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MagSafe Duo Charger review – portable fast-charging for iPhone 12 and Apple Watch [Video] – 9to5Mac

Yesterday Apple’s MagSafe Duo Charger arrived on my doorstep, and I was anxious to get it unboxed and take it for a test drive. This $129.00 wireless charger was first revealed at the iPhone 12 event, where Apple officially announced the arrival of new MagSafe accessories for all four of the company’s new iPhone 12 models. Is it worth the steep asking price? Watch our MagSafe Duo Charger review video for the details.

Specifications

  • Includes MagSafe-enabled charger for iPhone 12
  • Uses 20W USB-C Power Adapter for faster wireless charging up to 11W
  • Uses 27W or higher USB-C Power Adapter for faster wireless charging up to 14W
  • Includes Apple Watch puck charger that raises to support Nightstand mode
  • Charger folds in half for a travel-friendly profile
  • Backwards compatible with Qi-enabled device like AirPods, or iPhone 11
  • Includes 1-meter USB-C to Lightning Cable
  • Does not include power adapter

Video: MagSafe Duo Charger review

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Unboxing and design

The MagSafe Duo Charger comes packaged in a small white box that’s unmistakably Apple. Inside, you’ll find the MagSafe Duo Charger, 1-meter USB-C to Lightning Cable, and a Designed by Apple in California packet featuring safety and handling, regulatory compliance information, and a warranty summary.

The MagSafe Duo charge features a soft-touch silicone surface in an off white color. The middle of the charger features a flexible area that can be folded in half for easy storage. There are two charging surfaces on the top of the MagSafe Duo Charger — a standard MagSafe Wireless Charging connector, and a pivoting Apple Watch puck-style connector. Behind the Apple Watch charger, you’ll find the Lighting input for connecting the USB-C to Lightning cable, and underneath the MagSafe surface, you’ll find a subtle embossed Apple logo.

Wireless charging

Compared to wired charging, wireless charging is an inefficient way to power your devices, and as a result, it takes a longer time to recharge your iPhone using this method. The primary benefit of wireless charging is convenience, and many people are ready and willing to give up efficiency for the convenience of just being able to place your iPhone on a wireless charging surface instead of plugging it in.

MagSafe, Apple’s magnetic accessory lineup for iPhone 12, improves wireless charging by auto aligning to the charging surface via strategically-placed magnets. In other words, you no longer have to deal with the interminable exercise of trying to align an iPhone 12 just right with the charging coils inside the wireless charging surface. In Apple Legacy speak, it just works.

Apple includes a 1-meter USB-C to Lightning cable for connecting to the MagSafe Duo Charger, but it’s strategically omitted the needed USB-C power adapter required to drive electricity to the charging surfaces. What if you don’t already have a USB-C power adapter? Apple will happily sell you either its new 20W or 30W USB-C versions.

In order to eke out the faster 14W wireless charging speed, Apple says that a 30W power adapter (or higher) is required. In other words, to get the best performance out of the MagSafe Duo, you can end up spending as much as $178 when coupled with Apple’s $49.00 30W USB-C power adapter. For those that don’t care about the fastest speeds, Apple’s $19.00 20W USB-C Power Adapter will yield you speeds up to 11W.

Interestingly enough, both of those wattage ratings fall short of a standalone MagSafe Wireless Charger + 20W USB-C Power Adapter setup. Apple says up to 15W wireless charging speed is possible for iPhone 12 users with that particular configuration.

Using the MagSafe Duo

Putting the MagSafe Duo to use was easy enough. I connected the 30W adapter from my M1-based MacBook Air, and away I went. As expected, placing my iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro down on the MagSafe Duo Charger resulted in a quick auto-aligning magnetic connection. After presenting a MagSafe animation and corresponding sound effect to verify connectivity, the iPhone 12 began charging.

I find the MagSafe Duo more reliable than single-area Qi chargers when it comes to establishing a connection with iPhone 12, but you still have to pay a bit of attention to make sure a magnetic connection is made. Unlike the now-scrapped AirPower wireless charging mat, or the Nomad Base Station Pro, you can’t just sloppily lay it anywhere on the surface and have a guaranteed charge.

On the right side of the MagSafe Duo Charger is where you will find the Apple Watch puck charger. Like the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock introduced several years back, the MagSafe Duo Charger’s Apple Watch connection can lie flat or can pivot 90 degrees via a built-in metal hinge to accommodate watchOS’ Nightstand mode.

If you don’t yet own an iPhone 12, don’t worry, because the MagSafe wireless charger on the left side of the unit can charge any Qi-enabled device, like AirPods, or older iPhone models that support the wireless charging standard. Just keep in mind that you won’t get the full benefits of MagSafe, namely auto-aligning magnetic connectivity and the faster speeds made possible by Apple’s proprietary tech.

One of the nice things about the MagSafe Duo Charger is that it can fold in half when not in use, which is handy for traveling. And because the power cable is nothing more than a detachable USB-C to Lightning cable, its form factor can get fairly compact when folded.

The folding functionality works both ways, so you can fold the unit for travel, or fold it the opposite way for a single charging surface with a smaller footprint. This essentially turns the MagSafe Duo into a “MagSafe Solo.”

Charging speed

I ran four tests with the MagSafe Duo. Two while charging only the iPhone with the 20W and then 30W adapter, and two while charging both the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch with the 20W and then 30W adapter. I did this because I wanted to see what difference the more powerful adapter had on charging speed, and how the addition of an Apple Watch affected charging speed. The results are below.

My biggest takeaway from this test is that the 30W combo is faster, but not fast enough to warrant dropping another 50 bucks for a faster charger if you don’t already own one.

9to5Mac’s take

The MagSafe Duo Charger is noteworthy for its ability to charge both an Apple Watch and an iPhone or other Qi-enabled device at the same time. It’s also worth looking at if you’re an iPhone 12 owner, and desire the faster charging speeds and magnetic connectivity only offered by MagSafe. In addition, the charger’s portability and versatility make the MagSafe Duo worth considering as well.

Yet, despite its advantages, MagSafe Duo has limitations. The fact that it can only charge a single Qi device or iPhone 12 is worth noting. This unit is primarily advantageous if you’re an Apple Watch owner. If you don’t own an Apple Watch, you’re otherwise missing out on half of the functionality.

The other outstanding issue with the MagSafe Duo Charger is that it doesn’t come with a power adapter, and the included 1-meter USB-C to Lightning cable could stand to be longer. Instead, you’ll need to cough up another $35.00 for a 2-meter USB-C to Lightning Cable if your setup requires the extra slack. For those counting, that brings us to $213 before tax for the MagSafe Duo Charger + 30W USB-C Power Adapter + 2-meter USB-C to Lightning Cable. Fortunately, you can find some discounts on these products when ordering from online retailers like Amazon.

As nice-looking and as portable as the Duo may be, I can’t help but feel that it’s overpriced given what it does and what it lacks. It allows you to connect up to two devices — as long as one of those devices is an Apple Watch — and it provides marginally faster charging in a package that can fold up for portability. Yet, if speed is what you’re looking for, then wired charging can’t be beat, and if overall charging convenience is what you’re after, then companies like Nomad do it better, in my opinion.

What do you think about the MagSafe Duo Charger? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts and opinions.

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