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Saturday, January 25, 2014, 06:34 am PT (09:34 am ET)

Review: Nomad ChargeKey, a keychain-sized Lightning cable

The quest to have a Lightning cable on you at all times, ensuring the latest Apple iOS devices can be charged in a pinch, just got easier with the launch of the new Nomad ChargeKey — an affordable, super-portable Lightning-to-USB cable that performs exactly as advertised.

ChargeKey


Nomad's previous always-on-you solution, the ChargeCard, debuted last year, and earned high marks in AppleInsider's review. Since then, the company has redone the ChargeCard with a thinner design, and has been hard at work on its next product: a Lightning cable that fits on a keychain.

For the purposes of this review, Nomad provided AppleInsider with one Lighning-to-USB ChargeKey cable, compatible with all Lightning-connected iOS devices. The ChargeKey is priced at $25, and a separate model that replaces the Lightning connector with a microUSB plug is also available.

ChargeKey


Design

The ChargeKey is made of two hard plastic ends connected by a flexible rubber middle. On one side is a thin USB connector that can be plugged into a Mac, PC, or wall adapter for charing a device.

The other end includes a Lightning connector for charging and syncing, as well as a loop that can be used to attach the ChargeKey to a keychain. The idea is for someone who always has their keys on them, they'll always have a Lightning cable as well, ensuring their iPhone or iPad won't run out of juice due to a lack of cable.

ChargeKey


The accessory is thin and on a keychain, it's no larger than a typical vehicle key, while slightly larger than a regular house key. Because it's all rubber and plastic, it's light and appears durable from our tests.

If you carry a keychain with a handful of keys already, as many people regularly do, adding a ChargeKey to your pocket won't add any noticeable bulk. And the bendable middle section of the accessory means it's not another stiff item added to your keychain that may poke you in the pocket.

ChargeKey


Use

The ChargeKey is truly designed for convenience. As such, anyone looking for a cable that can be easily used with a wall charger should stick to a traditional cable. We can't recommend attempting a balancing act with a ChargeKey, a wall adapter, and a $600-plus iPhone.

But that's not the point of the ChargeKey. Nomad's design is intended to make this a cable that you always have on you, without even thinking about it. In that respect, it succeeds.

Thankfully, we're happy to report that the ChargeKey works. We tested it with a MacBook Pro and a series of wall adapters. We found that it worked on an iPhone 5s, an iPhone 5, and an iPad Air.

ChargeKey


With 3.1-amp charging, the ChargeKey has enough power to juice Apple's iPad lineup. It's also a USB 2.0 cable, which allows for syncing devices.

And though it's a small accessory, we're happy that Nomad chose to use bendable rubber as the middle portion of the cable. This allows some wiggle room with which to plug in and unplug a device —�a particularly important fact when using the ChargeKey when still attached to a keychain with larger traditional keys.

ChargeKey


Conclusion

The ChargeKey is small and it works. Those simple accomplishments alone make this a success.

Priced at $25, the ChargeKey is a decent value, coming in $5 cheaper than Apple's own official Lightning cables. It's also a unique product, the likes of which we haven't seen elsewhere on the market.

Based on its price, portability and functionality, we can easily recommend the ChargeKey to any keychain-carrying users invested in Apple's "iDevice" ecosystem.

Score: 5 out of 5





Pros
  • Small, durable, lightweight, and fits on a keychain
  • $25 price makes it a decent value
  • It works!


Cons
  • Wall charger use not recommended because it's so small — but isn't the size the point?