Power Bricks

December 30th, 2007 by Potato

I swear I’ve ranted about the mad proliferation of power adaptors, power bricks, AC-DC transformers or whatever you want to call them before, but I can’t find it in my archives. My search function is not quite as helpful as I would have hoped.

Anyhow, this was a pretty good Potatomas for me, with lots of toys to haul in: a Nintendo DS, some Wii games, and a new camera to replace the one that was stolen. The camera looks pretty keen: a Canon SD850 8-megapixel unit that’s quite small and sleek. So far I only have two complaints about it. The first is that the flash is way too bright, and that it could really use a half-flash setting, or even a low, med, high flash like my old, old 3-MP camera had. The second is that it doesn’t take AA batteries, so I have to remember to charge it when going places, and also to take the proprietary charger. Likewise, the DS has its own charging dongle. My old Sony camera also had its charger, but it used rechargeable AA-batteries, so when I inevitably ran out of juice in the middle of a trip or a party, I could just run into a convenience store or bum some batteries from somewhere else and I was good to go.

My cell phone (motorola Razr V3c) has a mini-USB slot to charge, which I find quite handy. I don’t need to pack a charger, just my laptop. Of course, that stupid thing needs a specific driver for my laptop in order for it to charge properly, so it was of no help when my phone died over at a friend’s place last night, and I had no way of charging it.

Another device I have is useless for the moment as I’ve lost its charging brick, and am trying to figure out how to get another. At Wayfare’s house, her mom has a bag of power bricks and no one knows what they’re for, so they’re afraid to throw them out just yet (in a sign of inspired organisation, they’re labelled with the date they were found so that they can eventually be declared orphan bricks and thrown out/recycled).

I think about now I would kill for someone (ISO? ANSI? IEEE? The government?) to come out with a couple (even a couple dozen) standardized power brick/battery charger configurations. A few DC voltages, a few different max current/wattage ratings, a few different plug geometries, and we’d be off to the races. Sure, we might have a whole alphabet of charger types A through Z, but even narrowing it down just that much would help if it ever becomes necessary to replace one. At work we have “universal” power adapters that are giant and have selectors for 3, 6, 9, 12, or 15 V and 4 or 5 different plugs, and while we use those for a number of different pieces of lab equipment/prototypes, I don’t think there’s a single laptop that they could run. The desktop replacement ones need too much power, and the smaller Dells have a weird square 3-pronged plug.

Plus, my understanding is that there is a certain amount of inefficiency inherent to these transformer power bricks. People simply aren’t going to pay the price for a more efficient version for every device they have; in some cases, the power bricks might end up costing more than what they power! However, if there were only so many power brick types needed in a home, then a person could spring for a more efficient one, and then use it to power a couple of different devices…

For some portable devices, like my camera and DS, it does make sense that the AC-DC converter is in a separate power brick, even if the non-standard adapters drive me crazy. Other devices, such as my PS2 and computer have the power supply internal, and then have a fairly standard plug on the back. I don’t know why that’s not the case for the Wii and the TV — it’s not like they’re portable, and they don’t have batteries so they can’t be used separately from the power supply. While it would be more weight to put on my lap, I would even prefer to have the power brick internal on my laptop, since I can never travel far without it anyway (note that I don’t think this should be true of most laptops: mine is already heavy and hot enough that it’s never on my lap anyway, and the battery life is so short that I never carry it anywhere without the power brick).

One Response to “Power Bricks”

  1. Ben Says:

    I noticed the same problem with my new digital camera, the flash seems to be way brighter than my old one, although strangely at the same time, in long-distance shots it doesn’t seem to reach nearly as far!