The best USB power supply I have seen is the Anker 5 port, 8 amp smart charger. It uses a so-called PowerIQ charging system to provide the best power possible for each device. It is a small brick shaped device that connects to the wall via a figure-eight cable.
A USB based charger can charge most portable devices, from Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Bluetooth headsets, Cameras, to a wealth of other devices.
Most of these devices come with a “wall wart” plug pack and a USB to micro or mini USB plug, or the Apple Lightning connector. Carrying the original charger for every device we own, and finding a power outlet for each is impossible.
The Anker charger is a small brick, smaller than a cigarette packet, (58 x 91 x 25mm) with 5 USB ports on one end and the small two-pin figure eight socket on the back. The advantage of this (and the wide power supply range) is that the charger can be used in any country with the addition of the correct cable. It can be found on Amazon here and eBay here.
Every USB device makes it’s power requirements known by talking to the charging port via serial communications through the two inside pins, or, for dumb charging devices, by being wired with certain resistors in the power lines. This allows a smart charger to supply just the right amount of power to each device. The Anker charger is very well regulated, and assuming the cables are of suitable quality, maximum charging speeds will result. Overcharging is impossible as long as decent cables are used. I label the cables that come with my devices and try to keep the correct cable with each device. I have only once seen a different cable to cause a problem. It was supposed to have a “Fast Charge” switch on the plug. switching to “Fast Charge” caused charging to stop completely! More about cables another time.
I found the results to be impressive, though I could never get my HP Chromebook 11 to charge at anything like the 3 amps that it’s dedicated charger is supposed to deliver. But I torture tested the Anker charger on a one week stay in Melbourne recently. I was sharing accommodation with three other device users. Each night four smartphones, three tablets, a USB charged HP Chromebook 11, a power bank, Bluetooth headsets, two keyboards and a USB powered Seagate WiFi hotspot and media server all had to be kept topped up by the Anker IQ 40W 5-port smart USB charger. It worked flawlessly for the week, charging everything, in some cases with split two headed charging cables connected.
The Anker IQ 40W 5-port charger comes with an 18 month warranty, and this is backed by an impressively fast and helpful customer support operation. My first charger had one port die within a week. Anker asked for the serial number of the device, and had a replacement in the mail within 24 hours. Since they are in the US and I am in Australia the replacement arrived with great speed. A tribute to a real belief in quality and customer support.
Anker now has a 60W version, but I seriously doubt it will result in faster charging except with the most extreme combination of devices. But if you believe more is better, here is a link to the 60W charger on Amazon.
For many users of touch devices such as phones and tablets, mice are a thing of the past. For me, the mouse still has a huge place in my toolkit. It is essential for laptop and desktop computing, and even editing text on a tablet works better with a mouse.
I use a number of tablets and computers on a daily basis, and wireless mice have three drawbacks. They require a spare USB port for the dongle, they require AA or AAA batteries, and they are mostly fairly large.
I spend a lot of time using Laptops, Chromebooks and Tablets. None of these have a lot of spare USB ports, and some have none at all. So Bluetooth is the only option to get full functionality on all devices. If I am doing serious typing on my Nexus 7 Tablet, I connect a Bluetooth keyboard, and at times, having a mouse is handy.
If I am travelling, I will have a Chromebook or an Ultrabook. Long hours working on one of these devices on a table or on my lap is a sure invitation for a stiff neck, and back pain. So I carry a stand that tilts the laptop up to a level where the screen is comfortable. This may require a Bluetooth keyboard, but always makes the trackpad difficult to use, so I always use a mouse if I have the room.
I have been using a Microsoft Sculpt Touch mouse, simply because it was the only Bluetooth mouse I could find here in Tasmania, Australia that was reliable. The Sculpt Touch is a good size, but has a tactile bar that replaces the wheel that drives me absolutely crazy. It is impossible to control on non Windows computers, and just plain bad on Windows. Scrolling becomes an exercise in frustration that has on one occasion literally driven me to throw the mouse across the room (onto a lounge chair, I was frustrated, not stupid) and resort to the touch pad. It also uses 2 AA batteries, and therefore is quite heavy.
I do not like mice that require batteries. When I travel I must take spare batteries, and/or a charger. I like everything I use to charge from a USB port. This makes it possible to travel for an extended period with only one charger. I have a USB powered AA/AAA charger, but it is another device, and unless I carry spares, I have to stop work and wait for my mouse batteries to be charged, or do without the mouse
So I went shopping for ANY mouse that was Bluetooth enabled and has USB charging. I took a few deep breaths before I paid out $90 for a mouse, and kept the receipt in case I could not use it, but I have found THE perfect mouse for me.
The Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse. I confess, if I had seen one, I may have gone for the T631 white mouse, but other than that, this is mouse is ideal for me. It is very small, 59 x 85 x 19mm and weighing only 70 grams. The tiny size had me worried that it might be difficult to control, but it invites you to place two or three fingertips on top and control it that way. There is no wheel, the entire top surface is touch sensitive, and stroking the top surface up and down or sideways provides a scroll effect. The provided software works on Windows & Mac, and adds multi-touch functionality, but since I use Chrome OS, Linux and Android as well as Windows I have kept my use to the basic functions that work on every device.
Scrolling is smooth and effortless, and can be done almost anywhere on the top of the mouse. The Bluetooth setup is a function of the operating system, but the mouse seems to reconnect on wake-up very fast. It has been faultlessly reliable.
An added feature that a number of Logitech keyboards have is the ability to pair to two or more devices, and switch between them with the flick of a switch. The Logitech mouse has a switch on the bottom of the mouse that allows two connections. I would love the ability to connect to three devices, like my Logitech K810 Keyboard, but two is enough for most situations.
To keep the mouse clean and small, the micro-usb charging port is on the bottom, so the mouse cannot be used and charged at the same time. This is not really a problem. One minute of charging will run the mouse for an hour. I have only had the mouse go flat once, I plugged it in for a minute to get it working, continued worked until I wanted a break, and re-charged it the few minutes I was away from the computer. Basically I charge the mouse & keyboard up once a week, and just forget about it after that. I do not bother to switch it off unless I am travelling.
I am far more concerned with function than looks, but it is still a pretty mouse. it is small, works on everything (better if you have the Windows or Mac software, but I am happy without the extras) and has a simply beautiful scroll surface.
Watch out for the Click!
I have seen criticism of the buttons sticking down. The do NOT stick. The buttons are under the chassis of the mouse. There are no buttons on top of the mouse. It is a single, unbroken touch surface. The entire mouse moves down when you click a button. If (like me) your fingers hang over the sides of the mouse, and touch the desktop it is possible that when you click (press down) your fingers, resting on the desktop, will grip the mouse tightly enough to stop it coming back up. This is a user error, based on the very light, small and short travel of the mouse. As you become aware of this, you learn to be a little gentler in handling the mouse, and it then moves perfectly.
I became comfortable with the tiny, light and sensitive nature of the mouse quickly. the button held down issue took a few days. but now, when I have to use a normal mouse it feels monstrously big, and awkward. Having to deal with a shrunken tendon in my right hand makes this mouse even more friendly.
Overall, this is my choice for the best ever portable mouse, and in my case, the best mouse ever.
The quick and simple connection with Chrome and Android devices as well as the usual Windows and OS x devices makes it very versatile. Frankly, the best ever! It is small, light and a little different in use due to the tactile to surface, but once you use the mouse for a few days, you will not want to go backwards to an old, traditional mouse.
I am writing this on an ASUS Chromebox, with a Logitech K810 Keyboard and a Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse in Google Docs. Despite the high price, I am trying to convince my wife that a second T630 Ultrathin makes sense for my office, where I use multiple devices on a daily basis.
The jury is still out on that second mouse… But I am hopeful…
The last step in my conversion from “Full” PCs running Windows or Linux has occured. I pre-ordered the ASUS Chromebox with the Intel Celeron 2955U Processor and it arrived two days ago. I have been using it constantly, and I am very impressed.
It took me a long time to decide to try a Chromebook. The “It’s just a laptop with a browser” crowd kept me away for quite a while. Once I bought a Samsung Chromebook, I was hooked. I Took the 31 day Chromebook challenge, using nothing but the Chromebook for a month (well, I did give in a couple of times) and I was hooked. I love ChromeOS! I have gradually moved further and further away from Windows and Linux.
The ASUS Chromebox is a not very exciting looking black square, about 120mm square and 35mm high. It is surprisingly heavy, with the ASUS logo and Chrome logo on top, and an Intel inside hologram sticker on the front. The back is an array of connectors, including the ability to connect two monitors, one by HDMI and one by Displayport. I have connected mine to the HDMI port. It has Ethernet, 2 x USB3, Audio out, and power in. On the left side is an SD reader, and on the front two more USB3 ports. It has vents on the bottom and back, and in use is just a little warm on top. It seems to be fanless.
There is also Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless. It ships with the VESA mount that allows mounting it on the back of a monitor, but my monitor does not have the mounting point, to my dissapointment.
Having the power switch in the corner creates a psychological urge to mount the box at a 45 degree angle with the button facing forward. This makes sense in many cases given that then the right and left sides would have the connectors for SD card on the left and 2 x USB on the right at 45 degrees to the front, and quite reachable. In my case it does not work because of the direction cables must be laid to reach desktop openings.
It boots to a logon in five seconds or less. I am using a 1080p monitor, and the screen scrolls smoothly. I am impressed by the speed. I can play video, edit, and browse with multiple windows open. Scrolling is limited by load time not CPU. I have not yet seen the checkering that is common while scrolling on my HP Chromebook 11. I bought the HP for its light weight and USB charging, not the speed, and I am happy to compromise when I am mobile. But the flicker free, fast performance is a great on a desktop computer.
I am not a big fan of benchmarks, but I ran the Octane test and it runs at about 11,000. That is similar to the speeds I am getting using Chrome on a high end Core i5 Ultrabook running windows, and considerably faster than the HP Chromebook 11.
The (small) manual said I can sleep the Chromebox by pressing the power button, I am not seeing that happening though, it just seems to lock the screen.
It came with a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse. I do not like the keyboard, and have replaced it with the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse I have been using for my Chromebook when it is up on its desk stand.
I am currently spending a lot of time in the office, so I have been using it constantly and It has performed flawlessly.
For a Chromebox of this performance, costing $250 (in Australia) delivered, with wireless keyboard and mouse, I consider it an excellent buy.
I am always trying to find a better, lightweight, Bluetooth keyboard, and Microsoft has just entered the fray with the “Universal Mobile Keyboard” at $79.95 US.
I tend to be a keyboard junkie. Surprising, since I am not a touch typist. I do use keyboards daily, and type on a tablet, phone, and often on a Chromebook or Laptop that I put up on a stand to save neck pain. So I use a Bluetooth Keyboard for all these devices.
Logitech has been my hero in this area. They make a number of keyboards, some of the expensive, but excellent.
One that I like, but tend not to travel with is the awkwardly named “Logitech Tablet Keyboard for Windows and Android” that works beautifully, and comes with a very solid case but is unfortunately heavy. It weighs in at a deal-breaking 676 g or 1.5 lb. It also comes in at $99 AU. We do not have an Australian price for the Microsoft keyboard, but with the “Australia Tax” it will probably cost more.
The big selling point of the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is a flip back, detachable cover that serves as a universal tablet stand, taking any tablet or phone thinner than 10mm.
It also has the ability to switch between multiple devices instantly, like the Logitech K810, my favorite keyboard. It weighs in at 339 g or 0.74 lb, but has no stand or case. That means I have to carry a separate stand and find a way to protect it in the road.
If this new keyboard from Microsoft comes in at a respectable weight, I will be standing in line for one in August.
I posted some weeks ago about my trials with the SlimPort adapter on the HP Chromebook 11. I had purchased one adapter that worked most of the time. Ultimately, I decided it was the high powered HP charger causing problems. The factory charger is wasted anyway because through the SlimPort it is reported as a low power charger. I guess the HP charger supplies more power than the SlimPort adapters can handle.
I am using an LG E2250V monitor. It is about four years old, and I suspect this may be an issue in some cases. Maximum input resolution is specified as 1920 x 1080 and this fits with the HDMI 1.0 to 1.2 standards. Later devices are backward compatible, but the HDMI 1.4 Spec was released in May 2009, so my monitor almost certainly does not support the latest spec. This may well be causing compatibility problems with devices built to the newer SlimPort Spec which was updated in September 2013 and is probably what is used by the HP 11. All the devices I tried are HDMI 1.4 compatible.
I have purchased and tested four different adapters.
The first one, as described in a previous post, is the MyDP Slimport to HDMI adapter. worked well out of the box, but began playing up. The Monitor began to flash on and off, and eventually just stopped working. I purchased and connected a high quality HDMI cable, to no avail. I was using the HP 3 Amp charger.
I removed it, and worked without a monitor. Coming back a couple of days later, and using the 2 Amp Nexus 7 charger, the adapter came back and worked reliably.
In the meantime I had purchased replacements of several types. Two display the current SlimPort logo, and two do not.
I will break my findings down into the two types of device.
Dongle Style Adapters
The first type I will classify as a dongle. a Micro-USB plug with a short lead attached to a small box with an HDMI port, and a Micro-USB charging port. Both work perfectly, with a low power charger. The one I used for weeks is a MyDP Slimport to HDMI Adapter as shown above. Amazon has it here.
The other one has the SlimPort logo and orange name.
Having discovered the information about HDMI standards, I tried the two lead style adapters on my relatively new Television. It has modern HDMI ports. A Google Chromecast will switch the TV on and change to the HDMI port automatically. Something only the latest HDMI ports will do. The lead style cable both work perfectly.
This tends to support my theory that much of the pain being reported is people with older monitors or TVs that do not have ports compatible with the HDMI 1.3 or perhaps 1.4 spec.
I would like to stress that I have no proof that the 3 Amp HP charger caused the problems I had earlier. However in no case did the 3 Amp HP charger used through the SlimPort adapter charge at full power. They ALL showed the warning that I was using a low power charger, so I have permanently connected a 2 Amp charger, and overnight it brings the Chromebook up to a full charge. If I am in a hurry, I use the HP charger as a stand alone device.
SlimPort is Future Proof
The good news is that the Slimport standard is designed to drive screens up to 4K-UltraHD video and up to 8 channels of audio. So I guess that is future proof!
I have been able to get the bad adapter to work in some cases by lowering screen resolution to 1024 x 600, but it looks pretty ordinary, and it would be an emergency measure only.
So for now, I have an option that works well, and a couple of spares.
I suspect the non-functional cable will work when I upgrade my monitor in the future.
Anyone want to buy a slightly used SlimPort adapter?
The Google HP Chromebook 11 does not have an HDMI port for an external Monitor, it uses a Slimport video adapter. This uses the micro-USB port to connect to an external monitor.
The HP 11 also charges via the Micro-USB.
The need to charge and use the external monitor at the same time felt like it may be a deal breaker. I spend long hours with a 22” external monitor connected, then I need to pick up the Chromebook and go. It needs to be charged when I unplug the monitor and walk away.
Hewlett Packard have covered my needs.
Slimport is an interesting technology. Previously I purchased a rather expensive MHL adapter for my Samsung Galaxy S III phone. It was expensive, and would not work at all unless a USB charger was plugged into the MHL adapter to power it. This was cumbersome and annoying, and I have rarely used it.
The Slimport is different. I had to order a Slimport adapter online, because Harvey Norman do not have Slimport adapters in stock. It took two weeks, but the adapter finally arrived and I began experimenting. My adapter is Slimport to HDMI (you can also get Slimport to VGA) and has a micro-USB charging port on the side.
I plugged the Slimport adapter in, and immediately the Chromebook detected the 22” E2250 monitor and extended the desktop. I was able to click on the notification and go to the settings screen.
There I was able to establish the physical relationship of the two monitors. Music and sound automatically switched to the speakers connected to the monitor.
When a USB charger other than the 4 amp charger supplied with the Chromebook is plugged in, a warning pops up the the charger is low-powered and may not charge the Chromebook while it is running.
When I plugged the original 4 amp HP charger into the Slimport adapter, I got the same message. However the laptop charges happily, if a little slower, while I am using the Slimport adapter and monitor. I suspect the HP charger uses some unassigned pins to charge via the micro-USB at a higher rate.
One of the impressive things about the Chromebook is it instantly re-configures if anything is unplugged. Unplug the monitor, and all windows are squeezed down onto the laptop screen. Plug it back in, and they move back to where they were.
I tried this with my Acer Zenbook, unplugging the micro-HDMI cable and the computer crashed when it woke up on the road. I was confronted with the full Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) that has pretty much disappeared with Windows 7 and up. The machine was useless, and I had to work most of the day with my phone. When I got home, the Zenbook took over an hour to scan drives and get itself working again.
Windows 7 – 0 to Chromebook – 1
I continue to be impressed with the robust nature of the Chromebook experience. The odd crash is recovered and re-started in less than 10 seconds, and I have yet to lose a word due to a crash.
Recently I took delivery of my new workhorse, a Google HP Chromebook 11. (http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/hp-chromebook-11/) The packaging alone made me fall in love with this little device. The moulded white cardboard box with rounded edges that mirror the rounded corners and edges of the Chromebook made me want to touch it. I thought it was plastic, but once opened, it is clearly a recyclable paper material
I think everyone has learned from Apple that the product should be front and centre, and not buried in packaging, and the HP 11 packaging follows this rule. Lift the lid off the box, and it is the first thing you see.
Somehow the photos I have seen made me think the HP 11 was thicker than it is. I knew the weight, only 1Kg, before I saw it, but the size and lack of weight is still amazing me.
The box has the Chromebook, charger, a card with the three steps to use it (switch it on, select a network, log in) and that is pretty much it.
The screen is the standard (for most Chromebooks) 1366 x 768 resolution. I love this size, My Asus Zenbook has much higher resolution, and frankly the tiny characters and icons are a problem in the readability stakes, I keep fiddling with settings looking for something more readable. The screen is noticeably better than the Samsung, and people who have compared the machines say it is much better that the Acer 720 Chromebook. The Acer is much faster, but for me, the micro-USB charging and superior screen are the winning features. I want to travel with one power supply only. The HP Chromebook 11 allows that.
I quickly power wiped my Samsung and passed it to my son. He has been hard at work configuring it to his liking.
My only disappointment was that the supplier, Harvey Norman Launceston did not have a SlimPort adapter to allow me to connect the Chromebook to my 22″ External monitor. The HP uses the newer and better SlimPort technology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DisplayPort#SlimPort) rather than MHL to access an external monitor through the micro-USB port.
I have (an expensive) MHL adapter I bought for my Samsung Galaxy SIII, and rarely use. MHL requires an external USB power source. The Slimport is different. It is self powered, but in most cases allows the device to receive power through a second socket. I have ordered a Slimport adapter on line, with a 5-7 day delivery for an extra $10.
It is still half the price I would have paid Harvey Norman if their had been one in stock. I prefer to support local suppliers when I can, but in this case necessity overrides local business profits.
In the meantime, I am using the Chromebook display with a stand that lifts the computer slightly to save neck strain, and it is working quite well.
The speakers, hidden under the keyboard are quite good, and surprisingly loud. Some have complained about distortion, but sounds surprisingly good to me.. It plays music and uses Hangouts with no noticeable issues for me. And you can always plug in headphones or speakers.
The keyboard is excellent. I dislike rattles, but this keyboard has a firm feel with good movement and no rocking or clattering. The keyboard is not back-lit, but that is hardly surprising, and with the white keytops, is pretty visible in low light. The keys are textured and feel quite nice to type on. Like all Chromebooks, the keyboard layout it the Google Chromebook design, with dedicated keys for search, changing apps, moving forward and back in the browser and taking the browser to full-screen. It also controls volume, screen brightness and mute. Having the soft power button next to the backspace key has caused problems for some, but I have never had an issue with it.
Many people complain about lack of a delete key, but Alt + Backspace is delete, and if you REALLY want it, Alt + Search is Caps Lock, something I do not miss at all.
The HP 11 was famously pulled from sale in the US due to overheating and melting chargers. My Australian charger works fine, but I confess, it still feels pretty warm after a full charge. I will monitor it for a while before leaving the charger unattended overnight.
I tend to be influenced by functionality rather than industrial design and beauty, but this time, I have to say, it really looks sweet!
The light weight and effectively instant suspend and resume mean that this laptop will be doing a lot of travelling with me. I have made a slipcover out of Mylar bubble wrap and gaffer tape as some protection.
I will write again when I have the Slimport adapter to test my full desktop setup.