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Portable Power for Travel Gadgets & Gear

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USB plugOne of the nuisances of traveling with technology is all the chargers and adapters we drag along to keep our gadgets running. Gadget guy Phil Baker reviews some new ways to stay charged up on the road.

One of the positive trends is that many devices—including cameras and mobile gaming devices—now use either a mini-USB or micro-USB connector.

Between the device and your computer, only one cord is necessary, with no additional adaptor required.

A computer or an adapter rated at 500 miliamperes typically charge at similar rates. Alternatively, travelers can bring along a charger in which the connecting cord can be swapped out to work with different electronics.

However, as my recent trip to Asia proved, there are plenty of devices that require specialized chargers: I had oodles of cords and adapters to charge my MacBook, iPhone, Bluetooth headset, new Palm Pre, and external batteries and cases with built-in batteries.

Many of these products have different connectors for charging, and some even have special adaptor tips that are costly and easy to lose.

For my iPhone I took along the inCase Power Slider which more than doubled its run time. It comes with a mini-USB connector for charging and a built-in battery gauge. $80; www.goincase.com

Mophie Juice Pack AirI also brought a similar product, the Mophie Juice Pak Air, also $80, but slightly slimmer and with a little less capacity. Those gave more than enough time with my iPhone, playing games, watching videos and listening to music for a 15-hour flight, an hour in the lounge and another three-hour flight. www.mophie.com

Another new product that proved to be useful is the Fueltank by Callpod—a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can charge most any mobile cell phone, GPS, earphone, or music player. Charge it up and it can be used to “refill” your phone’s battery about a half dozen times. It can also charge two devices at a time, such as a cell phone and a Bluetooth headset.

But the big drawback is that it needs a special adapter for each device, which costs $10 apiece—and don’t think about losing those tips as it’s useless without them. The Fueltank comes with a mini-USB adapter and a coupon for a second, plus a vinyl case and, of course, its own AC adapter. The base price is $70, not including the additional adaptors. www.callpod.com

PC notebook users should take note of a new product from Innergie. It’s the mCube90 universal power adapter that plugs into the wall and charges any PC as well as a second portable device simultaneously. It works with most notebook computer plus any additional 5-volt USB device up to a maximum of 90 watts. It also has the ability to work with a 9-volt auto/air adapter which means you can charge up in a car, train or plane, although that requires carrying a second power cord.

This is a better choice than buying an additional adapter from your computer company. It’s more compact and can work any brand, which reduces obsolescence if you switch computers. $100; www.myinnergie.com

By Phil Baker for PeterGreenberg.com. You can read Phil’s blog at blog.philipgbaker.com, and check out his new book, From Concept to Consumer: How to Turn Ideas into Money.

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