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Notes From The Road: Kensington Replacement Power Supplies For Laptops

This past weekend, during a break from tending our new pup, Stella and I had occasion to see the movie Up In The Air. I’d not seen it before, at least not from start to finish. Now that I have seen it, I think I understand why some members of my family thought that the film reminded them of me.

It’s true that I am something of a corporate road warrior. That is to say, my job involves more than the occasional bit of travel. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been to Las Vegas, New Jersey (twice), South Bend IN (twice), Jackson MS, and Berkeley CA. As I write this I am in fact en route to Charlotte NC to give a three-day training course.

As The Beach Boys once harmonized, “I get around.” Further, I’ve been in this line of work for just over fifteen years.

All of that only serves to illustrate that I have at least some experience being on the road. In that time I’ve come to appreciate some relatively simple pieces of technology. Occasionally a modest little item, perhaps acquired by accident or mere happenstance, can actually improve your quality-of-working-life on-the-road.

This is how I feel about the Kensington power supply that has graced my laptop bag the past few years. It a really basic device, just a power supply for a laptop…but it’s vastly superior to the device it replaced.

It happens that I have been buying laptops from the HP SMB Outlet for the past 6-7 years. I discovered that source when our company switched from using Dell laptops to HP. I found that I could buy the same models that my UK-based coworkers were issued, but I could buy them cheaper.

However, in a slightly self-serving move, I didn’t buy the exact same models for less money. I used the same amount of budget to buy slightly better spec’d laptops. Often that meant just slightly larger disks, more memory or faster processors. It meant that I usually had a laptop that was little more enjoyable to use, even as it passed into the final year of its projected lifespan.

My boss liked this little plan enough that over time he had me source laptops for almost all of our US staff in recent years.

My experience with HP support has generally been good. Not long after I purchased my current laptop the power supply failed. This was a little inconvenient, but not a major source of stress. The HP warranty department offered to send me a replacement via two-day courier, which seemed acceptable. However, I had need of the laptop immediately so I made a quick trip to our local Micro Center where I bought a suitable Kensington replacement power supply for about $90.

Kensington-33197-psuThe Kensington power supply was rated for 90 watts, which was the same as the dead HP power supply. It came with a variety of interchangeable tips allowing it to be used with various makes and models of laptops. Once I found the tip that fit my HP 8510P I put the rest into a bag and filed them for safe keeping. They’ve never been seen again. It sometimes works that way around here.

Since then the Kensington power supply has lived in my computer bag. It’s still there. Unlike the HP power supply brick that it replaced, the Kensington power supply actually belongs there.

The Kensington power supply is very flat and thin. It reminds me of a skate…the fish, not the play thing. Given this shape it slides into one of the document areas in my laptop bag without creating a giant lump.

It’s also constructed in such a manner as to act a heat sink. It gets warm, but has enough surface area to dissipate the heat without posing a danger to itself.

Further, the AC cord is removable…which is normal…but so is the DC cord. And the DC cord is almost 3 yards long. This can make working in a hotel room just a little bit easier as many hotels still don’t have enough conveniently placed outlets for the 21st century road warrior.

All of this begs a simple question; why doesn’t a company like HP…or anyone for that matter…give a little more thought to the power supplies that ship with their portable gear? With just a little more consideration for the plight of the road warrior Kensington has come to offer a replacement power supply that is subtly, yet significantly better than the original HP power supply.

Such design considerations are typically the hallmark of Apple products. In return for thoughtful industrial design Apple gets to charge considerably more for their wares than a comparable PC. Witness their latest MacBook Air models, which seem to be very much like netbooks in some ways…but without the attractive netbook price.

kensington psuI have used this Kensington power supply for almost three years. Long enough that the model I own is no longer available. Newer and presumably better models are now offered. These newer models have USB ports that allow for charging a cell phone or Mifi from the same outlet that’s powering the laptop. That’s seriously convenient since I’ve found that carrying multiple power supplies is a tangle-some bother.

If I am allowed to buy a new company laptop this year I was thinking that I’ll definitely buy another Kensington after-market power supply. Then the bulky and cumbersome factory psu will find its way into the same drawer as the warranty replacement that I eventually received from HP.

That power supply sits in the drawer awaiting the day that my flat, sleek Kensington power supply finally releases its magic smoke.

* I have no relationship with Kensington Technology group beyond being a user of their products.

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