The number of USB-powered devices in our arsenal seems to grow larger every month, and so we’re constantly looking for better ways to keep all of these gadgets, eReaders, smartphones, and tablets charged, especially while traveling. German-based computer accessory firm Inateck sent us a review sample of their new 4-port USB travel charger, and we’ve spent the last week putting it through its paces. Read on to find out if this inexpensive accessory should find a home in your travel bag.
Inateck offers a variety of multi-port USB chargers, but the one we’re looking at today is the UC4001, a 4-port 30W device. The charger comes neatly packaged in a small cardboard box and includes only a short manual in addition to the charger itself.
The device is made of smooth molded white plastic, with clean lines and a durable feel. The USB ports all line up neatly with their openings, and a small light glows a pleasing blue color when it’s plugged in. As we’ll mention later, this is a relatively inexpensive device, but build quality seems top notch.
While relatively compact, the charger is a bit deep, which may cause issues in terms of placement. Dimensions are 90 x 80 x 35mm (3.5 x 3.1 x 1.3in) for height, depth, and width, respectively.
Unlike the Anker 5-port charger we reviewed earlier this year, the Inateck charger has a built-in plug that mounts directly to a standard power outlet. This represents a bit of a trade-off compared to devices like the Anker, which use a separate power cord. On the one hand, the Inateck is more compact and easier to carry, but on the other, placement options are limited to the location of your home, office, or hotel room electrical outlets, which may not always be convenient.
One major issue with the Inateck design may be a deal-breaker for some users, however. The built-in plug is positioned at the top of the device, meaning that the mass of the device hangs below the outlet and must be supported by the plug prongs only.
In situations were the outlet is flush with the wall, the bottom of the charger can be adequately supported by the wall itself. In scenarios where this isn’t the case — for outlets that stick out from the wall or, in our case, when plugged into a surge protector mounted to the side of a desk — the bottom of the device hangs free and the tension of the plug prongs in the outlet isn’t enough to stop the device from swinging inward at the application of relatively moderate force. This results, at best, in the unit coming unplugged and falling out or, at worst, coming only partly unplugged and exposing the active metal prongs.
Such a flaw might be mitigated in future versions of the product by changing the position of the plug from the top of the charger to the center, but as it stands now, owners of this device without a flat wall to support it won’t want to leave it plugged in to locations where it might become nudged loose by accident. Don’t get us wrong, the charger is sturdy when plugged in and left alone (in other words, it’s not going to fall out all by itself) but the current design makes it vulnerable to becoming unplugged in certain scenarios with just a little bit of inadvertent force.
Assuming the charger stays plugged in to the outlet, users will find a reliable device that performs exactly as promised. Of the charger’s four ports, two are marked as “Super Chargers” and provide the 2.4 amps required to charge iPads and other high power devices at full speed. The remaining two ports, marked “Universal,” provide a standard 5V/1A output that’s suitable for most smartphones, eReaders, and other small gadgets.
This contrasts with chargers like the aforementioned Anker, which intelligently routes the appropriate amperage as needed to all ports, allowing users to plug a device into any port and charge at full speed. As we’ll mention in a moment, however, there is a bit of a price difference at play and for those who only have two or fewer high power devices like iPads, the Inateck’s dedicated ports will work just fine.
As indicated earlier, the Inateck charger supports a total output of 30 watts, which should be fine for most usage scenarios considering the device’s four port limit. We tested simultaneous charging of an iPhone 5s, iPad Air, Kindle Paperwhite, and PS4 controller. All devices recognized the charger immediately and charged at full power without issue. As expected, the charger does warm up a little bit under full load, but it never reached a temperature that caused concern.
The USB ports themselves have an appropriate level of “grip,” allowing easy insertion and removal of USB cable plugs, but enough tension to ensure that they never fall out inadvertently, which is a phenomenon we’ve witnessed on some lower quality chargers.
When you’re done charging your USB devices, the built-in power plug folds up into the body of the charger and it easily slips into your travel bag or pocket for use on the go. While long-term durability must be tested over the course of months and years, during our review period we brought the charger to and from the office every day, and it held up very well with no sign of wear or tear.
Although carrying a list price of $33, the Inateck charger currently sells at a street price of just $14. That compares to the Anker charger we’ve mentioned throughout this review, which runs about $25.
The Anker offers some unique features over the Inateck, such as five ports versus four, and the ability to direct high amperage to any port, but at nearly half the price, many users looking to get multi-port USB charging as cheaply as possible will be well served by the Inateck charger.
If you’re still carrying around separate charging adapters for each of your USB devices, it’s definitely time to get a multi-port charger. The Inateck 4-Port 30W USB charger is a compact and portable choice that can help you simplify your mobile charging needs.
If you plan to keep the charger plugged in to an outlet that’s flush against the wall (and thereby avoid the torque situation described above), you’ll likely do well with this inexpensive device. If, however, you plan to plug the charger into a surge protector or raised outlet, you’ll want to take the torque issue into consideration, especially if the device will be plugged in near children or pets who might try to dislodge it. In that case, a charger that utilizes a standard plug, like the Anker, may be the way to go.