As more and more portable devices enter our lives the thoughts of where and how all of these can be plugged into for charging has become a popular one. We now have drawers full of cables, cords, power-packs alongside the numerous remotes from our TVs and Other Entertainment devices. To sort out this growing problem Powermat has resurrected an old idea. They looked back over 100 years to the theories and work of Nikola Tesla. His inspiration provided them with an answer; Magnetic Induction. They used this as the basis for their wireless charging device, the Powermat.  We have had one of these in the lab to see if it lives up to the hype, and to find out if this is a good solution for your power cable troubles.

The Box -

The Powermat Portable Mat that we have in the lab arrived in an attractive box. This is the same box you can find in your local Target, Best Buy or other package store.  It features a glamorized image of the Portable Mat complete with mobile phones and lines to show the charging power.

As with many items of this type Powermat has utilized a front flap to give you additional information on the front of the box and also to allow you to view the actual device.

The back is pretty much only fluff, with very little hard information.

Inside the box we found some nice items. Powermat has included a hard travel case and a Power Cube in addition to the Portable Mat.

The Portable Mat -

As you saw in the image above [in the Package Section] the Portable Mat is articulated to allow it to fold down into a much smaller space. This then fits inside the carrying case [of course], each of the three sections provides an area for charging a single device.

The sections contain the magnetic part of the Magnetic Induction charging system. But there is more to the system than that [as we will cover below]. As you place any receiver [this is what Powermat calls the cases and cubes] onto the pad you will hear an audible sound to indicate that a good connection has been established. At the same time a small light on the front of the section your device is on will light up.

Along the back edge of the device is a single USB port and two small round buttons [right next to the power port]. The USB port allows you to charge an additional device while the buttons control the visual and audible indicators. The light can be turned off while the audible sound can be cycled through two volume levels in addition to be muted.

The Power Cube -
The included Power Cube is a multi-purpose device that comes with the Powermat charging mats. This allows you to use the Powermat right out of the box without the need to buy an additional receiver.  It comes complete with eight charging tips and a case that can hold roughly three of them.

The tips cover the most common devices in the portable device world making the Power Cube great for keeping your Bluetooth headsets charged.

How does it work -

As we mentioned briefly above the Powermat Portable Mat relies on Magnetic Induction [Also called Magnetic Field B] to provide power to your devices without the need to wires. However, this is an over simplification of how it works. Powermat does indeed use Magnetic Induction to create a static magnetic field used as a conductor for charging. However they have also included a ?handshake? process to make this more efficient than normal. Each receiver is able to identify the product it is connected to and convey this information to the charging mat. This simple information allows the mat to provide the proper power to the product with as little waste as possible. The RFID portion of the handshake also allows the charging mat to know when the device is full charged and to cut off power to the mat at that time. 

This means that you could have multiple devices resting on the mat and not draw a single watt from the wall. The mat is also able to tell [through the same RFID] when the device goes below a full charge. It is able to turn the power back on to the device for the short amount of time needed to bring it back to a full charge.

Now this is not a complete explanation of how the technology works [nor is it meant to be one] but is intended to show how Powermat has used an old idea and made it into a viable solution that can be used today.

Performance -

In order to test the Powermat Portable Mat properly we arranged for two iPhone 3G/3G S receivers. This configuration allowed us to completely fill the Powermat?s charging pads and also to place a fourth device into the mix as well.  Our results were impressive to say the least. We used the following for testing

2x 16GB iPhone 3G S phones using Powermat receivers
1 x 1st Gen iPhone using the Power Cube
1 iPod Classic 80GB using the USB charging port

To measure the draw from the wall we used a P3 International Kill A Watt EZ P4460.

We found that when we loaded up the Powermat with four devices [three on the pad and one on the USB port] we were pulling roughly 24 watts from the wall while all the devices were actually charging. Once the two iPhone 3G S were charged this dropped down to 11 watts, while the complete charging of the 1st Gen iPhone reduced this further to 5 watts. Once the iPod Classic was charged we still saw a draw of about 3 watts from the wall. Removing the iPod reduced this down to a single watt being drawn from the wall. This would indicate that either the Power Cube is not as efficient as the tailored receivers or that the 1st Gen iPhone still needs that 1 watt trickle to keep the charge at 100%.

Charging times were around the same as using the standard wall chargers and faster than USB charging by a few minutes.   Like I said that is impressive given that a typical charging block will continue to pull between 2-3 watts from the wall even when nothing is plugged in. So by simply using the Powermat I was saving 8-24 watts of power.

Value -
I have said it before, Value is a subjective concept.  I will admit that when I first saw the Powermat products in the stores I openly balked at the $100 price tag for the mat and the $30 [For Blackberry]$40 [For Apple] price for the receivers. It simply was not worth it to me; so after a quick look, I walked on. Now having had the chance to try the Powermat and its technology I have a very different opinion. I underestimated the convenience and power saving that the Powermat brings to the table. If you consider the efficiency of the Powermat and the amount of power it can save you the value becomes more apparent. So in this case I can say that they $100 [+$30-$40 per receiver] is more than worth it for households with multiple phones and devices.

Conclusion -
When I first approached the Powermat I already had a negative opinion of the device and its technology. Even after the great treatment they showed us at CES 2010. I felt that perhaps the product was out of line with the price and it was more fad than function. After spending a couple of weeks using the product and having a free counter, I can say that my mind has been changed 100%. The price is not cheap, but it is worth it to be able to cut the cords and for the power savings that we saw. Powermat took an idea from over 100 years ago and have worked it into a very viable and useful product for today?s increasingly portable world. We are happy to give the Powermat Portable wireless charging mat both our Editor?s Choice for Mainstream gear and our Innovation award for Home Entertainment.