The first thought that comes to mind when seeing Belkin’s Conserve Charger Valet is “hey, that’s an attractive looking induction charger.” Well, that’s what we thought after laying our eyeballs on one fully unboxed for the first time. Alas, the Conserve Charger is actually just one of many new eco-friendly products from Belkin that would like to encourage smarter electricity – and thereby carbon dioxide – usage built around the concept that all those dangling devices, even when fully charged and connected to their respective chargers, are still drawing precious power.
Essentially, its an expanded 4-port USB charging hub, with three USB ports on the back and one ‘convenience’ port on the right side. But can it really help you cut back on any unnecessary power consumption, helping shrink both your electric bill and your carbon footprint?
Included in the box is nearly everything you’ll need to start helping Mother Earth get back on track – and presumably charge your collection of devices more conservatively: the charge base itself, one AC power cord, as well as two bonus USB cables (one MiniB and one MicroB) that should work with most cellphone and Bluetooth devices out there.
The tray is covered in a matte finish that looks nice, but seems to catch every smudge and water spot it possibly can (and given who-knows-what you might be charging, that’s entirely possible). A small green button at the top activates the charging, signaled by a tiny green light, and will shut off after four hours or charging or after the last device is unplugged, whichever comes first. Its a fun UFO-like design that looks a lot more attractive than most power bricks, with the tray itself slightly elevated above the rest of the base, creating a space between the two that allows you to wrap those longer charging cables around inside while sticking the heads out through any one of the five available slots around the base.
Using the charger was simple enough, and I was able to attach four devices (a few iPod Touches and even a PlayStation 3 controller) will no issues. Some people may not like having to twirl longer cords around the charger’s inner base, but its an ideal way to deal with potentially tangled cords and keeps them bundled out-of-sight. I appreciated this approach to cleanliness more than anything else about the charger, as it seems more thought was put into crafting an elegant appearance than a truly energy-conscious one.
And now for the disappointments, which concern two of the charger’s most distinguishing features, namely its shape and the way it actually ‘conserves’ energy. Its tray may seem big and spacious enough to support most devices (and apart from larger tablets, it is), but Belkin recommends you limit your charging to just two devices with larger ‘color screens’ and such. Not exactly a deal-killing proposition but still disappointing. Then again, why would a eco-conscious charger want to encourage you to suck even more precious power and emit more nasty pollutants into the atmosphere?
The charger’s key ‘conserving’ feature may sound advanced, but in reality it’s little more than a glorified timer. Again, Belkin suggests the charger will shut itself off when your devices are fully charged, but this isn’t the case. Once pressed, the timer will stay on for the full four hours, and will reset itself as soon as another device is plugged into one of the available slots. The only way to shut it off prematurely is to unplug all charging devices, which triggers a shut-off feature after two minutes of inactivity.
Like many of the so-called ‘green’ electronics flooding the market lately, the Conserve Charger Valet feels designed more to make people feel as if they’re activity engaged in shrinking their carbon footprint by cutting off unnecessary energy usage. I wish Belkin had included some indication just how much energy was actually being saved while using the charger as it was intended as opposed to simply attaching a four-hour timer to a standard USB hub. There’s no denying that having four smaller devices (or two larger ones) charging simultaneously on its UFO-like tray is worlds more attractive than using a standard power brick with tangled cords, but for the price, there are better and more economical charging solutions out there. Perhaps not so ecological, but certainly economical. Act accordingly.
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