ESR Qi2 wireless car charger review: Goodbye Mag$afe

It’s not often that a truly useful new technology is released that both improves performance and reduces the cost of the technology it replaces. But that’s exactly what the new Qi2 magnetic wireless charging standard has done for iPhone owners – and soon for Android – as the first products have arrived.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been testing a new Qi2 car charging cradle that rivals the performance of Apple’s MagSafe-certified chargers and costs less. It will also work with Android devices once they come with Qi2 support.

To be honest, I don’t know if it’s the $35.99 ESR charger that I’m so impressed with or the fact that Qi2 products have been shipped that are immediately useful just a year after the standardization effort was first announced. USB-C didn’t, Wi-Fi 7 didn’t, and Matter… well, I’m not brave enough to even try.

But this cheap car holder holds my phone securely with a strong magnet, charges it quickly at 15W, and takes just seconds to set up in a car. It’s enough to make me forget the Vision Pro’s potential because Qi2 is now the future.

How we rate and review products

After upgrading to an iPhone 15 Pro a few months ago, I finally became interested in Apple’s MagSafe charging technology to replace my $55 slow robot car mount, which could only muster a 7.5W Qi charge . I just didn’t want to pay a premium for a MagSafe-certified car mount (which starts at $80 at Apple dot com) knowing that low-cost Qi2 solutions were on the way.

And now that I’ve tested the ESR charger, I can confirm that it basically does (almost) everything MagSafe does, just cheaper. When I place my iPhone 15 Pro in an Apple MagSafe case on the ESR charger, it charges from zero to 100 percent in two hours and 45 minutes, just as it would if it were connected to an Apple MagSafe charger.

The ESR Wireless Car Charger comes with a magnetic charging base and two mounting points that attach to the base in less than a minute. One retainer is a clip that you squeeze and release to grip the louvers in your car’s air vent; the other is an oversized GoPro-style 3M adhesive mount for a semi-permanent attachment to your car’s dashboard. I don’t have a car, so it’s crucial that I can temporarily clamp the charger into the shared car I drive.

But the thing is, that clip on the vent is Fat. I tested it on the air vents in a piece of shit VW Up, a crazy fast BMW 335d E92 and an old Ford Westfalia camper. It fit the first two with ease, but was far too thick to click securely onto the Ford’s dense and shallow group of slats in the vents.

Otherwise, the clip performed as expected. It is supported by a small adjustable flange under the clip that rests on the vent grille or dashboard (depending on which vent slat you choose to clamp the holder to) to create a sturdy platform that keeps the phone still and on the driver is aimed. When the ESR logo is upright on the charging puck, the USB-C connector is on the bottom, with two blue lights on the driver and passenger sides to indicate power.

The ESR charger comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable and a small USB-A to USC-C adapter that I already lost. The cable is only one meter long, which worked fine everywhere, but it could be too short for some setups. If you want to charge your phone completely wirelessly with 15W Qi2, you will need to supply a power source of at least 18W to account for conversion inefficiencies. That 18W comes directly from your car’s more powerful USB-C sockets (USB-A is likely limited to 12W) or via an adapter (not included) for your car’s 12V cigarette lighter socket.

In my at-home testing, I saw the charger briefly pull up to 22.3W from the wall socket at the start of the charging cycle, but most of the time it would fluctuate between 14W and 11W before dropping well below 10W for the last 45 minutes of charging dropped – all right in line with a typical charging curve for a modern phone. The phone would get noticeably warm at times, but not excessively.

1/7

1/7

If you’re concerned about heat and its effects on your battery life, you can always unplug the puck and plug it straight into your phone. Then you basically have a MagSafe vent mount, which Mophie sells for $30 and also doesn’t charge your phone (or comes with a second adhesive dash mount).

That’s also what you need to do if you want to use the ESR holder with an Android phone in a MagSafe-compatible case. Just know that Qi2 chargers are limited to 5W when used with Qi v1 phones.

Unlike MagSafe, Qi2 cannot remember which StandBy display you want on which charger, such as family photos in the kitchen or an alarm clock at your bedside.

And while the Qi2 magnet should be strong enough to handle bumpy roads and potholes, I can still throw the iPhone 15 Pro off the mount with a vigorous shake. That’s fine, but I don’t plan on using the ESR mount for the next Dakar race and don’t think you can reuse it as a helmet camera to bomb mountain bike trails.

For owners of iPhone 13, iPhone 14, and iPhone 15 devices, ESR’s high-quality $35.99 Qi2 Car Mount (on sale now for $30.99) does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it holds your phone securely, it charges (relatively) quickly and can be quickly mounted on the ventilation grille or dashboard of your car. And at only half the price of comparable MagSafe holders, there’s really nothing to complain about.

Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *