PowerBlock Travel/PowerDuo Travel
Company: Griffin Technology
Price: PowerBlock Travel $34.99, PowerDuo Travel $39.99
I bought my first iPod around three years ago – a second generation 10 gigabyte model. Back then, USB support was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye, and it was Firewire that was the interface du jour. More importantly, the iPod also shipped with an AC charger.
Nowadays, you don’t get Firewire support or a charger. USB 2.0 is an adequate data transfer interface, but it is not a good way to charge a power-hungry device with a colour screen. It is fairly low voltage, so it charges an iPod very slowly – and in fact, on my machine it won’t charge at all (due to the number of devices on my USB hub). And I hate having to sync my iPod just to charge it! Apple do offer an AC charger for the iPod range – a small block with a USB port. However, all you get is the charger, so you have to use your existing iPod data cable, which is not very convenient if you have it hooked up to the back of your Mac.
Griffin Technologies think they can do better with the PowerBlock and PowerDuo travel chargers. PowerBlock supplies a small black USB charger, a set of interchangeable plugs to cover all the countries of the world (US/Japan, UK/Hong Kong, Singapore, Continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand) and a matching 48‚Äù USB dock cable. PowerDuo is the same offering but with the inclusion of an auto charger.
The chargers are naturally multi-voltage, and have USB ports on them for the dock cable. This means you can use them to charge other devices if you have a USB cable. As you might imagine, charging time is far superior to a computer USB port – though Apple’s charger could do the job in the same time.
Criticisms? Well, one thing I did note was that if you left the charger plugged in without an iPod on charge, it made a high-pitched whining sound. Similarly, charging an iPod while listening to it in the car produced some audio interference. Also, while the blade connectors for the international plugs make the whole unit very compact, they are completely proprietary – if you forget one, you are not going to be able to hook up the charger using another cable (unlike Apple’s charger, that uses the same figure-of-eight connector as the Mac laptops and can often be found on electric razor and radio power cables). Finally, direct support is limited to 4G and 5G iPods or the 1G Shuffle. 2G Shuffles can be charged, but you’ll need to supply our own dock or dock cable.
Despite these niggles, the Griffin solution really scores on value, however. Looking at the PowerBlock travel, you get it for $34.99 from Griffin. To get equivalent Apple accessories, you need an charger at $29, a World Travel Kit at $39, and a dock cable at $19. If you want the PowerDuo with the auto charger, it is only $5 more than PowerBlock at $39.99.
As a charger for your late model iPod, I think you could do a lot worse than these. There are a lot of cheap Chinese chargers on eBay, but you really don’t know what you are getting quality-wise in that situation. For not very much money, you get International power support if you ever need it, and a spare dock cable too. Despite the criticisms I identified, I would recommend these chargers.