When Zolt announced the Laptop Charger Plus ($100) at CES this year, I was skeptical that the accessory — a practical, logical power solution — would actually make it to market. Zolt promised that it would work with any laptop, including Macs with MagSafe connectors, and at that point, zero third-party MagSafe accessories were available to purchase. But a week ago, a company called Beaver sent us Quarter, the first MagSafe-based battery pack and car charger. And now Zolt is sending out review samples of the finished Laptop Charger Plus, complete with both MagSafe 1 and MagSafe 2 cables (the $20 “Optional MacBook Accessory Cable”), which will hit stores in less than two weeks. Are MagSafe accessories finally about to become a real thing?
The Laptop Charger Plus continues the concept Twelve South pioneered with the $35 PlugBug, leveraging a MacBook wall adapter to charge both your laptop and a USB-based device, such as an iPhone or iPad. But Zolt’s execution goes several steps further, as it fully replaces any 11″ or 13″ MacBook’s wall adapter with something smaller while adding two extra USB ports. Even if the price is a bit steep, the all-in-one functionality may justify the expenditure for travelers with limited bag space…
All-in-one wall charger for laptops, iPhones + iPads
Optionally includes MagSafe cables for MacBook charging
Two regular USB ports deliver full-speed iPad/iPhone charging
Modified third port works with 11″/13″ MacBooks, 65W laptops
Zolt’s box is primarily focused on common laptop power tips from major PC manufacturers, ranging from Asus to Dell, HP to Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba. The Laptop Charger Plus comes in graphite (shown), orange, or violet, and sits in the middle of the box, while a black cable connects to all of the PC tips. As previously noted, Zolt sells the MagSafe cables as a $20 add-on to the system; they were bundled along with our review unit. Finally, though the manual mentions an included carrying case, it was nowhere to be found in the box.
Each of Zolt’s computer charging cables has a specially molded USB plug that’s deliberately designed not to fit into a conventional USB port — this is to avoid a situation where you try to connect the MagSafe adapters or PC charging cable to a regular USB port. Similarly, while the Laptop Charger Plus has three ports, the PC and Mac charging cables will only fit into the top one of those ports, one at a time. You’re not supposed to connect your iPhone, iPad, or other mobile device to the computer charging port. The two regular USB ports each have enough power to charge any iPad or iPhone at full speed, subject to one limitation: the power draw of your computer.
Total power output from the Laptop Charger Plus is 70 Watts. Zolt says that it’s designed to charge “most 40-65W laptops and UltraBooks,” plus at least one additional device such as an iPhone or iPad. Any MacBook of 13″ or less in size will work with the Charger’s power output without an issue. However, in the event that the total power drawn exceeds 70W, an LED on the unit will flash twice, noting that power is being prioritized to the mobile devices, reducing power to the laptop. A constant blink means that the unit is shutting down because of a short or other overaggressive power draw. During my testing, the adapter became warm but not hot to the touch while in separate use with a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro and an 11″ MacBook Air, which is expected behavior as per the manual. I wasn’t able to get the white light to flash during regular charging, though I suspect that there are circumstances where a 13″ laptop, an old iPad 3/4, and an iPhone 6 Plus all operating under full loads would be able to create a power draw issue.
The Laptop Charger Plus is small — 3.6″ long by 1.3″ wide, with folding blades for easy storage. That’s not much larger than a typical 4,000mAh tube-shaped battery pack, and markedly smaller than most MacBook wall adapters. The blades can be rotated 90 degrees to improve access to the 3 USB ports as needed, and your choice of included PC/Mac cables can be wrapped around the Charger for storage.
Should you get the Laptop Charger Plus? Mac users will probably flinch at the total price of the unit plus the MagSafe cabling, which is almost twice the price of most Apple MacBook power adapters. But if you need something that’s much smaller than carrying around two or three Apple adapters, Zolt’s design accomplishes a lot given its size. And from my perspective, the more MagSafe charging options that people can choose from, the better.