Over the last couple of years, I have developed an obsession with traveling light that has been wonderfully encouraged and cultivated by Mssrs. Cook, Ive & Co. When I go out of the house and need to work remotely, my bag is as light as I can possibly make it: an 11-inch MacBook Air, an iPad 2, my iPhone 4S, a couple pens and a steno-pad for notes. Despite the sheer amount of silicon and tech stuffed into my shoulder bag, it’s always light, always svelte, always uncluttered. As they have done with so many other things when it comes to consumer electronics design, they have turned making gadgets thin into a cutting-edge art.
Well, except for one thing. The chargers.
The standard Apple MacBook Charger is easily two to three times thicker than my MacBook Air. The same can be said about the Apple 10W USB charger, which is just a brick compared to the thin slate it powers. Between the bricks and the cords, Apple’s chargers add an extreme amount of thickness and ungainliness to a streamlined gadget bag… and since my MacBook Air, at least, doesn’t have 10W USB ports, I can’t piggy back charging my iPad off of just the one charger.
Well, not without TwelveSouth’s ingenious, button-cute accessory, the <a href=”http://twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug/”>PlugBug</a>, that is.
The PlugBug is a marvelous idea. It’s an adorable little, blood-swelled parasite that leeches off of your standard Apple charger, supplying 10W of USB power to any device tethered to it, while passing electricity through to your MacBook at the same time. In other words, the PlugBug replaces the standard outlet adapter on your Apple charger and not only charges your MacBook but your iPad too… at the same time, from one electrical outlet. And it works exactly like it says on the tin.
I’ve been using — and loving — my PlugBug for the past few months, and while I’d recommend it heartily to anyone who wants to streamline their myriad chargers into one device, the PlugBug does have some niggling problems.
The first issue is charging speed. Although TwelveSouth says that the PlugBug charges an iPad 2 as fast as Apple’s USB charger, in practice, I’ve found it a slower experience to charge an iPad to full while also charging a MacBook Air. I’m not alone in this — my girlfriend also has a PlugBug, and says that she also feels the lag. It’s still definitely faster than charging an iPad 2 from, say, a MacBook Air’s USB port (which is an interminable affair), but I haven’t felt like it’s quite as fast as the standard 10W USB charger. Since I can’t find any mention of anyone else having this problem on the Internet, I suspect our old house’s wiring might be the issue here, but if you live in an old building, you might want to keep this in mind.
The second issue is length. With a standard Apple charger, you can plug in a longer cord to extend the distance you can charge a laptop or iPad away from a power socket. Since a PlugBug sits atop the standard Apple charger and favors two foldable prongs instead of a longer cord, using a PlugBug in a situation where your desk is far from the socket (or you have a full, busy power strip) can be frustrating.
Finally, while TwelveSouth says international PlugBugs are coming, they aren’t here yet… which left me in the lurch when I traveled to Barcelona for MWC.
That all said, I couldn’t live without my PlugBug. On the road, TwelveSouth’s darling little gadget lets me do something that was otherwise impossible: charge my MacBook Air and iPad from the same socket, at the same time. It’s not without trade-offs, but if you’re someone with a lot of gadgets who can never have enough USB ports or free sockets, the PlugBug is a hard product to ignore, especially for its extremely attractive $34.99 price. TwelveSouth isn’t going to steer you wrong.
Pros: Beautiful, fetching design. Affordable price. A great way to streamline all your Apple chargers.
Cons: The design means you have to sit closer to the socket. No international compatibility, yet. In houses with bad wiring, the PlugBug can charge an iPad slower than the standard charger.