Review: Kopi Kbar Multiple
Kopi's Kbar Multiple ($129) is an alternative to charging docks that juice up multiple iPads, iPhones, iPods, or other devices at once, such as Griffin's PowerDock 5. Not only is the form factor different -- this one is set up as a power strip -- but the number of supported devices is higher, and so is the charging output. Here, there are a total of eight full-sized USB ports, and each is capable of putting out 2.4A of power. That's enough to charge eight full-sized iPads at once, which is a pretty impressive feat. Although you do have to provide your own Dock Connector or Lightning cables, Kopi is including two micro-USB cables for pre-orders. Updated February 3, 2014 with information on Kopi's add-on Bluetooth 4 accessory kit.
Kbar Multiple is surprisingly well-designed for such a workhorse accessory. Running just over 16” long, the enclosure is made from really nice colored aluminum, with plastic end caps. With the removable 65”-long three-prong power cord attached, the bar weighs over two pounds. It’s likely not the kind of thing you’re going to want to carry around, but consider the scenarios in which it’ll likely be used: schools and businesses with multiple tablets deployed, many of which need to be charged at once. In those circumstances, it likely won’t move around much.
Along the top edge, plastic is segmented into seven sections. From left to right, there’s a master power switch, a surge protect indicator light, two sets of two USB ports, a blank spot, and then two more pairs of USB ports. In the top right corner of each of the boxes with power output ports, you’ll find a pair of corresponding switches: the left side toggles to iDevices, and the right is for Android. Moving them back or forth ensures the proper power output for your tablet or phone, and the iDevice position is for all iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Of course, the big question with any charging device is whether it lives up to its power output claims. In our testing, yes, Kbar Multiple does put out 2.4-Amp power, quickly charging even the most power-hungry iPads. Of note, there’s a micro-USB output in the top right corner of the third panel, labeled “I/O,” which Kopi says is for a “future charge status display expansion board.”
In reviewing Griffin’s most recent multi-device charging station, we noted that the “single biggest issue with PowerDock 5 is its lackluster approach to cable management,” and there’s no question that Kbar Multiple suffers from the same issue: if you’re planning to leave it on a table, all of the cords are going to be a problem. However, Kbar Multiple doesn’t purport to offer dock or stand functionality: it’s a power strip that can be placed on the floor or on a table, depending on one’s needs. Considering the impressive power output, the surprisingly high build quality, and a price tag that’s less than the combined cost of eight 2.4-Amp wall adapters and a power strip, Kbar Multiple is worthy of our general recommendation. Schools and businesses will find more uses for this than average consumers, but there’s no question that multi-tablet environments will find this to be a cost-effective and space-saving alternative to currently-available device chargers.
Updated February 3, 2014: Following our review of Kbar Multiple, Kopi released a Bluetooth 4 board accessory kit ($40) that can connect to an accessory port on the power strip. The package consists of the board itself, a micro-USB cable, a ribbon connector, and a strip of 3M adhesive material. Plugged into the micro-USB port on the charger, the board communicates with a free iOS app, detailing exactly how much power each port is drawing, while constantly refreshing. Although Kopi has told us it’s in its final form, it feels like a strangely unfinished DIY product. The board doesn’t come in any sort of housing save for clear plastic wrap, and is meant to be stuck to the side of the bar, as pictured, or connected to a charging station, with the ribbon used for physical LED displays. While it may be useful in professional applications, it won’t have much value for mainstream consumers, and feels unfinished, especially at the high price. Hopefully Kopi will release an updated version with a proper housing.