Content Nav Menu 

Twelve South PlugBug 10W USB iPad/iPhone Charger Plus MacBook Plug Attachment Review

on April 26, 2012 11:00 am

I’ve been on a quest to minimize the gear I need to carry to charge/sync my electronics.  My current cable/connector bag is 10.5″ X 4.5″ X 3.5″ and weighs 1.75 pounds.  It’s stuffed with cables I almost never use, so it’s hard to find the one or two cables I do use.  I certainly don’t need to carry all that in my laptop bag every time I leave the house.  To lighten my load, I’ve already found a couple of cable sets that weigh an ounce or less and take up almost no room in my bag.  With the PlugBug Charger from Twelve South, I can even add a USB charger to my MacBook Pro power cord so I don’t even have to carry a separate USB power brick.

Granted, all laptops have USB ports on them.  Some laptops don’t have the higher-powered ports that are required for fast charging of tablets.  Some of the ultrathin laptops have only one or maybe two USB ports, and you may need more than that for your portable gadgets.  And sometimes you may just want to charge a device without automatically launching an app to sync it.  The PlugBug gives your an extra 10W USB port without taking up an extra wall outlet when you add it to your MacBook power adapter.

The PlugBug is made of shiny red plastic.  It measures about 2.35″ long X 2″ tall X 1″ thick.  It weighs 2.5 ounces on my digital kitchen scale.  The electrical prongs stow away when not needed.

The PlugBug can actually be used as a stand-alone USB charger.  It delivers 10W of power, so it can quickly charge tablets, phones, and any other USB-chargeable device.  Its bright red color will make it easy to find in the bottom of the darkest gear bag.

Remove the bottom cover to expose a connector that replaces the power prongs (US style) on a MacBook power adapter.  Twelve South says that the PlugBug works with current models of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and it works with previous generations of MacBooks.  With the PlugBug attached, the MacBook charger now has a built-in USB charger – two chargers using only one electrical plug.

You can see that my MacBook charger is wider than the PlugBug, but its shape still allows the PlugBug to fit securely on the larger charger.  The PlugBug is securely attached to the MacBook charger.

The charger takes up a lot of room on my power strip, as you can see here.  It covers one more outlet than the MacBook Pro alone does.  If your power strip had the outlets oriented sideways, the MB charger/PlugBug combination would take up no more room than the MB charger alone.

When used as a standalone charger, the PlugBug worked to charge my iPad, iPhone, and my Sony PRS-T1 ebook reader.  It worked equally well to charge those devices when attached to the MB charger.  I didn’t notice any ill effects on charging my laptop while using the PlugBug on its charger.

I gave the PlugBug to my husband, Butch, to use on a recent business trip.  It took up almost no room in his bag, and it worked to charge everything.  Butch can be a bit forgetful sometimes, and he said he liked having one less charger to keep up with in his hotel room.  It was also convenient because he could charge up everything using only one outlet, instead of having to charge his devices at multiple outlets around the room.

I like the PlugBug.  It works well, and it takes up little room in your gear bag.  I think it looks great when attached to the white MacBook power supply.  You can use it as a stand-alone USB charger, even if you don’t have an Apple laptop.

Just as a note, Twelve South says they will offer an international version of the PlugBug in the future.  However, they add the “current PlugBug makes the perfect U.S. Adapter for your International MacBook Charger should your travels bring you to the US or Canada.”

 

Product Information

Price:$34.99
Manufacturer:Twelve South
Pros:
  • Works as a standalone charger
  • Works with the MacBook power adapter to add an extra USB charging outlet while using only one wall outlet
  • Can work as a US adapter for non-US MacBook power adapters
  • 10W of power to charge tablets
Cons:
  • Attaches only to an Apple laptop power adapter (but you can still use it as a stand-alone USB charger)

Comments

  1. 1
    chriszzz says:

    Nice idea, but too many cons to make it a worthwhile addition to my travel bag. Too heavy, too expensive for what is essentially a 2A charger with 1 USB port. Double the number of USB ports, or integrate a Wifi router into it ( ala Airport Express ), and now we’re talking.

  2. 2
    chriszzz says:

    Just a thought : if you are in a quest to minimize the gear you carry to charge/sync your electronics, why do you have such a big bag filled with stuff you never use ? There are many tricks you can use to lighten your load.

    1. Use cables that are short or retractable.
    2. Use tiny USB universal battery chargers that charges any kind of 3.7 volt batteries. These weight less than 1 oz each, and are are great for charging camera or phone batteries.
    3. Get a good lightweight 2A usb charger, then connect a lightweight 4 port USB hub to it. You get an instant super charger that can charge 4 devices/batteries. Each port only gets 500ma, but that’s more than enough to charge most batteries/devices overnight, apart from tablets.
    4. Replace power cables that came with your laptop with lighter thinner versions. This only works with laptop chargers that actually have AC cables ( Dell, Lenovo, etc, but not the Macbooks though).
    5. Unless you really need a Cat5/Cat6 LAN cable, don’t bring one, or bring a flat LAN cable. It won’t give you gigabit speeds, but will be more than adequate for surfing the Internet in your hotel room. Or just use wifi.

    I’ve been travelling internationally for work for more than 10 years and I’ve been refining my stuff I carry through the years. These little tricks help me travel light and yet have all that I need.

  3. 3
    thsu says:

    @chriszzz, I would recommend a travel router & short cat5 to every traveler. Hotel wifi sucks or is expensive. I get less than a 30% success rate with hotel wifi. My EnGenius travel charger is the size of a deck of cards and has been a lifesaver.

  4. 4
    Michael says:

    Why not just charge USB devices off the USB ports on the Macbook? This thing would also stop anyone using their Apple international plug kit which I use a lot in UK/ Europe. But I guess Australia is not the target market :-)

  5. 5
    chriszzz says:

    Thsu, thanks for the ideas. I actually have a pocket router (Dlink DWL-G730AP) that I sometimes bring along. Since I try to reduce my travel clutter, I bring it only when I know the hotel does not provide Wifi, which happens in some developing countries.

    I have a long (10ft) flexible lightweight flat LAN cable which I prefer to the thick round Cat 5/6 cables. Just a personal preference I guess for times when I am in a meeting room and need a longer than normal cable for accessing an awkwardly placed RJ45 jack. I also have a similar 15ft flat cable for the same reason.

  6. 6
    Janet Cloninger says:

    @Michael I did mention that Twelve South is working on introducing an international kit.

  7. 7
    Michael says:

    Thanks Janet. I’ll be interested to see what they do. Currently I use one of these

    http://store.apple.com/au/product/MB974ZM/B

  8. 8
    Smythe Richbourg says:

    I bought one of these from a local Apple store, but returned it after a few days. I liked the idea of mating it to my MBP adapter, but using it alone, the cover felt far too cheap. For the same money, thre are other chargers that will work as well or have two ports. And I’ve all but stopped carrying my Mac when traveling. The iPhone/iPad combo is fine for my needs!

Leave a Reply