Review: Griffin PowerBlock for iPod and iPhone (2008)
With only a couple of small caveats, there has never been anything magical or difficult about recharging an iPod's battery: sure, the charging accessory needed to have been engineered not to send too much or too little power to the iPod, and there were other small considerations, but creating an iPod home or car charger was virtually the same as creating a USB charger for other devices. Then the release of the iPhone changed this a little, adding a couple of small hurdles, most notably a higher maximum power demand. iPod chargers could still charge iPhones, but new chargers designed for the iPhone could conceivably do a better job under certain conditions.
For the last few years, Griffin Technology’s car and home iPod chargers have been some of the most popular accessories on the market; thanks to more favorable pricing, its PowerBlock series of home chargers have sometimes surpassed even Apple’s own USB chargers in sales. This year, Griffin has overhauled its entire lineup of car and home chargers, including two-charger combination packs, resulting in an array of options that may be a little confusing for some users. This review covers a single product, PowerBlock for iPod and iPhone ($30), which is also found in a combination pack called PowerDuo for iPod and iPhone. Additional details on this package, and a separate product called PowerBlock Dual, are found in their own reviews.
PowerBlock is Griffin’s latest alternative to Apple’s USB Power Adapter; both are plastic in-home wall chargers with a single USB port on one side and flip-out metal power blades on another. Each comes with a USB-to-iPod cable. While Apple’s is a smaller rounded square, and has a detachable wall blade design that can interface with an optional, expensive set of international wall blades, the latest PowerBlock is only slightly larger in total volume, wide rather than square, and includes a power light missing from the Apple unit. Griffin offers PowerBlock in white or black versions, each with a gray center, and a more attractive design than the original PowerBlock. Though $1 more expensive than the $29 Apple part on paper, PowerBlock is typically sold for the same price as or less than Apple’s adapter. Our review unit had no problem charging an iPod or an iPhone.
Our feeling about all of the company’s Power series iPod and iPhone chargers is positive, but not more than that. While the prices of each of the charging packages have stayed roughly the same from their predecessors, spare cables have disappeared from certain packages, industrial design has improved across the board, and features have remained constant except for under the hood tweaks. These changes are a modest net positive, but we’ve never been comfortable with the idea of $30 wall chargers, and rather than providing more aggressive alternatives to Apple’s expensive products, Griffin’s now just offer something different unless you find a store that prices third-party accessories more aggressively. That said, with the exception of the PowerBlock Dual and its combo pack PowerBlock Universal, which will work fine for iPods and iPhones except under unusually demanding iPhone conditions—the reason for their slightly lower, flat B ratings—we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of these items to all of our readers. They work as expected, look good, and make iPod or iPhone charging convenient.