Nomad Base Station Pro: is AirPower finally here?

Nomad Base Station Pro: is AirPower finally here?

The manufacturer positions the Nomad Base Station Pro as a secret alternative to the announced – but never released – AirPower charging mat from Apple. In the test of the first version available for end customers, the charging pad shows a lot of potential. Above all, the look and the choice of materials make it a beautiful desk accessory. You shouldn’t expect too much when it comes to charging speed – the focus is clearly on convenience: You can place up to three devices anywhere and they are charged at the same time. Nomad offers a product that is rarely found, but the price of around 250 euros is quite high.

High quality look ‘n’ feel

You probably do not immediately recognize that the Nomad Base Station Pro is a loading mat. It turned out to be comparatively large. But it also has to: Because the manufacturer states that you can charge up to three devices at the same time. The dimensions are 22.1 x 14.2 x 1.27 cm.

The entire workmanship is excellent. According to the manufacturer, the housing is made of precision-milled aluminum. The shelf is soft and impresses with its black synthetic leather. This gives the whole thing an extraordinary yet chic look. For a better grip, rubber lips stick to the bottom of the case.

The dark aluminum together with the leather gives the charging mat a very classy look.

The dark aluminum together with the leather gives the charging mat a very classy look. (Image: Valentin Heisler)

The included USB-C charging cable has also been tried harder: It has a color-coordinated fabric coating and “Nomad” branding on both sides. The 30 watt power supply, on the other hand, has a glossy piano lacquer look and is universally equipped with a NEMA 1 plug. But don’t worry: Various adapters, including those for the Euro plug, are enclosed in a nice little cloth bag.
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The scope of delivery offers everything you need.

The scope of delivery offers everything you need. (Image: Valentin Heisler)

Unusually easy handling

With a normal charging pad, it is primarily about the charging speed and possibly the compatibility. In the Base Station Pro but the focus is clearly on charging convenience. Nomad claims to have done exactly what Apple failed to do with AirPower. Up to three devices should be able to be charged simultaneously on the charging mat – regardless of where they are placed. The manufacturer has installed a matrix of a total of 18 coils under the leather sleeve. These should enable a Qi-enabled smartphone or headphone case to be charged from any location.

Nomad uses Aira's FreePower technology for intelligent control of the charging coils.

Nomad uses Aira’s FreePower technology for intelligent control of the charging coils. (Image: Nomad)

In practice this usually works quite well – the emphasis is on “mostly”. If you place the devices as straight as possible or, if you have more than one device, nicely parallel to each other, there are no problems. However, if they are positioned slightly crooked (as in the picture below), there may well be dropouts when loading. But if they are in a suitable place, the charging process begins after about five seconds. The loading itself works perfectly with the correct positioning.

Even if the Base Station Pro is fully exhausted (meaning three devices at the same time), it does not reach its limits. In my test, these were an iPhone 12 Pro, the AirPods Pro case and an iPhone Xr. The manufacturer states that the maximum charging power is a manageable 7.5 watts, which is not really much. According to Nomad, Aira’s FreePower technology should enable this 7.5 watts to be guaranteed throughout. As you know, however, you shouldn’t expect any power boosters from wireless chargers.
Side note: Aira is working on a charging technology with 15 watts for 2021.

The Base Station Pro has problems with three devices if they are not properly positioned.

The Base Station Pro has problems with three devices if they are not properly positioned. (Image: Valentin Heisler)

By the way, if you want to charge your Apple Watch on the mat, you will be disappointed at first. Because, as is well known, the Apple watch does not talk to normal wireless chargers. However, Nomad has a remedy: If you buy a Base Station Pro, you can order an Apple Watch Dock for free. You can clip this onto the frame of the base station and attach your watch charging cable to it (see title picture).

Rather slow loading speed

Great charging convenience, well and good – but now I come to the hard facts and the question of how much power the Base Station Pro really delivers. I will also give you a little insight into the thermals of the loading mat. Because the overheating debate speculated at AirPower seems to have been overcome by Nomad and Aira.

Entry test

iPhone 12 Pro: activated flight mode, positioned straight and centered

Starting level: 65%
After 10 min: 68%
After 30 min: 78%

We see that the speed does not break any records in practical use. So for a little energy boost you definitely have to have some time. If you charge at night or simply on the side, it is completely sufficient. The leather surface is well warm where the iPhone was. But everything is still within limits. The heat development in this test is comparable to that of other Qi pads.

Hardcore test

iPhone 12 Pro, case for AirPods Pro and iPhone Xr: activated flight mode, mobile phones on the edge, headphones in the middle

Starting level: 61% | 78% | 63%
After 10 min: 65% | 84% | 66%
After 30 min: 75% | 93% | 76%

It turns out that the loading speeds in the first and second tests are pretty much comparable. This refutes my assumption that the pad could regulate the charging power downwards on three devices. Subjectively, I would assume a slightly higher heat development. This is understandable, however, since the Base Station Pro has to charge two additional devices. So I am very enthusiastic about this result overall.

Always up to date thanks to firmware updates

If a charging mat is to intelligently recognize where the respective devices are located and at what speed they have to be charged, somewhat more complex software support is required. And to keep the firmware up-to-date, the manufacturer gives you the FreePower Updater app (for PC and Mac). All you have to do is connect the Base Station Pro to the computer via USB and open the program.
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You can update the firmware in just a few seconds. In the latest version 1.1.0, for example, compatibility with the new iPhone 12 models has been improved.

With the free tool FreePower Updater you can update the Base Station Pro at any time.

With the free tool FreePower Updater, you can update the Base Station Pro at any time. (Image: Valentin Heisler)

A lot of money

If you want to call a Nomad Base Station Pro your own, you have to pay around 250 euros at the current time (beginning of December 2020).

If you put that in relation to commercially available Qi chargers from Anker, Belkin and Co., that’s quite a chunk. Even the expensive products from these brands are still well below 100 euros and usually provide at least 10 watts. However, you can usually only charge a single device here and the optics and workmanship are often not particularly great.

Still, you get around ten for a Base Station Pro Terratec ChargeAir dot. So you really have to want the added comfort.

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