capsule review

Sydnee Smart Recharge Station charges multiple iPads at once

At a Glance
  • Kanex Sydnee Smart Recharge Station

Now that we’re on our third iPad model, and the iPad has become one of the hottest gadgets on the planet, more and more families own multiple iPads. Similarly, many companies have turned to the iPad for everything from displaying live-updated menus to tracking customers to accepting credit-card payments, so they’ve got multiple tablets that need charging. Which means people are filling up multiple wall outlets with iPad chargers.

Kanex offers a solution in the company’s $149 Sydnee Smart Recharge Station. Available in black or white, the Sydnee can charge up to four iPads (or other dock-connector devices) at a time.

The Sydnee is 7.7 inches tall, 5.0 inches wide, and 7.2 inches deep (8 inches if you include the power cable that sticks out the back), and it provides three places to stow charging iPads: a simple shelf on the front, and two slide-in slots behind it. Unlike chargers such as XtremeMac’s $99 InCharge X5 Docking Station, which use multiple dock-connector cradles, the Sydnee provides four powered USB ports, each providing 5V of power at 2.1 amps for full-speed iPad charging. You just connect a standard USB-to-dock-connector cable—Kanex includes three 16-inch versions—to one of the Sydnee’s USB ports, and then plug the dock-connector end into your iPad (or iPhone or iPod). Yes, oddly, there are more charging ports than there are places to put an iPad—if you want to charge four iPads simultaneously, you can squeeze two bare tablets onto the front shelf, or you can place one on the desk or counter next to the Sydnee.

The back of the Sydnee hosts a large spool, just above the unit’s USB ports, for winding excess cable. (The included 16-inch cables need only a single loop.) Cables unattached to a device can be secured using any of three small notches near the top of the Sydnee. Though the cable spool and notches do reduce cable clutter, you’ve still got multiple USB cables to deal with, and even when wound tightly around the spool and secured in those notches, the look isn’t as neat as the InCharge X5’s cable-free cradles. The upside is that unlike a dock-cradle approach, the use of dock-connector cables means the Sydnee works with any iPad in a case. At least in theory—more on that in a moment.

A single power cable, permanently attached to the back of the unit, terminates in an AC power block; when no iPads are connected, Kanex says the Sydnee consumes just 0.5 Watts of power. The company also says the Sydnee includes built-in short-circuit protection and a replaceable fuse.

In my testing, The Sydnee worked well. I was able to charge three iPads and an iPhone without problem, and the cable-management features kept the charging station from getting too cluttered, especially when no iPads were connected.

However, there’s one significant issue with the Sydnee: The front shelf will hold pretty much any iPad, even in a chunky case, but the two slide-in slots in the back are considerably more limiting. The slot all the way to the back is 1 inch thick, with the other 1.1. But the Sydnee’s rounded design means that the effective thickness—the usable space for an actual iPad—is much less at the top and bottom. As a result, while a bare iPad, or one with just a Smart Cover or a skin-style case, fits easily in either slot, thicker cases prevent an iPad from fitting at all.

Of the three iPads I used to test the Sydnee, only one—a third-generation iPad using Apple’s Smart Cover and a thin-shell back cover—fit in either of the slide-in slots. The other two iPads, one in a Dodocase and the other in an Otterbox Defender Series case, had to take turns sitting in the front shelf. This is a shame, because making the Sydnee a bit taller, or squaring off those top and bottom edges, would have allowed the two slide-in slots to accommodate nearly any iPad case and made it possible for the Sydnee to comfortably hold three case-clad iPads at once.

Macworld’s buying advice

At $149, the Sydnee isn’t inexpensive, but if you’ve got a few iPads and other iOS devices, it offers the convenience of full-speed charging of up to four iPads from a single wall outlet. And while the design isn’t as clean as a row of dock-connector cradles, the Sydnee’s footprint on your desk or counter is much smaller. It’s biggest limitation is one that could have been easily avoided: If any of your iPads are protected by bulky cases, the Sydnee’s design means those iPads have to share the single front shelf or sit on the desk or counter next to the charger.

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At a Glance
  • Kanex Sydnee Smart Recharge Station

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