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6/9/2012
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Energizer Mini-Power Strip/Dock Crippled By Apple

This handy travel charger has 3 surge-protected 3-prong electrical outlets, an iPod/iPhone dock--and one lonely USB port. Too bad Energizer had to drop its original two-USB-port design to get Apple's blessing.

How many devices do you carry when traveling? That number keeps going up. I'm actually a bit out of control; I count five just for computing stuff. There are never enough plugs around. This is sometimes true in hotels and conference rooms, but coffee houses can be the worst.

That's why, in addition to all my gadgets, I've been carrying a small power strip with me. Could the Energizer iSurge Travel Charging Station be a better solution? It's a small brick that plugs into a standard three-prong outlet and presents three power outlets, a USB port, and a dock for iPods and iPhones. There are a series of snap-in inserts to match the dock to various Apple devices.

There is also a night light that you can turn on and off. It might mean nothing to most people, but I think it's a nice touch.

If it's one of those times there are too many people competing for a small number of outlets, a device like this can make you the local hero. Once during a local power outage I went to the Starbucks in the next town which was filled with people like me charging their devices on the two outlets available in the store. My little power strip got me a couple free coffees.

I had a few small problems with the charger. The inserts for the various iPhone/iPod docs are difficult to change. Also, on my unit, one of the power outlets was very difficult to use; I had to push really hard to get a plug in. Finally, I don't like the fact that there's only one USB port. I've seen this one-USB mistake before. We recently bought a 2012 Hyundai Sonata, a really nice car. They had the clever idea to put a USB port in the console, but just one! The car should be full of them! The charger's one-USB port design turns out to be Apple's fault. According to a spokesman, Apple rejected the two-USB port design when the charger was passed by Apple for certification of the 30-pin dock. Apple claimed that when the device was fully loaded there wouldn't be enough amperage to charge two third-generation iPads. Incidentally, the one USB port is 2.1A, so you can charge an iPad 3 full-speed.

Overall, I'd have to say that there are better alternatives. Belkin makes a charger with three power outlets and two USB ports--but no iPhone dock--for $24.99, and much less on Amazon. The Belkin unit is much smaller, too. Energizer's next design will have two USB ports and lose the dock, so perhaps the lesson learned is that the Apple dock is not worth going through Apple certification.

The list price of the Energizer iSurge Travel Charging Station is $59.99, which is borderline outrageous. I can't imagine why this is the case, but the product is not on Energizer's website until at least October. Go to Amazon.com and you'll find it for $34.95 and even lower from affiliates. It's available in black or white.

Name: Energizer iSurge Travel Charging Station

This charger has three surge-protected 3-prong electrical outlets, one USB port, an iPod/iPhone dock, and a night light. I had small problems with mine, but my biggest complaint is the company had to drop a USB port to get Apple's blessing.
Price: $59.99 (but available heavily discounted).
Pro:
  • USB port and dock might be all you need
  • Night light is nice touch.
Con:
  • Just one USB port.
  • Expensive.
  • A bit big.
  • One of the plugs was faulty on my test unit.

Thanks to Marc, the guy next to me in Starbucks, who helped with the testing.

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