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World Wall Adapter for Dual S&C Cables

Tue Jul 29, 2008 - 10:13 AM EDT - By Joe Tunon

Beautiful... but dangerous

I had the good fortune of trying out this little kit in Beijing, China, comparing it alongside an equivalent universal adapter kit made by Targus. The devices I would be charging were an HP laptop with the standard US 3-pronged cable, and my Palm Centro. (The findings here apply equally to the Treo, since they share the same chargers.)

On first appearance, the Mobi Products World Wall Adapter for Dual S&C Cables (what a mouthful) looks like it was packaged by Apple. Solid white and extremely elegant, it does not look like a power adapter. It looks like a sleek USB mini-hub.


The design cleverly brings together the three main male-prong adapters found in any universal adapter kit. Here is a picture of the individual pieces separated.

I thought figuring out what plugs into what was going to be a challenge for an electrical ignoramus like myself, but it turns out to be as easy as plugging blocks into the right shaped holes. You simply can’t plug the wrong type of adapter into the wall outlet, as the prongs won’t line up if it is not the correct adapter.

Once I identified which adapter piece fits the Chinese holes, it was time to hold my breath and charge my Centro. There were actually two ways of doing this, since I had both the power charger and the USB cable/charger.


Usability

On the “works as advertised” front, both the USB connectors and the electrical connectors do the job. The USB connectors nicely light up (color-coded, even) to let you know the state of the device being charged, just like the LED on the Centro itself.

However, here’s where things got ugly. Because of the design, the combination of having the main piece of the adapter and the smaller rounded two pronged adapter resulted in the whole thing not remaining flush against the wall when I plugged my standard 3-pronged power cord into it:

This neither sounded nor looked good. If the slightly hanging appearance was unsightly, the occasional small sparks you could see were downright scary. Add to this the audible crackling sound of electricity, and I thought either the adapter was not solidly built or this was just to be expected because of all of the “adapting” going on in the kit (remember – electrical ignoramus). It took a fair amount of pushing and moving around to get the connection to stay put.

Once I tried the same connection with the Targus kit (which does not include the USB ports), there were no sparks, and no crackling. Unfortunately the Mobi Kit design itself is faulty. Could it have been a bad unit as well? Certainly. After all, even one of the small flippy-cover thingies inside one of the holes (okay, I’m more than an electrical ignoramus) easily broke loose, pictured here.


Conclusion

I want to say this was just a bad unit, but the fact is, it is the design that caused the unit to sag from the wall, causing the loose connection that resulted in the visible and audible sparking. It does not take electrical know-how to see that this design does not hold in the real world, at least, not in the part of the real world where I was testing one of its combinations. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this product.





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Criteria 

Rating

Looks 4
Function 2
Features 2
Cost/Benefit 1
Overall
(not an average)
Pros
  • very elegant and compact design
  • very universal application
  • Cons
  • does not remain flush with the wall in all configurations
  • not safe visible and audible sparking


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