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Computerized Investing > August 17, 2013
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$99.99

Store and charge up to five mobile devices at once from a single power source.

As someone with a myriad of mobile devices, I encounter times when outlets to charge them all are at a premium. This is especially true in my office “computer lab” where I have several PCs, laptops, tablets and accessories in use in the same work area. At home I am still using the PowerMat 2x I reviewed way back in 2010, which allows me to charge two different devices at once. There are times, however, when I need to charge more than two devices, such as my iPhone, iPad, Galaxy Tab and Nexus tablet. For those looking to charge several devices at once, Griffin Technology recently launched the PowerDock 5, a space-saving, counter-top charging and storage station that can charge up to five devices at once from a single power source. I received one a couple of weeks ago and have been testing it out at the office.

Out of the Box

Very few products that I have reviewed here leave an immediate negative impression, but the Griffin PowerDock 5 was one of them: It’s a white and black plastic platform with a rubber bottom and six clear plastic dividers that snap onto the base, creating space to hold up to five devices. The rack looks and feels cheap, although the whole thing costs $100. There is a separate power brick and plug that fits into a slit in the outer edge of the base unit to plug into the bottom. Overall, with the dividers attached, the PowerDock 5 measures roughly 7.7 inches by 5 inches by 3 inches.

On the right side of the base are five USB ports, each of which switches automatically between 0.5 amp, 1 amp or 2.1 amps, depending on the device you are charging.

Performance

The PowerDock 5 can charge up to five devices at once. Past PowerDock products from Griffin had integrated connectors specifically for iOS devices. However, the cost to do so for the new Lightning connection has led Griffin to shift to a universal USB charging device. This means you can plug in any device that uses a USB charger, including iOS devices, Android devices, etc., as well as Bluetooth accessories such as headsets and keyboards.

The supplied wall adapter is capable of supplying 2.1 amps/10 watts to five devices at once, something that is a rarity in today’s marketplace. Since there are no integrated connectors, it is up to you to supply the necessary USB charging cables. This is both a positive and a negative, since you aren’t limited to charging a single brand or type of device. The drawback is that the PowerDock isn’t fully usable right out of the box—you need to supply the cables. The 2.1-amp power supply is enough to charge an iPad, but it is not sufficient to support the faster 2.4-amp/12-watt peak charging of the Retina iPad. Given that this charger was just introduced, this is more than a bit surprising and disappointing.

The other issue I had with the PowerDock 5 is that if you have five devices plugged in at once, you have a mess of cords to deal with. The base of the PowerDock is recessed with two posts, which in theory are there for you to wrap your cords around. However, there are no additional slots around the base to run cords through underneath. There are also grooves on the top side of the rack that are meant to hold the cords, but not all of the cords I use fit the grooves, so this feature has limited functionality. By and large, Griffin completely overlooked cord management with the PowerDock 5. While the PowerDock 5 may be a functional multi-device charging solution, it isn’t the most polished.

Overall

From a functional standpoint, the Griffin PowerDock 5 has merit, especially if you are someone who uses a lot of mobile devices and accessories, since it can charge five devices at once while needing only a single outlet. It is also unique in that all five USB ports support 2.1 amps for the iPad. However, inexplicably, Griffin didn’t build in support of 2.4 amps for Retina iPads, something to take note of if you have one of these newer iPads.

Griffin also didn’t do a very good job of considering cable management with the PowerDock 5. I know I have enough clutter in my life, and a full complement of devices plugged into the PowerDock 5 looks like a plate of spaghetti.

Given exactly what it does, the PowerDock 5 seems a bit expensive at $100. Furthermore, I would expect something that costs that much to look and feel a bit more substantial and do a better job at cord management.

So, when weighing all of the pros and cons of the Griffin PowerDock 5, I give it, at best, a lukewarm recommendation. I think Griffin is on the right track, it just needs to tweak its execution.

Pros

  • Charge up to five mobile devices and accessories at the same time with only one outlet
  • Supports 2.1 amps for the iPad

Cons

  • Cheap look and feel
  • Does not support 2.4-amp peak charging of Retina iPad
  • Poor cord management
  • Expensive for what is does and how it’s built

Griffin PowerDock 5

$99.99

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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