Review: kwikSynCh Charger Offers Affordable Relief from Cable Chaos

The kwikSynCh Dual Charger solves power cable clutter for road warriors, laptop jugglers and gadget heads. But it's not perfect, especially for desktop computer users.

Wouldn't it be grand if the makers of smart phones, PDAs, portable music players and other mobile devices used all the same connectors on their chargers and sync wires? Then you could use your old Treo power cord to, say, juice up that shiny new BlackBerry. Or your Nokia sync wire could help update your iTunes library. And just imagine how much more room you'd have in your travel bag.

Malleable Devices's (MDI) kwikSynCh Dual Charger is the closest thing to a true universal charger that I've encountered. It can replenish your phone or iPod's battery and sync data, and it can charge two devices simultaneously via a USB port, wall or automobile outlet.

The 2.8-oz. kwikSynCh is a hard-plastic nub about the size of a quarter, with three short cables jutting out: two at the top and one from the bottom. The bottom cable ends in a male USB connector, which you can plug into a laptop for charging or data transfer (at up to 480 Mbps), or attach to a wall or car adapter for power. The two cables on the opposite side are female USB ports. You plug in special nibs, or "mTips," to connect to specific devices. One cable is solely for charging, while the other can be used to power up or to transfer data between a device and a computer.

The charger is great for laptop-equipped folks on the go, and it can provide true value-as well as save money and frustration-to such users. However, without a laptop, the thing's more of a headache than it is helpful. It's so short that plugging it into a wall outlet or a desktop PC leaves your devices hanging by their mTips, unless there's a surface closer than a foot from the wall outlet or USB port.

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Plugging In

The best thing about the kwikSynCh charger is its lineup of mTips for a wide array of devices, including smart phones like Treos or BlackBerrys, Bluetooth headsets, MP3 players, portable game systems, GPS navigators and digital cameras. Three types of mTips are available: nibs for charging, nibs for data transfer and nibs that do both. Each costs $6.95, while the kwikSynCh itself sells for $14.95.

The device functions with any standard USB 2.0 port; it works with PCs, Macs and Linux computers. The company also supplies U.S. wall or car adapters and wall adapters for the U.K. and Europe.

One of the kwikSynCh charger's coolest features is its price. With mTips for BlackBerry, iPod and a Garmin GPS navigator, the kwikSynCh charger costs about $35. For less than $50 you get a versatile charger that can charge three or more devices. Whenever you get a new device, just pick up a new mTip and you're good to go. In contrast, USB data cables and chargers from firms like Belkin or i-Go will run you about $30-and they're not customizable, so you can charge only a few devices.

The people who will benefit most from this device are heavy-duty mobile phone users who use both Bluetooth headsets and laptops, as it enables them to charge both devices simultaneously. I charged a BlackBerry 8800 and an iPod mini at the same time, from their completely dead states to 95% full battery in about 110 minutes, after which my laptop battery died. My notebook battery cycle, or the time it lasts in between charges, is normally around 140 minutes, so charging both devices reduced the battery cycle by just over 20 percent.

Unplugged

The obvious downside to the kwikSynCh charger is that it's so short. The device is meant to be used with a notebook computer, but that makes it less versatile. It's really even too short to be used with a laptop, because you still need a desk large enough for a computer and the two devices; that may not be feasible in a hotel lobby, airport, or mobile locale. To be fair, the manufacturer offers a more wall- or car-outlet-friendly product in its larger, SynCh Universal Sync Charger, but I had some experience with this product in the past, and quite frankly, I have nothing good to say about its retractable cable.

The kwikSynCh is also somewhat awkwardly shaped, and the cords jutting from its central nub are stiff. Though it's easy enough to fold the bottom cord so it runs the same direction as the other two wires and cuts the product's overall length, the cord creases when folded; it's fairly obvious that doing so will cut down the charger's life by eventually tearing the plastic.

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Because the mTips are so small, it's easy to imagine them finding their way under a hotel desk or airplane seat; once an mTip is lost, the charger is worthless. It's much harder to lose a full-size power cord, and though that may mean holding on to multiple chargers and bulking up your bag, they always work, without additional components. Serious gadget heads interested in the kwikSynCh charger should carry backup mTips or at least a dedicated Ziploc bag.

Note that the charger doesn't work with every remote device (and in particular it won't charge your laptop computer). According to the company's FAQ some new devices, including certain Nokia and Siemens phones, may not function properly with kwikSynCh.

All Charged Up

MDI's kwikSynCh Dual Charger intends to ease the pain of folks with multiple mobile devices by consolidating multiple power cords into one. The product does indeed eliminate the need for multiple chargers. It could also save money in the long run; buying mTips for new devices is a significantly cheaper proposition than purchasing separate charger units.

Unfortunately, the fact that the kwikSynCh doesn't work well as a wall or car charger because of its short length greatly reduces the overall value. It's meant to function with a laptop computer, so notebook users will benefit more than those with desktop computers.

Overall, the kwikSynCh charger is worth a look if you use multiple mobile devices or frequently tote a laptop computer. However, people who regularly use only one or two devices or who don't need gadgets always charged may want to stick with the included power cords.

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