Sometimes power packs just die. In fact it seems to be fairly common that your shiny new notebook will arrive with a power pack that has been sourced rather cheaply. Should the worst happen, you probably only have a few hours of life in your PC before the world grinds to a halt. Ordering a new power pack could take days which you don't have. Fortunately universal power packs are not uncommon, but can they step into the breech?
PC Line is best known as a budget brand providing no frills PC accessories on the high street, in places like PC World. As finding the right charger for your PC is near impossible on the high street, your options are a little limited, so you may find yourself plumping for this universal solution. Fortunately this jack of all trades boasts compatibility across the front of the box, including Acer, Advent, Asus, Compaq, Dell, EI Systems, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Packard Bell, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.
To provide this level of compatibility it comes with 11 connectors in the box. These plug into the cable connected to the transformer, with a groove to ensure it is the right way around. This connection doesn't lock together in any way, it is simply a case of a push fit.
The other part of the equation is the output of the transformer itself. A simple rotating switch allows you to select the voltage of your choice. This information can normally be found on the old power pack, or on the bottom of your PC. It steps through 15V, 16V, 18V, 19V, 20V, 22V and finally 24V. This should cater for the majority of notebooks on the market supported by the included tips. A small key is provided to allow you to switch between voltages, although a screwdriver will also do it should you lose this small part.
At the mains plug end there is a little more magic too, as it features both a UK and European plug. You simply unscrew the UK plug and take off the adapter and you are good to go on the continent. Rated to 90W, it is good for both powering your laptop and charging the battery at the same time.
Supplied instructions give you a guide as to which tip you need to use. We tested the power adapter with Acer and Toshiba notebooks. For the Acer there was a choice of two tips, although we found that the correct one wasn't as good a fit as the manufacturer-supplied power pack, having a tendency to fall out whenever we moved. This also meant that sometimes it would be plugged in, but not actually doing anything. For those looking for a permanent replacement, this might be a bit of a pain.
With the Toshiba notebook, however, the fit was perfect and no different from using the supplied power pack. So whether the connection is going to fit well or not is going to be something of chance, with so many different notebooks out there.
So overall, for emergencies, this does seem a little expensive, especially as more feature-packed alternatives are available from companies like Kensington for not much more online, or there are other budget versions available for less than half the price.
But on the high street, of course, you don't always have that luxury. In this situation, at least you know that the PC Line 90W Universal Laptop Power Adapter will solve your problem, if in a little bit of a rough and ready way.