At a time when new iPad, iPhone, and iPod owners have few Lightning wall charger options better than pairing Apple’s $19 12W USB Power Adapter with a $19 Lightning to USB Cable, Belkin has arrived with a new bundle: the Swivel Charger + Lightning Charge/Sync Cable ($40). And while it’s not quite up to snuff in peak charging speed with Apple’s latest charger, it’s otherwise a good choice for users of any Lightning-equipped iPod, iPhone, or iPad mini, offering a couple of advantages relative to Apple’s current accessories.
Two-toned gray with a matching light gray USB cord, the Swivel Charger is a little larger than Apple’s aforementioned 12W USB Power Adapter, which itself is bigger than Apple’s compact 5W USB Power Adapter—an $19 accessory capable of full-speed iPhone and iPod charging, but without sufficient power to refuel any iPad at peak speeds. Despite its size, Swivel Charger has a neat trick: you can rotate its metal blades so that the 2.25” by 1.15” adapter rests wide rather than tall against the wall outlet, fully freeing the second outlet above or below it. While Apple’s 5W Adapter doesn’t obscure another outlet, the larger 12W Adapter can partially block an oversized plug’s access, so Swivel Charger offers a nice compromise alternative.
Belkin’s Lightning Charge/Sync Cable is also a bit different from Apple’s: at four feet in length, it’s around a foot longer than the official cable. And though the housing around the Lightning plug is wider than on Apple’s design, it’s still compatible with most of the new iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch cases we’ve tested. There’s nothing particularly sexy about this cable, but since Belkin uses a matte rather than glossy finish, both the Lightning and USB plugs are easy to grip for insertion and removal.
Apart from the fact that you’re not getting any discount here versus just buying Apple’s overly expensive accessories, the Swivel Charger’s only shortcoming is its somewhat outdated power output. Many wall chargers we’ve reviewed over the past year or so come with two separate USB ports, and upcoming chargers will follow Apple’s lead in offering 12-Watt/2.5-Amp output, which can refuel the fourth-generation iPad at maximum speed. By comparison, the Swivel Charger has only a single USB port rated for 10-Watt/2.1-Amp output, like Apple’s old 10W USB Power Adapter. This is enough power for full-speed charging of the iPod nano, iPod touch, iPhone 5, and iPad mini, but full-sized iPads will lag an hour or two behind their top recharging speeds. Going with Apple’s latest adapter instead of Swivel Charger won’t help iPod, iPhone, or iPad mini users, but it would eliminate the need for any full-sized iPad power compromises.
Overall, Belkin’s Swivel Charger + Lightning Charge/Sync Cable package merits a flat B and general recommendation. While you’re not getting much of a deal here versus just buying two Apple-developed accessories—and there are third-party wall adapters and Lightning cables you can self-pair for about the same price— this set’s extra cable length and outlet convenience will appeal to some people. A version with 12-Watt/2.5-Amp charging would have been a stronger option for an early 2013 release, but what’s here is good enough to merit attention from most new iPod, iPhone, and iPad users, regardless.
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Compatible: iPad (4th-Gen), iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPod nano 7G, iPod touch 5G