There are some days when my insatiable need for USB charging outlets surprises even me. It seems every couple of weeks I have ANOTHER device I need to plug in to charge frequently; and the devices I do not need to charge frequently ALWAYS need to be charging when one of my critical devices is dead or dying for more power.
I installed a 6 port USB hub under the lip of my desk; hoping to cure my need for USB ports/plugs but I learned quickly that USB hubs just don’t deliver the juice fast enough to revitalize my high drain electronics.
A few months ago, I contacted RAVPower, the folks that provide us with a lot of hardware to review here about essentially a “power extension cord” for USB power. Something with a lot of plugs with plenty of juice to push power to my greedy devices. The apologetically said that they didn’t have anything like that yet, but they would let me know if they did in the future.
The future is now and they were happy to send me one for review.
If you’re looking for a long review of this product, I’m afraid this isn’t going to be it. After all, in the end – it’s just an extension cord with USB plugs; but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get the job done.
The Bolt is a $20 little black box with 4 USB plugs and a power plug in the back. There are no buttons, switches or knobs on this little guy – it is just a box. A blue light indicator shows on the front face (where the USB plugs are) letting you know the box has power to it. The power plug is a simple two-prong type; one you might see for a boom box or a big set of bluetooth speakers – which is great because if you lose the cord, it is easily replaced. There is nothing proprietary on this thing.
It is very lightweight and small as you can see in the photos. Even while charging, the Bolt doesn’t get hot and of course it is completely silent in operation.
This isn’t a USB hub and there is no way to make it one. Frankly, I’m glad for that. I have hubs. Too many hubs. What I wanted was a USB extension cord; and that’s what I got.
These sort of “USB wall adapters” are a dime a dozen at department stores like Wal-Mart and Target. The problem is, most of these El Cheapos have only 1A output (or less). The Bolt claims a full 6A output; 2.1A for two of the USB ports, and 1.1A for the other two ports (doesn’t that add up to MORE than 6A? Hmmmm…) – the 2A plugs are for your big batteries like for tablets and super big phones – while you have 1A plugs for smaller devices such as a digital camera.
Let’s take a moment to better understand USB ports vs power requirements because there is a lot of mis-communication on the subject and people truly believe that USB = USB = USB.
We will start with your personal computer USB ports. Modern PCs have US
B ports on the front and back – sometimes an extra one or two on the side. With all the USB devices out there, PCs are coming with more and more ports; 4 on the back, 2 on the front and a couple on the side is not an unheard of configuration.
If you’ve been around the block with USB, you’ve probably run into at least one footnote or warning screen telling you that if the device doesn’t work right, use a different USB port; preferably one in the back. This is because USB ports in the back tend to have more power available for high powered devices. The ports in the front (and side) are usually put there to support low drain devices like mice, flash drives and keyboards. Plugging in a self-powered portable hard drive, large scanners or even your phone/tablet into these ports will result in something called “trickle charge”. This means your device will take considerably longer to charge – up to 10x or even 15x longer. Samsung Galaxy Phones will often warn you if you are trickle charging.
To compensate, people often buy “powered” USB hubs to get “back of the computer” ports in front. This works great if you’re ok with your device kicking into USB mode and connecting to your PC every time you want to charge it. I don’t like my devices connected to the PC full time – plus, even powered hubs often do not provide enough power for big devices like 10″ tablets.
Finally, a lot of people have “multiple” USB wall adapters; one from their phone, one from their tablet – maybe one for their Kindle e-Reader … and while they all might have the same plug, they do not deliver the same amount of power. If you use your old Droid charger on your Note 10.1 tablet, it will not charge as fast as it would with its own adapter.
Whew! Now you hopefully understand why I wanted a generic, well-powered USB “extension cord”; to solve all these needs in one little black box.
There isn’t much to comment on here. The built quality is what we’ve come to expect from RAVPower; durable, lightweight and the ports are solid and good quality. It does exactly what it is supposed to do and it does it well; bringing you wall-powered USB plugs to a convenient location to charge your high drain devices.
The Dark Side
Anything wrong with the Bolt?
Not particularly, but there are a few things that might irritate some purchasers.
The unit is so lightweight that it doesn’t really offer any resistance when plugging in a cable. That means, anytime you plug or unplug something, it is a two handed affair. Plus, the cord weight will probably be hanging down from your desk which adds to the problem. For me? This is what Velcro was made for. Slap a piece on your desk and on the bottom of the unit – poof. Problem solved. Plus, if you want to take it with you? It can easily be removed and stowed in your bag. If the device is going to be a bit more permanent, you could double-back stick tape or use one of those 3M Commander strips.
The other issue that will surely spark some debate is the rather powerful blue light that illuminates on the front of the device when it is powered up.
It’s bright, folks. Really really bright. I get why they did it – because in a bright office setting, you want to be able to see it powered up. However, those that want a bedside charger? This blue light is going to keep them awake at night. I think you could bring ships in from sea with it.
As someone that isn’t going to use it in the bedroom? This doesn’t bother me one little bit. For those that do use it there, it would be nice to have a switch (or even a dimmer); heck, maybe even a color (it comes in black and white) that doesn’t even HAVE the LED light (or that has it disabled) for those that need a little softer bedside manner. Sure, you could throw some electrical tape over it (esp. the black colored Bolt) but how ugly is that?
Finally, I would have rather had all four ports be 2.1A plugs. As we move forward technologically, devices are going to get more and more greedy and 1A isn’t going to cut it for much longer. As it stands, I’ll have to pay attention to which port I’m using or use different colored cables to ensure I get the right port for the right job.
RAVPower has consistently produced high quality products that make our lives easier. While they aren’t the only ones that make “USB Power Extension Cords” like this – the price is competitive and their reputation ensures a long-lasting device sure to offer a positive experience.
I recommend this device and will probably pick up two or three more so I don’t have to haul this one around with me.