Everyone owns a mobile phone these days, it is just one of those things that you have. If you were to ask people what they like about their phone you might hear about this or that app, the display or a few other things. What you won’t hear about is the charging system or how much they love the cable they have to use. There really is not much exciting about charging a mobile device. However, there are a few companies that are trying to change all of that. One of these is Patriot. They have been working on a magnetic charging system that is intended to help make keeping your phone running easier. So let’s take a look at Patriot’s FUEL ion charging system.
The Box and Goodies –
Patriot sent us a few goodies to look at when they asked us to cover the FUEL ion. This included a case and charger stand for an iPhone 5, a charging pad and a car charging stand. With the exception of the car stand, each of these came in a plastic box that allowed us to see everything inside, but were not the easiest to photograph.
The primary charging stand comes with the case, USB cable and a magnetic charging stand. The pad comes with the round pad and a USB cable while the car stand comes with just about everything you might need to use it in your car. You can see this in the pictures below although we will cover them in a little more detail below.
The FUEL ion for iPhone 5 -
The FUEL ion case for the iPhone 5 it a pretty nice looking case. Compliments the square look of the iPhone, but it does add quite a bit of length to it. This is so the FUEL ion can connect into the charging port on the iPhone. This connector acts as an adapter for the magnetic charging pad on the back and also as an adapter which allows you to use a more common adapter, micro USB.
The magnetic pad on the back lines up with pins on the charging stand on the stand. This magnetism allows the phone to hang there on the stand without the need for support. It is a pretty cool effect and allows you to put the phone at an angle that give you good visibility on it in case a call or text comes in.
The stand is weighted so it should not lift up when you go to remove the phone for use.
The Charging Pad -
This product is just what it says it is: a simple pad that you can put your phone on. Like the stand that comes with the case you have a series of pins on the top that line up with the magnetic pad on the back of the phone case. When you put the phone down on these the magnet lines them up so that you get a charge. The pad is also weighted to help prevent it from being picked up with the phone.
The Car Adapter -
This one of the more cool wireless charging items that we have played with. The FUEL ion car adapter allows you to quickly and easily charge your phone in the car while using it for other purposes like as a GPS, in car audio etc. The adapter uses the same USB charging system as a normal phone to connect to power, but then allow you to simply click your phone into place on the magnets and you are working. You have two options for mounting. You can use the suction cup on your windshield, or you can use the included mount to put it on your dash. Both of these options work well so it is really up to what you want to do.
In testing a charging system it is all about the efficiency of the method or device. One of the big issues with modern wireless charging solutions is that they are not very efficient. This is due to a combination of factors including the lack of good connectivity between the source and device as well as some current loss in the conversion at both ends. Typically we see wireless charging devices running at about 75-80% as efficient as a direct connection.
For the FUEL ion we found that the direct magnetic connection between the device and the charging pad gave it a little bit of a boost in efficiency. This pushed it up into the 90-95% efficiency range. We tested this by recharging our iPhone5 from different battery levels using both direct connections and the FUEL ion pads. In almost all cases the charging times were around 90-93% (Patriot claims 99.5% efficiency) of what we saw when using the original Apple charging cable. This is pretty impressive for a wireless charging device.
Value is another very subjective topic. What is expensive to some might be a deal to others. You can look at this topic in multiple ways. One is raw price and the other is what you get for the money. Each is accurate and both are correct ways to look at price/value. We tend to look at features, performance and real-property when we discuss value. However, we also take into account the raw cash cost of the item. We had a rough time finding the FUEL ion for sale in the US (at least from E-Tailers), but we did find it on Amazon in Canada. The iPhone 5 case with charging stand will run you $101.99 CAD which is about $91 US. This is not a bad price when you consider that most hard cases for the iPhone will set you back about $30-40 and any power solution that includes a lightning to mini-USB will double that.
The cost for the Pad was $39.99 (CAD) which is around $35.55 US. This is a little bit better than many other simple pad solutions.
Last up on was the car charger, this will put a $62.99 ($56 US) dent in your wallet if you are inclined to pick one up.
I have to admit that I am not generally a fan of wireless charging solutions as they tend to be more of a pain than anything else. As we mentioned most wireless systems have serious efficiency problems and end up costing much more than they are worth. The Patriot FUEL ion was very different. It was able to give solid charging efficiency while not breaking the bank (unless you buy all three products). We do wish that the iPhone case did not add so much length to the phone, but that is to be expected since you need to have the adapter somewhere. On other devices like the Galaxy S4 the case actually replaces the back so it keeps the original size and shape of the phone. That having been said the Patriot FUEL ion products are very nice. I have found that I continue to use them to keep my work phone (the iPhone 5) charged at night using the case and will drop it in the car when I want to use Apple Maps for anything while driving. This is due to the convenience of using this system and also knowing that I am getting very close charging times to what I would if I just plugged it in. To wrap things up, if you are interested in wireless charging we would recommend the FUEL ion as a great place to start.
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