Which universal adapter isn't a piece of crap?
June 21, 2010 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I've got a trip coming up, and I need to find a good universal power adapter/converter. Reviews are hit or miss for pretty much every product online. Looking for some recommendations on products you've actually used and can vouch for.

First, do I need a power adapter or converter? I'll be charging things like laptops and cameras and such, but I plan on buying one of the squid powerstrips and having only that connect to the adapter (while all my devices plug into the strip). So I probably only need an adapter, correct?

I'll be traveling to the following countries:

England, France, Spain, Morocco, Egypt , South Africa, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand

I need a single adapter that will work in all of these countries, and not be a piece of crap. What do you recommend? Budget: <$50.
posted by nitsuj to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First you need to check the voltages of the places you are traveling to. Then check the input voltages of the devices. That will tell you what you need.

If the devices state the input voltages as 120-240 50-60 Hz, then you can use an adapter with them. If they only list 120 Volts 60 Hz, you will need a converter. Make sure to size this large enough to run all of the items you plan on plugging in at the same time. Add up the watts on the devices, then buy one slightly larger than that number.

The converter will only up the voltage. It will not change the frequency. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by Climber at 12:18 PM on June 21, 2010

climber has it right--does the squid power strip act as a converter or does it only serve as an adapter. I have used one like this quite successfully. Universal (or type specific) adapters are readily available at airports and usually at local retailers of electrical devices. Converters are a bit more difficult to find and considerably more expensive.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:34 PM on June 21, 2010

I got my transformer from Sears with a little packet of plugs that will fit everywhere you are going, and it was about $25. It weighs quite a bit, so pack it. Beware of the high setting, which zapped the power cord for my Ipod speakers and nearly burned out the battery charger for my camera -- stick with low.
posted by bearwife at 12:43 PM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: What Climber alludes to, but I will underline and make bold, is that voltage converters can destroy sensitive devices. Which is to say, most any device that isn't just a glorified heater of some kind.

Plug adapters, the little widgets that turn one plug into another plug, are useful if you already have devices that are equipped with universal power supplies and merely need to make the plugs work with the socket.

Converters/transformers are, in my opinion, best avoided unless your only concern is getting the hair dryer to work. They will shorten the life of electronic devices or outright destroy them.

1) identify every device you intend to bring with you
2) establish whether each device has a universal power supply or not (see Climber above)
3) for any device that does not have a universal power supply, acquire an additional power supply of the correct type for each country you will visit, or else acquire a universal power supply for that specific device. Some manufacturers do sell universal supplies for their non-universal devices, and aftermarket companies may do so as well.
4) now acquire a set of plug adapters

Yes, I am being somewhat over-dramatic. However, to do otherwise will risk destruction of your connected devices (and possible fire). No, I'm not kidding about the fire part. Melty-melty!
posted by aramaic at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

We travelled through your European destinations with laptops, iTouch, digital cameras and a few other toys all of which only required a plug adaptor. We went the route of buying a bunch of cheap ones in Chinatown. It made it much easier to have like 5 of them around then searching for the "One" adaptor.

We also had the converter style and it actually ended up frying an electric razor and the power supply for our Wii (luckily, no effect on the Wii iteself).

Depending on the length of your power cords and power bar, you may also want a short extension cord as plugs can be in annoying places.
posted by dripdripdrop at 2:25 PM on June 21, 2010

Everywhere I've gone (all your destination except Africa) and all I've ever needed are adapter plugs for the stuff I travel with (camera, phone, computer, ipod, electric razor, etc) all of those devices have a powerbrick that works on on whatever voltage/hertz you can throw at them. The only devices I've seen where you need a transformer are things like hairdryers and toaster ovens and I don't travel with them.

I prefer the little individual plugs to those one plug that transforms into whatever you need. I had one of those and found some powerstrips where they wouldn't fit.
posted by birdherder at 2:32 PM on June 21, 2010

Just to say that the slickest multi-plug adapters I have seen are usually the ones sold in the duty-free catalog on the plane. I ended up getting one in Dubai airport which is not as slick, but entirely functional.

For my usual travel equipment, I've never needed a voltage converter (but I do have a travel hairdryer that is dual voltage - all the electronics work on a range).

Have a look at the WorldConnect products, for a range that look pretty slick.
posted by AnnaRat at 7:25 PM on June 21, 2010

FYI, portable Nintendo systems are one of the only portable electronics that do not accept 120-240. So if you have a DS, your best bet is to buy a new power adapter over there.
posted by smackfu at 10:48 AM on June 22, 2010

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