If you’ve had enough of loading up an entire power strip with cellphone, tablet, and gadget chargers, we’ve got a space saving solution for you. Read on as we take the tiny-but-power-pushing Bolt for a spin and keep our devices charged up without the clutter.
What Is The Bolt?
For most of us, it has been a long time since the only portable electronic device we needed to charge was a flip-phone that could go a week on a single charge. These days we have phones, tablets, ebook readers, and even watches that all need to be plugged in frequently and recharged. Add in devices with different chargers, different cables, and different needs, and suddenly you have a power strip worth of chargers and cable clutter on your hands.
This is where the Bolt comes in. The Bolt is a multi-port USB charger intended to serve as a compact replacement for multiple USB-based device chargers/transformers. It has one thin two-prong power cable and the main box (seen in the photo above). That’s it. No additional bulky transformer and only one outlet required. In exchange for giving up that one outlet, you get four USB charging powers: two rated for 2.1A (ideal for charging devices with large batteries like tablets) and two rated for 1A (ideal for charging smaller devices like smartphones, smart watches, etc.)
How Do I Use It?
Compared to some of the more sophisticated devices we’ve reviewed, like the TripMate travel router, the Bolt is ridiculously simple to setup and use. All you need to do is plug the appropriate USB charging cable for each device you want to charge into the Bolt (just like you would with a single-port USB charger). Plug your tablets and large devices into the 2.1A ports, and plug your less hungry devices into the 1A ports (like your phone).
Don’t worry about plugging things into the wrong amperage port, by the way. Per USB device standards devices only take as much power as they can handle. A device that expects 1A charging won’t suddenly explode if plugged into a 2.1A port, it’ll just step the 2.1A source down to 1A. The only risk you face in plugging your iPad into one of the 1A ports and your iPhone into one of the 2.1A ports is that your iPad won’t charge as fast as you expect it to.
How Does It Perform?
There’s nothing worse than a flaky power source and, after more than a few bad experiences with cheap cellphone-store chargers and other low-quality chargers, we’d consider ourselves particularly sensitive to the quality of chargers we use.
In that regard, we can definitely put our stamp of approval on the Bolt. It’s sturdily constructed and it charged our devices big and small without hiccup. Charge times for both large devices (like our iPad and Kindle Fire) and smaller devices (like our Android phone and Pebble smartwatch) were the same as they were with their respective 2.1A and 1A chargers.
The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict
Just because the Bolt is simple device doesn’t mean we don’t have a thing or two to say about it.
- The unit is totally self contained. There’s no external transformer required, all you need is the little 3.5″ square box seen in the photos here and the single slender power cable.
- Four ports in less than four inches of face space is great.
- It’s extremely light. If you’re a frequent traveler, you could easily cut your charger-weight and volume in half by packing this instead.
- It’s cheap. $20 for a high quality charger that replaces 4 other chargers and only uses one outlet is a bargain.
- The LED indicator. We don’t know why manufacturers love electric blue LEDs so much. The blue LED on this unit is shockingly bright and if you’re going to use it on or under your nightstand like we do, you’ll definitely want to cover the LED with some black electrical tape. Without the tape covering the LED you can easily read by it.
The Verdict: If you’re trying to consolidate chargers, cut down on clutter, or lighten your load while traveling, there’s really no reason not to pick one up. We’ve been so pleased with ours, we can’t believe we didn’t buy one earlier. In the age of multiple devices for every household member, it’s surprising we tend to stick with power strips packed with individual chargers instead of using all-in-one charging units like the Bolt.