Wireless charging: it’s one of those “sounds amazing…kind of isn’t” things. It’s been around for years, and I have to admit it is kinda cool. But it’s nowhere near the scifi fantasy most people have about it. When I first heard about wireless charging years ago, I envisioned being able to have my phone charging while I walked around, or at least while I was in a certain area. It sounded great, but the reality just didn’t match the hype; there are limitations and restrictions that make it not such a perfect solution.
I ran this one by my wife, who’s not what you’d call an “early adopter.” Her reaction was the same as many people: Why bother? To her it’s just easier to plug in the cable. Why fiddle with positioning or slow charging when you have a reliable, fast, and free solution right there? I can see her point, but I’m a techie, and wireless charging just speaks to the geek in me.
GoRite, makers of NUC lids, has entered the fray with their Qi-enabled lid for 5th and 6th gen NUCs. It’s a cool concept, and at first glance you’d think a NUC lid with built-in wireless charging is a no-brainer. GoRite sent me a preview sample of the lid to put through its paces, and here’s what I found.
The Qi lid shares the same attractive “swoop” design of most of GoRite’s lids. It looks great out of the box, and once installed, looks like it’s meant to be there. The lid also includes a USB 2.0 port on the rear, which I like because it gives me an extra port for my keyboard/mouse nano receiver. That frees up a USB 3.0 port for more performance-sensitive devices like external hard drives.
As nice as the lid looks, when thinking about it for wireless charging, I’m not so sure the sloped design is the best way to go. It’s not a flat surface, and there’s a curve to it, so I wonder how well the receiver and charger will connect. Also, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, the glossy black finish is easy to scratch. For most of their lids that isn’t a huge issue, but for one whose usage means placing a phone on top of it regularly, that could be a problem.
Installation of the lid is identical to all of GoRite’s lids. I won’t bother with a video here, as there’s nothing new to report. In fact, if I picked carefully I could swap in a video for a previously reviewed lid and you wouldn’t know the difference.
The lid provides the power transmission, but without a receiver it isn’t going very far. Some newer phones have Qi receivers built in, but I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S5, which doesn’t. Why am I on such an old phone? Because it works. It’s a solid phone, running the latest Android, and it gives me everything I need…well, except for wireless charging. So I headed to Amazon to find a receiver.
Not all add-on receivers are created equal. Pricing and quality vary widely. The way they connect can vary as well. For example, if your phone doesn’t have an option for a receiver inside the cover, you may need the type that connects to your charging port using a ribbon cable that wraps around to the back of the phone. There are cases with this option built-in.
If you don’t have an internal option, that means you can’t plug into your charging port while the receiver is installed. This is the way iPhone receivers have to work, since cracking open an Apple product is apparently some sort of sin.
Some cheaper receivers have issues with heat, others fail quickly, and many are too weak to go through cases. After more than a little searching I settled on this one:
It’s smaller in reality than I expected, and installing it was pretty easy. All you do is remove the phone’s back cover, line it up with the charging ports, and stick it to the battery with the supplied tape. When you put the cover back on, the pressure is enough for the receiver’s tabs to make contact with the phone’s charging pins, and you’re good to go. It has a lower mA, which will likely mean slower charging, but it’s one of the thinnest and best reviewed for a decent price. My hope was that the lower mA would also mean less heat, as I’m paranoid about damaging my phone. I’ve read some reviews of other Qi chargers heating up the phone to the point of causing a failure.
The thinness (.5 mm) matters for me because the S5 is waterproof (at least in theory) and many of the receivers are large enough to keep the phone’s back cover from sealing properly. I didn’t want to add one feature by removing another, so I went with something that let my theoretically waterproof phone stay that way.
Once the receiver was in place, I set my phone on the lid and…well, nothing. No indication of charging at all. So I moved it around a bit…still nothing. I pulled the back of the phone, double-checked everything was set up, and tried again. Still nothing.
After getting frustrated, checking my receiver’s installation a third and fourth time, I decided to play around with less obvious positions. Finally, I turned the phone upside down. And that’s when I hit gold, or at least a lightening bolt:
It turns out centering the phone on the NUC works perfectly when it’s upside down. When the phone is right side up, the correct position is pushed up toward the top.
Reading through review after review of Qi chargers on Amazon, I found one pretty consistent complaint: position matters…A LOT. It seemed nearly every charger/receiver had at least a few comments about how if you moved your phone just a little out of position, the charging stopped. It’s just the nature of the beast. But this is where the shape of the lid actually helps things. When placing the phone on it, it’s very easy to see whether or not you’re in position.
Ideally I would want to set the phone down right side up and centered, but it seems because of space constraints, it’s either set it down toward the top of the lid or flip it around and center it.
Once I figured this out, I found getting the position right was easy.
I have to admit when I heard there was going to be a wireless charging lid I was expecting it to be Intel’s wireless charging solution (magnetic resonance charging, ala Rezence), as it doesn’t suffer from the same positioning issues. But a quick Google search showed me Intel has abandoned their solution. I can’t say I blame them, since Qi has the market pretty well covered. Playing around with this lid made me wonder if their magnetic resonance solution would even be possible/practical/safe on a NUC.
When it comes to technology, I’m a big fan of “set it and forget it”. In the case of wireless charging, that means I want to be able to set my phone down and have the charging work, without me worrying about exact positioning. Unfortunately, with a Qi charger that’s just not realistic. But this lid seems to do better than many of the cheaper charging pads out there.
Don’t expect much here. Qi charging is slower, period. It’s slower than using a standard micro USB cable, and MUCH slower than the fast charging option on my S5. That’s nothing against the lid, just the nature of the technology. The mA rating for my receiver is on the low side as well. I’m told increasing that number speeds things up quite a bit.
But while you’re waiting for your trickle charge, take comfort in the fact that you’re doing it without the need for those evil cables.
Cases, Lid Curves, and Other Obstructions
One common question about wireless chargers/receivers is “does it work with a case?”. That’s all going to depend on thickness. Not just the thickness of the case, but the thickness of the back of the phone as well. I tried my phone out by itself, and then with my Spigen case.
The charging worked just fine with or without the case. I even tried it with the metal plate that goes inside the case for use with my magnetic car mount, and the lid charged it just fine. No issues there, and my case isn’t what you’d call thin.
I’d been concerned that the curved shape of the lid would make it harder for the charger and receiver to connect, but since the charger is actually toward the top, which is flat, and not the front (where the curve is), that turned out to not be an issue. The angle actually positions the phone so that it’s easier to see the display while sitting next to it, so that’s kind of cool. I’d recommend some sort of rubberized coating to help hold the phone in place and prevent scratches. Maybe a bullseye shape.
Or I may just go crazy and spray the lid with Plasti-dip.
See it in action!
Here’s a video showing the positioning of the phone, as well as the charging working in and out of the case.
I knew the charger would work when the NUC was powered on, but I wasn’t sure about when it was in standby mode. Sure enough, wireless charging works just fine in standby. So I decided to test it with the NUC powered off completely (but still plugged in). I wasn’t expecting anything, but it still charged! Kind of a nice bonus there!
Mounted NUC? Nope
One thing to keep in mind that should be fairly obvious is that this lid is only usable if you have your NUC sitting on your desktop. If you mount your NUC, whether to the back of something, to a wall, or under your desk (making it upside down), this is not the charging option for you. Now, if there was a way to use a magnet (like my car mount) to secure the phone to the lid, that would be cool. A magnet might even help align the charger and receiver. Not sure if that’s possible/realistic.
Final Thoughts and Suggestions
GoRite’s new lid offers a cool new way to charge your Qi-enabled phone by just setting it on your NUC. There’s a small learning curve in figuring out the right orientation, but once you’ve got it down you’re all set. At over $30, it’s not the cheapest Qi charger out there, but it’s got solid performance and helps clean up some clutter on your desktop.
The lid looks as great as all of GoRite’s other feature lids, but the glossy finish might suffer with a phone sitting on it regularly. Personally, I’d like to see a bit of non-slip grip to hold the phone in place.
I can’t say my wife is convinced…she’s doing fine with her old school cable, and when it comes to technology she’s a tough audience. As for me, I’m pleased with GoRite’s latest offering. It’s the right combination of form and function!