LAS VEGAS--Want to charge your tablet while traveling? Hope you brought along a power brick, because a simple sync cable won't do the trick. That's because most laptop USB ports don't put out enough power for a tablet's big battery -- which is why you typically see a "Not Charging" message when you plug an iPad into a laptop.
The Digital Innovations ChargeDr promises to boost the power output of both laptop USB ports and wall adapters. Car chargers, too. The result: tablets can charge up to four times faster, phones up to two times faster.
I just got my hands on a production sample here at CES, so I've been able to conduct only a couple quick tests. First I plugged my iPad 3 directly into my HP Pavilion dm1 laptop. The result: same as always, the aforementioned Not Charging message.
Then I plugged in the ChargeDr (which is no larger than an average flash drive), connected the sync cable to it, and what do you know; the message disappeared, and the iPad's battery icon showed it was charging.
How quickly? I'll have to do some additional testing to figure that out, but for the moment it appears the ChargeDr works as advertised. Through what alchemy of electronics, I have no idea.
According to Digital Innovations, the gizmo supports not only tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, but also phones, potentially charging them up to twice as fast via a laptop USB port.
The ChargeDr goes on sale in March, with an expected MSRP of $29.99. That strikes me as a little steep, but there's no question the gizmo solves a big problem in mobile tablet-charging. For frequent travelers, or anyone who's just sick of slow-charging tablets, this might be the answer to a prayer.