Add a USB Charging Port to Your MacBook Charger

The PlugBug Charger from TwelveSouth is a different kind of powered USB charger.  Pop the cover off the PlugBug, pop the power prongs off the Mac charger, and then plug them together.  US power prongs fold out of the PlugBug.  The other end of the PlugBug has a USB port that delivers 5V at 2.1A, so it can charge an iPad, iPhone, or iPod.  If you are traveling in the US from another country, you’ll find that the PlugBug also acts as an adapter for US outlets.  It’s a convenient way to maximize use of a single power outlet, and it can lighten the load in your gear bag because you won’t need to carry separate power adapters for all your iOS devices.  The PlugBug is $34.99 at TwelveSouth.

Posted in: Gear, News, Travel Gear

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • DStaal November 2, 2011, 9:30 am

    A quick note: The Macbook’s charger already is dual-voltage, and I doubt this device does anything to avoid passing through the voltage it gets. So I think the ‘acts as a power converter’ is probably either a misunderstanding of the ad copy, or an exaggeration in the ad copy.

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  • Janet Cloninger November 2, 2011, 9:50 am

    @DStaal I changed my phrasing to say it “acts as a power adapter”, which is what the person in the video at TwelveSouth says about the PlugBug

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  • Mikey Pizano November 2, 2011, 2:25 pm

    Why not make this universal to all laptop adapters?

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  • Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards November 2, 2011, 5:46 pm

    If your laptop is plugged in, doesn’t it have a USB port that can charge it? I suppose this is useful for the pre-10w Apple laptops, but how many are out there that are owned by people who are going to buy something like this?

    You have to fit into all categories of:
    * Travel a lot.
    * Buy an $800 iPad.
    * Be of a mind to buy cool gizmos.
    * Own an old Apple laptop you haven’t upgraded in five years or so.

    If you fit the first three, I think the last is unlikely. Or at least uncommon enough to limit the sales pool for this thing. It’s a great idea, but I fear the niche is small.

    Really great idea — to the point that I wonder what else will come from the basic concept.

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  • DStaal November 2, 2011, 6:13 pm

    The laptop may or may not have an available USB port – that depends on how many ports it has and what it’s doing. Also, this doesn’t require that the _laptop_ be plugged in – just the charger. (Actually, just this adaptor, if you want to be technical…)

    ‘Universal’ to all laptop chargers would require that all laptop chargers have some commonality in their design. Not likely to happen anytime soon. ;) I do know some PC laptop manufacturers sell chargers that have similar functionality built in.

    And Evan: I wasn’t aware that Apple had changed the design of their chargers recently. (In fact, my parents recently bought a Macbook, and I thought it came with the same design, and the online Apple store appears to sell compatible chargers) Why would the laptop need to be old?

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  • Janet Cloninger November 2, 2011, 6:32 pm

    @DStaal I think Evan mentioned older laptops because they didn’t have the higher-powered USB ports that are capable of quickly charging the iPads. The more recent MacBooks do have the higher-powered USB ports, and the adapter wouldn’t be as necessary with newer laptops.

    And possibly the easiest way to make this universal for all laptops is to replace the connector for the Apple power supply with a AC power receptacle.

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  • Mikey Pizano November 2, 2011, 8:25 pm

    The connector is the same as on my Eee PC adapter, its a standard 2 prong. The problem is, why not make it have the 2 prong inlet instead of the wall plug?

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  • Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards November 3, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Yup. That’s exactly what I meant: the USB ports on Apple products have been able to feed a higher charge for a few years now, predating the iPad’s release. That’s the update I was referring to[1]. Thus, my observation that you need to be a gadget person who travels and buys an iPad, but is still using an old laptop with their Apple charger.

    To answer your initial statement, all laptops have USB. Every single one… or at least every one that uses this type of charger, and that’s the pool of laptops that is relevant. :)

    Again, the basic concept of piggybacking the standard charger is really really nifty. I just think that for most people this doesn’t make much sense, as the iPad comes with a smaller plugin charger… or if you’re carrying the full size block you’re going to be travelling with your laptop, which has the correct USB ports.

    It’s certainly not without a base of people who would buy it. My only comment is that it’s not as large a group as it might seem, as it’s basically competing with the tiny micro sized wall usb chargers. Of course, if the next Air comes without USB (as some Apple watchers have predicted), that changes things substantially, and there’s an instant market for this.

    [1] – To be somewhat pedantic, they have changed their charger on the laptop side, with the magsafe connector, which is hardwired to the charger. The old round connector, which was used with the berry iMacs and through at least the TiBooks, is no longer used. You are right that the wall outlet side, however (which is what this device attaches to) is the exact same, as my wife and I use the power cords from those with our modern MBP unibodys to wire in at our desks. Quite frankly, that’s pretty cool that they have been so stable over so many years.

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  • Mikey Pizano November 3, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Well here is the thing. Sometimes, it is nice to be able to plug in a device with power only. For example, when I don’t want my iPod to connect to my computer, but just charge.

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  • Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards November 3, 2011, 12:47 pm

    Mikey – Oh, I agree. But the iPad comes with one of these that is half the size of this one (without using the charger block… with it, it is much larger). And there are others even smaller than that.

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  • Andrew Morrow November 3, 2011, 1:38 pm

    Ok, I’ll just throw in:
    The macbook only powers the USB ports when it’s open and running. When it’s closed and in sleep mode, it doesn’t. If you travel a lot and run into a hotel (increasingly in my experience) where there is only one outlet nearby, you could use this to charge your laptop over night while simultaneously charging your idevice.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t buy it. I just can see why SOME people would, even if they HAVE a macbook with 10w usb power.

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  • Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards November 3, 2011, 2:20 pm

    >The macbook only powers the USB ports when it’s open and
    > running. When it’s closed and in sleep mode, it doesn’t.

    Ah, now that *is* interesting. Mine does, and I routinely use it to charge my phone while it is asleep (for instance, in airports). I wonder if that’s because I use Linux on it. 13″ MBP 7,1 I always thought that was a function of the hardware and it did the same thing in OSX. Perhaps OSX shuts down the USB ports when sleeping to preserve battery?

    I’m pretty sure in hibernate mode, it doesn’t charge (as it is basically off), but like most MacBook users, my laptop is seldom actually turned off.

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