My car is a hub of sorts. It's my main mode of transportation going from place to place, it's great for jamming to tunes, and it helps keep me connected and powered up. With all the devices that I have with me on any given day, the worry I always have is whether I'll have enough power to last me through the day. As a result, I try to stay plugged in whenever and wherever. While in the car, I especially want to make sure I'm charging my devices to stay topped up.
I've gone through a number of cigarette adapter USB chargers in my day but most are either charge too slow, get too hot, don't have enough charge slots, or abruptly stop working. That's probably what happens when you rely on the cheap ones you get when you attend as many conferences as I do. As a result, I've been on the hunt for a good car charger for awhile.
When I learned about the Nonda ZUS Smart USB Car Charger and Car Finder, I was certainly intrigued but not convinced. Would the car finder be a big enough game changer and could it really charge as fast as it claimed?
Enter the test…
On paper, there's a lot to get excited about with the ZUS. The brilliance of this USB car charger is that not only does it provide much desired powering up of devices, they've ingeniously also built in the ability to track your car after you've parked it. Here are the red carpet list of features that the ZUS has:
- Connects to power via cigarette adapter slot.
- 2 USB slots.
- Each USB slot has a built in LED which gives a cool illuminating glow which acts as an accent light or for simply locating the slots in the dark.
- Each USB slot can output to 4.8A (for reference, the Apple USB charging block only has a 1A output).
- Military grade materials are used. It meets a US Military MIL-STD-810G High Temperature standard. It uses a grade of German Bayer PC and all metal parts are coated in titanium. All this is to say that the charger generates 35% less heat and has a lifespan that is twice of most normal USB car chargers.
- Car Finder feature connects with your phone via an iOS/Android app so that you can locate your car in crowded parking lots.
- It's sleek and sexy.
All of this is wrapped around ZUS winning a 2016 iF Product Design Award. The bar is set pretty high and deserving of high expectations.
How the ZUS Performed
The two core value propositions of the ZUS are that you can charge multiple devices lightning fast and it acts as a beacon for locating your car after you've parked somewhere. Here's how these two features fared.
They were right when they said fast charging. I was able to charge my iPhone in less than 2 hours from near death to full and simultaneously charge my iPad Air in about 3 hours under the same scenario. Sure it wasn't a full 2x faster than normal USB charging at home but it was pretty darn close.
The illumination was a nice touch and the space-age look of the charger itself was certainly impressive. That being said, at the end of the day that didn't matter a whole lot since my car's cigarette adapter is underneath the armrest so most of the time it was hidden away. Part of me wanted it to be on the outside so I could show it off.
I had the ZUS plugged into the car and the app installed on my phone for a good two weeks and it was definitely and intriguing concept.
This is how it works. Once you park your car and turn off the ignition, the ZUS saves the GPS coordinates and sends the data to your phone via Bluetooth. When you're ready to look for your car, all you have to do is pull out your phone, open the app and you'll be pointed in the direction of where your car is located along with your approximate distance to the car. All you have to do is follow the arrow and eventually you'll be back at your car. Alternatively, you can also pull up a map view of your location in relation to your car and you can let that guide you back.
Pairing was easy to do but I did notice a few weird glitches that were slightly annoying. For one, since the location relies on GPS, if you're ever in a situation where you can't get a GPS signal (i.e. underground or garage), you'll be prompted to take a photo of your car to remember the location as the next best alternative. While disappointing, you can't really fault the device because that's just how the technology works. No signal = no tracking. This means to say that the tracking becomes useless in these situations. I also noticed that in these situations it would give the app fits because it would periodically ask me to calibrate my phone's GPS (roll the ball around the circle).
The neatest feature for me ironically wasn't the cardar (car radar *nudge* *nudge* get it?) but actually the feature in the app where you could set a timer after parking the car. One thing I left out is that after you park, you get a notification asking if you'd like to set a timer. This is genius because a lot of times I end up parking at a location where I have to feed coins into a meter or I pay for a very specific amount of time. The built in timer allows me to set something like 1 hour and the app will remind me when the time is up.
Compelling Reasons To Buy
Here are the reasons why you want to consider the ZUS as your next OMG-I-need-to-have-this cool device.
- Two high powered USB charging slots which not only expand the number of charging options you have in the car but also gets you powered up close to two times faster.
- With the device as portable as it is, it makes for a great travel device when you're renting a car. Just imagine yourself parking at Disney and having to figure out where you parked at the end of the day.
- There's something to be said for the Apple-like packaging and sleek design of the charger. It literally feels like something that came off of a stealth fighter.
- Never get a parking ticket again because you ran out of time with the use of the built in parking timer.
What Could Be Improved
I've rarely encountered the perfect product and as much as there were a lot of great features of this device, there are still a few things to keep in mind that would be wrong for me to omit. Here's what I thought could be improved:
- In poor to none GPS signal situations, the tracking will not work. It doesn't capture location and falls back to taking a photo to remember your location. If there was a way around this, that would be killer especially when I often forget what underground level I parked at.
- App glitch where it will periodically ask the user to calibrate the GPS.
- No ability to turn off notifications on the app.
- The app creates a notification every time you turn off the ignition and if you're making stops to places where you don't care to leave set a parking timer, the notifications become a bit annoying.
- For the app to work, it needs to be running in the background. On iOS, the system will do periodic sweeps to deactivate unused background running applications. When that happens, you'll start getting frequent notifications from the app to have it opened again so that it can run in the background. This can become a bit annoying.
- If for some reason you decide to turn off Bluetooth because you're travelling and looking to conserve power, the app will start freaking out. It will send aggressive notifications to your phone asking you to turn on Bluetooth again to maintain ZUS car locator functionality. This unfortunately led me to delete the app while I was away.
- I wasn't able to test this but location services are set to be always on with the app. This means that there could be extra power drainage.
Several of these improvements can be handed with software updates to the app so I trust that Nonda, the company that built and designed the ZUS, will be able to make the appropriate updates in the future.
The ZUS on its own is fantastic charger for your car. What you have to decide is whether the $35.99 price tag is worth it to have the ability to find your car (in most scenarios). Car locating is a cool feature to have but the question to think about is how often you lose track of your car and how much is that feature worth to you.
Where To Buy
There are two main places you can pick up your ZUS:
One is on Amazon of course and you can pick it up there for $35.99 for one or $89.97 for 3. They also have a crazy 24K Gold Edition one there for $499.99. This is great if you're bundling it with other things you're looking to buy for free shipping or if you already have Prime then you're all set.
I received the Nonda ZUS for review but all opinions are my own. I was more than happy to review it because of how refreshingly new the concept was. It also looks so damn sexy…how could I resist?