NYTSTND QUAD charging station hands-on: Form meets function
Despite all the conveniences our electronic devices bring us day in and day out, they still need to be charged. Most people opt to charge their smartphone, smartwatch, and other devices at night, typically on a nightstand next to their bed or a centralized location. An unfortunate side effect of this charging routine is the clutter caused by all the cables. While devices may look nice and clean with their minimal bezels and sleek builds, the gnarled mess of charging cords creates quite an unsightly Gordion Knot. Even wireless charging doesn't solve the problem, as the charging pad still needs to be plugged into an outlet.
NYTSTND hopes to declutter charging with its series of well-crafted and aesthetically pleasing charging stations. The company makes trays that can charge up to four devices at one time, all through one cable. NYTSTND sent me its QUAD charging deck, and it's been charging devices on my nightstand for the past few months. Here are my thoughts.
The main purpose of NYTSTND's charging docks is to bring an attractive aesthetic to an otherwise mundane piece of home technology. In this, the company succeeds. The QUAD is beautifully crafted from wood and soft leather. NYTSTND offers five different colors for its charging docks: black, gray, white, red (called "Merlot Red"), and a natural oak finish.
My QUAD is the last of these, and it is gorgeous. The glossy wood border looks stunning, and the supple black leather across the top of the deck adds a premium touch. Gaps around the edge of the leather are minimal, and I haven't noticed dust or grime build up along the borders of the leather. There is a nice stitching pattern across the wireless charging zone that looks well-finished. In sum, the QUAD is the best-looking charging station I've laid eyes on.
The QUAD is fairly compact, considering the number of devices it is meant to charge. It measures roughly 230 x 200 x 16 mm (~9 x 7.8 x 0.8 in) and weighs roughly 586 g (~1.3 lbs). The built-in Apple Watch and USB-C chargers are sturdily inserted and do not wiggle in the slightest. There is a removable leather backing that fits in a slot behind the built-in USB-C charger. This backing is meant to support an iPad, but it feels somewhat flimsy, especially in light of the tight construction of the rest of the deck. I'd like to see a more stable (possibly permanent) solution for supporting tablets.
This USB-C plug can be swapped for a Lightning connector at the time of purchase. It is likely possible to swap out the cables, as they appear to be held in with small Phillips head screws. However, I have not attempted disassembly.
There is a hidden USB-A port underneath a plastic cover on the bottom of the device. It seems to be there to support an alternative smartwatch charging cable (or perhaps an extra general USB charging cable), but the port is tightly fit into a very small space. I was unable to connect a USB-A cable to it, despite trying multiple different cords. This may be due to the tight tolerances. Perhaps in future revisions, NYTSTND can increase the tolerances around this USB port to better accommodate alternative cables.
The QUAD has a single USB-C port for power input that supports up to 36 Watts at 12 Volts.
Features and Specs
In addition to the magnetic Apple Watch charger and the built-in USB-C (or Lightning) plug, the QUAD features a wireless charging area. Five Qi-compatible wireless charging coils sit underneath the raised area along the bottom half of the pad. This area supports up to two devices via 10 Watt fast-charging, 7.5 Watt iPhone-optimized wireless charging, or standard 5 Watt Qi charging. They also support Apple's MagSafe technology, so slotting a compatible iDevice into place should be a breeze.
I tested my and my wife's iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. Setting the phones to charge in the right spot was a bit finicky, as the coils aren't clearly marked. However, once they were in place, both devices charged normally. I also tested my AirPods Pro case, and it charged at what seems like the same rate as any other wireless charger.
The Apple Watch charger does not support the new fast-charging protocol available in the Apple Watch 7.
The built-in USB-C charger should supply between 14-24 Watts (based on the 36 Watts of total juice less the wireless charging area and Apple Watch charger). In my experience, this port seems to charge my 2020 iPad Air at the same rate as Apple's 20 Watt adapter. However, your mileage may vary depending on what devices you charge simultaneously.
Downsides and Shortcomings
My impression of the NYTSTND QUAD to this point has been overwhelmingly positive, but there are some areas where the charging station comes up short. Perhaps the biggest sticking point is price. At US$229 MSRP, this is a decidedly luxury device. The build quality is excellent, and it is a handsome accessory to be sure. However, the price tag is a bit hard to swallow. I will say that, in its defense, there is nothing quite like the NYTSTND QUAD on the market. There are plenty of multi-device charging stations on Amazon, but most are made from plastic and have an unappealing aesthetic.
Another downside is the lack of clear indicators as to the position of the wireless charging zone. It seems fairly obvious where to place a phone at first glance, but my wife and I routinely found ourselves wiggling our phones around the pad until they hit just the right spot. Even then, the phone would indicate it was charging wirelessly, but the battery would remain stagnant or die by the morning. This tells me that it wasn't properly placed across the coils. MagSafe certainly helps with this, and I may not have this issue if I had a MagSafe-compatible phone. However, this is frustrating in daily use.
Lastly, I want to point out the somewhat limited flexibility of the QUAD. While the wireless charging area supports any Qi-compatible device, the point I mentioned above holds - if a phone isn't placed exactly where the coils are, it may not charge effectively. Additionally, it appears that there is a way to replace the Apple Watch charger with another smartwatch charger, but due to tight tolerances and small screws, the Watch charger comes off as a permanent installation.
The NYTSTND QUAD is a well-crafted and beautiful accessory that adds a touch of the high-end to an otherwise mundane and pragmatic sector of the technology market. It not only looks nice, but it accomplishes its intended function fairly well. The five wireless charging coils grant plenty of space for charging a couple of devices, and the built-in Apple Watch and USB-C chargers are sturdy and work well.
As mentioned, the biggest downsides involve non-MagSafe compatible devices, which are a bit tricky to properly position across the wireless charging coils, and the lack of flexibility with non-Apple devices. This second point is less of a flaw and more of a personal preference, and it may be possible to swap in alternate chargers. If that's the case, the process isn't clearly spelled out.
All said, the NYTSTND QUAD is a nice, albeit expensive, charging dock. There really isn't anything like this on the market. If you have the cash to spare and want a charging dock that demands to be put front and center rather than tucked out of the way, NYTSTND should be at the top of your list.
The NYTSTND QUAD is available at NYTSTND's website. It retails for US$229.00. As of press time, the QUAD is on sale for $171.75.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the NYTSTND QUAD charging dock free of charge for the purpose of testing.