Short Version: A tiny-but-mighty universal adapter that can power most full-sized laptops.
The incredible shrinking notebook adapter is a welcome trend. For a while there, portable computers kept getting thinner and lighter while still shipping with massive power bricks. And while notebook adapters will continue to get even smaller over coming years, Kensington’s off to a good start with a universal adapter that’s roughly the length and width of an iPhone at 4.5″ (L) x 2.2″ (W) x 0.8″ (H) yet is capable of replacing a 90-watt adapter.
There are two versions of the adapter available, a $120 MSRP version that includes wall and airplane cords and a $100 MSRP version that’s just for use with wall outlets (you can find them both for cheaper online). The standard version should suffice for most people given that I haven’t seen a live proprietary charging port on an airplane in years. If anything, planes will have standard outlets if they have anything at all. So you’re paying $20 extra for a cable.
And while $100 might be $20 to $30 more expensive than other universal adapters on the market, you’re paying for the shrunken down size (Kensington claims it’s 43% smaller and 32% lighter than standard 90-watt power adapters), a built-in USB charging port, and an almost mind-boggling array of cables and tips.
All in all, you get the adapter, a standard-length wall cord, a handy 7-inch wall cord (no tangling!), a retractable mini-USB cable with micro-USB converter, voltage adjuster (to switch between 14-17 volts and 17-21 volts depending on your computer), and nine tips compatible with machines made by HP/Compaq, Dell, Acer/Gateway, Toshiba, Lenovo, Sony, and Asus.
There’s also a carrying case and, if you buy the Wall/Air combo kit, the airplane cord.
Here’s the section of every universal adapter review where I point out that the fact that there’s no Apple tip isn’t Kensington’s (or any other universal adapter manufacturer’s) fault since Apple’s got a patent on its MagSafe connectors and won’t license it out.
As far as portability’s concerned, that little 7-inch wall cable makes a world of difference. I found myself actually removing it when I needed to stow the adapter and using the included Velcro strap on the notebook connector cable to keep everything together.
Despite the adapter’s small size, it still puts out enough juice to power most larger laptops. In that sense, the selectable voltage, USB charging port, and included connection options make it a good choice if you travel with a standard notebook or you switch off between, say, a notebook and a netbook. If you’re looking purely for a netbook charger, Kensington sells a $50 adapter that’s even smaller than this one. That’s a good option.
Another super tiny option that still puts out a decent amount of power is Innergie’s mCube Mini. That thing measures just 2.4” (L) by 1” (W) by 0.7” (H) and costs $70 (MSRP). It doesn’t put out as many watts as the Kensington adapter featured here (90 watts versus 65 watts) but it should suffice for smaller notebooks and netbooks.
Wall Ultra Compact Notebook Power Adapter [Kensington]
Wall/Air Ultra Compact Notebook Power Adapter [Kensington]