Computing and gadget power bricks are... well... bricks. Unfortunately that has been true since time immemorial. It doesn't matter how slim and lightweight my laptop, phone or MP3 player gets, I still have to carry a chunk of bulky plastic housing a weighty transformer around.
Of course, you can try and avoid carting around the power supply by buying spares and leaving them in common locations - one for work and one for home for example. Personally I like the old 90's Toshiba laptops that had the power supplies built in. Sure they were bulky and weighty but it meant you just needed a power cable instead of expensive duplicate power supplies.
All other aspects of portable computing seem to have been slimmed down and reduced in weight except the ol' power brick which is as cumbersome now as it ever was. There's also never been much effort on cable management save for the original Apple iBook 'yo yo' adaptor which the cable could be wound around (although poor strain relief meant the thing would eventually break and short out). This means as well as the transformer itself, you also have the tangle of cables.
Buying extra power supplies is expensive and isn't an answer when, say, going on holiday. Wouldn't it be nice to have one power supply that could charge your laptop, mobile, PDA, iPOD, Nintendo DS....
.... well there is. It's the iGo Juice.
There are different iGo power supplies available and I've got my hands on an iGo Juice 70 for review. The off-the-shelf Juice 70 is shown below with its included accessories....
The first thing to mention is that the Juice doesn't completely solve my bulk problems. It is itself a brick weighing 226 grams (without cables). It has no nifty cable management other than a couple of velcro ties so it still takes up a chunk of my briefcase. The good thing though is that it replaces a number of individual power supples making it the ideal choice for traveling.
It's a nicely styled unit with a grey and silver inner casing covered by translucent plastic. It has the (now customary) blue LED for power indication and a short power input cable (approx 87cm) with the output cable about 183cm in length.
The clever thing about the iGo, unlike many universal power supplies, is that there are no Voltage or polarity settings to worry about. It comes supplied with a series of 'tips' and so long as a tip is rated to be compatible with your device it will supply the correct Voltage at the correct polarity. The Juice 70 comes with eight common tips compatible with a range of laptops from Acer, Averatec, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, HP ,Lenovo, Sony and Toshiba. The simplicity of the iGo means you should never accidentally pump the wrong Voltage into your expensive toys and it's modular design means iGo can make and sell new tips to suit new makes and models of laptop as they come onto the market. Investing in an iGo makes more sense than buying a second proprietary power supply which may be incompatible if you upgrade your laptop.
Input power can be supplied to the iGo by either the mains cable or by a cigar lighter connector as used in cars (or on some planes - although not the cheap cattle carriers I tend to get stuck on). Besides the main output that the supplied laptop tips connect to, there is a secondary socket on the output cable. A supplied regulator unit can be attached to this for charging small devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players as shown in the picture below.
This secondary output can itself be divided by means of a splitter. The picture below shows the splitter with a Nokia tip and an iPod tip connected allowing such devices to both be charged together. The splitter, Nokia tip and iPod tip are all sold separately and don't come as standard with the Juice 70. Neither does a tip for the Nintendo DS although one is available and I'll be buying it to keep the kids happy on the next holiday. Unfortunately as the minimum laptop charge Voltage is 15V there is no ASUS eeePC tip (the eeePC takes an awkward 9.5V).
The regulator unit, with or without splitter, can also be plugged directly into a supplied car/plane adaptor allowing charging of small devices without the need to use the iGo unit itself.
A bag is supplied to house the iGo although space is tight and you will want to leave out any cables and tips you won't be using on your travels.
The iGo is the ideal travel companion for the gadget happy. The supplied tips cover a diverse selection of laptop models and additional tips are available to purchase. The only complaints I can level at it are the short power input cables and the lack of some kind of retractable cable management which would be nice on all such devices to save the tangle of spaghetti. The extra tips are a little pricey for what they are but are well worth the investment if you want to keep life simple and your luggage light.
Instead of buying proprietary power bricks for your portable electronic devices, invest in the iGo and future-proof your widget charging needs!
iGo EU website
Maplin (UK) reseller