Review: FŪZ Designs EverDock + EverDock Duo
Nine years ago — the first week in February 2005, to be exact — Oakley watch designer Greg Gutierrez used a CNC milling machine to create a brand new genre of accessories: fancy aluminum versions of the plastic and fabric cases that iPod owners were accustomed to. Licensed to Griffin and mass-manufactured as iVault, Gutierrez's case inspired copycats and derivatives, as well as spawning a never-ending wave of similarly machined aluminum desktop stands and docks. The latest to arrive in our offices are FŪZ Designs' EverDock ($50) and EverDock Duo ($70), two heavy aluminum blocks with rubber and hard plastic inserts. While the EverDocks start with a nice premise and are OK in execution, their high prices and design compromises wrought by their universal compatibility reduce their appeal. [Editor's Note: This review was updated on February 11, 2014 with additional details at the points marked with asterisks.]
EverDock and EverDock Duo are substantially similar riffs on the same theme: 2.55” wide and 1.5” tall, the rounded rectangular blocks use hard plastic inserts and narrow, serpentine channels to hold self-supplied Lightning cables — one black micro-USB cable is included for each dock, so the 2.55”-deep EverDock has one, and the 3.45”-deep EverDock Duo comes with two. The idea is that you buy either EverDock just once, swapping the cable and included rubber pads based on the device(s) you want to place atop it. Two microsuction pads on the bottom of each model keep EverDock from scuffing whatever desk or table it’s on, with peel-off plastic to expose the suction to keep the dock from lifting up when you’re removing devices. Because the docks are quite heavy — heavier than Apple’s older, zinc-filled official iPad docks — you mightn’t need the suction assistance, but it’s there if you want it.
Although we can offer both EverDocks some praise for the basics of their execution, the challenge with machined metal is often in details that are felt rather than seen. On a positive note, their shapes are clearly Apple-esque, having originated with earlier iPad docks, and the combination of aluminum with black and gray accents is equally tested and welcome. Unfortunately, each EverDock’s surface has a finish that feels dusty, like a sandblasted aluminum that didn’t get fully cleaned off, and the edges are just a little too sharp for something made from metal.
Small but annoying issues with the metal show up in other places, as well. The bottom cable-gripping channels can actually leave marks in Apple’s plastic Lightning cables, and there were differences in the tolerances of the metal around the dock inserts. On the standard EverDock, the top metal was so tight that we had a problem removing the hard plastic insert. On the Duo dock, one of the two inserts popped out so easily that it barely stayed in place, and the other sometimes got stuck when we tried to remove it.
Beyond their look and feel, the way the EverDocks worked was also somewhat disappointing. One we found a way to eject the stuck hard plastic inserts, we found that they did a mediocre job of holding Apple’s Lightning cables: unlike similarly-designed Belkin and Twelve South docks that depend upon you to supply your own cables, these use inserts that were really designed to hold the larger-jacketed micro-USB cables FŪZ supplies, so Lightning plugs tend to protrude from them on slightly off-angles.*
While the plugs stick up enough to be case-compatible when the rubber inserts aren’t installed, or when you use the thinner of the included rubber inserts,* the sight of encased iPhones and iPads on at least slightly skewed angles is common — an issue we haven’t experienced with other docks. If you want to use the EverDocks with bare devices, you insert the thicker rubber inserts, though iPhone users will find that Apple’s official iPhone 5s/5c docks are a lot less expensive and include audio-out functionality. Here, you’re limited to USB output, and wind up with two USB plugs to separately connect if you pick the two-device EverDock Duo. This isn’t a huge surprise given the way EverDock Duo was designed, but $70 is a lot to pay for a semi-DIY, kludgy solution.
As noble of a goal as a handsome, device-agnostic dock may be, the reality of actually using the EverDocks falls short of the theoretical appeal. Creating one type of hard plastic insert to manage both micro-USB and Lightning plugs denies users of the latter standard the firm grip they’d expect, an issue compounded by each EverDock’s price, and the need to self-supply a $19 Apple cable (or two) just to complete the solution. Consequently, while the EverDocks have the nice looks and substantial weight one might want from metal docks, little issues keep them from being worthy of our recommendation. We’d like to see FŪZ update both versions to improve their value for the dollar, the way they feel, and the way they manage Lightning cables. Fixing the plastic inserts and adding a little polish to the metal would go a long way towards making these worthy of more iOS users’ cash.