Universal Laptop Power Supply?

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Why don’t we have a universal power supply for all laptop and notebook computers? Most of them are spec’d to the point where they are fairly similar, as evidenced by the iGo Power Supply that works with over 100 laptops. The only major difference between a Dell power supply and a Toshiba power supply is the connection in the back of the laptop. That’s stupid. The power supply connector on a laptop is not a feature!
I don’t pick my laptop based on which style of power supply I use. All I need to know is that my laptop power cord will connect to a standard grounded power outlet in the United States (and possibly work internationally as well). When I lose my power supply or the cord gets damaged, I should be able to walk into any electronics store and pickup a new one, or borrow one from some kind soul who has a fully charged battery. Instead I have to buy something like the iGo, which is universal, but also requires me to get a bunch of extra tips that don’t connect with anything I own.
Jason Dunn takes power connector issues a step further, outlining his own power woes. Jason dreams of a world where add-on power solutions are more universally compatible, which would be easy if we could get everyone to agree on making power cords standardized on laptops across the board. Jason’s right that getting individual brands to remain consistent throughout their product line is a good first step. But unifying the Dell, HP, Toshiba, or Lenovo product lines doesn’t go far enough – the power cord should be universal on the laptop side, just like it is on the side that connects to the wall.

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6 comments

  1. I have an HP Pavilion zd8000 I’ve been using for almost 3 years now. I call it Behemoth, because that’s what it is – 17″ screen and all. Not exactly super portable but I don’t care since it’s my main (and only) computer. With a Pentium 4 processor you can imagine the power draw is on the heavy side. We’re talking a true power “brick” here. Even with a brand new battery I only got 40 minutes of computing time. No biggie, I planned on plugging it in most of the time anyway.
    The machine really has been a trooper, but an additional power supply can’t be found. Less than a year after purchase I tried to buy one from HP and even they didn’t carry it! Even tried two different after market vendors on ebay but they didn’t work.
    I know I’m on borrowed time hoping this power supply doesn’t give up the ghost anytime soon. Needless to say, I back up a lot.

  2. I agree completly with the idea of a universal power supply or at least connectors from the pc to the brick,
    They have done it with other types of electrical items, ie; power cords for desktops, and most small portable cd players use the same cord, wouldn’t it be nice if I could just grap a cord and use it without worry too much if it would fit, if its a laptop cord it should fit any laptop, same as the d shaped cords fit any item that has a d shaped connector.
    Power cords should be universal . A type of removable cord should fit any unit that has the same connector on the unit end,

  3. I have another beef about laptop connectors. They are too vulnerable to damage, because the connector sticks out of the socket. My own laptop has become unusable because of failed soldered joints on the circuit board where the power socket is mounted and they are just about impossible to repair reliably.

  4. Pet peeve #14723 – people who exaggerate
    no seriously… power supplies/wallwarts that don’t identify which equipment they belong to. Most of them are identified solely with the PSU maker’s name… I know a kid who blew up a pair of speakers and telephone answering machine because he guessed.. wrong.
    I know PSUs and devies (usually) have voltage and polarity marked but at best they’re hard to read. and almost always need a magnifying glass or a very careful squint.
    Now I grab a sticky label and put on my own “Anonymizer Router” label before I even plugit in. On the base, hidden by the wall, it is never unsightly and always there if needed… I’ve never regretted labelling a wall wart.

  5. It’s about time the manufacturer fix this mess. Or should the government take charge? China, for example, require every mobile phone sold there using USB connection for its chargers. So no matter what mobile phones you have, you always can charge your mobile phone anywhere (just borrow from anyone!).

  6. Power cords are easy to standardize at least partially. Connections to laptops are harder.
    For power supplies that adapt to any input voltage, you might need at least two power input types, a three-wire and a two-wire. For power supplies that are only 110-120V or 220-240, you might need different types for each.
    But PCs vary in their voltage requirements and current draw (may be even polarity). So what’s needed is a set of standard DC input jacks, corresponding to various requirements, as an extensible standard in case future voltage needs differ.
    Damage problems like those Mike Young states are avoided by the new power connector on current laptops. I’d like to see something similar on USB connectors and such.

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