Review: Kensington PowerBolt Micro Car Charger
Apart from the fact that it was the first standalone iPad-ready car accessory in stores, there's very little to say about Kensington's PowerBolt Micro Car Charger ($25), and that's probably a good thing: if you're buying an in-car power adapter for your Apple device, all you probably want to know is whether it works or not. And it does.
There’s some more good news to share about PowerBolt, as well: it’s tiny. Amazingly tiny, actually, just large enough to fit into a car’s cigarette lighter power outlet while adding a small lip to the front edge for easy removal. A power indicator light is on that face to let you know it’s working, right above a single USB port capable of outputting 0.5, 1.0, or 2.1 Amps of power to various Apple devices. Plug in an iPod, iPhone, or iPad and you’ll be sure that it’s recharging as quickly as possible, something that can no longer be taken for granted given how power-hungry the iPad’s battery is.
The 2.1-Amp charging capability is a new addition to PowerBolt, and as the numbers suggest, enable it to recharge a connected iPad in roughly four hours, versus eight or sixteen with prior iPhone and iPod chargers. We tested PowerBolt with all three types of devices, and it worked without problems; Kensington also includes a three-foot USB-to-Dock Connector cable that connects to the charging bulb and the bottom of iPods, iPhones, and iPads, precluding them from outputting line-out audio. Some users will want to pass on PowerBolt and most similarly priced chargers because of this, as it means that the only way to get audio out of the device is to make a second wired connection to the headphone port, or in some cases, install a stereo Bluetooth kit for use with the car’s stereo. If you don’t mind using an extra cable or Bluetooth for audio, this mightn’t be a problem.
Otherwise, even taking into account the $5 price premium Kensington’s added on top of iPod- and iPhone-only versions of such simple car chargers, PowerBolt is an easy enough accessory to recommend. It’s hard to imagine a smaller sequel to this accessory, and its compact, nearly flush installation will make it nearly invisible in many cars. That said, we’d be surprised if there weren’t numerous similar options available in the near future at or below the same price tag, with audio-capable alternatives going for a modest additional charge. Until then, PowerBolt will be a good pick for iPad users; iPhone and iPod owners can safely stick with earlier and less expensive models.