November 26, 2022

PROS:

  • Compact size is perfect for travel
  • Cute cube design makes for a great desk accessory
  • Convenient adjustable angle for phones
  • Anker’s first Made for MagSafe certified charger

CONS:

  • Average charging speeds
  • Can’t use Apple Watch Nightstand mode
  • A bit pricey

RATINGS:

SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY

EDITOR’S QUOTE:

Cute, compact, and capable, the Anker 3-in-1 Cube with MagSafe charging station is a great addition to any Apple fan’s arsenal if they can overlook the charging time and price tag.

With Apple’s trifecta of mobile devices that can charge wirelessly, there has been a rise in charging stations that try to accommodate all three. While it isn’t always the case, many people who own an iPhone are likely to also own an Apple Watch or AirPods. Conversely, those who own an Apple Watch or AirPods are guaranteed to own an iPhone. 3-in-1 wireless charging docks for these three initially came in the most common form of a flat bed, but this design has become somewhat old-fashioned and impractical because of the amount of space they take up. Some charging dock designs have become smarter and fancier to use very little space, but these beautiful docks are not things you’ll be able to take with you on your travels. Casting its net wide, Anker launched a rather adorable 3-in-1 Cube charging station for that very purpose, so give it a few spins to see if it’s more than just a pretty face.

Designer: Anker

Aesthetics

The Anker 3-in-1 Cube with MagSafe’s design is uncommon enough to grab anyone’s attention, at least anyone that’s paying too much attention to your desk or stuff. In its inactive and folded form, the charging station almost looks like a desk toy if not for the obvious Anker branding. Its black surface and premium looks do suggest that it’s no plaything, though, but it will still be eye-catching either way.

When fully unfolded, the Cube looks like a toy battle station with its tilted top and extruded shelf on one side. Those familiar with wireless charging accessories will now see telltale signs of that kind of functionality, especially with the ring that marks MagSafe-compatible chargers as well as the white concave surface common to Apple Watch chargers. When all charging surfaces are occupied, the charging station definitely looks the part of a battle station. Some might find it too busy to the point of being distracting, but it definitely saves a lot of horizontal and vertical space to keep your desk or shelf tidy.

The accessory is pretty minimal in terms of visual design, but Anker put a few odd accents that try to spice things up without making much sense. There is a small patch of reflective material on the front for the hinge of the adjustable phone charger, for example. Even stranger, however, is the mirror surface beneath that “lid,” reflecting the AirPods case charger or the case itself. Its purpose is a complete mystery since it can’t really be used as a mirror for your face, nor does it reflect anything that you wouldn’t be able to see directly anyway.

All-in-all, the Cube’s unique appearance makes it a good accent on a desk, whether folded or unfolded. Its compact form, however, is also ideal for stuffing into your bag when you need to travel with all your Apple devices. It is a bit heavy at 14.46oz/409g, but that also means it will stand without wobbling on desks or tables, even if all you’re charging is the Apple Watch and nothing else.

Ergonomics

The Anker 3-in-1 Cube with MagSafe has a simple appearance that belies its functionality. After all, who would expect that a small box would be able to hold three devices all at once? Fortunately, the accessory is also so easy to use that you can never go wrong, even if you try hard. It’s trivial to set any of the three charging spots up and still fold the box down in a flash, making it ideal for people who need to pack up and go at a moment’s notice.

The charging area for iPhones and other compatible smartphones lifts up like the lid of a treasure box, except that the opening is facing away from you. This allows the phone to be tilted to face you rather than always looking up at the ceiling. It can only tilt as far as 60 degrees, but that’s more than enough to see the phone’s screen comfortably. Since this is MagSafe charging, the phone won’t slide down in that position, either. Even better, you can put the phone sideways, too, turning the charging station into an ad hoc stand for watching videos.

The Apple Watch charger pops out from the side with a simple push, revealing a familiar surface for placing the phone. This retracting mechanism makes it super easy to access that function without getting in the way when you don’t need it. There is enough space to accommodate Apple Watches from any generation, though the small space might make for a tight fit for the larger Ultra model. Unlike the iPhone charging part, the Apple Watch charging platform is fixed at its angle, so you won’t have access to its Nightstand feature while charging. That might not be necessary since the iPhone can be charged at a visible angle, but that won’t be the case if the Apple Watch is the only one sitting there.

In comparison to the iPhone and the Apple Watch, the charger for AirPods is a bit more awkward but still convenient nonetheless. You’ll have to flip the phone charging “lid” open to put the charging case in the gap, so there’s no way to keep that top closed while charging the AirPods. Since it will be lying at the back of the charger, there’s no way to check the case’s charging status without having to turn the box. It’s not exactly too much work, but it could be inconvenient, especially if you consider that the charging cable could be pulled in the process.

Performance

While the 3-in-1 Cube with MagSafe offers the convenience of charging all three devices at the same time, it doesn’t exactly offer the fastest charging speeds for any of them. On the box, the iPhone MagSafe charger maxes out at 15W, while the AirPods charger goes up to 5W. Perhaps the most disappointing figure is the Apple Watch charger at its max speed of 5W.

The 15W output of the iPhone charger is admittedly faster than what the old Apple chargers put out for years, but it’s hardly the fastest now that Apple has adopted more modern technologies. It can charge an iPhone 14 Pro Max to full in almost three hours, but smaller iPhones will definitely charge faster. The magnets are definitely strong enough to keep that large iPhone in place, but some people might want to take particular note of the cases they use, just in case they’re too thick to make a proper connection.

At 5W, the Apple Watch charger is sadly behind the times, but that might not matter much to people who charge the smartwatch overnight or during working hours. It takes about two hours and a half to fill the Apple Watch, which is plenty of time except if you’re in a hurry. Anker is definitely capable of providing more power, but it might have had to make some compromises in order to gain Apple’s certification for MagSafe products. In a compact box like this, higher output could result in higher temperatures that could, in turn, become a safety risk.

Anker ships a 30W charger in the box along with a 5ft/1.5m USB-C cable (more on that later). That high output is necessary to supply enough power to all three devices simultaneously, so it’s also good that the respective chargers need very little in the first place. The power brick has foldable plugs that make it compact and easy to throw in a bag, along with the 3-in-1 Cube. Given its output, it might even be the only charger you’ll have to bring along aside from your laptop charger, even for some wired devices.

Sustainability

Like many accessories for mobile devices and consumer electronics, the 3-in-1 Cube for MagSafe uses plenty of plastic materials. Fortunately, Anker is one of those companies that are trying to change that formula and reduce its negative impact on the environment. The charging station itself is typical in that regard, but Anker has taken steps to mitigate the damage.

Like Apple itself, it started by reducing the amount of plastic it uses in packaging by an average of 90%. It has also switched the inner material of the packaging from plastic to pulp and has used 100% FSC-certified recyclable packaging paper, which also uses natural soy ink to reduce the use of harmful chemicals. While the Cube itself has plenty of plastic, its more compact size allowed Anker to reduce that by 30.9g during its construction.

Unfortunately, those sustainability gains are undone by shipping a charger with the Cube. On the one hand, it is definitely convenient since you won’t have to scavenge for a 30W charger, presuming you don’t already have one anyway. Admittedly, not all iPhone users have such a fast charger since Apple no longer ships one with iPhones. With the addition of adapters for different plugs, that still adds quite a significant amount of plastic to the total package, not to mention making the packaging bigger than it could be.

There’s also the worry of repairs and replacement parts, especially with a pop-out mechanism for the Apple Watch charger. It’s a little more complex than a simple hinge and adds moving parts that will wear and tear over time. It could definitely be the part that will get damaged first, and it won’t be something that owners will be able to fix on their own. And once that mechanism is broken, accessing one of the critical functions of the device also goes out the window.

Value

In terms of design and convenience alone, the Anker 3-in-1 Cube with MagSafe looks like a solid deal already. Cute, attractive, compact, and multi-functional, it is both an excellent travel accessory as well as an eye-catching desk decoration. And since it comes with a Made for MagSafe certification, it comes with the same confidence and trust that people give Apple’s first-party products.

It does cost a rather hefty $149.95, which is quite higher than what other 3-in-1 docks cost. Given how average the charging speeds are, you might be reluctant to make such an investment, especially if you’re one that relies heavily on super-fast charging. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as adorable and as space-efficient as this, especially one that you can easily pack with you on your regular travels.

Verdict

Who said that charging docks have to be literal docks that take up a lot of space on your desk or shelf? Who says that they have to stay on said desk or shelf in the first place? The Anker 3-in-1 Cube with MagSafe Charging Station definitely doesn’t say so and challenges the status quo of its kind. Yes, it is a bit pricey, and the charging speeds could be better, but one can imagine that Anker had to make some compromises to keep the device small and satisfy Apple’s requirements. Minimal yet attractive, compact yet multi-functional, this little box makes a great companion anywhere, whether on your desk or your hotel room’s bedside table.

See also  Yeedi Vac Station Review: Keeping Your Hands Clean