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Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"   I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".  
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Cute Gadget
The iGo "Green" Computer Power Adapter

In a previous blog article I mentioned that, when thinking about this article, the thought path took me to thinking about garage sales, (also known as "yard sales"), which lead me to thinking about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, a weird association if I ever saw one.

As I promised, I began writing how I made that association.  At second glance I noticed that I was taking up too much space in the article discussing something totally irrelevant - so I deleted it.

However, the bottom line is that it is possible to score very interesting and useful stuff at garage sales for practically nothing.

And so it is here.  I found the iGo "Green" AC power adapter at a garage sale, being sold by someone who had no idea what it was.  Ergo, I was able to buy it for one dollar.  (MSRP is $80.)  Of course, it was missing a power cord and had no instructions, but I have plenty of power cords and a computer power adapter isn't that hard to figure out.  (And I can get the instructions on-line at iGo's web site, if I really want them.)  And, more luck, it had the right adapter plug to fit my laptop!

So, what makes the iGo"Green" adapter such a cute gadget?  It's a whole new take on the standard laptop AC adapter, designed to save power.

A "normal" (as supplied by the manufacturer), laptop AC adapter is usually a standard switching power supply converting the normal AC "mains" voltage, (either 110 or 220 volts, depending on locality), to the DC charging voltage required by the laptop, and includes a plug guaranteed to fit.

"Da' Bitch Part", so to speak, is that these switching supplies can consume non-trivial amounts of power from the wall mains even when the laptop is fully charged.  (A good test of this is to touch the adapter and note how warm it is when your laptop has been turned off for a while.)  Likewise, the ever-fussy folks in California, as well as in the European Union, consider this "wasted" power a Scourge to Mankind.

The iGo "Green" adapter claims to eliminate much, if not all, of this wasted residual power by detecting the power consumed by the device it is supplying power to.  Theoretically, laptop power draw through it's charging port drops dramatically once the batteries are charged. So, by detecting the amount of power the laptop wants to consume - and by allowing the laptop to spend at least some of it's time on battery power - it claims to reduce wasteful standby power by up to 80%.

Well, I don't happen to have a laboratory-grade micro-wattmeter in my back-pocket, so I cannot give you my own measurements on the actual, real-world, "where the rubber meets the road" consumption, (or lack thereof), of this device when connected to my laptop.  What I can tell you is what I have observed while using the device.

The Good:
  • It is a "universal power" device and can be used on both 110 and 220 volt mains.  However since this is, essentially, universally true for device supplies in general, and computer power adapters in particular, this is not exactly the strongest selling point the device has to offer.
  • It checks the power demand of your device every fifteen minutes, and if it's not demanding power, the charger switches to its "Green mode", and stops supplying power to the device.
  • Once the charger notices that your device has an increased power demand, it switches back to full-power mode.
  • Theoretically, this will save bucket-loads of energy by reducing residual power waste.
The Bad:
  • The device will - if it decides that you don't need it running - turn itself completely off.  This can happen, (and has happened to me), when you turn your laptop off for the night.  Translation:  When you power up the laptop in the morning, you're running sans adapter, even though it is plugged in.
  • I have noticed that it, sometimes, does not exit its "Green mode" when it is supposed to, leaving the laptop running on its batteries.  This is especially obvious if the laptop is turned off, the adapter switches to "Green" mode, and then the laptop is turned back on again.  You can mitigate this by pressing the green "power" button on the device, but that assumes you're checking the device to see if it's running in full-power mode.
  • Likewise, the device does not return to it's last running state if power is interrupted and then restored.  If I turn off a power strip briefly to reset a network device connected to it, the iGo adapter remains off.  A standard adapter continues to supply power when mains power is restored.
  • On all of the more modern, (say within the last five to ten years), laptops I have purchased, the power adapter is as cool as a cucumber when the laptop is off.  Which, IMHO, takes much of the wind out of the iGo adapter's sails since that implies that the amount of wasted residual power is minimal.
The Ugly:
  • Depending on your laptop's power settings, suddenly entering "battery powered" mode may cause a significant drop in performance.  (Not to mention that your laptop screen may suddenly become unreadable when it switches to it's low-brightness mode.)  Note that this effect can be eliminated by changing your device's power-profile to a more piggy, (power-hungry), setting.  Which, IMHO, is counter-productive if you are trying to save power.
  • By making the power profile changes noted above, your laptop's battery life will likely go right into the toilet when not connected to the adapter.  That is unless you are thoughtful enough to re-switch your power profile back to a more power-friendly setting.
  • If unused for a period of time, it shuts itself entirely off.  Ergo, when you fire up that trusty 'ole laptop in the morning, you may suddenly discover your machine is NOT running on adapter power at all.  I have discovered this by turning on the laptop, expecting it to be on adapter power because the adapter is both plugged in - and plugged into the laptop - walk away from it for a bit, and come back to a hibernating computer.  That, in and of itself, is not entirely bad.  However, some software, (including some of Windows' own stuff), does not recover from hibernation gracefully.  (Translation:  Your machine may begin doing strange things, depending on what you're doing with it.)  I have learned not to trust hibernation - or standby - completely and it annoys me no end when a computer goes into hibernation when I don't expect it to.
  • This means you have to be much more vigilent about what power mode the adapter is in.  Am I in "Green" mode?  Am I in the normal full-power mode?  Has it shut itself off completely?
  • You also have to be much more aware of your computer's power profile settings and adjust them as necessary to avoid undesired behavior when in battery power.

The bottom line:

If you are willing to make the effort to be aware of, and regulate, both the adapter's and the computer's power settings, this can be a useful tool.

If you want to impress your friends with your "Ecological Awareness" with the newest Eco-Gadget, this is it.

If you want to keep your laptop set to sane and useful power settings, you can do a great job of eliminating wasted standby power just by turning off the power-strip the laptop is plugged into.  And you can do that for free.

What say ye?

Jim (J.R.)


  1. Here's a couple of potential additions to the "ugly" side.

    1. While this may be less an issue with more modern battery technology, any battery still has a limited number of charge/discharge cycles. Sadly, batteries are sufficiently expensive to make any reasonable reduction in charge cycles worth while, and unusable batteries require disposal to boot! So using a power adapter that allows NOTHING (or close to nothing) to be demanded from the battery is, IMHO, even 'greener".

    2. As you explained this "find", I found myself wondering how on earth its circuitry could sense when lower demand was being caused by a fully charged battery, or lower CPU activity. I may have missed something, but i remained very skeptical, and after reading all your "bad and ugly" points became even more convinced, that this probably doesn't do what it claims. After all, I've purchased very small 800 watt auto (12V) radio power amplifiers at garage sales, which suspiciously came equipped with an in line 5 amp fuse.

  2. Truly an amazing gadget, every laptop needs certain amount of power to charge and after doing it full charge we often forget the power adapter to unplug from the sockets. This device is a total solution for this problem, because it automatically reduces the standby power which is used by laptop after being full charged. This unique feature made this charger one of its kind, and it promotes green/ conservation of energy as well.

  3. Laptop power supplies play a great role in our laptop's overall performance. We should be careful about turning the power switch off if our power cable is not in use.

  4. Great information shared by you. I also want to include one more topic is that solar power systems can save you money in the long run. Initially, it might not seem that way. They almost always cost more money up front because solar chargers use a less mature and less widely produced technology than conventional chargers. Solar rugged laptop works well in tough situation in this we no need to worry about electricity as well as safety.

  5. Increasing battery life is far more important on laptops and tablets

  6. Always let your battery run out at least once a month, keeps the battery's life longer

    1. RR

      That entirely depends on the battery's type and chemistry.

      Most "modern day" - that is purchased within the last seven or so years - probably uses a Lithium-Ion battery, (Li-Ion), and if it a much smaller device, it might use a Lithium-Polymer battery, (Li-Po).

      Both of these battery types REALLY DO NOT LIKE being totally discharged for any length of time. This is not to say that you can't totally drain the battery, but if it IS totally drained, you should charge it back up ASAP, to prevent it from going totally dead on you. (ASAP meaning "don't wait weeks or months to recharge it. Do it within a few days, or less, if possible.)

      So, you should take the advice of a periodic total discharge with a grain of salt, depending on the battery chemistry.

      What say ye?

      Jim ("J.R.")

  7. Really this is a cute gadget. I'm very much willing to buy in such cute gadget for supporting my laptop and I think this green power adapter will be sound effective for my laptop. Thanks for letting us know :)


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