“Universal” charger puts an end to multiple bricks - Mike Magee pic - two pairs of padukams at the Ashmolean

In September we found ourselves in an interesting situation. There was a press trip to GlobalFoundries (glofo) in Satan Clara – just a short trip. Then there was a return trip to Blighty and a trip to the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, and then the minute we got back from visiting the Great Satan of Chips (Intel), we found ourselves having to fly to Sitges, near Barcelona, for the White Bull Conference.

Imagine. Two standards and three cultures. Sitges, actually, is more like being in San Francisco than in the barren wasteland that is Satan Klaara, however close you are to the big chip players.  September is always a busy time for me. At least this time I didn’t have to fly round the globe with my Sony Viao, of which more later.

Luckily, I had with me as my rusty companion my Sony Viao – of which more later – and my Alpha Plus International 90 watt Universal Notebook Charger.

This kit – it costs £50 from Argos – has a plethora of options for charging phones, notebooks, MP3 devices, and so many sockets that will connect that it would tax my feeble little brain to list them all. “Due to the wide variety in brands and models and the frequent release of new laptop models, it is very likely that this power supply will work with your laptop, but please check if the plug type and power rating fits your laptop’s requirement,” says the blurb on the back.

box shot

So what happens when you open the box – and believe you me, we will talk about the Sony Vaio in a paragraph or two. Inside are the most important AC socket types known to humankind.  And now I digress. I have never been to South Africa but have travelled to India many a time – both jurisdictions use a three round pin plug based on the safest plug in the world, the UK fused plug.

Included, as you can see, are numerous heads that will plug into your laptop – they cover nearly all of the big names. And, let’s face it, four Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) in Taiwan create around 94 percent of all the notebooks, qua laptops, in the world.

I am reliably assured that Argos UK sells between 50,000 and 100,000 of these kits every week and this particular kit can be used in your car, in fright – sorry flight, and will work in 150 countries in the world. Perhaps the manufacturers, sorry vendors, will work on a universal standard but the universal standard is the universal solder, sorry solider.

And so to the Sony Vaio story. I’ve only had the VGN Z11N for about three years, and it’s been a solid performer. Unfortunately, at Intel’s jamboree, the Sony went on strike and refused to respond to my cries for help. I was forced to go across the road and buy a new Asus notebook, that uses the i3 chip, and within a few hours the guy over there had managed to sell me a new machine that worked well in both San Francisco and Sitges.

There was a problem however. He said the power brick supplied with the Asus new notebook wasn’t that brilliant, and I had better have a standby in case it failed.

I had, and have.  The Universal Notebook Charger may well not work in Alpha Centauri, nor in the triple Sun system that appears to be what happens near Sirius. But it works very well practically everywhere else in the cosmos.  It works with digital cameras, portable games consoles and rest. It minimises carrying in your bag a multitude of wires and bricks so you can make all your devices work with each other.

In short, it’s recommended, and our score is 8.5 out of 10.  And as to the Sony Vaio? Its only problem was that something inside had got disconnected while the poor little thing made its way round the world twice.  And the UNC works fine with it too. Goodbye to multiple bricks! One brick rules all.