Review: Griffin PowerJolt USB Auto Charger
Pros: Quality car charger with included USB-to-Dock Connector cable. Compatible with iPod shuffle and all Dock Connector iPods save 3G.
Cons: Simple charge indicator light that’s not as good as best we’ve seen, lacks audio out. Priciest USB car charger we’ve seen.
In recent weeks, we’ve had a chance to test four different USB auto chargers for the iPod family, each designed to work equally well with recent model full-sized iPods, iPod minis, and iPod shuffles. We’ve held off on reviewing one of them (Belkin’s Power Pack for iPod shuffle) because it’s in the midst of a recall, but two of the other three worked pretty much exactly as you’d expect, differing mainly in pack-ins and pricing.
Griffin Technology’s PowerJolt ($24.99) is the most expensive of the options, and also the most familiar. It’s a follow up to the company’s earlier PowerPod (iLounge rating: B) package, which combined a FireWire port car charger with one of Griffin’s Dock400 FireWire-to-iPod cables - compatible with 3G, 4G, photo/color, and mini iPods. If you had your own standard FireWire-to-FireWire cable, included with old iPods, you could recharge one of those iPods, too.
PowerJolt, by comparison, contains a USB port that you can use directly with the bottom of the iPod shuffle, and a USB to Dock Connector cable that lets you recharge 4G, photo/color, and mini iPods. It’s not listed as compatible with the 3G iPod. Unlike other options, it’s not all-white in color - most of its body is dark gray, but there are bright white side highlights, and a textured grip for easy removal from your car. The included cable is all white save for a Griffin logo on the Dock Connector side.
When PowerJolt is connected to any supported iPod in your car, you’re able to provide instant power and charging, and can listen to your iPod through its headphone port. PowerJolt successfully charged all of the iPods we tested without incident, just like Macally’s competing USB iPod Car Charger (iLounge rating: B+).
You can also detach the cable and use it indoors as a spare for the one that comes with all iPods shipped today. Its inclusion, however, makes its price $10 higher than Macally’s Charger, and $16 higher than the cheaper Capdase iPod USB Car Charger (iLounge rating: B+/D), neither price including cables or shipping - a more serious factor in favor of the latter product than the former.
As with the earlier PowerPod, PowerJolt’s lack of an audio input is its only major limitation. Some other chargers we’ve liked provide pass-through audio outputs utilizing the iPod’s Dock Connecor port for higher quality audio. Unfortunately, that feature is increasingly rare on modern charger designs, and none of the USB chargers we look at today include it. In the daytime, PowerJolt’s small red LED power indicator is also one of the least visible we’ve seen, but it’s not horribly objectionable, and totally visible at night. However, we found the larger and brighter light on Macally’s less expensive USB IPod Car Charger easier to view at all times.
Overall, PowerJolt is a good product, but not our top option for any model of iPod. There are cheaper and equally good ways to charge an iPod shuffle, and for other iPods, there are audio output-equipped charging options (such as Belkin’s Auto Kit (iLounge rating: B+) and SiK’s imp) that we prefer. When it drops in street price, as it inevitably will, PowerJolt will be a smarter buy for iPod owners than it is today.