Powermat Wireless Gadget Chargers Hit Stores - But Should You Avoid It?


Image via Engadget

Back in January, we spotted the Powermat at the Consumer Electronics Show. The mats are for charging up your devices like cell phones, MP3 players and more wirelessly, so that you can ditch cords wherever possible - a wonderful prospect to make a desk look and feel more organized. We just caught word that the devices are going to hit stores next week. But...we have some big reservations on just how helpful this mat might be. It's so tempting: A single mat that you can just set your mobile phone on and top up the battery. No need to plug in, everything in one place... It is also hitting shelves right in time for holiday gift giving, and it makes a tempting purchase for the gadget freak in your house. However, there are some major ungreen features to this scene.

The biggest issue is that we still have big questions about the efficiency of the Powermat. The company has stated that it will charge your devices faster than plugging them in. However, we can't seem to find information on exactly how efficient the mat is compared to using the chargers your device came with. First of all, the mat uses magnetic charging, which isn't all that efficient in the first place. Energy is lost from the wall to the mat, and from the mat to the device's battery. So we're very curious about how much more electricity this mat sucks up than a device's standard charger in order to charge faster than said standard charger. The only energy efficient feature mentioned on the website is an auto-shutoff after a device reaches full charge.

Another issue is materials waste. Your device already came with a charger. If you go with a power mat, you're doling out another $100 for the mat, plus $30 or $40 per device for receivers. The receivers are skins that fit over a Nintento DS, an iPhone or iPod Touch, or a new battery door for a Blackberry, or a whole charging doc for classic or nano iPods, so that it can use the mat to charge. So that means the original charger languishes in a drawer until you need it for travel or something, and you're bringing in a whole new slew of materials and gadgets into your house that will shortly become e-waste. If wireless charging is that important to someone, well then to each their own. But it seems to be incredibly wasteful.

So not only is it (very likely) more wasteful in terms of energy consumption, but also material consumption. And its expensive. It's certainly something to think twice about before dashing to the nearest Best Buy or Target to try it out.

Meanwhile, we emailed a request for more details about energy use for the devices, and will let you know what we hear back. We're crossing our fingers (though aren't hopeful) that their numbers can prove that this is at least as efficient or more so than a standard gadget charger, because we can see this being a pretty popular "hot new thing" this holiday season.

More on Wireless Charging
CES 2009: Powermat Sports Green Charging, Or Does It?
Dell's Latitude Z and Its Wireless Charging Misses the Green Boat
Charging Up Nissan's Electric Car Without Wires

Tags: Electronics | Energy Efficiency | E-Waste | Gadgets