Universal Laptop Power Adapters For The Air, Road, And Wall

Keeping Mobile Devices Powered-Up

If you consider yourself to be a road warrior, you need a way to keep your notebook running when when you're away from a wall socket. And that's regardless of whether your primary battery has the chops to keep you operational all day long. Put simply, most folks can't count on a day's worth of up-time. So, it's important to have a solution in place for putting a bit of pep back into your mobile platform during your afternoon siesta.

What do you need in order to keep your notebook fully functional? If you're in a car or on a plane, you need a cigarette lighter receptacle or an EmPower plug, along with a compatible power adapter. Most system vendors (like Dell and Lenovo) offer travel adapters, but they can get pretty expensive. Worse, they aren’t always compatible with multiple generations of products.

Lenovo 90 W AC/DC Combo Adapter (P/N: 41R4494)

For example, when IBM moved from 16 V to 19 V, timed to coincide with Intel's Pentium-M to Core 2 Duo transition, the company adopted a different plug size. That meant the older AC/DC combo adapter (P/N: 73P4502) wouldn't work with the newer hardware. Owners of more recent Lenovo notebooks can use the current AC/DC combo adapter will find that it's backward compatible through the use of a different plug tip.

Traveling Headaches

If you travel overseas, you probably use plug adapters as well, since AC sockets differ from one region to the next. Currently, most system vendors arm their mobile offerings with 110-240 V power adapters, which means that they're universally compatible, so long as you have the right wall connector. A notebook sold in the U.S. might include the same power brick as one in Europe, but they two systems will come with different power cords.

65 W MacBook Pro Charger

If you're traveling abroad with a power adapter that isn't 110-240 V-capable, there's a good chance you need a voltage converter or an entirely new brick, depending on where you're going. Travel adapter kits for cars and trains cost up to $100. So, if you aren't interested in making that investment, a power inverter is your only other course of action. Planes are another matter entirely.

There is no universal power plug standard used within the travel industry. Even in a single airline's fleet, the same model of plan might use different plugs depending on its configuration. For example, there are four different 737 configurations flown by Alaskan Airlines; one uses cigarette lighter receptacles and one employs the EmPower connector.

  • shreeharsha
    I actually thought they are going to release a standard for all the Laptop Power Adapters, one power adapter for all the notebooks. (only might be different wattages)
  • randomstar
    I can not honestly tell you the number of friends, customers, and others that bought a non-dell power adapter for a dell unit, and found out that it will run the unit, with reduced performance, but will not charge. and paid lots of money. I keep a collection of actual dell power supplies 65w, 90w, 120w ,just to help out when that happens. funny thing , if you shop around you can get the real ones for less than the kingston, etc "universal"!
  • JohnnyLucky
    It's a shame that there is no single International standard to go by. It would make things a lot simpler.
  • cadder
    And even worse than that- between my daughter and I we've owned 3 Dell laptops, and each one uses a different power adapter and plug.
  • soccerdocks
    cadderAnd even worse than that- between my daughter and I we've owned 3 Dell laptops, and each one uses a different power adapter and plug.
    That seems unusual. In my house we have 3 different laptops spanning 6 year purchase dates and they all have the exact same plug. Two of the laptops are Latitudes and the other is a Studio XPS. The only difference is that the Studio XPS came with a 130 watt adapter as opposed to 65 watt adapters for the Latitudes. So no gaming with that machine while plugged into the 65 watt adapters.
  • legacy7955
    shreeharshaI actually thought they are going to release a standard for all the Laptop Power Adapters, one power adapter for all the notebooks. (only might be different wattages)
    Actually this sort of standard DOES exist in Europe for smart phones and cell phones, I'm not sure if it includes laptop or netbooks but it might. I'll have to search around.

    It seems the bottom line today is buy the OEM adapters if you want to play it safe.
  • mayankleoboy1
    thats another lame article consecutively.
    come on Toms, get the BD benchies out already.
  • CaedenV
    This is exactly why I don't understand dropping serious money into a laptop. Have a good desktop, and a cheap laptop/netbook/smartphone/tablet for your portable needs. Batteries only last 2-4 years with consistent use, so after 2-3 years you need a $150 battery, plus if your power brick is worn out then it is another $120 for that...
    So that $800 laptop then requires another $270 to run after 3 years? And this is assuming you don't drop the thing, or break it through normal wear and tear. And laptops do not age as gracefully as desktops because they are generally crap hardware to begin with. Much better to stick with a $300 laptop, and a decent desktop. The desktop will keep up with the times longer and will have less maintenance, while the laptop can be swapped out when need be.
  • only quake 2.
  • simontay1984
    My Toshiba Satellit Pro M30 is over 5 years old now and it still works fine. HDD and RAM has been upgraded. The battery went flat a long time ago and won't recharge.
    Instead of buying a new Lithium-Ion batt (that would only last about another 2 years anyway), I just use a 12V 7.2Ah Lead Acid connected to the PSU input when I don't have access to a mains supply for an extended period (e.g. on long train journey).

    It works cos the PSU output voltage is 15V so 12V is close enough.