Gomadic Retractable Sync Cable with TipExchange

by PocketGoddess on June 7, 2006

Gomadic Retractable Sync Cable, partially extendedToday I’m reviewing the Retractable Sync Cable with TipExchange from Gomadic. If you’re familiar with mobile tech, you’ve already seen retractable sync cables–they’re ubiquitous, and quite handy. Why mess with a big desktop cradle or a long coil of cable, when you can have a tiny little unit that houses the USB cable for your device, and retracts when you don’t need it for travel and storage? It’s a great idea, and I’m a big fan of the concept. But Gomadic has taken that great idea several steps further, creating what is in my opinion the best implementation yet.

Instead of offering a retractable cable for each device, like other companies, the good folks over at Gomadic have done something better–created a standard retractable cable that can be used with a variety of interchangeable tips, hence the “TipExchange” name. One end features a standard USB plug, compatible with any computer. The other end has a tip about one inch long with a round female receptacle–kinda like an oversized headphone jack. The entire unit is about 3 7/8 inches long when fully retracted, and 1 1/4 inches wide at the widest point. The cable can extend to a maximum length of 27 1/4 inches from tip to tip. That’s about four inches shorter than other retractable cables I’ve tested, but should be adequate for just about any purpose. The entire unit is very solidly built, with no rough edges of any kind.

Each of the device-specific tips is roughly two inches long, or a little shorter depending on the device. One end has the connector for your device while the other end has a male plug that looks very similar to what you’d find on the end of your headphones or earbuds. Each one is made of black plastic with metal parts, and has an arrow inscribed on the surface of the housing so you can tell which side is “up” so you can correctly connect your device. Each one of the tips that I tested perfectly fit the device for which it was intended, and all worked just fine with the retractable sync cable. The tips aren’t labeled or numbered in any way, so I’d strongly suggest that you label them–a bit of nail polish or white correction fluid perhaps, or if you have an electronic label machine you can print out tiny labels, as you can see in the photos.

Gomadic TipExchange power tips for various devices

One note of caution though: for certain devices, separate charging and syncing tips are required, such as for the Apple iPod. If you’re just looking for a portable power solution, you’ll want to buy the required charge tip; if you want to sync the device with your computer, you’ll need a sync tip. When you purchase tips on the Gomadic site, be careful to get the right tips for your needs. Everything is laid out quite clearly, so you shouldn’t have any problems. Tip numbers are provided on the Gomadic web site, so if you have several similar devices, such as an Apple iPod for yourself and a Nano for your spouse or teenager, you’ll be able to see that the same tip will work for both devices. If you have a Sony PSP you’ll be happy to know that you need just one tip–due to a special design, the USB connector is on the end of the tip opposite the plug end, and a short cable extends from the middle of the connector to allow you to charge your PSP at the same time. It’s brilliant, and works very well indeed. In the photo, the PSP tip is the one that partially wraps around the others, with the main part below the rest of the tips.

What truly sets these products apart is their quality and their utility. Most retractable sync cables have exposed wires wrapped around a spool, so they can sometimes get tangled. Not so with Gomadic’s version, which features a housing that fully encloses the wires, as well as a push button release mechanism that is easier to use than the traditional “tug on the cable until it retracts” version found on most cables. I’ll talk more about versatility in tomorrow’s review, which covers the various peripherals you can use with this cable to charge your devices no matter what the power source.

The only negative to the TipExchange system is that they don’t support all of the most popular mobile electronics. They have tips for most Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices, and plenty of phones. But while they support the Sony PSP, Nintendo doesn’t get any of the love, because there’s no tip for the GBA SP, Micro, DS, or DS Lite. You also won’t find a tip for any Nokia phone or any digital camera either. The good folks over at Gomadic have assured me that they will support additional devices as they can, which offers the potential for a complete mobile power solution in the future.

I’m highly impressed with Gomadic’s products and the whole TipExchange idea–they’ve implemented the technology in a much better way than iGo/Mobility Electronics–the tips are less expensive, the products do more (sync and charge, instead of just charge), and the whole system is smaller and easier to take along when you travel. The iGo products have their place, especially if you travel with a laptop and like the idea of being able to charge two devices at once with their handy Dual Power accessory, or if you have a variety of electronic devices that Gomadic doesn’t support. For now, you can call me “Gomadic goddess” because I’m hooked. If you’d like to join me, you can get the generic retractable cable for $17.95, which includes one tip; additional tips are $4.95 at the Gomadic online store.

A Perfect 10!

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