Reliable power converter for international travel?
September 15, 2004 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a reliable power converter for international travel.... (MI)

What I'm looking for is a high-quality, reliable power converter/plug converter package that is good in a variety of foreign locations (I'm in the US). I'd want to be able to use it with my laptop and other gadget toys, so anything that came with warranties/guarantees is definitely a plus. Price isn't important but size is - it needs to be relatively compact (i.e., will fit in a backpack with the laptop). My google-fu has turned up plenty of models out there, but few reviews and recommendations.... any personal experiences with a particular brand/model?
posted by dicaxpuella to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
First check that your stuff isn't multivoltage already. A lot of modern day electronics will work on different voltages automatically.

Previous info here.
posted by i_cola at 2:08 PM on September 15, 2004

Warning: inexpensive "high capacity" converters (the ones that talk about handling 1000W) produce deeply dirty power use thyristors and are suitable only for things with resistive loads (like curling irons) because the max voltage out is still up around 220, and the waveform is super-spiky (meaning lots of RF interference). These devices will instantly destroy most electronics you use with them, and possibly cause fires.

What you're probably looking for is a true transformer, which usually means heavy, but typically needn't be expensive (~$20+) for reasonable wattage. If you can, get one that's both step-up and step-down, with a voltage regulator, as you'll be more likely able to resell it once you return to the US (immigrants from 220VAC countries will need it).

Even better, see if you can buy a dual-voltage (or "international") power supply for some/all of your gadgets -- the power supply for my cellphone came dual-voltage from the factory, and buying a new power supply for my CD player was trivial, letting me use my electronics on anything between 110-240VAC, 50-60Hz. That let me avoid buying a converter/transformer, and let me just use plug adaptors. On preview, i_cola was right.
posted by aramaic at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2004

i_cola is right: your laptop, if bought within the past ten years, almost certainly came with a switching power supply that'll work just fine in most places. I made the mistake of bringing along a cheap converter to power my laptop in Europe, once. It fried soon after I had plugged it in. Luckily, I found a helpful English-speaking electronics supply store in Munich: they straighted me out and sold me a plug adaptor, which was all that I needed to get my laptop power supply working.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:30 PM on September 15, 2004

Just something to consider:

If your present country uses 60 Hz power (ex: North America) hooking your 60 Hz / 120 Volt only devices to 50 Hz power can produce interesting results (although, generally, not dangerous).

A very few devices *may* overheat if left on for a long time, as 50 Hz power is less efficient for the transformer, and devices that depend on the power line to count time will run slow.

If you plug something in to 50 Hz power and you find it getting far hotter than it would normally, don't leave it in all the time, let it cool down.

Just something to watch out for, some non-CSA/UL/CE approved transformers have cords with prongs at both ends (a cheap way to let you reverse the transformer). Watch that you plug one end into the transformer first and that it can't easily escape. If it does you're in for a good shock.

Last, but not least, if you have a reversible transformer, double check your voltage. You don't want to end up putting 440 Volts on a 120 volt device... ;-)
posted by shepd at 10:03 PM on September 15, 2004

I've heard there are some excellent power converters over at Tashi Station . . .

Had to be done.
posted by aladfar at 10:44 PM on September 15, 2004

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