Review: Nimble's Wireless and Portable Chargers are Reliable and Beautifully Designed
In late August, a new accessory brand called Nimble emerged from a trio of former Mophie employees, offering customers various charging devices that are all built and shipped with a focus on the environment and sustainability.
Led by Ross Howe (Nimble CEO), Jon Bradley (creative director), and Kevin Malinowski (brand marketing), Nimble’s lineup of accessories remains modest two months in, focusing specifically on a collection of eight wireless chargers and portable chargers. Over that period of time I’ve had the chance to use all of Nimble’s products, and while there are a few issues with the lineup, it’s clear that quality over quantity takes precedence at Nimble.
Specifically, Nimble sells four portable chargers, four wireless chargers, and three accessories, and a few of the same design elements emerge across the device lineup.
Nimble names the portable chargers by estimating about how long you’ll be able to get battery out of them: a 3-Day (10,000 mAh, $49.95), 5-Day (13,000 mAh, $59.95), 8-Day (20,000 mAh, $69.95), and 10-Day (26,800 mAh, $99.95). Each of these includes a magnetic attachment for cable management, a USB-A to USB-C cable, and the 10-Day Portable Charger throws in an AC adapter brick.
For the wireless chargers, Nimble sells a Wireless Pad ($39.95), Wireless Dual Pad ($49.95), Wireless Stand ($49.95), and Wireless Travel Kit ($59.95). Individually, you can buy a Dual USB Wall Charger ($19.95), USB Wall Charger ($12.95), and USB-C Cable 2-Pack ($12.95-$17.95).
Each Nimble product is built in partnership with a supplier that uses recycled aluminum, plant-based bioplastics, organic hemp, and other naturally occurring materials to ensure that the company’s production has less of an impact on the planet. When packaged, Nimble uses boxes made of 100 percent recycled scrap paper that has no harmful inks, plastics, or dyes.
In the end, Nimble’s stance on reducing its carbon footprint has not negatively affected the design and feel of its products, and may have enhanced it in some ways. The portable chargers have a nice heft to them and feel solid in the hand, with a recycled aluminum housing that’s bordered by Nimble’s signature speckle TPE, which combine to create a product that feels satisfying and premium.
For the wireless chargers, Nimble uses a combination of sustainable fabric blends including organic hemp, recycled plastic bottles, and plant-based bioplastics. The effect is a fabric-covered wireless charger that feels soft to the touch, in both Light Grey and Charcoal Grey color options. Rubberized feet under each charger also ensure that they don’t jostle around, and a white LED on the back alerts you to when your iPhone is successfully charging.
Light Grey and Charcoal Grey Wireless Dual Pads
Nimble’s wireless chargers as of now are not formally Qi certified, because the company decided to focus on securing all of the proper CE and UL safety certifications for the launch. Still, Nimble tells me that they are all built exactly to Qi certification specs, and it intends to include Qi certification for wireless chargers starting in Q1 2019.
I’ll get into the specific issues I had with certain devices in their relevant sections below, but overall I really liked Nimble’s design choices for its first set of accessories. They’re subtle products with small footprints and beautiful accents, and the wireless chargers in particular looked great anywhere I placed them in my apartment. Couple these quality builds with the company’s carbon footprint reduction efforts and reasonable prices, and I can see Nimble starting to make a name for itself in the market.
Wireless Travel Kit/Wireless Pad
Nimble’s Wireless Travel Kit is essentially an oversized USB wall charger with the company’s Wireless Pad magnetically attached, which turned out to be one of my favorite wireless iPhone chargers I’ve used yet.
This is mainly because the Wireless Pad’s charging coil detection is great all-around, letting me place my iPhone X both parallel to the design of the pad itself and perpendicular, as well as multiple off-kilter arrangements in between those angles. This makes it great for bedside use in the dark, but a problem I had with many of Nimble’s wireless chargers emerged frequently: the pad’s LED is just too bright at night.
iPhone X is charging in all three placement scenarios pictured above
Sitting on my bedside table, the Wireless Pad’s LED was bright enough to hit the wall behind the table and light it up, and during testing I had to use a stack of books to cover the light. Bright lights have prevented a handful of otherwise great wireless chargers from becoming permanent mainstays on my bedside table, and for now it looks like the same is true for Nimble’s Wireless Pad.
As for the rest of the Wireless Travel Kit, the USB wall charger has a little compartment that holds the included USB-C to USB-A cable, and when opened it offers two USB-A ports so that you can charge multiple devices from a single destination while you’re traveling. When you’re ready to leave, you can stuff the cable back into the compartment and place the Wireless Pad over everything to close it.
The Wireless Travel Kit is easily Nimble’s most creative accessory, but there are drawbacks to the design. For one, it takes some work to replace the 3.5 foot USB-C cable back into the cable management compartment, and once you do the magnets that fuse the Wireless Pad (essentially the cover) to the USB wall charger are not particularly powerful.
Weak magnets are a bit of an Achilles heel for Nimble’s products, and in the two months I tested everything, the company updated a few of its devices with improved magnets following early user feedback. While this improved aspects of the portable chargers, I didn’t really see any noticeable difference in magnet strength with the updated version of the Wireless Travel Kit. The update did fix an issue where a loud hissing noise would emit from the USB wall charger when it was in use.
In terms of charging, the USB wall charger has been a reliable charge source for numerous devices over the past few months, and the 7.5W Wireless Pad charged up my iPhone X from 29 percent to 100 percent in just under three hours.
When in use, the USB wall charger takes up the entirety of the outlet space, so you won’t be able to use the other outlet. It’s also a bit of a hassle to angle and plug USB-A cables into the ports found within the USB wall charger’s cable management compartment, given the small amount of space. As you’ll see with the rest of Nimble’s accessories, despite these handful of gripes, I really loved the overall design, feel, and usefulness of the Wireless Travel Kit.
Wireless Dual Pad
Nimble’s Wireless Dual Pad is essentially a longer version of the Wireless Pad that allows two devices to charge at once, but due to its LED placement and some poor coil charging detection, this accessory led to some of my biggest issues.
The first version I tried out poorly registered any iPhone I placed on the left side of the pad, while the right side performed as expected. Its LED (located on the rear of the mat, to the right of the USB-C port) also flashed sporadically for no reason any time it was plugged in, so Nimble sent me an updated version.
The new device has worked as expected for the past few weeks, charging two iPhones at the same time, each supported by Apple’s 7.5W fast charging standard. I found it to be on par with the Wireless Pad, fueling up my iPhone X from 11 percent to 98 percent in three hours.
Unfortunately, the LED on this accessory matched the brightness of the one found on the Wireless Pad, so I ended up using it more often in the living room or kitchen.
If you prefer a vertical charging option, Nimble sells the Wireless Stand, which is essentially a slightly longer version of the Wireless Pad standing at an angle. In the middle of the back is a kick-out plastic stand and a small plastic nub, which you can push in to force this section out through the front of the stand.
This inch-long piece of plastic acts as the resting place for your iPhone while charging, and you could also kick the stand back in and push the plastic nub back through the device and use the Wireless Stand Charger as a horizontal charger as well.
I liked the Wireless Stand, and its travel-friendly structure makes sense given Nimble’s proclivity toward compact designs, but I would have preferred a sturdier vertical charger. I’ve had the Wireless Stand in my kitchen since September, and on numerous occasions I placed my iPhone X too forcefully on the charger, causing it to collapse.
My iPhone never fell off the charger while it was in use, but I also never particularly liked that only an inch-long plastic bit was holding it up, one whose depth was just less than the thickness of the iPhone itself.
Given the Wireless Stand’s small stature (my iPhone X sat about an inch higher when it was on), I wouldn’t recommend the stand for an iPhone Plus or Max, but I did enjoy the added utility of the extra USB-A port. The stand was also the charger that caused my iPhone to become the most warm, but it was never to an extent that was alarming, and warm smartphone backs are typical of any wireless charger.
I found the same charging rates on the Wireless Stand as well: starting at 24 percent, my iPhone reached 100 percent in two and a half hours.
Nimble’s portable chargers are essentially the same accessory with different battery capacities, and I’ve found them all to work similarly over the past few months. Because of this, I won’t break down each one like I did with the wireless chargers, but instead give my overall impression of this category of Nimble’s products.
I ended up using the 5-Day (13,000 mAh) and 10-Day (26,800 mAh) portable chargers the most, mainly because these are the two devices that include three total USB-A ports and one USB-C port for fast charging on compatible iPhones. Comparatively, the 3-Day and 8-Day portable charges have two USB-A ports with one fast charging USB-C port each.
I started by using the 10-Day as much as possible to put Nimble’s biggest portable charger to the test, and while it didn’t last for a full 10 days, I got a solid 6-7 days out of the device before it died. In this time, the 10-Day portable charger fueled up my iPhone X from below 10 percent to capacity about six times (in total it should fuel up an iPhone X/XS about nine times), my iPad mini 4 from below 10 percent to capacity once, and there were a handful of half-capacity charges sprinkled throughout.
For USB-C fast charging, Nimble’s chargers meet the expected standards: they can fuel up an iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, XS, XS Max, or XR from 0 percent to 50 percent in about 30 minutes. Using Nimble’s quartet of portable chargers paired with Apple’s USB-C to Lightning cable (required for fast charging an iPhone), each battery pack fueled my iPhone X from around 1 percent to 50 percent in exactly 30 minutes. When fast charging is active, Nimble’s side LED lights up orange, and otherwise a green light indicates regular charging.
USB-C fast charging is also the best pair for the Nintendo Switch and Nimble’s portable chargers, because with regular USB-A charging the Switch will still drain as you play and can only be charged when it’s sleeping. I used the 10-Day portable battery and my 12-inch MacBook‘s USB-C to USB-C cable to connect the Switch to Nimble’s accessory, and began playing Super Mario Odyssey with the Switch at 3 percent battery life at around 11:00 a.m. in the morning. I played all day and the Switch managed to last into the evening with the help of Nimble, with the console charged to 100 percent at 4:45 p.m. that afternoon.
Graphically intense games on Switch last between 2-3 hours, so if you drain the console, use Nimble’s 10-Day portable charger while you play, and drain it again, you can essentially get 12 hours of battery on the Switch without needing to re-dock it.
In terms of form factor and utility, the 5-Day portable charger has been my favorite to tote around so far. At just 4.5″x3″ the device fits perfectly in my hand, and it takes up less space in my bag than the 8-Day and 10-Day chargers, while still providing a big enough 13,000 mAh battery to justify bringing it along. It’s also the smallest one with the most USB-A ports at three, and the point before the portable chargers begin gaining noticeable weight (0.75 lbs for the 5-Day versus 1.03 lbs for the 8-Day).
The 5-Day Portable Charger
Each of these chargers includes a magnetic attachment made of Nimble’s speckled TPE, and built to house the USB-C cable. It attaches to the bottom of the portable charger, and a notched flap allows you to save the cord with the charger. While I like Nimble’s ongoing effort to promote organization and cable management, I again found its execution to be less than ideal.
The magnets on the attachment aren’t very strong (although they improve in the updated accessory Nimble sent me), and the belt that holds the cable can be finicky to handle. I usually found it quicker to store Nimble’s USB-C cable with the other cords in my backpack and forgo the built-in organization.
For normal charging, across Nimble’s line of devices I tracked a full iPhone X charge from below 10 percent to 100 percent at a range between two to three hours. For example, the 8-Day Portable Charger fueled my iPhone from 8 percent at 6:50 pm to 100 percent at 9:25 pm. In another test, the 10-Day Portable Charger charged my iPhone from 10 percent at 4:30 pm to 100 percent at 6:46 pm. The 3-Day and 5-Day chargers fared similarly in their tests.
Although the magnets were poor, Nimble’s portable chargers never failed where it mattered and they all worked consistently throughout my testing, without any faulty USB ports or spotty charge readings from any of the accessories.
Nimble has a solid selection of accessories to offer its customers, who should be satisfied with their purchases despite a few disappointments in the well-intended cable management designs and other features.
The svelte wireless chargers are perfectly tailored to anyone who travels a lot or prefers chargers with small footprints, and the portable chargers come in enough sizes to provide reliable on-the-go charging for a smartphone, tablet, and more.
How to Buy
Nimble only sells its devices online in an effort to reduce the cost of the products, so you can find them all on Gonimble.com or on Amazon. The best place to buy them over the next two weeks will be on Nimble’s own site, however, since the company has a big Thanksgiving and Cyber Week sale outlined for the holidays.
Nimble will begin by offering 30 percent off featured items on its online storefront and 20 percent off everything else in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Today, this means the entire website is 20 percent off, and the Wireless Dual Pad ($34.97, down from $49.95) and 8-Day Portable Charger ($48.97, down from $69.95) are both 30 percent off. To see what else will be featured in Nimble’s holiday discounts, be sure to visit our Black Friday Roundup.
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