Pros: A fully working USB car charger for all Dock Connector iPods except the 3G iPod, plus the iPod shuffle. Nice blue power light, small profile.
Cons: More expensive than its predecessor for no good reason, and arguably not as good a value as competing options presently available. No audio-out port.
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.
Macally’s USB iPod Car Charger ($19.99) is a sequel to the company’s earlier iPod Car Charger (iLounge rating: C), which we looked at last year and knocked mostly because of quality control issues. The first of two samples we received didn’t work, but the second did. In the intervening year, we’ve seen evidence of better quality control from Macally, and no longer have reservations about recommending an accessory like this one.
The USB iPod Car Charger is very simple in execution – you get a white car power adapter-ready plug with a transparent-topped female USB port instead of a FireWire port. Plug it into your car, plug your iPod shuffle (or the USB cable included with your 4G, mini, or color/photo iPod) into the Charger, and voila, your iPod charges and works, even if its battery is dead. Like Griffin’s PowerJolt (iLounge rating: B), it charged every iPod we tested without any issues.
By comparison with PowerJolt, the USB iPod Car Charger has two advantages: it’s a bit cheaper, and it has a more easily viewable power indicator light. Macally continues to use a large blue light that we like, rather than the small red bulb used by Griffin. And at least as of the time of this review, the USB iPod Car Charger is $5 cheaper than PowerJolt, and though you don’t get a second USB-to-iPod cord with Macally’s product, you really don’t need one. Any iPod you use, from shuffle to mini to 4G and color/photo, comes with whatever it needs to charge.
Neither of these adapters provides audio-out or other deluxe features, and since both fully work as chargers, the choice mostly comes down to price and personal preference for looks. Is the $5 difference enough to make Griffin’s product a better overall buy, given that it works as well and includes an iPod cable, besides? For some people, the answer will be yes, even though the light on Macally’s product is better. The USB iPod Car Charger would have been a better deal, and more recommendable versus PowerJolt, if it had preserved the $15 price of its FireWire predecessor. But as-is, the two products are a draw. We liked the looks of Macally’s product better, so if you don’t need the cable, we’d recommend it first.
Company and Price
Model: USB iPod Car Charger
Compatible: iPod 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo/color, iPod shuffle