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Gomadic QuadCharge - Charge up to four Treos at once!

Tue Sep 11, 2007 - 9:08 AM EDT - By Harv Laser


It seems that lately I've been inundated with new Treo powering and charging solutions. I'm fine with that, since these power hungry little wonders don't go forever on a charge. Especially with all this new software that streams audio and video, heavy use of the Bluetooth radio, phone calls that sometimes go on for hours, it's always good to have the ability to re-charge your Treo nearby, or some way to carry some extra juice around with you.

Just recently, I reviewed the new Medis 24-7 Fuel Cell Power Pack. Earlier, I gave the once-over to the colossal Seidio 3200mAh Ultra-Extended Battery which I now use in my 700ps, thanks to a brand new slick case Seidio finally released especially to accommodate a Treo 700 equipped with this huge battery and its required "bulging" battery door.

Well both of those, and in fact most aftermarket charging solutions are single-Treo solutions. But suppose you and your family have more than one Treo. Maybe two? Three? Even four? Or you might have a Treo and a few other portable electronic gizmos, like an iPod, some other MP3 player, older / other Palms, even other makes and models of cell phones or smart phones and portable gaming devices.

Tidy up that mess or no dessert for you!

If so, take a look at this picture. Does the "Before" side look anything like a table or desk top in your home or office? I bet it does. It sure does at my place. I've got chargers and power strips all over the place – so many I've lost count.

Well, as you're probably all-too familiar with, every battery-powered device that doesn't take standard AA or AAA style batteries, but instead has some kind of proprietary battery, whether it's sealed inside, like, say, a Palm Tungsten, or an iPod, or an easily replaceable battery, like our Treos have, eventually needs to be charged up.

So you buy some shiny new widget, and out of its box tumbles yet another AC wall wart, different than all your others, and with a business end (the charging tip) that's usually incompatible with all your other devices, because they all have different connectors, or want different voltages, and sooner or later you're neck deep in AC wall warts and power strips, and living in (and tripping over) a rat's nest of cables.. sometimes even power strips connected to other power strips, especially when those chargers' AC prongs face the "wrong" way and plugging one in uses up one power strip outlet, and covers up the one next to it, rendering it useless.

I've even got a few AC chargers that annoyingly cover up THREE outlets on a power strip. Eventually, if you're a technophile and your life is filled with these gadgets, there's one or more areas of your living or working space that looks like the before side of that picture. What a mess.

How'd you like it to look like the "After" side instead? I bet I don't have to ask you that question twice :-)

Gomadic to the rescue

Gomadic markets an extremely innovative bunch of charging products that use what they call their "tip exchange system" . With this inventive scheme, you only need ONE AC (home / office) or DC (vehicle 12-volt) charger plus the appropriate tip for your devices. Just plug in the tip that suits whatever device you want to charge.

Believe it or not, with their huge selection of charging tips, you can use the SAME AC or DC charger to charge a Treo AND an iPod (or ANY other combo of devices for which Gomadic makes and sells a tip) at the same time!

The secret to this technology is that each tip has circuitry inside it that enables it to output the correct voltage for, and correctly fit whatever device's power port that tip is designed to plug into. And I'm not talking about one of those ancient Radio Shack power supplies with multiple jacks sticking out of every side of it.

A slick system – someone was thinking!

You simply purchase a Gomadic charger, and then along with it, the correct tips for whatever devices you need to charge. Each charger, whether it's AC or DC, sports a cable that terminates in a female jack. The charging tips have a male jack. And Gomadic makes these interchangeable tips for over FIFTEEN HUNDRED different portable electronic devices, with more on the way. And yet, despite their built-in circuitry, Gomadic's power tips are no bulkier than the standard single-purpose charger that has ONE plug hard-wired onto it.

Each Gomadic power tip, no matter what device it's intended for, costs $5.95.

Gomadic makes a number of different chargers that utilize their "tip exchange" system.

$29.95 will get you their Double Car Charger

while $34.95 will put a Double AC Charger into your mitts. Charge TWO Treos, or a Treo and an iPod, or an iPod and a PSP, or any two devices Gomadic makes tips for at the same time, anywhere you can plug into AC or DC power.

But suppose two at a time isn't enough?

Gomadic's latest product, just released in August, 2007, is the QuadCharge universal charging station.

Tipping the scales at about three pounds, this stylish $49.95 contraption is about 14 inches wide, about 9 inches deep, and a squinch (technical term) under 3 inches tall.

The QuadCharge is made entirely of plastic, and is meant to sit on a desk or table top. There are no provisions on its back side to wall-mount it, and you wouldn't want to anyway, since the way it's engineered, its top side is permanently tilted to about a 20 degree angle, and is covered almost edge to edge with a VERY grippy (but not sticky), softly padded rubber surface, so your Treo(s) or whatever devices you've connected to it stay put, and don't slide around all over the place, nor get scratched.

The bottom of the QuadCharge has five small round, rubber feet so it won't (or shouldn't) scratch wooden furniture, wherever you choose to place it.

The bottom third of the top of the QuadCharge is rounded, and houses four of Gomadic's universal jacks, each resting in a recessed, semi-circular indentation and each connected to a foot-long cable, permanently and internally wired to the unit's single AC adapter. Yes, I said single.

This is not a syncing solution, like the typical one-Treo cradle, though. It's strictly for charging. There are no USB ports on it. No lights, no switches, no pushbuttons.

So, the QuadCharge can accommodate from one to four similar or different portable electronic devices at a time, with only ONE AC wall wart eating up ONE wall outlet, or ONE power strip outlet. And Gomadic even had the smarts to design their AC adapter's power prongs the "right" way; not only is it very compact, but those prongs are oriented so they won't cover up more than one outlet, should you choose to use it on a power strip, or cover up both outlets, if you plug it into a standard two-jack wall outlet. Intelligent design indeed.

The QuadCharge is screwed together on its bottom side, and there's no reason you'd ever have to open it.

So what you basically have here is a handy charging station with only ONE power adapter, but capable of charging up to four portable devices at once. You can plug and unplug those devices, whatever they are, independently of each other. And those devices can be ANY devices for which Gomadic sells one of its exchange tips. Could it get any sweeter than that?

Like Henry Ford's Model T, the QuadCharge comes in any color you want, as long as it's black. But as Gomadic chose to describe it on their site:

(It's) Not a power strip in disguise like other universal charging solutions, the Gomadic Charging Station offers a clean streamlined solution unseen in either the technology or home design markets. While other charging solutions simply hide your AC adapters in a fire-risky environment, Gomadic’s uses one outgoing cord, offering a fire safe and ecologically sustainable solution to everyone from the chicest urbanite to the circuit salivating gadget aficionados we all know and love.

Well, that's a cute way to parse it (someone at Gomadic obviously took a creative writing class) but that's what this cool product ultimately boils down to.

One thing I'd change..

Although all four of the QuadCharge's foot-long charging cables' excess tucks into the body of the unit through a small hole at the bottom of each of their "U"-shaped recesses, (and any excess of the long AC adapter's cord tucks into a similar hole on its bottom side), those four cables are not connected to spring-loaded retracting spools. If you pull one out all the way, it takes too much futzing around to kind of wiggle and tuck it back into the body of the QuadCharge's base.

I suggested to Gomadic that they re-think this and incorporate retracting spools inside, like a good old-fashioned clothes line, or many modern kitchen appliances, on which you give the power cord a tug and it reels itself in. In other words, if "neat and tidy" is the goal here, take it all the way. Even many vacuum cleaners made fifty years ago had those "give it a tug and it reels itself in" power cords, so there's no reason why a piece of 21 st century technology like this shouldn't have the same feature.

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