One of my major gripes while traveling is the lack of available wall sockets in hotels, as I often have two or three devices while my wife brings her iPhone and iPad. To help keep us from fighting over where to plug in our gadgets, Aluratek is now shipping the Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station (US$19.99).
What's so great about this little white box? In one small package it offers two USB charging ports and three grounded AC outlets (American-style plugs), all while providing 612 Joules of power surge protection.
The prongs on the plug on the back of the Mini Surge fold flat for travel, keeping them from damage in transit and from scratching any of your gizmos. Unlike some portable power solutions I've tried before, the prongs on the Mini Surge lock into place so you know they're going to stay extended when plugging the device into a socket.
The Mini Surge is designed to handle up to 1800 Watts of power at a current of 15 Amps. If you're planning on plugging in a lot of "big equipment," ensure that you won't exceed that limit. Most portable electronics won't have a problem.
Using the Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station
Fortunately, I have a lot of stuff that I need to charge up and keep powered, so I have the perfect setup for trying this out. I plugged an iPhone 4 (with a cable to charge up a Mophie Juice Pack Air) and an iPad into the USB ports, and my MacBook Air, Apple Battery Charger, and an iPad 2 with charging brick into the AC outlets.
I'm not sure of the total power load on the Mini Surge as a result, but the device didn't get warm at all. There's a green LED to let you know that the surge protection is working -- if you are hit with a surge the light will go out if the protection is no longer sufficient to keep your gadgets safe.
I love the fact, even with five devices connected, I still had an empty socket on my wall.
There are similar solutions available from other brand-name vendors. Belkin's Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger (US$24.99) also has three AC outlets and two USB ports. While the prongs on the plug don't fold down as they do on the Aluratek Mini Surge, the Belkin device does rotate through 360° so that you can actually fit two of them on one standard two-socket outlet -- one pointing up, one pointing down, or each pointing an opposite direction sideways.
For a few years, I've had a Kensington Portable Power Outlet ($24.99). It also has three AC outlets, two USB ports, and surge protection, but has the added flexibility of a 17" flat power cord that means it can also be a short extension cable.
In terms of price and size, the Aluratek Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station really has the edge. I have a personal mission to keep reducing the amount of bulk carried on my travels, and this is an attractive and lightweight way to keep all of my devices powered up without carrying too many adapters.