The Zolt Universal Laptop Charger: Is This The Ultimate Mobile Charger?

At AT&T I don’t travel for work as much as I used to for HTC, but when I do I usually bring my personal laptop with me – and that means two different power supplies. I use a Rocketfish universal charger for my HP work laptop (a rather chunky and heavy machine) and the Dell charger for my XPS 13. The Dell charger is small, but the Rocketfish charger is your typical brick. It has a USB port for charging though, which is a big improvement over your typical charger. Together, carrying the two chargers is a hassle, especially since I fly carry-on 95% of the time. I usually put both chargers in a carrying case inside my carry-on luggage.

In my quest for a new, lightweight universal charger I backed the FinSix Dart on Kickstarter back in April of 2014. After waiting 19 months (!?!), I gave up waiting and requested a refund. Props to FinSix for giving out refunds – many Kickstarter campaigns do not.

I then ordered a Zolt: it seemed better in every way. Getting it was a bit of a fiasco – they didn’t indicate there would be a wait on getting it, so I was expecting to receive it shortly after the November 19th launch date. The neglected to communicate that’s when pre-orders would start shipping. It was almost five weeks later, a day after I left to spend two weeks in Calgary that they informed me they were shipping the Zolt. I think it’s pretty foolish to surprise ship a product right at the holidays when so many people travel, but I give credit to their customer service team: they were able to re-direct the shipment and ship it out the day I got back. There was a bit of a delay, but I finally received it. I’ve had a couple of days now and here are my thoughts so far.

ZOLT-laptop-charger-size

Above: this thing is small. Also, Ant Man is also a good movie. I haven’t watched the Rogue Cut of X-Men Days of Future Past yet. The theatrical cut was good.

The Good

  • It’s lightweight. My Dell + Rocketfish charger combo weighed in at 20 ounces (1 lbs. 6 oz) For comparison’s sake, the iPad Pro is 25 ounces (1 lb. 9 oz). The Zolt? A mere 6 ounces, and that includes the charger, the two tips I need, and the power cable. The Zolt is 333% lighter to carry than my previous combo, and at least 300% smaller in overall volume when you factor in the carrying case. I fly carry-on nearly all the time, so every bit of weight and space saved is welcomed.
  • It has two USB ports for mobile device charging. I tested my iPad Air 2, and the USB port kicks out 2.05 Amps (as measured by my Legion USB Power Meter). With my HTC One connected, it draws 1.10 Amps.
  • It can charge it all at once. I connected my Dell XPS 13 (in sleep mode) to it and measured the power draw with a Kill-A-Watt power meter. It was drawing 31 watts. I added my iPad Air 2 into the mix, and the total use rose to 42 watts. When I added my HTC One phone, it rose to 50 watts total.
  • Power to the mobile device USB ports remains nearly constant if the laptop gets hungry. With the Dell XPS 13 plugged in and charging, the screen brightness at maximum, and the CPU usage at 100% (Handbrake encoding) all devices together were pulling 59 watts. When I had my iPad Air 2 connected, it was pulling 2 amps. The HTC One dropped to 0.95 amps. A slight decline, but not much.
  • It comes with a variety of tips that will fit most PCs. If you need a Macbook charger you can get that for $19.99.

ZOLT-laptop-charger-power-measurement

Above: measuring the power output to my iPad using a Legion USB Power Meter.

The Bad

  • It sometimes makes noise. I’ve only had this for a couple of days, so I’m not sure if this is a solid pattern, but twice now I’ve had instances where it sounds vaguely like whining water (it sort of…gurgles and whines). It’s not loud by any means, but in a quiet room it’s clearly audible – and you’d hear it in a hotel room if you were trying to sleep. I don’t usually leave my devices plugged in overnight, so this shouldn’t be an issue for me.
  • The USB ports for mobile devices don’t put out as much power as a stand-alone charger. If you look at my numbers for the ChargeTech charger, you’ll see it gave my iPad Air 2.35 amps and my HTC One phone 1.48 amps. That’s ~25-34% less power coming from the Zolt. So for the convenience of an all-in-one unit, you’re losing a bit of speed on charging your devices.
  • It’s a bit pricey. At $99, it’s at least 5x more expensive than your average universal charger found on Amazon.com (price start at around $15).
  • Who picked the colours? I opted for boring grey because Ultra Violet and Electric Orange aren’t my thing. I’d have enjoyed a red or a blue. At least they offered gray instead of boring old black!

The Verdict

As long as that whining sound doesn’t get more frequent, this thing is a winner. It’s small, lightweight, and let’s me charge a laptop and two mobile devices at once. I’ve read comments elsewhere that says you can even connect a mobile device to the top “laptop” USB port, so you can charge three mobile devices in a pinch. Apparently there’s a USB-C version on the way as well. For me, this is well worth $99 and I look forward to use it on my next trip.

The Update (Feb 2016)

I have one thing to add to my review: I used the Zolt for the first time on the road travelling, and while it worked great at my hotel, in the office where I was at two different locations the Zolt would “crash”. It would blink a few times, and on my laptop I’d see it stop charging then resume 10 seconds later. Nothing else was connected to the Zolt at the time – just the laptop – so I don’t see how it could be exceeding the total wattage (one possible reason for the blinking). It’s also just a plain HP corporate laptop, not some high-powered monster, and it charges great elsewhere, so I don’t believe it was the laptop drawing too much juice (the other reason for the blinking). I’ve emailed Zolt customer service as of a few days ago, no response yet. Hard to say what’s going on. Other than this issue, I’m a big fan of the Zolt and am glad I bought it.

  • Joshua Baker

    Is there an efficiency marking anywhere on the body of the unit? Thinking about getting a Zolt, but I’d like to know that it is an efficient replacement.

  • Hi there Joshua. I couldn’t find an efficiency rating. The usual stuff is on the bottom – Input 120-240VAC, 50-60hz, 1.5A. What surprised me was the assembled in the USA part.

  • Joshua Baker

    Interesting to know. Support says the same thing, which is somewhat concerning as I’m fairly sure the US Department of Energy requires an efficiency rating mark to import or manufacture an external power supply in the US.

    I may be missing something, but in any case I wonder how efficient it is.

  • I checked my Rocketfish adaptor, and other than the words “Energy Efficient”, there’s nothing else that indicates the efficiency rating. So putting “Energy Efficient” on it seems more like marketing to me. I also checked my OEM HP adaptor, and it’s riddled with about 30 symbols, but none of them seem to indicate a power efficiency rating.

    I’ve only ever seen that you’re referring to on desktop computer power supplies – I really don’t think it’s mandatory for mobile chargers.

  • Joshua Baker

    They’re listed as a small, roman numeral inside of a circle (like the attached image). They’re required on virtually all external power supplies, and the regulations have consistently been tightened over the years. In fact, the US Congress approved law that will require all power supplies meet “Class VI” regulations as of this February.

    I think the Zolt is a really neat concept, but knowing first hand how shoddy power supplies can affect smartphones and such, I really want to make sure the Zolt puts out quality before sinking $100 and possibly having detrimental effects on my electronics.

  • You clearly know more about this than I do – all I can tell you is that, having checked both my laptop chargers again looking for that marking or wording, I see nothing. So evidently HP nor Best Buy (Rocketfish) are following whatever these requirements are. So it’s not surprising to not see this symbol on the Zolt…