I make no secret about my ride’s outdated technology, just like I make no apologies for sometimes using my smartphone as a de facto navigation system thanks to the usually excellent Google Maps app. But here’s the bad thing about using a smartphone for that purpose in a car that has old technology in its dashboard: You’ll soon find yourself with a dead phone battery — and thus, no GPS.
Put this Suaoki compact 12-volt USB charger port on my “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” list, then. A simple, $8.99 two-port unit you can buy on Amazon, the folks at Suaoki shipped it to me asking for a review.
I figured the best way I could test the unit was to start using it for all my phone-charging duties. That means I pretty much left my phone charge cord in the car for two weeks, opting to charge my phone only when I was driving. My phone continually searches for service when I’m home, where mobile network coverage is spotty, so it will drain the phone’s battery quite a bit every night even if I leave wifi and data turned off. So with a drained phone battery, my plan was to plug the phone into its charge cord, which would be plugged into the Suaoki unit in my 12-volt power port, every day while driving. The idea: See if the Suaoki charger can quickly and reliably top off my device’s battery.
After two weeks of this routine, including some long stretches I spent at home over the weekend where my phone got particularly low on juice, I can safely say the unit performed flawlessly.
One morning, I headed to my car with 60% charge showing on my phone battery. By the time I was halfway through my daily driving routine, that phone battery was at 96%. It reached 100% on my drive home from work that evening.
A little about my commute: I spend about 15 minutes one-way driving to work on mostly rural two-lane highways. I’ll often travel the route between work and home multiple times in a day — once going to work, once coming home at lunch, then going back to work, and finally coming home at the end of the workday. In total, I probably spend about an hour on the road each day.
That routine provided plenty enough time for the Suaoki charger port to keep my phone running in tip-top battery condition, it turned out. For two weeks, I did not use my phone’s plug-in home charger anywhere I went.
As for the design of Suaoki’s USB charger, it was clean and fuss-free. It featured a blue LED light that illuminated to show that the unit was getting power from the 12-volt plug in my dash, but thankfully the light was not so bright as to become distracting at night — something I have experienced with other in-car gadgets. The spring-loaded tabs on the tail-end of the charger that provide contact points with the metal of the 12-volt plug felt strong and solidly constructed, especially considering Suaoki’s price point.
A word of advice: Measure carefully before buying. Suaoki offers two-, three-, and four-port USB chargers. However, given the configuration of my dash, I’m not sure anything larger than the tiny two-port charger would have fit comfortably into my 12-volt power port. Nissan kind of stashed the port into a recessed cubby in my dash. The two-port model fit just fine.
The only caveat of this device for my use is my car only has one 12-volt power port. So using my radar detector was out of the question while charging my phone, unfortunately. Those of you who have multiple power ports in your car will not have this concern. (And for crying out loud, Nissan, one of my colleagues was pointing out that his 1998 Camaro has two 12-volt power ports in the center console. You couldn’t do that in 2010?)
Overall, I give the Suaoki compact USB charger a solid “buy it” recommendation. For the cheap price of admission, I would consider getting one to keep in the glovebox for any emergency charging needs.
Suaoki Compact USB Car Charger
- Price as tested: $8.99
- USB ports: 2
- Options: 3 USB ports for $11.99 or 4 USB ports for $13.99.
- Power: 9.6A/48W