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USB ports in your wall outlets. NewerTech Power2U review

USB ports in your wall outlets. NewerTech Power2U review

When we went to CES in January, one of the things that immediately caught my eye at the CES Unveiled pre-show press event (besides the food), was a small table with an innocuous and somewhat out-of-place display—amidst a sea of glittering hi-tech gadgets and mobile devices was a … standard power outlet?

NewerTech Power2U

I mean, it's just a power outlet, right?

At first glance, that’s exactly what it is. So why is it here sharing premium floorspace with things that were far less mundane?

I jostled up to the front and asked. The outlet is called the NewerTech Power2U. I looked more closely. That’s when I saw that the Power2U’s trick card was that it has a built-in transformer and two hidden USB ports for charging your devices.

That awkward moment when you’re like “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s a no-brainer, frankly. NewerTech just happened to do it right; they got UL listed, which means these units are certified for safety. They come in four colors (white, almond, ivory, and black), and fit in any modern, normal-sized junction box.

Installation and limitations

We just happen to have a perfect use case for these units; NewerTech very kindly agreed to sponsor IcronticHQ Detroit with six of them, to be installed in the 1899 home that we’re renovating for our new HQ. Our new office has three of them, and the electrician got them installed today.

That’s not to say you need an electrician to install them. If you have a screwdriver and know how to turn off a breaker or fuse, you can easily install them yourself. I actually let my 12-year-old son install one—with the proper precautions, it’s really quite a simple matter.

The only problem you might encounter is with the size of your outlet boxes. The Power2U requires a full-size box, and even then the fit is tight. I was going to install one in my living room but the box was older (built in the 60s) and too narrow for the Power2U unit.

The installation guidelines, from the website, are as follows:

  1. Turn off the power to the outlet that you wish to replace.
  2. Remove the wall plate and outlet you wish to replace.
  3. Insert a tape measure or ruler into the outlet box and measure the depth, width, and height.
  4. Multiply the three measurements. For example, a standard deep outlet box is 3″ deep x 3″ tall x 2-1/8″ wide. Multiply all of those together and you come up with 19.125 cubic inches. This box would qualify to fit the Power2U outlet, however that does not complete your calculations; the amount of wires, and fastening devices that are inside of the box also must be factored in. A very thorough explanation of these calculations are available at http://ecmweb.com/nec/code-basics/electric_box_fill_calculations/. Each situation in residential wiring can be unique, so it is up to the installer to determine if they are in compliance with the NEC regulations.
Power2U installed at ICHQ Detroit

Power2U installed at ICHQ Detroit

As you can see, if your Romex/outlet box is relatively new (within the last 25 years or so), it should be able to accommodate the Power2U.

The only other limitation is that the Power2U is a 15amp outlet; you should not replace an existing 20amp outlet with it.

Features

The spring-loaded covers over the USB charging ports serve more than just aesthetic purposes. The Power2U switches the USB charging outlets off when the covers are closed; therefore you’re not running the transformer if nothing is plugged in. If you plan on hanging a cord out of the outlet and leaving the other end on your desk for night-time charging, remember that the transformer will be switched on even if nothing is plugged in to the other end. Therefore, the ideal is to unplug the USB cord from the wall socket to shut off the 5v transformer that’s inside the Power2U.

Other than that, there’s not really much mystery to it: You plug in your USB devices, and they charge. You still have two full power outlets and no longer need to waste space with a wall-wart block charger taking up too much room.

Final Thoughts

Other than cost, there is really no downside to having two USB charging ports inside your power outlets. It’s one of those things that, once you have them, you can’t really go back. They just feel like a necessity.
Icrontic Outstanding Product
As far as this particular outlet over other USB-integrated outlets? As it stands now, this is the only UL-listed USB power outlet on the market in the US.

Based on that fact, we’re happy to award the NewerTech Power2U our silver “Outstanding Product” award as something we highly recommend. Every household, geek or otherwise, should have at least one of these units to make their mobile lifestyles a bit easier and more convenient.

The NewerTech Power2U is available from Amazon for $25.99 and from Other World Computing for $27.99. They’re currently running a rebate promotion; if you buy more than two at once, you get $5 off every outlet. They even sell them in bulk packs of 10, 20, and 100 for contractors.

Comments

  1. oni_dels
    oni_dels i should/will get one/many of those... already got a usb thingy that goes in a car lighter so...
  2. storrm
    storrm meh i would of like if thay started installing these stand 3 years ago. thats about when i was thinking about how i could really use a usb port in the socket, or a new globe stranded on power sockets that could transfer data and power. Imagen plugging your desk top in to the wall and it has LAN to the power box that has a built in modem that has fibber optics cable running it to it. could be 10+ years before i see something like that tho :/
  3. Butters
    Butters I've installed the FastMac ACE 7702 when I moved in my new place. It is also UL Listed. I love it, though it doesn't have the hidden usb outlets.

    http://store.fastmac.com/product_info.php?products_id=505 (or amazon)
  4. Linc
    Linc My quibble is that we weren't able to get them flush with the wall completely in the new office. They're quite deep too. We're likely to need caulk or something around the top. That said: worth it.
  5. CrazyJoe
    CrazyJoe Why would they not be flush with the wall?
  6. Linc
    Linc Couldn't get them deep enough in the wall. Not sure if the box was mounted too shallow, but I don't think so.
  7. CrazyJoe
    CrazyJoe
    Couldn't get them deep enough in the wall.
    That's what he said?

  8. primesuspect
    primesuspect The problem in our home office is the boxes; they don't go deep enough.
  9. Thrax
    Thrax Shallow boxes aren't a big deal. You just have to be gentle and you can get it all the way in.
  10. storrm
  11. one234h
  12. CrazyJoe
    CrazyJoe
    Shallow boxes aren't a big deal. You just have to be gentle and you can get it all the way in.
    Alternatively anything can fit with enough force.
  13. ardichoke
    ardichoke Yeah, but then there tends to be tearing... most boxes don't like that.
  14. Thrax
    Thrax I'd be more concerned about the walls. Drywall repair isn't exactly cheap.
  15. ardichoke
  16. one234h
    one234h Can't tell if making a stretch of a sex joke, or just pays a handyman too much.

    phillip_J_fry.jpg
  17. Wattyz
    Wattyz Do you know if the promo is still going on, and do you still suggest them, or should I go with another mfg? I'm getting outlets put into the office, so the boxes aren't even purchased yet (so size wouldn't be an issue really, or are they hard to come by?)
  18. Tushon
    Tushon If it helps, the critical reviews on Amazon focus only on the space requirements, which means that the purchaser was at fault for not listening to the manufacturer specs and realizing it wouldn't be a correct solution for their situation. Everyone else seems to like them.
  19. primesuspect
    primesuspect Not sure about the promo, but I definitely still recommend them. The two standout features: UL listing, and transformer turning off when USB doors are shut. Here is the current store page.
  20. Wattyz
    Wattyz Thanks. Now I need an electrician for my 'office.' I hate that the ipad must be plugged into the wall, but this would work perfectly.
  21. primesuspect
    primesuspect Today they lowered the price to $19.99
    June 26, 2012, Woodstock, IL - Newer Technology, Inc. (NewerTech®),
    a leading developer of Macintosh®, PC, iPod®, iPhone®, and iPad® performance
    upgrades and accessories, announced today it has lowered the Manufacturer's Suggested
    Retail Price by 17 percent for its Power2U™ AC/USB Wall Outlet.

    Now priced at $24.99 MSRP with street pricing as low as $19.99, the Power2U is
    the first home-safe, UL-Listed in-wall charging solution available to enhance
    living and working spaces by eliminating the clutter created by multiple cables
    and unsightly bulky power adapters.

    Turns Walls into Charging Stations
    Ideal for homes with users of multiple USB-chargeable devices, the Power2U is
    available in four decorator colors to blend seamlessly into any residential wall
    as a standard power outlet. By incorporating two traditional three-prong AC wall
    sockets in addition to two USB 3.0/2.0/1.1 ports, the Power2U transforms an ordinary
    wall into a modern, centralized location for charging/powering up to four devices
    simultaneously.

    Easy 20-Minute or Faster Install
    The Power2U is a basic 'DIY' install on any 15Amp circuit with a 16-cubic-inch
    electrical box. A “straightforward” rated “how-to” video showing how the Power2U
    can be installed in 20 minutes or less is available.

    Money Saving, Energy Efficient
    In addition to being convenient to use, the Power2U provides two energy efficiency
    features. The intelligent Smart Power design only outputs enough charging power
    to meet the requirements of the device that is attached. The specially designed
    spring-loaded Safety Shutters completely turn off power to the USB ports when
    a connecting cable is removed.

    Praised and Proven by Media and Consumers
    While the Power2U only began shipping six months ago, it has captured broad praise
    from professional media and consumers. Good Morning America called it 'brilliant';
    and the Miami Herald named it 'gadget of the year'. After being installed and
    used by over 150 Handyman Club of America members, Power2U received their highly
    coveted Seal of Approval by earning a 92 percent approval rating. The Power2U
    has also been named a finalist in the “New Product or Service of the Year - Consumer
    Electronics” category of the 2012 American Business AwardsSM.

    “The features and benefits of the Power2U have clearly resonated with mobile
    device users, and with this aggressive new pricing move, it will continue to
    attract more customers,” said Larry O'Connor, President, Newer Technology Inc.
    “With a $19.99 street price, the Power2U is a better value than ever.”

    Price and Availability
    While priced at $24.99 MSRP, the Newer Technology Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet
    is 'available from retailers and Newer Technologys exclusive distributor, Other
    World Computing (OWC®) for as low as $19.99.
  22. mertesn
    mertesn I could see putting several of these in my home. Thanks for the bump and pricing update!
  23. primesuspect
    primesuspect Holiday sale on these for $11.50 each
  24. CrazyJoe
    CrazyJoe So installing these are not any different than installing regular wall outlets, correct? I.E. there's no extra wires for the USB Ports?
  25. Zanthian
  26. Tushon
    Tushon
    So installing these are not any different than installing regular wall outlets, correct? I.E. there's no extra wires for the USB Ports?
    That's correct, just make sure your current box has enough room.

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