Review: Incase Mini Car Charger with Lightning Cable
As Lightning-based car chargers are becoming more and more prolific, companies continue to add new models to their lineups in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. They're using not only physical design, but also advanced capabilities, to differentiate their products. Incase and Incipio are among them, each recently introducing their own new chargers. The former is offering Mini Car Charger with Lightning Cable ($35) -- it's available from Apple, but not listed on Incase's website -- while the latter has Dual Auto Charger - 3.4A Lightning ($35). Although they both cost the same amount, they offer different features that set them apart from one another, and many of the other Lightning chargers we've reviewed.
Incase’s car charger is one of the few Lightning power solutions we’ve seen to ship with a detachable cable; Belkin’s are the only others we’ve covered. The cable itself, 39” from end to end, is nothing fancy, although it’s black rather than the usual white. As with all third-party options, the plastic housing around the Lightning plug is thicker than on Apple’s cables, but it’s not so large that it’ll interfere with most cases.
Instead, it’s the tiny 2.1A plug that’s interesting. It’s one of the smallest we’ve seen at about half an inch tall, and three quarters of an inch wide. The amperage makes it capable of charging almost every Lightning-based device at full speed, save for the fourth-generation iPad. Coated in a soft-touch rubber, it’s an elegant solution, although functionality identical to Belkin’s Car Charger with Lightning Charge/Sync Cable, which rings in at the same price. Our testing showed that it lived up to its 2.1A claims.
On the other hand, Incipio’s charger offers something we’ve never seen before: the 3.4A in the name refers to its output capabilities, meaning it can juice up an iPad and iPhone, at the same time, at full speed. Unlike Mini Car Charger, this one has a captured cable, rather than a detachable one. The cable is coiled, terminating in the Lightning connector. At the other end is the car adapter, and while not as small as Incase’s, it still looks quite nice. About 1.25 inches in diameter, it has a glowing blue ring running all the way around the circumference. Right in the center of the circle is a USB port, allowing you to plug in your own Dock Connector or Lightning cable for your second device.
When Dual Auto Charger’s built-in Lightning connector is plugged directly into an iPad, it does charge it at the tablet’s fastest possible speed, even with an iPhone connected through the USB port. Flip them around though, so that the iPad is connected to a self-provided cable, and it drops down to a much slower speed. This indicates that the port is only capable of putting out 1A. As long as you know that, there should be no issues.
Although it’s certainly sharper looking than Belkin’s charger, Incase’s Mini Car Charger doesn’t offer anything else special. The cable’s about the same length, and the charging output is identical. While we appreciate the size and look, neither is enough to justify a higher rating. Less expensive options that do the same thing are available. Dual Auto Charger, on the other hand, is pretty impressive for the price. Although there are chargers that have two 2.1A ports, they usually cost around $10 more. For being the first of its kind, and for its affordable price, Incipio’s charger is worthy of a strong general recommendation. If charging an iPad and iPhone in your car is important, it’s the way to go.