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April 13, 2009 • Reviews

Lifetrons Multi-Functional Charger Review

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It’s hard to travel light when you’re a gadget lover. You can’t bear to leave your toys behind, so you bring ’em all… Or at least I do. And then there’re the required accessories – sync cables, spare batteries, chargers, and international plug adaptors. Add everything up, and you end up with… A lot of luggage.
The Lifetrons Multi-Functional Charger is powered by AC, USB, car cigarette lighter, or a 9V battery, and charges any mobile device for which an appropriate tip is available. Can it replace the 42 different chargers currently cluttering up your gadget bag?

Lifetrons is a Swiss company (like Logitech) with a small product range consisting mainly of portable chargers. I haven’t seen their products in many retail stores – they market their wares primarily through airplane duty-free catalogs; I purchased mine onboard a Virgin Atlantic flight.

The Charger comes packaged in a little padded soft-sided carrying case, with 4 international plug adaptors and 6 tips included (full list below). One of the tips is a female USB port, into which you can plug a standard USB cable, for devices that come with USB sync-n-charge cables.

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Additional tips are available at the Lifetrons website, for a whopping $20 each (including shipping). Here’s a tip (pun intended):  the tips use the standard old-school Nokia interface, so they should be interchangeable with tips from other manufacturers. I was able to use PowerMonkey tips, which are considerably cheaper (about $7, shipped). It’s multivoltage (100-240V) so it’ll work worldwide.

I usually carry a Griffin PowerBlock and a PowerMonkey portable battery when I travel, along with USB cables for the PowerBlock and various other chargers. The Lifetrons charger has the technical capability to replace all of them, but as is usual with all-in-one devices, it’s a master of none of its trades.

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It’s a fair bit larger than the PowerBlock, but still compact considering its functionality. The only drawback is that the PowerBlock and most chargers supply 1000mAh, while the Lifetrons only outputs 800mAh, so that equates to slightly longer charge times.

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It works fine as a USB charger, although it won’t transfer data, so you’ll still have to carry sync cables. I don’t mind because most of my devices sync wirelessly.

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Ditto using it in the car; it works as advertised, although it was a little too bulky to fit comfortably in the front cigarette lighter socket. Here, I have it plugged into the rear socket.

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The decision to use a 9 volt battery instead of AAs is an odd one. I’ve read that using a 9V battery allows for a faster charge (my physics is rusty, so I welcome corrections), but the largest 9V battery I’ve found has a maximum capacity of 600mAh and rechargeable 9V batteries are rare and expensive. Rechargeable AAs go up to 2500mAh each. It’s probably a design issue, as AAs would require some kind of container whereas a 9V battery can just be plugged in. As you can see, it’s a tight fit, owing to the compact design. I had mixed success using it on devices with fully depleted batteries. It wouldn’t revive a couple of battery-dead Blackberries, but worked on a Nokia. The PowerMonkey had no problems with any of them.

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The Lifetrons Multi-Functional Charger has earned a place in my gadget bag. It’s not perfect but the few shortcomings are relatively minor, especially compared to the amount of clutter it’ll reduce.

Included international plug adaptors: 3-prong UK, 2-prong US, 2-prong European, 2-prong Australian.

Included tips: SonyEricsson, LG, Samsung, Motorola (miniUSB), Nokia (new 2mm and old 3mm – it’s the built-in tip), female USB port.

MSRP: £27 (on Virgin Atlantic)/$70 at the Lifetrons web store; tips $20 (Lifetrons)

What I like: Compact, everything retracts or folds flat, adequate replacement for various devices.

What needs to be improved: bump in output to 1000mAh would be good, retractable cable sometimes fails to fully retract, an option to use AA batteries.

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