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Which Power Adapter Is Right For You?

Universal Laptop Power Adapters For The Air, Road, And Wall
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We recently took a 2000 mile road trip, and then flew back, allowing us to run a couple of benchmarks in hotels, a Jeep, and up in the air. Even though our test vehicle was limited by its 15 A fuse, that was more than enough current for Duracell’s 175 W Pocket Inverter. We tested the charge time from 0% with wireless networking disabled, using the lowest display brightness setting, and playing back a DivX-based movie.

Time to 100% Charge
Dell Vostro 3300
HH:MM:SS
Duracell 90 W
Targus 90 W
Kensington 90 W
Stock 65 W Dell Adapter
From AC-
2:05:32
2:03:55
2:05:25
From Car
-
2:05:55
2:03:21
(EmPower-to-Cigarette Adapter from Duracell kit)
-
From Car using 175 W Duracell Inverter
-
2:02:57
2:05:34
-
Time to Charge from 5% to 10%
Dell Vostro 3300
HH:MM:SS
Duracell 90 W
Targus 90 W
Kensington 90 W
Stock 65 W Dell Adapter
From AC-
00:5:00
00:04:20
00:04:05
From Car
-
00:05:10
00:04:10
(EmPower-to-Cigarette Adapter from Duracell kit)
-
From Car using 175 W Duracell Inverter
-
00:05:00
00:04:35
-
From Plane using Cigarette Plug
-
00:05:00
00:04:15
(EmPower-to-Cigarette Adapter from Duracell kit)
-


Charging times are a double-edged sword. Ideally, you want a nice slow charge so that your battery lasts more than a few hundred charges. Fast charge times keep you away from the wall socket longer. but, in the long run, they cut down on the battery's health, too. Manufacturers utilize a variety of charging schemes to strike a balance. Usually, the rate of charge starts slowing down somewhere in the 80% to 95% range, which is why the charging time from 0% to 10% is faster than 90% to 100%.

Surprisingly, there is no difference between the three adapters, at least to charge to 100%. The battery in the notebook largely regulates the trickle charge, even when it's topping off from a constant current/constant voltage charging scheme. When you look at the charge from 5-10% (the only test available on the plane, given available time), Targus' Premium Laptop Charger seems to take a more cautious approach for the faster leg of the charge.

Using the Vostro 3300, we couldn't get the Duracell charger to work. It is the only charger of the three we tested that doesn't transmit an identification signal over the center pin. As a result, you can only power a Dell-based notebook; charging is completely disabled. There is no resolution to this problem, which you might experience if you buy your adapter on Ebay for a Dell notebook. Furthermore, you can't use a power inverter in tandem with the stock power adapter, and we're not sure why.

As a result, we had to run an additional benchmark using a 13.3" MacBook Pro to test the charging time of Duracell's charger compared to the other two. We ran it at maximum brightness, wireless enabled, and a custom benchmark for web browsing that mirrors our earlier RLUMark.

Time to 100% Charge
Apple 13.3" 2010 MacBook Pro
HH:MM:SS
Duracell 90 W
Targus 90 W
Kensington 90 W
Stock 60 W Apple Adapter
From AC03:00:40
02:53:5002:55:4002:55:40


Overall, the Duracell product is basically the same flavor of laptop charger as the other two. Aside from its price, the main differences are found in its advantages. Duracell offers a three-year warranty compared to Targus' two years and the one-year coverage from Kensington. With that said, only Targus offers "Free Tips for Life." You simply have to pay for shipping on a tip that doesn't come with the original set ($5 for UPS Ground, plus tax if you live in California).

We wanted to throw in a benchmark from a generic Ebay charger, but the one we bought off some guy in Hong Kong died two days into testing. That goes to show that you get what you pay for; buy generic power equipment and you're putting the purchase and whatever it's connected to at risk. Sounds like reason enough for us to invest in a solid adapter, if we're going to buy anything at all.

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