Nomad Basestation Pro review: A premium price for a premium experience

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  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Don't have to fuss with precise placement
  • Well designed
  • Software updates can improve performance

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not the fastest charging pad

The dream of having a single flat surface that's capable of wirelessly charging any device you place on it without any fussing or lining it up is one that is finally within reach. 

Apple tried it with its announced -- then canceled -- AirPower wireless charging pad. And while there has been plenty of three-in-one wireless charging pads released since then, none of them have truly allowed you to freely place a device on the pad and walk away, knowing it's being charged. 

Also: USB Power Delivery: What's the best charger?

I first told you about Aira's FreePower technology in January, when the company, along with its first partner, Nomad, unveiled technology that allows for more free placement on a wireless charging pad, or in this case, the BaseStation Pro. 

I patiently waited to see the first device to use Aira's technology, and last month, an early sample of the BaseStation Pro -- a $229 full-surface wireless charger -- showed up at my door. 

For the past month, I've been using the Pro on my desk to keep my devices topped off, and I have to admit, it's fantastic. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

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There were some issues with the firmware early on, causing the pad to get confused and slow down the charging rate for all devices placed on it once one device indicated it was fully charged. But one big benefit of the technology built into the product is that Aira can release firmware updates to fix issues. A couple of weeks after I started testing, I was able to use a tool to install the new firmware on my wireless charging pad in under a minute. 

Following that update, the number of slowdowns I experienced had lessened, but the issue was still present. However, just as I was finishing the original version of this review, Nomad and Aira pushed out yet another update -- the same one that's installed on the devices shipping to customers right now -- and it's vastly improved the overall experience. 

Take a step back and think about that for a brief second: You're able to update the firmware on your wireless charging pad, fixing any issues, and improving on the overall product. I don't know of another wireless charging pad that has the same capability. 

There are a total of 18 coils in the pad, covering almost all of the pad. There is a border around the edge of the leather pad. I'd guess it's half-an-inch. It's effectively a dead zone, where a device won't charge. However, once you're inside that ring, you can place and position up to three devices however you'd like.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

I often use the pad to charge my iPhone 11 Pro Max, my AirPods Pro, and an Android device. In total, the pad can provide up to 22.5W of power or 7.5W per device on the pad. However, that 7.5W speed will only be available to iPhones. If you're charging an accessory like AirPods or Android device, you're going to max out at 5W. 

It's not the fastest wireless charging pad by any means, but the idea is that you'll passively charge your devices overnight, as you sleep, or while you're sitting at your desk. There are too many lingering challenges for dealing with heat, and increasing the overall output of the pad, increases those challenges. 

Speaking of heat, there isn't a fan inside the Basestation Pro to help dissipate the heat. You'll find that whatever device you're charging does feel slightly warm after it's been charging for an extended amount of time, but I haven't found it worrisome or problematic. There's always some heat created when charging, be it wirelessly or with a standard cable. 

If you're in a rush and need to quickly charge your device, you can use the power connector that connects to the Basestation Pro -- it's a 30W adapter with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which helps almost everyone but iPhone owners. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

There's a single USB-C port on the back that powers the entire pad, and three indicator lights on the front. Each light corresponds to a zone, or roughly one-third, of the pad. If you place a device on the right side of the station, for example, the light on the far right lights up to let you know a device is detected and charging. 

It's exactly what Apple promised AirPower would be, short of being able to charge the Apple Watch. Nomad is including a free Apple Watch mount that attaches to the back of the Basestation and uses your standard Apple Watch charger. 

At $229, the Basestation Pro falls into the luxury category of wireless chargers. But it also provides an experience unlike any other wireless charger available right now. You simply place your device on the pad, and a few seconds later it's charging. Repeat that two more times, without really caring all that much about its precise positioning, and it almost feels like we're living in the future.

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