Review: Griffin PowerPod Car Charger
Pros: Simple, attractive car charger with included FireWire-to-Dock Connector cable; compatible with all Dock Connector iPods and 1G/2G models; uses Dock Connector plug that’s highly case-compatible; fair price for an accessory with authorized components, especially if you shop aggressively.
Cons: Simple charge indicator light, lacks audio out; charges and nothing more.
iPod power chargers are now a dime a dozen, but some are made with Apple-authorized components, and others aren’t. Griffin’s PowerPod ($24.99, available for $12 and up) uses authorized parts, and is guaranteed to work with all iPods. It combines a small bulbous car power adapter made from white and gray textured plastic with a four-foot white Apple-authorized Dock Connector-to-FireWire cable. Users of first- and second-generation iPods can connect the FireWire-to-FireWire cables included in Apple’s older iPod boxes.
The PowerPod is simple in both purpose and execution. You connect the FireWire side of the cable to the adapter and the Dock Connector plug to your iPod. A red LED light on the PowerPod’s side illuminates to show that it’s connected to a working auto outlet.
By comparison with competing car chargers, the PowerPod looks nice, but is as simple as they come in functionality. The white and gray bulb matches iPod 4G and photo models especially well, and like Apple’s official cables, Griffin’s all-white cable is a nice added touch. (Most competitors use gray or black in-car cables.) However, there’s no audio-out capability (a la Belkin’s Auto Kit, iLounge rating: B+), no multi-colored charge indicator light (a la Monster’s iCarCharger, iLounge rating: B-), and no ability to be used outside of a car as a travel AC power charger (a la Incase’s Charger, iLounge rating: C+).
But the PowerPod is cheaper than each of these options, and several other competitors, besides. Its Dock Connector plug is also small and highly compatible with various iPod cases we’ve tested, even including ones that have problems connecting with Belkin’s and Monster’s aforementioned components.
Back when the PowerPod was released, iPods didn’t include two Dock Connector cables, and FireWire was the only way to connect an iPod to a computer. Including a second such cable with the PowerPod made more sense, as one cable would stay indoors while another remained in the car. But over the last six months, Apple has started to pack two cables (USB and FireWire) in with all Dock Connector-equipped iPods, rendering the FireWire cable surplusage for the many people who use PC USB ports only. As a result, it’s likely that PC owners will already have an extra FireWire cable and therefore find the extra Griffin cable unnecessary, but it’s never a bad thing to have a spare.
The PowerPod performed exactly as expected as an in-car charger, recharging our test iPods’ batteries without any issue. But then, so did Belkin’s authorized and more attractive Auto Kit, which includes an audio port and now can be had for around $25 and up. And don’t forget the 3-in-1 Travel Charger, an unauthorized and less attractive product we previously tested from Gadget Accessories ($14.99, iLounge rating: B+), which also worked without problems and includes a wall charger.
Our feeling is that the PowerPod’s value will depend on how much price really matters to you, and what you really need. If you’re only looking for a car charger and plan to use the iPod’s headphone jack for in-car output, it’s a good solution. But if you need either audio-out from the iPod’s bottom port or an extra wall charger, there are at least two solutions competitively priced - again, depending on where and how hard you shop for the PowerPod - that will do more for the dollar.
In any case, the PowerPod will definitely keep your iPod running safely in your car, and may prove more compatible with tricky iPod cases than many other options. Though not our top in-car connection choice, it’s still a recommendable accessory.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.