Compatible: iPad (4th-Gen), iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPod nano 7G, iPod touch 5G
Macally MCDOCKL Charge & Sync Dock for Lightning Devices
There have been surprisingly few docks for Lightning-based iOS devices. Macally's MCDOCKL Charge & Sync Dock for Lightning Devices ($50) is one of the most stylized, and also universally compatible with Lightning-equipped iPads, iPhones, and iPods. The wave-shaped plastic dock is equipped with a Lightning plug at the bottom, which is flexible to suit whichever device you may be using, although not particularly well suited for all of them. You have the choice of connecting to a computer for syncing and charging with the included micro-USB cable, or up to 2.5A charging through an included wall adapter.
Having covered many Macally products, MCDOCKL’s glossy plastic construction is quite familiar. It’s solidly built, although the material and seams prevent us from being able to call it a premium accessory. On the underside of the 3.5” deep, 3.5” wide base are two strips of rubber that keep the dock in place. The base extends into a C-shaped support, coming to a total height of about 3.5” off your desk or table, and terminating in a matte plastic cap. It feels like an unusual shape for an accessory, but it makes practical sense as a natural way to hold your device in place.
Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, case compatibility is an issue. With its contradicting instructions for how large openings should be on cases, and how large the material should be around Lightning plugs, Apple has virtually ensured that most accessories will not work with most cases; this one is no exception. If you’re not using a case, any Lightning device will easy connect to the plug, and grey rubber feet at either end of the dock will help support an iPad or iPad mini, although iPods and iPhones don’t reach that far. To support an array of devices, the plug flexes back and forth, with its natural resting position all the way towards the front. This actually ends up being a small issue with the seventh-generation iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod touch, which don’t have enough weight to push it back. They’ll fit, and charge, but won’t rest against the back of the dock. The same goes for the iPhone 5, but it at least has a bit of mass to push it back a bit further. Both the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini go all the way back.
As mentioned, you can either charge via a USB port on your computer, or from the wall. If you choose the former option, charging speeds are limited to 1-Amp, which is suitable for iPods and iPhones, but not iPads. Connecting to an outlet gives full-speed charging to even the fourth-generation iPad. We like having the option, rather being limited to one or the other.
Belkin’s Charge + Sync Dock for iPhone 5 is the closest competitor to MCDOCKL, although both excel in different areas. The former is more professional looking, with nicer materials and overall better design. It’s limited to use with the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch though, and can only connect to USB ports. As we said in that review, “Unfortunately, like Apple’s prior-generation iPhone 4 Dock, the unnecessary case incompatibility will be a non-starter for many people, and with the omission of audio-out functionality, it loses one of the key benefits that most of Apple’s docks included.” That’s why MCDOCKL earns the same limited recommendation as Charge + Sync Dock. It’s a better choice for iPad users, but is more expensive, with similar limitations.