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Laptop power solved May 22, 2007

Posted by dorigo in computers, internet, personal, travel.

Few of you will be interested to know what I write below, but this is my blog and it does contain irrelevant stuff at times, which only serves the purpose of a diary…

So here is: I finally solved my laptop power problem. After realizing that I had not brought a power supply for my laptop with me when I traveled to Fermilab last Thursday, I went from frustration to hope when I found a cheap ($49.99) universal converter at a Tiger Direct store. And then back to frustration when, after some initial perplexity , I plugged it in to no result. The thing did not work with my computer, and I brought it back to the store.

I next considered ordering a Sony unit by mail, but got discouraged by the delivery time and cost. Another unit I found at a Circuit City store was sold at the hefty price of about 150$ (once added the correct plug for Sony). After shortly considering the rather dishonest option of buying it to return it before leaving back to Europe, I decided to just live without a laptop for the remainder of my stay.

Yesterday, though, while shopping for groceries at a local Jewel store, I ran into a converter from Targus (see picture on the left). It was sold at 74.99$ tax included, and from the package it looked like it could include a plug which could fit my Vaio VGN-T2XP. So, after checking for their return policy, I bought it and brought it home.

There, I unpackaged it carefully, and noticed it was a very good product. Lightweight, well built, with a carrying pouch, and eight different adapters. But the thing missed a voltage switch. Hmmm. From my previous investigations I had learned that the only thing you really need to check before plugging a unknown power source to your precious hardware is the voltage. And the box claimed the supply worked for 15V as well as for 24V models.

One plug, though, seemed to fit with my laptop inlet. Could it be that each tip contained a tiny voltage divider ? I took out the ace from my sleeve: a tester! And indeed, the different plugs showed different output voltages. Prodiges of modern technology!

Filled with awe, and crossing fingers (the plug which fit my laptop gave a 16.6V reading, thus 3.5% above the nominal required input), I plugged the power supply, and… Yes! It worked!

Now I am in a quandary… Should I use the PS until I leave and then return it to Jewel ? Technically I would not be doing anything illegal, since the return policy is clearly something which is there to induce customers to buy stuff, in the hope they will keep it, but with the promise that whatever is found unsatisfactory or unneeded will be taken back with no questions asked. However, I never like to use that option, and besides: the thing is really neat, and in Italy I could use it by keeping it in my office, avoiding a heavier-than-needed bag in my daily trips to work.

Now, checking from the targus site , I read that the unit is sold nominally for 119.99$… I think I will keep it!



1. Matthew Leifer - May 22, 2007

This thing is really great. I bought one in the UK for my Mac when I realized that the US power supply wouldn’t work with any converters. These days I always use it when I travel.

2. carlbrannen - May 22, 2007

Having the tip control the voltage is a brilliant engineering solution. By the way, I regularly fiddle with the voltage control on my universal power adapter. And I still haven’t taken it apart to fix it and find out if there really is a protection diode in there.

3. dorigo - May 23, 2007

Yes Matthew, the fact it runs on both 120 and 240V input played a big part in my decision to keep it…

Hi Carl, I agree – it is less economical from a manufacturing point of view, but quite an improvement in the functionality of the device: nobody has to care about the voltage, because the plug will know what to do.


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