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Panasonic Qi ChargePad

The Panasonic ChargePad is a charging station that uses the Qi standard to charge a variety of devices wirelessly.

About Qi
Wireless charging has been available in Japan for some time (since before the year 2000) for some phones, and also popular for electric shavers and toothbrushes in Japan and abroad. The problem was that until recently, all of the chargers were proprietary - you couldn't use one device with the charger from another device.  While you gained the ability to charge wirelessly without the hassle of numerous adaptors and tangled wires, you instead had multiple wireless chargers - this in a time when portable devices are slowly converging on Micro-USB as a charging standard.  

Until now, the wireless charging world has been confronted with a chicken-and-egg scenario, If you make chargers but there are no compatible device, they are useless.  If you make devices, but there are no chargers, that won't work very well.  If you have to make both anyway, then you may as well use a proprietary design.

The Qi standard was developed as a solution to this problem, where vendors can create products with integrated Qi compatible charging circuitry, and be assured that they will charge on any Qi compatible charger.  Accessory makers can also concentrate on making and selling chargers.  The consortium backing Qi includes Panasonic, Energizer, Sanyo, and others, and most of the recent models of phones sold in Japan that support wireless charging are using the Qi standard.

Still, it's still a minority of devices that support wireless charging at all, so even if you buy a charging station, you may not have many devices that work with it.  Since Panasonic already sells rechargeable battery packs for mobile phones, they had the smart idea of making them Qi compatible too.  Since they ChargePad is marketed with the mobile battery packs, some foreign news sites have picked up on this "Look! Panasonic is selling a wireless charger that only charges batteries!"  Even if this were true, it wouldn't be an entirely bad thing, but those "reviews" fail to mention that the ChargePad is using an industry standard, works with products from other vendors, and the battery packs are only one of the things that the ChargePad can charge.  

The ChargePad
The Qi standard specifies "Free Positioning", that the users shouldn't have to position the devices to be charged exactly in a certain place.  Different vendors have implemented this differently.  Some have a magnet that pulls the device to be charged into alignment with the charging coils.  A few are stands where the gadget can only fit in one way.  There is an option to put many charging coils in the charger , and auto-detect which ones to use (Used, for example, by ZENS).  Finally, there is the method used in the ChargePad: Physically move the charging coil to the proper place.  

Although you can't hear the sound while playing with the demo models at a noisy store, the ChargePad actually does make a scanner-type sound as the illuminated circle moves across the charging stand to find and lock-onto your device.  If it decides your device is already charged, the "eye" will move back to the far left corner.  

Another thing to note is that you can place two devices to be charged on the ChargePad, and it will charge them in sequence.  (If you want a specific device charged first, you should put it on and wait a few seconds before placing the second device on the mat in order to guarantee the charging order).

The build quality is sturdy in a way, but you can easily tell that the unit is mostly hollow.

Other than that, there is not a lot to say about the ChargePad.  It basically does its job as one would expect.  The single worry is that since it does have a moving part, it may break down some day - but that's no different than printers, scanners, and other devices with moving parts.  Our guess is that if you don't abuse it, it will last a long time - but we would keep it out of high vibration areas.