The Belkin Conserve Valet: Dishonorably Discharged?

valet-charge-smartIn recent years the number of devices that we need to charge daily has constantly grown. Initially it was just our two cell phones. Since they each had unique power connectors each had its own AC adapter that lived near the appropriate night stand. Simple enough. Tidy even.

My Blackberry Bold 9700 was the first cell phone I used the featured the newly common micro-USB power connector. Shortly thereafter we added a Barnes & Noble Color Nook. Both of those devices require high-current chargers, where “high-current” means more than the 500 mA that is actually part of the USB standard.

That’s when things started getting more complicated. We may have achieved standardization of connectors, but still required dedicated chargers for some devices.

Over time the devices kept a-coming. Here’s the current list:

  1. Michael’s G2
  2. Michael’s BT headset
  3. Michael’s iPod Touch
  4. Stella’s G2
  5. Stella’s Blackberry Bold
  6. Stella’s Color Nook
  7. Stella’s HP Touchpad

The master bedroom of our nearly 100-year-old Craftsman Cottage is simply not equipped to handle charging so many devices. This gives rise to the use of outlet strips with numerous wall-warts, line-lumps and their associated tangle of wires. Wires are a curse….at least according to my wife.

So over the past year I’ve tried to do something to tame the issue of charging all these goodies while reducing the clutter of wiring and hopefully simplifying what-connects-to-what. Most recently we added a pair of Belkin Conserve Valet Energy-Saving USB Charging Stations.

The Belkin chargers were an impulse purchase. It was featured on sale, offered by BUY.COM for a relatively modest $20 each. They made their initial appearance wrapped nicely for the holidays. When appropriate one was installed to my night stand to see if it improved the situation.

The Conserve Valet has an array of USB ports around its perimeter. These are nicely recessed so that the connectors don’t stick out in obtuse ways.

Belkin-Charge-Valet-Rear-View

It comes with a few short USB to micro-USB jumper cables, suitable for charging devices that lay on top of the charger itself. It also provides a raceway around it’s body into which you can wrap the excess length of longer charging cables.

With it’s array of connectors the Conserve Valet makes it a simple matter to charge several devices at once, with a minimum of cable clutter.

The AC adapter is built into the body of the Charge Valet, meaning that there is no wall-wart or line-lump to contend with, just a two prong AC cord. That’s nice. It would have been nicer if the plug end of the power cord was a right-angle type connector. That would make it cleaner to plug the Conserve Valet in where the outlet is located behind a piece of furniture.

One corollary of a certain universal law, named for it’s Irish origin, stipulates that an outlet will always be located in exactly the most inconvenient location possible. Or is it that one’s spouse will always place furniture so as to obscure the available outlets? What’s cause vs effect? I guess it doesn’t matter.

Belkin-Charge-Valet-Quarter-View

The Conserve Valet makes an effort to be green in that it isn’t always powered-on. When you plug-in a device to be charged you must press the button on the top of the Conserve Valet to start it charging. Once the device is charged the Conserve Valet, sensing the drop in load, automatically shuts itself off. This attempt to be energy-efficient is certainly a nice idea, but has actually proven problematic.

Firstly, my wife simply doesn’t remember to turn on the charger. She attaches her cell phone then walks away. When she later returns she finds the cell phone now completely discharged. This has caused some consternation.

Each evening I attach my cell phone, pressing the button to start the charger. I always wait to see the charge indication on the phone itself. However, when I awake and take my phone off the charger I find that the phone’s battery is already 40-60% discharged!

You see, I leave my cell phone turned on overnight, even as it charges. I do this as a matter of habit, but also because I occasionally get after-hours support calls from my customers. Once the Conserve Valet has sensed that my phone is fully charged it shuts itself off. The phone charges fairly quickly in fact, then runs on battery power most of the night.

If I leave the Wifi radio turned on, which I often do around the house, then it’s quite likely that the phone will only have around 40% of battery power remaining when I awake! While I may arise refreshed, my cell phone’s battery has already put in a long day.

This is obviously less than ideal and may spell the end of the Belkin Conserve Valet in our household.