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Tech Center Labs USB Charger Review

By: Kris Keilhack
February 19, 2007

USB Cable ReviewThe fine folks at Tech Center Labs (aka Tale Stuff) have been producing a slew of high-quality peripherals for Palm OS devices for a number of years. Iím glad to see this tradition continued with their newestóand most elegantly simple ó product yet.

The TCL USB Charge Cable is ten inches in length and has a standard Palm Athena/MultiConnector tip at one end and a standard USB connector at the other end. The cable works with all Athena/MultiConnector Palm devices and any computerís USB port. It is available now for $12.95 + shipping direct from TCL.

Testing Methodology & Observations
I tested the charger on my Treo 700p and Palm TX and had no problems whatsoever. There was even enough voltage coming through the USB port on the front of my PC to cause the Treoís charge LED to illuminate. On some older Palm products trickle charging would occur only if the Palm USB driver was installed and/or if certain USB Hotsync cables were used.

Iím also glad to report that I didnít have to install a Palm USB driver or any other such tomfoolery on my work PC. This is a power-only connection and thatís fine with me. I Hotsync to my home PC and I perform regular backups to SD card so Iím only concerned about the charging aspects of this cable!

While I have not had time to do any extensive charge tests, the cable appears to charge my 700p slightly faster than the Palm Treo cradle connected via USB only. Batteries ranging from the OEM Treo 1800mAh battery to the extended Seidio 2400mAh and 3200mAh batteries posed no problems for the charger. I noticed no differences between being plugged into the ports on the front of my Antec case, directly into my motherboard, or my Acer laptopís ports.

Pros:

  • Completely unobtrusiveóno Windows driver searching when the connection is made. Great for school/work/shared PCs.
  • Easy to carry and super lightweight
  • The stiff cord appears to be durable and built to last
  • Reasonably priced and includes a nifty carrying case!

Cons:

  • No arrow indicating proper orientation into the Palm device--could be confusing for some users. This is my only real complaint about the product.
  • Slower charging rate than AC charger solutions
  • No Hotsync functionality (assuming you care about synching while on the road)

USB Cable Review USB Cable Review USB Cable Review

Conclusion
Tech Center Labs have produced another essential for Palm power users on the go. This little charge cord, while not the most stylish thing on the block, is an excellent value. I even like the sturdy carrying case!

Iíd just like to see a directional arrow and/or some indents on the side of the cable to help orient the cable for proper insertion by those with less-than-perfect eyesight or in a dark environment.

While Iíd still take my Palm-branded AC charger on a longer trip, the brilliant and affordable TCL charger only does exactly what it promises to do. This simplicity, combined with the small, lightweight design, makes it my perfect laptop or work computer companion.

My Rating: 4.5/5 - Palm Software 4.5 / 5

Article Comments

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Suggestions

Zxanphorian @ 2/19/2007 5:10:24 PM # Q
I would love it if they came out with another cable that was the same size for travel hotsyncs and more importantly external drives. It would be great, since I could carry it around with me to use my TX as a replacement to a thumb drive (via a shameless copy of DriveMode from one device to my TX (honestly, who hasn't done this if one's device didn't have DriveMode???)). Another suggestion would be an emergency charger that is compatible with the TX and the like.

Oh and BTW, the Bud-Mic module is awesome!


RE: Suggestions
T. @ 2/19/2007 8:46:36 PM # Q
I bought the Bud-Mic and the cable and the mic works great but the cable is a little too thick /stiff for my liking. Palm sells a similar cable that is 24" instead of 10" and cost $19.95 instead of $12.95. However, it looks a little more flexible so I may try that one out. The cable does work with all the Boxwave type USB chargers. I have tried it with the Car, AC and Battery Pack USB chargers.

The only bad thing is that the more I use the mic, the more I want to bite the bullet and put it inside the TX.

RE: Suggestions
twrock @ 2/19/2007 9:42:39 PM # Q
Zxanphorian, there are a number of products on the market that have a four AA battery pack to a standard USB power out. These work great for emergency chargers (something like this: http://tinyurl.com/29bbng). I keep one in my backpack all the time to charge any number of devices. Just plug in your Palm hotsync cable for a trickle charge or any number of third-party cables for a more rapid charge. I had forgotten that TCL had not yet released a "stubby" hotsync cable with integrated power charging. (Hey Gary, someone else is looking for this product: http://tinyurl.com/yfgoaz) :)

I don't yet understand what you mean with your reference to Drivemode. Do not CardExportII and CardReader do this already? I think I'm confused there.


Thinking about Vista? Think again: http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.txt
Want an alternative? Try this: http://www.ubuntu.com/

RE: Suggestions
twrock @ 2/19/2007 10:21:32 PM # Q
The only bad thing is that the more I use the mic, the more I want to bite the bullet and put it inside the TX.

I use my mic a lot more now that it is internal. But I will caution you that it would be really easy to slip and screw something up while trying to solder the wires internally. But maybe your skills with an iron are better than mine (or your hand is steadier), so you don't need to worry as much as I did. I also waited until my unit was out of warranty before trying it. YMMV.


Thinking about Vista? Think again: http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.txt
Want an alternative? Try this: http://www.ubuntu.com/

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What models?

OMEGON @ 2/20/2007 2:08:11 PM # Q
So, this won't work on an E2? Only the Tx? Anyone know for sure?
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