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Xiaomi’s moving-coil wireless charger: Genuinely useful or just a party trick?
In a world that seems keen to ditch cables, wireless charging is enjoying a growth in popularity and in technical development. Manufacturers like OPPO, OnePlus, and Xiaomi have been pushing wireless charging speeds to new heights with 30W and even 50W chargers, in an attempt to catch up with the ever-growing fast wired charging.
Continue reading: Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra review
However, one of the less convenient aspects of using a wireless charging pad or stand is lining up the coil in the device with the coil in the charger. Often chargers don’t have any obvious markings to show where the coils are, which leaves you fiddling about to get your phone charged. In the worst cases, you never notice that the device is misaligned and come back a couple of hours later to an empty battery.
Enter the Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad. Inventive name, I know.
Related: The best phones with wireless charging to get in 2020
What is the Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad?
This is Xiaomi’s 20W wireless charging pad with a twist. Instead of having to find where the coil is, the coil inside this pad will move to wherever you place your Qi-compliant device. The product aims to take the guesswork out of wireless charging.
It aims to take the guesswork out of wireless charging.
The Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad is white in color, with a wedge-design and silver panels on both the front and the back. Xiaomi has coated the outer shell in a rubberized plastic. On the bottom are four small rubber feet that keep the wireless charger from sliding about. The exclusive external feature is the USB-C port, located at the back, on the left. This is where you can plug the device into the wall with the included cable and brick.
The charger’s large footprint allows for smartphones big and small to fit and work with the motorized coil, but you can charge just about any other compatible product with it.
Continue reading: The best USB-C cables you can buy
How does it work?
When you place your Qi-equipped device on the pad, magnets will find your device’s charging coil, and motors will move the pad’s coil to that location. The active area is slightly smaller than the pad itself. The plastic wrapping shows you this when you first open the box.
The charging coil automatically align with the device.
While the motors move the coil to your device, a green orb-looking light moves with it to show the location of the coil. The noise coming from the motors is audible, though not overpowering. There’s about a three-second delay between you placing the device on the pad and the coil moving.
Once your device has finished charging, the coil moves back to the upper right-hand corner. During charging, the Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad stays cool and inaudible. What would have been useful is a light on the front to indicate the charge state of the device placed on it, or better yet a display.
Related: Wireless charging technology: What you need to know
Not having to fuss about with finding the right spot for wireless charging is pretty handy. Wireless chargers are usually pretty finicky and become annoying if you’re in a hurry. With the Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad, you can place your device almost anywhere on the pad and let the charger do the work.
What’s also handy is that if you place two devices on the charger, the coil will move from the first to the second once the first device hits 100%. This means that you could leave your phone and earphones on the charger overnight and the charging pad would charge them both by the morning.
Since the wireless charging pad is 20W, you’re limited to that speed for wireless charging. That’s all fine until you consider Xiaomi unveiled its Mi 10 Ultra with 50W wireless charging support the same week it launched its tracking charger. This would bottleneck the charging speed, significantly.
It's got a rather large footprint considering it only charges one device at a time.
The pad also takes up quite a bit of space for a wireless charger that only tops up one device at a time. We measure it at 18 x 19 x 1cm, or roughly two Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s. Of course, it has to be this big to be able to pick up different-sized devices, but it still eats up space on a small bedside table or a desk.
Finally,it doesn’t seem to work very well with cases. If you use an ultra-thin case then it works fine. However, if you use a regular-sized or chunky case, then you might have to remove it before placing your device on the charger. This can add an extra step and inconvenience to a product which aims to combat exactly that.
Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad: Should you buy it?
If you have $100 to spend on a wireless charger for a single device, then the Xiaomi Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad is a great option. It does what it says on the tin — takes the guesswork out of wireless charging.
Continue reading: The best wireless chargers that you can buy
Currently, Xiaomi’s smart charging pad is pretty tricky to get ahold of. You can buy it from Giztop for just shy of $100, but finding it anywhere else is tough. It’s only early days though, and Xiaomi will likely start selling the charging pad on their web store. For $100, there are plenty of great alternative wireless chargers from the likes of Nomad and Native Union. Some are faster, some have multiple coils, and some do both.
Ultimately, the Xiaomi tracking charger is a niche product for those with extra cash burning a hole in their pocket. For $100, what you’re paying for is the sensing and motion tech inside this charger, not the performance or versatility. It serves to be the most convenient charger, but not necessarily the best.