Review: Zens Liberty Wireless Charger is a Solid AirPower Alternative With Room for Two Qi Devices and Apple Watch

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It's been nearly one year since Apple cancelled the AirPower wireless charging mat, which would have allowed you to place your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods anywhere on the mat to wirelessly charge each device. In the subsequent months, numerous third-party companies have stepped forward in an attempt to reproduce this product, and now Zens has released its own take on an AirPower-like device: the Zens Liberty 16 Coils Wireless Charger.


Zens' charger features 16 overlapping charging coils, letting you place any two Qi-enabled devices anywhere on the mat to charge them. It supports a total output of 30W, Apple Fast Charge, a USB-A port for wired charging of a third device (or attaching the Apple Watch USB stick accessory), and a USB-C power adapter.


Zens sent me both the Liberty Fabric Edition and the Liberty Glass Edition, which are the same product with different finishes on the Qi surface of the mat. The Fabric Edition sports a woolen upholstery textile that's made of 90 percent wool, ensuring the back of your devices won't be scratched, while the Glass Edition has a see-through surface that showcases the 16 charging coils.


In terms of their design, I preferred the subtlety of the Fabric Edition over the Glass Edition, which stands out far more. Both Liberty Wireless Chargers have a rubberized outer shell and sturdy bases with large footprints (8.8 inches long x 5.3 inches wide). The textile on top of the Fabric Edition lends the device a luxurious feel and look, which is good given that these are high-end chargers that exceed $140.

Charging times across the board aligned with typical Qi wireless charging estimates. My iPhone 11 Pro Max was topped off at 100% consistently every night I used the Zens Liberty charger, and I never faced any mysterious disconnects or interruptions in my time with the accessory.


As with any wireless charger, charging times are not as fast as using a Lightning or USB-C cable, but Zens' accessory is perfect for trickle charging at your desk or overnight near your bed. Similarly, the USB Stick performed as expected for an Apple Watch charger, with performance on par with Apple's own Magnetic Charging Dock.

After a few days, the Zens Liberty charger quickly replaced my previous Belkin Qi mat next to my bed. Zens' promise of "freedom of placement" on the mat turned out to be entirely accurate, allowing me to throw down my iPhone 11 Pro Max in nearly any orientation without having to worry about landing on the Qi "sweet spot," which is something I constantly fussed with on the Belkin charger.


The nearly 9-inch mat is large enough to hold two Max-sized iPhones, but I mainly used mine to charge up my iPhone 11 Pro Max and AirPods Pro on the Qi base. While the Liberty charger doesn't quite meet the promise of AirPower's three-device Qi charging, what it provides for two devices is a reliable and frictionless wireless charging experience, with the added bonus of charging your Apple Watch with an accessory you can purchase separately.


This MFi certified Apple Watch USB Stick is a tiny dongle with an Apple Watch charging puck attached to the end, allowing you to charge your Apple Watch through any USB-A port. When connected to the Zens Liberty Wireless Charger on a special port at the back of the Qi mat area, the dongle turns into a little upright stand that can charge your Apple Watch in Nightstand Mode.

Bottom Line

The Zens Liberty Wireless Charger is a solid AirPower alternative that provides dependable wireless charging to any two Qi-compatible devices like the iPhone 11, AirPods, and more.


Of course, the ability to freely place your devices anywhere on the mat and the high-quality design mean you'll pay a premium for the accessory.

How to Buy

The Liberty Fabric Edition costs $139.99 (EUR139.99), while the Glass Edition costs $179.99 (EUR179.99). Both models come with a three-year extended warranty. The Apple Watch USB Stick is available separately for $39.99 (EUR39.99).

Note: MacRumors received the Zens Liberty Fabric Edition, Zens Liberty Glass Edition, and Zens Apple Watch USB Stick for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

Article Link: Review: Zens Liberty Wireless Charger is a Solid AirPower Alternative With Room for Two Qi Devices and Apple Watch
 
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mnsportsgeek

macrumors 68000
Feb 24, 2009
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That protruding Apple Watch charging point is the deal breaker for me...it’s not a true alternative to Apple’s original concept and therefore not worth the price they’re asking for.

Go back to the drawing boards and make it a flat all-in-one!
nobody will. Apple Watch uses a proprietary charging standard. It’s probably one of the reasons AirPower failed.

I actually prefer this solution so the watch can be used in nightstand mode.
 

harriska2

macrumors 65816
Mar 16, 2011
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Flat charging for the watch isn’t going to allow for all the sports loop bands so the hook style charging is most flexible.
 
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Stevez67

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Dec 24, 2016
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Probably a solid product, but what’s needed to make wireless charging more than a gimmick is something to replace the Qi standard. Trickle charging just isn’t enough to overcome the cost/convenience ratio deficit.
 

deeddawg

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Jun 14, 2010
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I was very interested right up until the $140 price tag.
- - Post merged: - -

Probably a solid product, but what’s needed to make wireless charging more than a gimmick is something to replace the Qi standard. Trickle charging just isn’t enough to overcome the cost/convenience ratio deficit.
I put a couple Anker Qi pads at the places I already would set my phone down. Work desk. Kitchen side counter. Bedroom dresser. Supports 7.5W charging on iphone.

I just set the phone on the pad and it charges. Grab the phone and go when I leave my desk or leave the house. Far more convenient that fussing around with cables.

Charging speed is irrelevant when the convenience means you've not drained the battery down to 20%

As for cost, the pads are $10 each. Effectively a similar cost to putting a decent Lighting cable in the same locations.
 
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deeddawg

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Jun 14, 2010
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Think it’s market price for what it does...charging 3 in 1 will always be in this range
Ikea has a three-pad charger for $40. Of course, you have to center each device over the associated pad.

The value-proposition here is more that you can place the devices anywhere. Whether the market (consumers) think that's worth another $100 remains to be seen.
 

H3LL5P4WN

macrumors 68020
Jun 19, 2010
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Should my Slice Charge Pros kick the bucket, I'll be picking a pair of these up (one for the nightstand, one for the living room).

Thanks for the solid review, MR.
- - Post merged: - -



Zens sent me both the Liberty Fabric Edition and the Liberty Glass Edition, which are the same product with different finishes on the Qi surface of the mat. The Fabric Edition sports a woolen upholstery textile that's made of 90 percent wool, ensuring the back of your devices won't be scratched, while the Glass Edition has a see-through surface that showcases the 16 charging coils.

Article Link: Review: Zens Liberty Wireless Charger is a Solid AirPower Alternative With Room for Two Qi Devices and Apple Watch
Do they get warm? Does the glass version feel like it will scratch, or it will scratch a naked device?
 

incoherent_1

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Oct 19, 2016
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If the price eventually comes down a bit, I might bite. As is, $180 all-in with the Watch charger just seems absurd to me, but I’m also not all that amazed by wireless charging as it exists today.
 
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69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
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In between a rock and a hard place
Seems like a solid offering. If AirPower had come out at $140, this forum would have flipped out. It’ll be interesting to see what reaction this one gets.
Probably the same reaction it got two weeks ago when MR had the article introducing it. Consensus from that article seemed to be
1a. Cost too much
1b. X charger is better and/or cheaper
2. Wireless charging too slow
- - Post merged: - -

Probably a solid product, but what’s needed to make wireless charging more than a gimmick is something to replace the Qi standard. Trickle charging just isn’t enough to overcome the cost/convenience ratio deficit.
Your views on wireless charging and the Qi standard seem pretty dated. It definitely ain't about trickle charging.
 
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Relentless Power

macrumors Nehalem
Jul 12, 2016
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Very expensive in my eyes.
It is. But this product delivers what I would want, I can ‘multi-charge’ three devices at once versus just one at a time like most wireless chargers offer.

I also really like the fabric option where it adds some protection for my phone. (As I don’t use a case most of the time.)

Zen is now on my radar moving forward. Seems like it’s well executed.

Side note:

I imagine this is what Apple would’ve charged approximately (In the ~$140.00 range) for the Airpower if it had released on the market.
 

deeddawg

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Jun 14, 2010
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It is. But this product delivers what I would want, I can ‘multi-charge’ three devices at once versus just one at a time like most wireless chargers offer.
If you don't need the "place anywhere" aspect, Ikea sells a three device charger for $40.

You have to center the devices on any of the three spots, so not as nice... but it is also $100 cheaper.
- - Post merged: - -

Your views on wireless charging and the Qi standard seem pretty dated. It definitely ain't about trickle charging.
I also think folks who haven't used Qi charging don't realize the potential paradigm shift.

Cable charging is always a conscious act - you must be intentional about it since it requires the additional action of plugging in the cable.

With a couple Qi pads placed in your usual spots where you'd set your phone down anyway, charging becomes more unintentional. I find this most apparent at the office - with cables I'd usually not bother plugging in since I am so often leaving my desk for meetings or whatever. With a Qi pad where I lay my phone, it's always charged at the end of the day -- without my taking any distinct action.

And at 7.5W charging capability on an iphone, that's faster than the included 5W brick anyway.
 
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CarlJ

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Feb 23, 2004
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I also think folks who haven't used Qi charging don't realize the potential paradigm shift.

Cable charging is always a conscious act - you must be intentional about it since it requires the additional action of plugging in the cable.
So very much this. I was quite happy with plugging my phone in to charge. Bought an Anker Qi charging stand on a lark expecting to be underwhelmed. A few weeks later I bought another for home, and one for the office - it changes the charging landscape. I no longer consider, "should I go to the effort to plug my phone in to charge now?", I just habitually set it down on the stand and it gets topped up. I never run into that situation of, "oh, I forgot to charge it" any more. Qi charging doesn't need to be fast, because it's pervasive.

I kind of laugh now at the arguments about, "it's not fast enough", and "I can't look at something if it's laying on a charging pad" - particularly with this last, because you don't have to worry about it stopping charging when you pick it up to check something - it does stop for that moment, but then when you set the phone back down it starts right back up charging again - they're thinking with the wired paradigm, where disconnecting and reconnecting takes effort and remembering to do it.

I thought wireless charging was nonsense too, until I actually used one.
 
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TheIntruder

macrumors 65816
Jul 2, 2008
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It's interesting to see what Apple's true goals were with the AirPower.

The Watch's wireless charging is based on Qi, but with modified software control that restricts charging to the puck, though it has been demonstrated that unofficial solutions can function. Until Apple succeeds in a conscious effort to free it from any sort of special charger, a true AirPower alternative isn't likely.

They're clearly on the path to trying to make the Watch an independent device, but whether that includes dispensing with the puck isn't known. It would make the most sense for users to be able to use any generic Qi charger, but it's also a matter of desire. Despite the majority of the tech world having settled upon Qi as the basic wireless standard, there are all manners of proprietary implementations, as there are with USB, most often in terms of fast charging.

This Zens charger, and the upcoming Nomad Pro seem to illustrate that free placement of larger devices is possible, and basic charging outside of those proprietary methods is within reach of users. But as long as the Watch retains its own methods, an ugly appendage will be probably be necessary, and certainly with any third-party charger.

It's an unfortunate situation for users, who have already had to wade through the morass of proprietary wired "fast" charging, and now face the same situation on the wireless side. Worse, since software is fluid, such things can be given, and taken away with no warning. iOS 13.1 knee-capped a lot of older BPP Qi chargers, and S4 and S5 have had issues with some watch chargers. That kind of uncertainty doesn't inspire faith, and can result in frustration, especially if one has made an investment in a charger that has been subsequently crippled.

Apple tried, and failed (at least by its own standards) with AirPower, but at least it made the effort to have its own first-party solution. If it doesn't try again, it will hopefully have enough transparency to enable third-parties to create some first-rate solutions for users. To me, the lack of both those things is at least partly responsible for the (sad) state of HomeKit.

Personally, I'd hesitate to plunk down $100+ for just that little bit of extra convenience, especially since it's still early in that game, and given the risks noted above. But of the two, I'd probably put my bet on Nomad's attempt, since Aira's solution appears to be the more sophisticated of the two.
 

5pctoff

macrumors newbie
Oct 31, 2017
19
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Is there a cooling fan in this? Is it loud when it runs?

also, how do you buy this in US Dollars? Their website seems to only offer euro checkout and it ends up being more expensive than 139.99 US Dollars