June 30, 2008

Laptop Travel Surge Protector
Miami Beach, United States

I worry about my laptop getting fried somewhere remote—hearing the electrical pop and snap that'll turn it into a paperweight. I worry that the black brick on the power cable will get damaged even if the laptop doesn't, rendering the system useless. I also worry about the seesawing fluctuations of electrical current that gas-powered generators often put out—that gently dimming and brightening lightbulb in the middle of the room can't be good for things plugged into the wall.

Travel surge protectors (such as this Belkin) that rely on the grounded three-prong plug aren't particularly fit for use abroad. Not only is a grounded outlet rarely available—let alone functional when it is—but you're also likely going to be using a plug adapter with it (sidestepping its intended functionality).

Searching through message forums on the subject, one individual pointed to the Targus surge protector he uses. This item conveniently sits in between the power brick and the outlet plug to do its job.

I don't have much faith in the Targus brand for surge protection, and even less thanks to the specification vagueness on their Web site. Running with the idea, I found that Belkin was offering something similar (part# F5C791eaC6), but seems to be either discontinued or only available in the U.K.

Finally, I looked to the company where my search should've started: APC.

APC is the only company I trust with consumer-grade surge protection. It was the only brand I used when I had a home full of electronics that needed to be kept safe from power spikes, and looks like it will continue to be one I use to as I travel abroad (as they too make an inline laptop surge protector).

APC SurgeArrest Notebook protecting my laptop and power cable's black brick

The APC SurgeArrest Notebook (model# PNOTEPROC6) typically retails for around $25, but I was able to find one sealed in its original packaging on eBay for $9.99 (with $5.00 shipping).

I'm still worried about questionable generator-powered outlets delivering an underpowered current, but at least have confidence that a lightning strike or abrupt spike will fry the surge protector, and not my laptop.

Note: Folks searching around online for one these should take special care regarding the model number. The 'PNOTEPRO' and 'PNOTEPROC8' are can be found cheaper than the PNOTEPROC6, but work only with the two-pin plug variety, not the three-pin connection. Check the APC Web site for details.

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