In a previous post, mentioned the CardTec CA4 Pro being one of two devices I go to whenever I need to be mobile with my laptop. The other device is the one I’ll be reviewing for this post: the Mofily Marble DCS1
While they both can charge my laptop (13″ MacBook Pro) in place of the stock power block, they have subtle differences that make it difficult for me to consider one as better than the other.The main difference is that the DCS1 is also an interface hub apart from being a power block. The DCS1’s purpose was to free Apple users from the dongle-hell that usually accompanies purchasing their new laptops that use USB-C/Thunderbolt3 ports exclusively. So instead of having separate dongles, they built USB 2 USB-C ports, 2 USB-A ports, a microSD reader, & an HDMI port right into it.
It’s the sort of thing you wish apple had made their own power blocks capable of doing – instead of trying to milk its customers for every last cent with all this dongle shit. I mean seriously, it’s practically just as big as the stock Apple power block – so you know it could be done – especially coming from a company that specializes in cramming shit into really small spaces.
It takes in a standard IEC 60320 C7/C8 (figure 8) power cord which it also comes with. Since it’s a common connector type, it allowed me to purchase a 15-foot cord for it – eliminating the need to worry about reaching power outlets.
Marble DCS1 vs Card-Tec CA4 Pro
So you might be asking, how is it that the CA4 Pro is still in the running compared to something like this? The Marble can also charge two type-A devices so that’s only 1 less charging port than the CA4 Pro… and it can do data.
It all boils down to the footprint, I guess.
While it does merge a power block and USB dongle(s) into one contraption, you still need a cable to connect it to the laptop apart from the one that’ll connect it to the power outlet – and this is assuming you’ve got enough space to have a laptop and a block on the same surface. If you just wanted to slouch on a couch with your laptop on your lap, then you might just have to think about where to put that block. 1 Because it is a charger – and it DOES get hot
Also, in all honesty, you really don’t need to be that “robust” every time – sometimes you just know that all you need is your laptop and some way to charge it (if need be) – and nothing else. It’s in those kinds of situations where the CA4 Pro shines. I could just have that and a charging cable for a cleaner setup and still be able to charge 3 other devices. 2 Not to mention still keeping the outlet free to be plugged into Also, I don’t have to worry about the type of outlet I’m plugging into because it’s a travel adaptor first and foremost.
The Marble is a no brainer if I know I’ll need to be accessing data from other devices that cannot be done wirelessly or if I think I’ll be needing a really long cord to connect to an outlet. but in terms of quick setup, etc. then the CA4 Pro is the better choice.
I guess another way to look at it is if say I entered a cafe and had to plug in. These conditions will be the deciding factors for me personally:
- If I’m going to work – or going to be doing something serious for a long while, then I’m most likely going to bust out the Marble.
- If I think the outlets are beyond 2 meters from where I’m positioned, I use the Marble
- If I’m just going to hang out, wait for someone, or kill some time and the power outlet is well within 2 meters then the CA4 Pro is my choice.
- If I’m in another country, CA4 Pro is likely to be more useful.
Worst case that I’m in a country with a weird socket and I need a more robust configuration? Then I’ll plug the Marble into the CA4 Pro 😉
So there’s no clear winner if you’re particular about how streamlined your “mobile setup” is.
Another thing buyer’s should be wary of: While the Marble does work, it has its quirks.
For one, using it with some USB devices can be unreliable when it’s (the Marble, that is) plugged in to the wall. The marble seems to behave differently when acting only as a hub, or when it’s acting as a powerblock and hub (i.e. plugged into the wall).
In my case, plugging it in usually ejects some devices (in my case, my iOS devices). And plugging them in to an already plugged in Marble cannot get the latter to recognize them whether for charging or syncing.
The workaround is to use it as a hub instead of a charger – then everything works as expected – well, technically not “as expected” since what we expect is for it to work regardless of it’s plugged state. But it’s better than a completely broken unit that doesn’t work at all. It’s like one of those appliances that only works when you do something special to it LOL.
So your milage may vary depending on the type of user you are. As a product, it’s definitely a design flaw – but whether or not it’s worth dropping at least $100 on something on, you’ll just have to decide if the benefits of the portability and minimalism is worth the trouble of knowing that you have to remember to plug/unplug it depending what you want to do at the moment.
- USB-C 3.1 w/ PD
- USB-C 3.0
- USB-A 3.0 (x2)
- MicroSD Reader
- HDMI Type-A (1080p/60Hz, 1920×1200/60Hz, 2560 x 1440/60Hz or 3840×2160(UHD)/30Hz)
- 65W built-in power adapter
- 100-240V, 1.4A. 50/60Hz
You can purchase a Marble at the Mofily webstore