With laptops not always coming with a power pack that will last the lifetime of the computer, there is plenty of space for after-market replacements. Kensington have long been involved with notebook accessories and have an extensive line-up of power packs.
In true Kensington fashion, the name tells you exactly what it does. As a straight-up universal power adapter, you’ll find that it is slickly designed so it looks good, rather than being a plain black box like most other adapters. It is also slim, measuring 150 x 60 x 22mm. Perhaps this is of little significance - after all it is only a power pack - but a few interesting details have been included that make it more appealing for travellers.
First of all you’ll find a USB on the side of the adapter, rated at 5V, for charging your other devices, be it an iPod or mobile phone. Ok, so you could do this through the notebook USB ports, but at least with this option you can turn off your notebook whilst leaving your other device to charge. Alternatively, as we found, having your iPod attached to your laptop whilst you also have your USB mouse, 3G dongle and camera connected, things get too busy - it's another option and a convenient one at that.
This charger is also universal, so you’ll find it will work with many brands of notebook, including Acer, Asus (although it states not Eee PC), Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens, HP, Lenovo, Sony and Toshiba. Like other universal power adapters, it does this thanks to a range of tips that connect to the cable.
We tested the Acer and Toshiba tips with no problems at all, finding a secure connection with both. Although slim-line, it will both power your notebook and charge the battery at the same time. The tips don’t lock to the cable in any way, but we found the push fit to be substantial with no risk of separation without a deliberate pull.
To switch the voltage there is a locked slider on the bottom of the transformer itself. You have to depress the lock with a pointy object, like a pen, then you can slide the switch to cover your voltage of notebook, from 14-17 volts on the blue setting, to 17-21 volts on the green. These colours correspond to colours on the tips, making it easy to select the right settings. The only exception to this is Sony, for which you’ll have to check the voltage yourself and set the transformer.
Aimed at traveller it does have another neat feature. The supplied power cable (both UK and European) are only 15cm long, so you aren’t carrying round an extra 2 metres of wire in your bag. The cable from the transformer is 1.5m long, so should be enough to get you to your nearest power point.
Kensington products are also widely available, stocked in some high street electronics shops, although you might find that you have to order what you want online. This might come as something of a relief for some, as there are savings to be had on the £79.99 retail price, which is about the only drawback we can see with this unit.
It replaces your bog standard power adapter with something that has been interestingly and practically designed, but you can get similar features from budget adapters at a fraction of the cost, if you hunt around. If you are worried about your green credentials, however, you might be pleased to learn that this power pack also meets Energy Star’s criteria, so uses 30% less than standard power packs.
It is worth noting that this is the “wall” edition – there is also an edition (marked air) that is compatible with EmPower outlets on aircraft, and will set you back and extra £10.
Beautifully crafted, but a little on the expensive side.