Kew Labs UTS-1 wireless charger review: best for minimalists

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Charging a mobile device wirelessly is a good idea and all, but there’s a big problem: you always have to have something on your desk or table to provide the charging power.

Wireless chargers usually come in the form of a small tray or hockey puck that you lay your device on, and while a lot of them have become quite stylish, I recently checked one out. made of marble—They still take up a lot of space on your desk, doing nothing for you when not in active use.

Photography: Ugne Pouwell / Kew Labs

Kew Labs offers a clever idea to solve this problem: it secretes a Qi charger under your desk or table to be functionally invisible, cleaning things up and minimizing clutter. Of course, this approach has its share of challenges. The biggest (and I’m simplifying here) is that wireless charging uses electromagnetic induction to generate current inside your phone’s wire coils. This is a delicate process that requires not only the correct alignment between the wire spools on the charger and those on the phone, but also the correct distance between them. Some phone cases, namely the thick and “armored” ones, are known to interfere with wireless charging because they are just too big. Now imagine what the thickness of your desk will do to this delicate process.

Kew Labs’ solution to this problem has a few parts. First of all, the device has a total output of 30 watts, which is three or four times that of a typical charger, allowing it to pass through that oak board you call a workspace. In addition, the device offers two settings that adjust its power output according to the thickness of your desktop. A small DIP switch on the device allows you to select an output level for desks 18-21mm thick, another for desks 22-25.4mm thick. (A simple scale on the side of the package allows you to roughly measure your position even before you open the box.) If your desk does not fall within one of these ranges, you cannot use the device.

Placement is the hardest part of installing the UTS-1, because once you’ve peeled off and stuck the four pieces of tape on the underside of your desk, that’s pretty much where he will stay. (Small screws are also included if you want to be able to move it around later, but drilling under your desk can be tricky.)

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