Review: Griffin PowerDock Charging Stations
In July, the line dividing geeks from the general population will be much easier to draw when Griffin Technology starts selling the original PowerDock -- now known as PowerDock 4 -- to complement the just-released PowerDock 2 ($50), a charging dock that recharges two iPods, iPhones, or a combination of both at the same time. While both devices raise the obvious question of just how many pocket-sized Apple devices a person owns and really needs to charge at once, PowerDock 2 is a well-executed and reasonably priced option for the increasing number of users and families with more than one iPod or iPhone in active use. Updated: In December, 2008, Griffin released PowerDock 4 ($70); details are found at the bottom of this review.
PowerDock 2 is an extremely straightforward charging station. Two black Universal Docks are placed immediately next to one another inside a curved, brushed metal and black plastic dock with a Griffin logo stamped into its front. Griffin includes black Dock Adapters for all current iPod models and the iPhone; you’ll have to self-supply an additional Adapter if you’re trying to charge two of the same type of device and want a completely snug fit.
The unit’s bottom has gray rubber padding, and its back has a single port for connection to an included wall power adapter. No additional ports for synchronization or audio are included—somewhat of a shame—which along with the brushed metal body are contrasts with Griffin’s earlier single iPod dock AirDock, which had an anodized aluminum finish and a bit more versatility. We preferred AirDock’s metal, which looked a little more expensive, more interestingly curved, and better alongside iPods, iPhones, and silver home electronics, but PowerDock 2 is pretty good.
As a charging device, PowerDock 2 does what it’s supposed to do. We’ve tested it with iPods and two iPhones, and the only semi-noteworthy detail of its performance is that it only provides 500mA per dock of charging power, rather than providing the faster-charging 1 Amp of power usable by iPhones. Consequently, PowerDock 2 can charge two iPhones, iPods, or a combination at once, but the iPhones don’t recharge at their maximum possible speeds. It’s as fast as recharging from your computer’s USB port, no faster, a level of performance that Apple apparently allows at this point under its Works With iPhone program.
Like iLounge’s editors, prospective users may initially have different opinions on the inherent wisdom of a device such as PowerDock 2, as it assumes a couple of things: first, that you’ll want to charge a couple of Apple devices in the same location, and second, that you won’t mind losing out on the synchronization and audio-out functionality that traditional iPod and iPhone docks provide. Some people may not fit these usage models, and in fact, we weren’t sure whether we would really find a PowerDock to be practical for our needs. In our experience, however, PowerDock 2’s size and design made it easy to place in a central location in a home for use as a common resting place for an iPod and iPhone, or two iPhones at the same time. We strongly preferred its simplicity, smaller footprint, and pricing to blueLounge’s recent The Sanctuary, though PowerDock 2’s Dock Connectors make it useful only for Apple products relative to the wider range of charging tips found in the blueLounge design.
While PowerDock 2 might not appeal to those with only one iPod, there’s no doubt that the growing number of individuals with both iPods and iPhones—and families with two or more devices—will find the value proposition of a $50 dual charger more compelling and convenient than most of the other options out there. While we would have preferred a more iPod- or iPhone-matching metal and potentially some additional non-charging features, PowerDock 2’s intentionally streamlined functionality enables it to be fairly priced at a time when iPod accessories are far too frequently expensive. It’s worthy of our strong general recommendation.
Updated December, 2008: Griffin subsequently released the PowerDock 4, a four-dock version that’s clearly designed for really serious iPod and iPhone users. Shipped with nine Dock Adapters, including ones for 2008 iPods, the PowerDock 4 has an integrated power supply with a simple, thin power cable to connect to your wall outlet. Four iPhones or iPods can be charged in the docks at the same time.