Pros: An inexpensive USB iPod charger that charges all current models of iPods, optionally includes fully working USB-to-iPod cable.
Cons: Charger emits loud, high-pitched noise when charging certain iPod models, shipping costs make price comparable to better options.
In recent weeks, we’ve had a chance to test four different USB auto chargers for the iPod family, each designed to work equally well with recent model full-sized iPods, iPod minis, and iPod shuffles. We’ve held off on reviewing one of them (Belkin’s Power Pack for iPod shuffle) because it’s in the midst of a recall, but two of the other three worked pretty much exactly as you’d expect – they differed mainly in pack-ins and pricing.
While continuing its tradition of long names, Capdase’s USB Power DC Car Charger for iPod shuffle and Other iPod – abbreviated iPod USB Car Charger – doesn’t continue the tradition of consistent quality we’ve come to expect from Capdase’s charging accessories. It comes in two flavors. One sells for only $9, and comes with nothing more than a car charging bulb similar to Macally’s $20 USB iPod Car Charger (iLounge rating: B). The other sells for $13 and includes the Charger and an iPod-to-USB cable – this version is called the USB Power DC Car Charger with Hotsync Cable for iPod Series. This second package is similar to Griffin’s PowerJolt (iLounge rating: B), which sells for $25. We received the second package for testing.
We say “similar to” because the iPod USB Car Charger didn’t perform consistently with different iPods we tested. Once plugged into a car’s power adapter, it does charge any attached iPod, and it worked perfectly with fourth-generation iPods and shuffles. But when it charged 1G and 2G iPod minis, it did so with an extremely annoying, high-pitched sound. The same sound appeared only briefly in our testing with a color iPod before going away – it stayed when used with the mini. For this reason, we can’t recommend Capdase’s option for users of iPod minis, and are hesitant to recommend it to users of color iPods, either. iPod shuffle and 4G iPod owners will find that it works fine.
Price aside, there’s another factor or two to consider. Capdase’s Charger bulb is basically the same as Griffin’s – not especially stylish, but not bad, either. Each uses a small red light to indicate charging – Griffin’s on its side, Capdase on its front next to the USB port. Macally’s iPod USB Charger has a more visible blue light that we preferred.
Unlike what’s included with Griffin’s PowerJolt, Capdase’s USB to iPod cable isn’t an Apple-licensed, “Made For iPod” part. But as it turns out, that doesn’t matter here at all. Capdase’s cable still uses a metal Dock Connector, not a cheaper plastic one, and worked perfectly with our computers for syncing and cars for charging. The only reason to prefer Griffin’s part is its appearance, which looks almost identical to Apple’s own cables, whereas Capdase’s is more generic.
As for pricing, the same factor at play with other Capdase add-ons is here, too. You’ll need to get these parts from overseas, and there’s a flat $9.48 shipping charge – no tax – from the authorized dealer. In other words, depending on a few factors, the company’s price savings is almost entirely wiped out by shipping expenses – at least in the United States. Depending on whether you shop online or buy in local stores, where Griffin’s products are widely available, you’ll probably pay only a few dollars more to get PowerJolt than the USB cable-laden Capdase version. And the same will likely be true of Macally’s USB iPod Car Charger when you factor shipping in for both products – at least until the street prices of both of these competing add-ons drop, as history has shown they will.
Overall, because of its unusual charging sound issue – which only occurs with certain iPod models – the Capdase USB Power DC Car Charger will vary in value to different iPod owners. If you have a 4G iPod or iPod shuffle, it’s a legitimate option – by comparison with two fully working parts, we have to call it a limited recommendation because of the issues identified above. But if you have an iPod mini, and depending on your sensitivity, a color iPod, we have to view this as a defective but not dangerous design. iPod chargers aren’t supposed to make any noise, let alone one that’s this annoying. From what we’ve seen, it won’t hurt your iPod – it’ll just bug your ears.
When used with iPod 4G or shuffle
When used with iPod mini or color/photo
Company and Price
Model: iPod USB Car Charger
Price: Approx. $9 / $13 (+ shipping), Available at shop.vinko.com
Compatible: iPod 4G, shuffle, mini*, color/photo*