Nomad Base Station Pro: The next step in wireless charging [Video]

Remember the Samsung Droid Charge? The charge was an Android smartphone that was Qi-enabled but required the purchase of an entirely new backplate for the phone just to utilize that feature. Then Samsung really took it into the mainstream and standardized it with its S line of smartphones. Since then, the technology development-wise has been stagnant on a mainstream front. Every year we get small incremental speed improvements. Now, we’ve got 30 Watt wireless chargers, which is great. But the technology itself hasn’t fundamentally changed much since its introduction. Improved? Sure. But refined? No, not really. The mode of operations for most manufacturers in recent years has been simply taking the same parts off the shelf and throwing it in new and fancy housing. This included Apple, which might explain AirPower’s cancellation.

Nomad is looking to make a major change within the wireless charger market and has partnered with a company out of Arizona called Aira. They’ve developed this technology called FreePower that essentially solves what Airpower was trying to do. This being seamless three-device charging, no matter where you place it on the surface. This is the Nomad Base Station Pro, and this is the first device on the market to feature FreePower technology.

Design

The Base Station Pro is packaged up nicely with a slate grey aluminum chassis and padded leather mat for charging. Nomad did the smart thing and put USB-C on the back instead of a proprietary charger that you won’t be able to easily replace. Overall the design the classic Nomad, which means you’re getting a premium build combined with a minimalist design. It’s got grippy rubber feet on the bottom, so it won’t slide around. And with a height of 1.2cm, it’s no thicker than your typical wireless charger.

Functionality

Functionality-wise, this charger does deliver as advertised. It can comfortably charge two phones and a pair of headphones, or two pairs of headphones and a phone simultaneously. You can put your devices down at nearly any angle and it’ll catch a charge. The biggest observation I’ve made with FreePower charging versus a traditional wireless charger is speed. Speed in this context being how it takes for the device to start charging once it’s placed on the mat. FreePower isn’t “slow” in this regard, but It’s noticeably slower than a traditional wireless charger. Slow enough for your brain to build up anticipation for that charging chime or blink. Nonetheless, I never missed a charge in my usage.

I played around with a lot of different placement positions to determine how much of the phone could be hanging off of the charger while still providing a charge to the device. I would say as long as you have at least 85% of the body on the charger, it’ll guarantee you a charge. But this is still better than the precision that’s required with standard wireless chargers today. With a typical wireless charger, you typically need to have the phone lined up exactly with the coil, otherwise, nothing’s happening. That’s been my biggest problem with wireless chargers. Especially the one I keep on my nightstand. There have been many occasions where I wake up with my phone or my AirPods on 60% battery because I accidentally bumped it overnight. This Base Station Pro almost eliminates that problem entirely.

LED indicators

One of my favorite features of this charger are the LED indicator lights. There are three LEDs on the front that come to life when a device is placed on the mat. And even though there are 18 individual coils, the LEDs will always correspond with where the device is placed on the mat.

How FreePower works

The Base Station Pro uses an 18-coil proprietary Matrix. And unlike your average wireless charger, the coils are essentially baked into the board. When you look at how thin this board in the middle is, it really does excite me for how the potential real-world applications for this tech. FreePower charges by dispersing tiny little bursts of energy at an extremely fast rate versus sending bigger waves of energy at a slower pace.

Another cool feature that FreePower brings into play is intelligent multi-device charging. The Base Station Pro gives you 30 Watts in total, and the charger will essentially divvy that power up per-device depending on what the device is. Maybe the phone you’re charging only needs 8 watts while your earphones only need 2 watts. FreePower will allow the Base Station Pro to know exactly how much the device needs so that it’s able to charge as efficiently as possible.

9to5Mac’s Take

This is a first-generation consumer product for both Aira and Nomad, and given that, I think this device is already so much better than most wireless chargers out there, and while it’s somewhat expected because of the price tag that this product commands ($229), I do think this is the first step in the future of wireless charging. There are so many ways Aira can implement this FreePower into our daily lives, even in its current form. The special thing about Aira as a company is that they control the software that runs FreePower, and we all know how big of a difference it makes for a product when the hardware and software come from the same team. Aira says that software updates through USB-C to improve performance would be something we’ll see in the future. Things like software should be able to fix some of the Base Station Pro’s first-generation limitations, like the speed for it to initiate a charge. 

As far as the Base Station Pro itself, I would like to see a future version have larger and more visible LEDs, I understand that Nomad generally goes for the minimalist design approach, but you can pretty much only see these LEDs clearly when the charger is directly in front of you at an appropriate angle. When you’ve got the devices on top and potentially hanging off the edge a little, the LEDs are almost useless in certain scenarios. There’s a substantial amount of space on the top side of the body, maybe the next version of the Base Station Pro can have the LEDs moved there.

As far as Apple Watch compatibility, and as you might know, the Apple Watch uses a proprietary wireless charger. It’s not going to be immediately usable here, unfortunately, but Nomad said they’re going to be releasing an add-on attachment for the Base Station Pro sometime next year. Overall though, this is the next step in wireless charging. I can’t wait to see where FreePower goes in the future and especially within Nomads product line. The Base Station Pro is available starting today for $229. Will you be picking one up? Sound off in the comments below!

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