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Hands-on with WiTricity's wireless charging for laptops

Gordon Mah Ung | Jan. 8, 2016
Ditch the wires, WiTricity demo shows just how cool wireless charging of laptops might be.

Forget the hype over universal USB-C charging. This year the new hot topic might finally be wireless charging of your laptop.

That’s what I’m thinking after seeing demos of laptops being charged using WiTricity’s wireless charging technology.

Rather than the typical inductive charging technology that’s been a fizzle on smartphones, WiTricity thinks it has the edge with its magnetic resonance technology that lets it beam more power farther using magnetic fields. Inductive charging typically seen in electric toothbrushes has a key weakness in the inability to beam through metal or dense materials; it also requires very short distances. 

WiTricity’s use of tightly coupled magnetic fields to transmit the power through stone, metal, or even your head—and with far higher output—makes it better suited for laptops, which draw far more power than smartphones.

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WiTricity’s charging coil for wireless charging is incredibly thin and flexible too. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

In the demonstrations of the technology, WiTricity modified two off-the-shelf laptops to charge wirelessly by plopping them onto charging pads. The two laptops I tried worked as expected and charged at rates up to 30 watts.

WiTricity didn’t announce which PC OEMs were adopting it but the company said several companies had climbed aboard with actual laptops shipping this year.

If I had to guess, I’d say Dell is aboard, as its corporate logo was prominently on the prototype charging pad. 

One advantage WiTricity claims over inductive charging that’s used by smartphones is a much larger landing zone. With inductive charging you typically have to line up the device and charger just right to get it to work. With the WiTricity demo, it was better—but not perfect. At this stage though, it’s mostly a limitation of the charging pads in use, but the company says there’s really no limit to how large the surface could be.

You can imagine a future where your entire desk is a charging pad and the only effort it would take to charge your laptop, phone, eReader, and smartwatch would be to put them down.

 

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