ZENS wireless charger.

ZENS is taking Qi charging to the next level in style and function

 

I've been looking at Qi wireless chargers here lately, and every time the subject comes up someone wants to know more about the ZENS charger. We've all heard good things, and often enough that it was evident I needed to get one and have a look. I've used plenty of them, had some varying results, but I had never heard anything bad about the ZENS unit. At ShopAndroid.com, it has a solid five star rating after 26 reviews.

I think I understand why, after using one for a few days.

There's no secret, it's a Qi compatible coil housed in a casing that rests quietly on your desk or nightstand. As long as the Qi standard is followed faithfully (looking at you, first-run Nexus 4 and your weird issues in this area), setting a Qi compatible device on top of the coil should charge it. The Zens charger does just that, but someone put a little thought behind the rest of the unit.

ZENS wireless charger.

The three popular choices for Qi charging your Nexus 7 or Droid DNA or Nexus 4 each have what's a pretty big flaw to contend with. The cheapest to use option, the Nokia wireless charger (my current choice), doesn't seem to work for a lot of phones out there unless you have it in the tiny sweet spot. Blame it on the phone or tablet, or blame it on the charger, but it's that way. If you have that lucky combo, it works great — but there's a good chance you don't. 

The little puck from LG is easy to use, works pretty well for just about everyone, but it has a pair of ultra-brite LED lamps that can get really annoying if you want to charge your phone or tablet overnight in a dark room. You can tape over them, or tear the unit open and disconnect them, or you can just not buy it because it's designed with a silly bright ass blinking light. I swear to God that thing is evil.

The official charging orb for the Nexus 4 works really well, is chock full of HOLO, but everyone knows that getting a phone to stay on it through a charging cycle is a crap shoot. Nobody knows why, and we've heard theories from humidity to the friction coefficient of the material at certain temperatures and conditions, but the fact is a lot of glass-backed nexus 4 phones won't stay on it. The Nexus 7, with it's soft-touch plastic coating holds pretty well, but who know if your next device will?

None of those problems exist in the Zens charger. It's flat, it does have a light (but it's off by default), glows yellow when it senses a Qi compatible device, and glows green while actively charging. And it does all of this at a normal brightness that won't burn your eyes out in your sleep. The unit also senses when a device is fully charged and shuts off the coil to save energy and shut that light off. It's also coated with a nice grippy finish, that combined with it's big charging sweet spot makes it easy to place your device. 

It's not 100-percent perfect. It uses a barrel plug and jack for the input instead of a more standard 5v USB input, and that big sweet spot is slightly off center, which is something you have to get used to. But that's it. There's nothing else about this one that I can complain about, and after trying at least a half-dozen of them I'm looking hard for things to complain about. 

 

The unit as-is will charge your Nexus 4, Nexus 7 or Droid DNA right out of the box. There's also a kit with a replacment battery cover for both the Samsung Galaxy S4, and a stand-alone battery cover for the Galaxy S3 by the same manufacturer.

If you're going to invest in a Qi charger, it looks like the ZENS unit is the one to buy.

 
There are 40 comments

botero says:

I still fail to see the value of wireless charging over just plugging in my phone that justifies the expense. I get the "cool tech" factor. I've heard some people grumble about damaging the USB port on their phones with regular old wired charging (never experienced it myself or met someone who complained about it in person though...).

So what is it about wireless charging that justifies the expense of another accessory?

tbonepat11 says:

If you had a Palm Pre with a touchstone mounted in your car....you would understand.

cowpen says:

I did. And I miss it. A lot.

tayswg20 says:

I modded (not sure if that's the correct word or spelling) my GS3 to work with all my touchstone pucks because I missed it so much. Mostly because of the one in my car. Perfect when using my phone as a GPS, or for a passenger wanting to watch a movie when the tablets are left at home. I never "got it" either until I used it.

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Katsy One says:

You just have to try it. I'm using a Nokia phone and I would not want to switch to a phone that doesn't have the Qi built in. It's just different, you know.

valapsp says:

pretty much agree with the "Cool tech" part but since it's not 100% wireless there's no actual benefit over wired charging.

Except when your USB port stops working. Obviously it's not "wireless" as it plugs into the wall but the charging side of it is wireless. And that's all they're claiming it to be. Otherwise it'd have to be battery powered or Solar and both methods would suck for consistent use. Your wired charger isn't wireless and if the little plug in doesn't charge your phone, there's a HUGE advantage to this method. It's the difference between having a paperweight and extending the life of your phone.

glazedfaith says:

This is one of the dumbest complaints about just about anything out there right now.

WTF! "Wireless", but I still have to plug something in the wall? When are they going to come out with a phone that's *actually* wireless and charges off of snark and disapproval?

In all seriousness, though, until you've used a well-built, well thought out induction-based charger (I'm looking at you, touchstone), you'll never appreciate how much more satisfaction you could get from just setting your phone on your nightstand, rather than fumbling with a cord or even sliding your phone into a "dock".

iowabeakster says:

If I need to carefully place my phone or tablet upon some other object, precisely, in order to hit the sweet spot that actually results in charging, I see absolutely no benefit to this stuff either.

"Fumbling with a cord" is something that I can do in one to two seconds. It is neither difficult or resembles anything that I would call "fumbling". If it doesn't go in the first try, rotate 180 degrees and it'll go in for sure. I've never had a problem with any kind of mini or micro usb plug (and my old phone got over 2 years of daily charging at home and car, and data transfers with PC). It's something that can be easily done half-asleep in a pitch black room, type of easy. (granted I just might have incredible and extraordinary skills)

Now if they create some wireless charging device that'll work anywhere within a 10-15 foot radius, (like anywhere in a room or car) that would be nice. Maybe I'd spend 50 bucks for that. Because then I could use the device (holding it, interacting with it) AS it charges.

I "charge and use" simultaneously sometimes when it is plugged in. And when I do it it would be nice to be able to move about the room and not tethered to a short cable. Or maybe charge all the devices in a car at once, without cords. That is what I would call "wireless charging". This stuff ^^... it's not really wireless charging.

This pad or puck that must be in direct contact and precisely positioned (and the device cannot be moved or used) is a gimmick. "Wireless, but the device can't be moved" completely defies the whole point of being wireless. You've got to a real ham-fisted neanderthal to ruin your usb port simply by plugging cords into it.

But if it makes YOU happy... I'm happy you have it. But not seeing any value in these products is a legitimate point of view to have also.

Everything you said and the fact that they charge at a much lower amperage make them slow to charge phones. My galaxy note 2 came with a 2amp charger. Charging at lower amps would take so much longer to charge.

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Let me join the group that has had problems with the USB port on my Galaxy S3. I don't know WHAT happened because I never abused the thing, but it suddenly stopped charging. I had to fiddle with the plug to make it charge, and then at some point during the night it must have stopped because in the morning my battery would be lower than when I plugged it in. I had no choice but to go wireless charging. And now, I can't use any case because the back is slightly thicker, I can't use the Mophie Juice Pack because it wont stay connected via the USB. I can't use my car charger anymore, or my desk charger at work. So for me, I will always use wireless charging if possible to lengthen the life of the crappy USB method. That way I will still have the option to use other accessories later on down the line. It ends up being worth it to me.

NoNexus says:

my son had the same kind of issue. took it to Sprint for repair/replacement and they said that is wasnt the port itself. They just ended up replacing it...

I wanted to do that but I bought it used online about 8 months ago and I also am on Straight Talk so I had no insurance or warranty on the device. It was a unique circumstance and this wireless charger was my only option.

Droid Brick says:

I had the same issue with my Galaxy Nexus. It's nearly unusable as it requires constant babysitting to make sure the usb cord is still in the EXACT position. Very annoying.

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Shammac1 says:

You can get the USB port here....http://www.ebay.com/itm/160822390534. A liitle under 5 bucks to your door. They are shockingly easy to replace. It snaps in with a connector. No soldering. YouTube it. That being said, I love my wireless charger!

eahinrichsen says:

I have the official charging orb, and I like it (never had any issues keeping the N4 attached at all), but I'll be the first to say that it's probably not worth the expense. If you're sitting at a desk while you're working all day, it is nice to be able to just set the phone down and have it charge throughout the day without having to screw with having a cable moving all over the place when you pick up the phone.

So yeah, it's nice, and I enjoy using it, but it's not something that I suggest that everyone go out and buy immediately.

davidkerkes says:

Yeah it's just hard to get it without having one. I work in an office and it's a pain to plug/unplug every time I get up out of my chair. Just setting it on my Orb and taking it off becomes something I never even think about and everytime I leave the office, my phone is entirely charged. It never even feels like I "charge" my phone because my Orb is just where I set my phone at work.

Kyle Johnson says:

The biggest thing is to not ruin the charging port. I ruined the port on my HTC Thunderbolt, and it ended being the death of that phone for me. Still works but won't charge. So, if I can not have to worry about that and be able to just set my phone down to charge at the same time, I'm happy.

CodexB says:

Yes I completely agree with you. I ruined my charging port on my 2 yr contract phone about six to eight months before my contact was up.

I actually didn't know if if was the charger, the port, or the battery. So I went on eBay and bought three aftermarket batteries/charger for my HTC incredible 2.

It was annoying to swap out the batteries because between my apps and all the bloatware my phone would take several minutes to reboot.

"Wireless" Qi charging can be a life saver for people that ruined their charging ports or that want to avoid damaging it in the first place(because it can happen...).

KSDroid01 says:

Until you have experienced the freedom of just dropping your phone on the charging pad, and picking it up whenever you want to use it, it's hard to explain the freedom that gives you. I have a Nokia QI charger on my desk at work, and never have to worry about charge on my DNA...set it down and it's charging, pick it up and never have to hassle with unplugging. I bought it for the tech cool factor, I use it all day every day for the convenience.

I had a Rezound prior to my DNA, and as a monstrous battery hog it spent a lot of time tethered to a charger, and I eventually had to replace it once due to a poor charging connection. Will never happen with wireless.

My current car does not have Bluetooth audio, so I plug in the audio jack, plug in the charger, stick it in the dock. I'm anxiously waiting for an aftermarket Qi car dock so I can skip one of these steps, and shopping for a good Bluetooth 3.5mm receiver so I can skip them both.

HAAS599 says:

I use a lifeproof case on my GS3 and wireless charging lets me not have to fight with the usb door cover or risk messing up the seal.

FYI - Don't buy the zen Qi back cover. Get a insert that will fit underneath your regular back cover so you can still use any case with your S3!

Diskoman says:

Someone ALWAYS says something like this when new technology makes things more convenient. 10 years ago you would've said something similar about cell phones, and 25 years ago the same thing about pagers and cordless phones. Just understand that you don't get it because you haven't tried it. The convenience changes the way you use your phone.

rickms80 says:

After doing a lot of research and such I finally decided to chance it with the Zens Wireless Charger. I have not been disappointed with my choice.... It has a large charging "sweet spot" and it charges My Nexus 4 without issue.

I agree that it was a little awkward at first learning to place the phone on the left side of the pad but adjusting took no time.

I find it useful at work where i'm constantly up and down from my desk. Constantly plugging and unplugging from the USB charger was becoming annoying. I also worried about the USB port because I did break the USB port on an older phone and I blame my constant use of the USB port on that. Network signal is really weak in my building and my battery life is horrible at work because of that.

fopho says:

I keep on on my desk so I can quickly just put it down to charge and pick it up. I am a relatively heavy user so it helps that my phone is charging throughout the day (and I wont plug / unplug my phone every 5 minutes). I thought the same thing botero, but it has honestly changed the way I use my phone.

moosc says:

I've gone through 4vzw gnexus when they came out. Problem was the USB plug. Only way to charge was using spare batteries. This would solve that problem. Also its nice to just rust your phone on something and have it charging. I've seen alarm clocks that have qui charging just lay your phone on top and it'll charge.

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aweber1nj says:

I bought this a couple months ago and have not looked back. It works flawlessly with my HTC Droid DNA (even with a case on it full-time).

I agree with virtually all the previous posts about performance, the ease-of-use, and off-center placement (again, trivially easy to get used to).

Specific to the Droid DNA: The phone has a dust-cover over the USB port. Nice idea, but if you're plugging the phone in even just at night, it quickly gets annoying to deal with. If I didn't invest in the Qi charger, I probably would have ripped the thing (the dust cover) off the bottom of the phone and been happier with that situation. With this charger, it stays in-place and protects the port.

vansmack says:

I went the China route for $20 and love the Metrans MWT03 puck (from ahappydeal dot com.

Great form factor, easy placement and I couldn't beat the price. Like fopho said, having one on my desk at work to lay my phone on means I always have a charged up phone though out the day with little or no effort...

rballen85 says:

I wish they weren't all so flat. I want one that will allow my device to stand similar to the original Nexus 7 dock. I use it as my alarm clock and I'd find it annoying if it were laying flat.

Tylt Vu

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FitzAusTex says:

Question about the off-center placement required. With the 2013 Nexus 7, should I assume that in order to line up the charging contact points, "off-center" means that the N7 hangs off the edge of the Zens on one side, and thus part of the Zens surface is exposed on the opposite side? Just trying to get a good visual. Thanks!

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None of the Zens would be exposed. The entire pad would be covered by your Nexus 7 in face I believe your N7 would hang over the Zens on all sides. I use mine to charge my S3 and there is about 3/4 of an inch exposed but the size difference of the S3 and the Nexus would cover that completely. It's no secret where the coils are on the Zens by the way. It has a rectangular outline on the pad just to the left of where the light is and so you know the general vicinity of where it is. But i've bumped my phone and made it slide so that it was on a 45 degree angle across that area and it remained charging with no problem.

Correction: After looking closely at the pictures it appears a small strip of the Zens would be exposed even with the N7.

frizz3l says:

Looking for Jerry to try out & review the TYLT VU Wireless Charger. Looks good. Just not flat.

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keilflex says:

Zens is cool for the nex 4 and 7. The placement is no problem on either of them. But I'm mad at my zens. Because i been using the nex 4 and new nexus7 so much lately that when there batteries die or get to about ten percent, i want them full again as soon as possible. I plug in both with their chargers and, boom, come back in a hour or two and they are almost done charging, or at least in the nineties. They charge sooo quick plugged in. And when i put either on the new zens, i can come back in a hour or two and see like maybe ten percent increase. Just seems to charge so slow. Would be good for overnight i guess. But it also wouldn't charge my nex 4 at all past 98%. It works, it easy it's placements are perfect n easy but it charges like three times as slow as being plugged in. So atm I'm not even using it. I keep trying though. Gets the nex 4 super hot also. Idk.

GnosticYoyo says:

Its crazy that Palm got this right back in 2009 but nobody has been able to since. The old Touchstone had magnets in it that snapped the phone in place for you and held on to it. You could hold the charger upside down and the phone would still be on there and charging. A lot of us old Pre users started gluing them to the side of our car dash like a car mount. It worked every time and was the neatest part of being a Pre owner.

Since then, I have yet to see a wireless charger that was as convenient. Somebody please copy the Touchstone, then you will have earned my money.

kevkavalier says:

Wow! Glad I stuck with my GNex and Note II. Got extra batteries and chargers for them so I'm never without power. I'm not a Samsung fanboy,they just make what I want for now (i.e. replaceable batteries and memory).

martyah says:

Searching for wireless chargers, I just found this review. Checked through all the comments, too, but didn't find any info on charging while the device was in a protective case. Anyone tested their device (particularly the N7) with a cover on? Will it still charge?

ogre123 says:

If your going to review a product do it right. The Zen does not turn off and stop charging when my Nexus 7 2013 is fully charged. The green light stays on and the over-charging and heat goes forward. This is happening to all Nexus 7 2013 owners as far as I have read. I emailed Zen and this their reply "was that indeed it did not shut off for the Nexus 7 2013 and that it would do no harm". If anyone out there thinks that over-charging a battery is okay (something that the Nexus 7 2013 does not do via USB charging), then your wrong. If this site (an experts site) advertises a green charger that shuts off when complete for the Nexus 7 then it should do exactly that.

Ellett says:

How can you possibly claim to include the "leading" chargers without including the Tylt Vu. The Vu is by far the best of the lot, excellent design, holds your phone at an angle so you can use it as a clock or whatever, and the phone automatically lines up every time. It has a light at the bottom that turns green when the phone is charging and turns red if you really screw up and misalign the thing. The light is clearly visible but it's not bright enough to be distracting in a dark bedroom. It will also charge my 2013 N7 if I place the N7 in landscape mode. And it works perfectly through my Cruzerlite Androidified cover.

KennoF says:

Great review ! Just have one additional question..Will the Zens charge a Nexus 7 with a leather cover, or Faut Leather cover.(About 4 mm thick ?) . I have a unit , and tried a Google Wireless Charger and found it would only charge the Nexus 7 if it was within 1 mm of the surface.

Desperately trying to find a Qi wireless (Place anywhere ) charger that works with a cover on a Nexus 7.