowerSlice. It refers to the black and silver circular charging surface as the “Base Unit,” shipping it with nothing more than a wall charger, a rear USB port, and paper inserts where two user-installable charging tips called “Slices” will go. Slices are sold individually for $10 each, and come in versions for not only iPhones and iPods, but also for competing devices, as well as mini-USB and micro-USB variations—you pick the tips you want to install. The Base Unit includes a spot for a third Slice that’s initially covered by a removable plastic panel, while the fourth quadrant on the unit’s top has a non-removable plastic name badge.
Assuming that you were to purchase the Base Unit without anything else, it would be all but useless; you’d need to self-supply a USB cable to connect to the aforementioned rear port, which is labeled with a “not for smartphones” sticker. For some reason, this port won’t charge iPods or iPhones, but it did seem to work with everything else we threw at it, regardless of whether PowerSlice was hosting three other devices or nothing else.
If you’ve started doing the math in your head already, PowerSlice’s economics might not be making sense: at $45 for the Base Unit and $10 for each Slice, you’d be looking at a $65 minimum investment for the Base and two Slices, or $75 if you populate all three slots on top with charging tips. But Fuse says that most places won’t be selling the Base Unit by itself, let alone for the full $45 MSRP, and a quick search online confirmed this: Amazon.com is actually selling a $50 bundle that includes two iPod/iPhone Slices, while the Base Unit retails for $26 to $35 at various stores. This pricing is considerably more aggressive than the MSRP suggests, and places PowerSlice directly in the same category as rival charges from better-known Apple accessory makers.
From a performance standpoint, however, PowerSlice is only close to ideal. The good news is that the Slices charged whatever we connected to them: iPhones and iPods at full speed, as well as everything from Bluetooth headsets to Wi-Fi disk drives and MiFi wireless hotspots. You can control power to all of the ports at once using a single centrally-mounted power button, which provides “on” status with a small but bright light. It’s simple, clean, and apart from the rear USB port’s need for an additional cable, a massive reduction in wires and space.
But on the flip side, the Slices are somewhat unusual charging surfaces. Everything stands completely upright; iPods and iPhones in certain cases won’t fit on Fuse’s iP1 tips—a problem that could have been avoided with extended tips or standard Universal Dock-style recessed wells—and since there are some Apple devices that all but demand cases, this could be an issue for users. If you’re planning to use PowerSlice to charge multiple Apple devices at once, you’ll have to live with the fact that only one screen is likely to be visible on the top surface at one time from a given viewing angle, as the other screens will be off on 90-degree angles; rivals tend to place screens next to each other or in front of one another, for better or worse. Additionally, if for whatever reason you’re hoping to charge devices that have ports on one side of their widest edges, you may need to arrange the tips to avoid banging your devices into each other. In our testing with a bunch of different accessories, this wasn’t a problem, but given the huge variety of mini- and micro-USB devices that can plug into PowerSlice, your mileage may vary.
Overall, PowerSlice is a good first Apple-ready charging solution from Fuse. While the limitations of its rear USB port and somewhat case-unfriendly iPhone/iPod charging tip may stifle some Apple device users, its space efficiency and relatively aggressive street pricing will endear it to others. Tweaks to the iP1 tip could easily enable the current Base Unit design to accommodate all encased iPhones and iPods, and with a little under-the-hood work, the rear USB port could be upgraded to refuel iPads, as well. We look forward to seeing what Fuse does with upcoming versions of its chargers; for now, PowerSlice is worth recommending to users who don’t use cases, and shop aggressively enough online to find the unit at its best available prices.