I am a sucker for anything that functions via USB. Funky shaped flash drives, licensed character hubs that recite theme songs and quotes, and little creatures that perform random repetitive actions have all found their way to my desk at one time or another. When a USB-based beverage warmer and cooler from Convenient Gadgets & Gifts became available for review I practically jumped at the chance to try it out. Nearly every day at work I have that cup of coffee or glass of water that rapidly becomes lukewarm before I’ve had a chance to finish it. This would appear to be the perfect gadget for ending the frequent trips to the kitchen for the microwave or ice…
I’ve used this chiller/wamer for a couple months now and I’ll start on a high note by saying that the metal surface definitely does get hot and very cold, roughly around 130°F and 45°F respectively– in under 3 minutes. It turns on immediately upon plugging in to a USB (there is no “off” switch) and can be switched to either cool or warm by a toggle switch on the top of the unit. In addition to the little snowflake/sun iconography the LED light turns green if the switch is on cool and red if set to warm.
There is an internal fan on the underside of the unit that will run as long as the device is on. I didn’t find it particularly noisy over the din of my office environment, but after trying it again at home, the whir of the fan was definitely audible and fairly annoying. However, the fan does do its job and even after extensive use (two hours plus) the base of the unit is not hot or even warm to the touch.
The metal beverage plate is completely flat, which does not lend itself well to the typical porcelain mug or soda can with their slight dimples at the bottom. The surface of the plate only makes contact with the edges of a can or coffee mug, and had absolutely no effect on the liquid within. I was frustrated when even a can of soda straight from the refrigerator could not be kept colder any longer than that same can just sitting on the counter. I was about to chalk the unit up as a piece of junk, but then noticed that the box art shows a woman using the unit with a short (almost espresso shot-sized) aluminum mug. I do not own a cup like this and wasn’t able to find one available at Target, so I used the next best thing–a metal measuring cup. And I found, to my surprise, this little guy actually does work!
After 45 minutes of sitting on the chiller, my iced tea was still pleasantly chilled. Even my coffee stayed warmer a bit longer than if it were just sitting out. Just to be clear though, this will not “chill” a beverage that’s at room temperature nor heat up a liquid. What it does do is extend the life of your beverage at roughly its current temperature– an additional 30-45 minutes or so I found on average.
So this is all well and good–if you drink out of flat-bottomed aluminum containers (or measuring cups). But even if you do, there’s one more problem I ran into immediately–the metal plate isn’t large enough for most standard mugs. I was only able to find one in my cabinet that fit perfectly.
As a rough guesstimate, a proper mug or container’s base would have to be about 25% smaller than a standard mug. The mug in the middle was my only one that actually fit, and it looks completely dwarfed by what I promise are standard mugs on either side. Even though this gadget will not work optimally with a porcelain mug, finding a properly-sized aluminum option may prove tricky.
So if following this caveat about your beverage’s container, I can say this is a pretty decent little gadget–if you don’t want to be bothered with getting up throughout the day to tend to your drinks. For you aluminum-loving folks, this USB drink chiller and warmer is available in black, white, silver, red, and blue through Convenient Gadgets & Gifts for $21.95, which seems to be the standard price for this type of gadget regardless of manufacturer.