Separated at Birth: Lenovo Power Hub and its Ultraslim Twin

Late last year, we introduced the Lenovo Power Hub, and it created a lot of buzz.  It is essentially a power adapter for your ThinkPad that incorporates four USB ports--three for things like mice and keyboards and one for charging your music player or phone.  Cool idea, right?  And when esteemed sites like Engadget (who see everything in the world and have a fairly skeptical eye) call your product "genius" and "a sight for sore eyes," it makes you feel good. All that hoopla also generated a lot of questions and feedback, too.  Some online reviews commented they hoped Lenovo would include this as our standard adapter.  But two questions have popped up pretty consistently: "Am I supposed to travel with this thing?" and "What is the difference between this and Lenovo's Ultraslim AD/DC Combo Adapter?  Aren't they both AC adapters with mobile device charging capability?" In a word, "sorta."  I see these two products as fraternal twins separated at birth--similar, but each more distinct and different than you may realize. The big brother of the two is the UltraSlim AC/DC adapter.  I've made it clear in previous posts that I hate clutter in my bag, and this product is a big help in my war against travel bulk.  Not only is it very thin and sturdy, but it will simultaneously power or charge your ThinkPad and well as a phone or music player via a Y-cable that accepts vendor-specific tips (available here). What does that mean? Whether you have a Blackberry, iPod or just about anything else, there is a tip that will charge it.  A standard USB tip is included if you just want to use the USB cable your device came with--it even comes with a nice mini-satchel for all the pieces. Now when I travel, I leave the charging cables at home as the Ultraslim AC/DC takes care of all my mobile power needs.

 So it's slim, light and charges everything I carry.  It lets me leave the AC adapter I got with my ThinkPad at home, too, which is really convenient.  But where this product has really shined for me is the "DC" capability.  I can run or charge my ThinkPad and my phone in a car or on planes that have charging ports.  On very long flights, this has been a huge help and I can't tell you how many times I've need to charge my PC or phone from my car.  File that under "I never knew how much I needed this before." So why do we need the little brother? The answer is that the Lenovo Power Hub is a whole different game.  It isn't necessarily for travel: you plug it in at your workspace, plug in your printer, mouse, keyboard and your USB charging cord for your phone and you have a mini-port replicator.  When it is time to leave, you have only a single USB cord and the power cord to pull out and you're ready to go--everything else stays plugged in and ready for you when you return.  Your phone can even charge when the PC isn't there.  Now the AC Adapter that came with your ThinkPad is your travel adapter, and getting back to your desk is an easier transition.

For people who don't really want or need the full trimmings of a port replicator (which adds video, ethernet and more), the Power Hub is a useful and less expensive alternative.  That gets us back to one of the original questions -  why not make it standard with ThinkPads?  The two main answers are "cost" and "mobility." The Power Hub is a great product that has had more enthusiastic reviews than any option/accessory I can recall, but adding the additional cost for customers isn't what Lenovo is about.  Also, all the capability in the Power Hub makes it larger than a standard 90 watt AC adapter, and hardcore travelers will prefer the included AC adapter or the Ultraslim.  I can easily see remote workers who have a lot of accessories traveling with the Power Hub, but I think most will find their home at the office desk.  The adapter that came with your ThinkPad can handle the travel duty. So while they both free up the AC Adapter that came with your system and they both help you charge your other mobile devices, one lives on the road and one lives at home.  Each can make your life a little easier, and Mom and Dad are proud of them both. A few more views of the products:

Comments? Any thoughts about travel solutions you need? Let us hear from you!