God Bless Whoever Made This Power Plug

Most of the time, installing new PC gear involves some degree of misery. So when someone finds a way to rectify a small piece of that, its worth calling out.

Let's take a small moment to appreciate the wonderful designer, whoever they are, who came up with this little lifesaver. So having just gone through the annoyance of removing and gifting an old TV, as well as the "fun" of unboxing its replacement and cleaning up all the bits of styrofoam left behind, I wasn't looking forward to dealing with another bit of tech that has multiple screws, a complicated install manual and other bits of bad design.

Unboxing one of the new Samsung 27-inch 240Hz gaming monitors was pretty painless to begin with: a single panel that just hooks into the rear, no screws required. That's a plus. But then I stopped for a moment when I saw the power adapter:

What the hell? That doesn't look like anything I recognised, I thought. I've never seen a power plug look like that before.

After some messing around, I realised the plug would rotate. It wouldn't rotate into anything that would fit into an Australian power point, but it turned. And then it all clicked — obviously, I'd left something in the box, an extra attachment.

That's when the power plug went from "OK this is weird" to "OK, this is genuinely very useful."

If you can't see the video or GIF above, here's the gist of what I'm getting at. Samsung have basically provided a plug can you can twist with your fingers into three separate positions. It lets the adapter plug in straight on, which is fine if you have the space for that, but you can also rotate the plug so it can connect from the side. The latter is a massive lifesaver if you live in, say, a standard Australian apartment where all your power points are about one inch off the floor.

The problem with power points like these is that many adapters and larger plugs simply won't fit. It's not the wall socket that's the problem. It's the lack of a gap between the floor and the wall socket. If you're only dealing with a small plug — say a tiny USB charger for your phone — then that's not a problem.

But what about a cordless vacuum cleaner? Maybe a TV with its own gigantic power brick. Or a speaker/soundbar that took inspiration from a laptop for its adapter. Or most routers. In cases like those, you'll probably just have to get a power board. It's not because you need the extra plugs, but so you can lay the power board flat on the floor, letting you plug everything in vertically.

Alternatively, companies could just get clever and just supply attachments. Then if you can't plug straight in, just twist the damn thing into the position you need. You might still need a power board if you're plugging a second chunker into the other port, but that's a problem that could be solved by better design. Just make fully rotatable plugs that fit into any environment.

As for the monitor, it's still early days there. But I can confirm that I could plug it in directly to the power points on my floor, which meant I didn't have to play mix and match with all the other adapters that I've got plugged in and neatly spaced out. It's nice when the small things are designed well.


Comments

    I have to disagree, having got this a few weeks ago. The plug attached directly to the power unit is bulky and gets in the way of everything around it. I much prefer the cable -> box -> more cable style power supply. Sure, they supply a different plug end depending on the country but they could do the same with having a standard IEC cable output from the power supply box.. so I don't think it's Samsung innovating, it's Samsung being a tight arse

      I digress, I much prefer wallwarts than cable-box-cable, on one caveat though - it musn't block adjacent points.

      Otherwise I'd much prefer they just made the product it plugs into bigger to accommodate the PSU.

        Depends on the product obviously. Won't work for a phone or tablet, but definitely should work that way with a larger item like a TV/Gaming console/etc. I find it really annoying that a couple devices I've bought lately didn't move the power supply inside the case, one of them is an large external HDD bay and there is a ton of room, yet it went the inline "power box" route. *sigh*

        I do prefer the "wall wart" approach for most smaller devices like the phone/tablet though. Mostly because I have power points that range from right on the ground to a couple feet up the wall. The ones on the ground are fine for the inline power box, but the higher up ones suck. The "box" winds up hanging in mid air and if the connection isn't solid they unplug themselves :(

        I'm just glad they're getting smarter when it comes to the design. I thought the slide off plugs to go from US/EU/AU prongs was clever but making the unit rotate is the best change so far. That and using a standard USB cable to go from the wall wart to your device.

    What if I want to rotate it the other way? Have the brick stick out to the left instead of down or right? Did you think of that one Samsung?
    I mean, looking at those two power points in the picture, yout still couldn't plug two of these adapters into both of them. You'd still need an adapter or power board.

      Samsung have basically provided a plug can you can twist with your fingers into three separate positions.

        The video highlights that the three positions are about a 90 degree rotation, not a full 180. So @death_au is right.

        Unless you can attach the plug the opposite way, effectively making it a 6 position plug. Though I doubt it because you'd be messing with the polarity.

          That's obviously the next step - something that's fully rotatable, which I mentioned at the bottom of the piece - but *some* rotation is better than most plugs, which have none.

            Absolutely, it's great to see even small steps in making consumer's lives easier. It's just a pity it's taken so long. And I hope we see designs like this become the norm rather than the exception.

          Ah ok, wasn't watching the vid with sound the first time. Just assumed three positions meant over 180 deg, not 90. Rotary connectors are widely used these days, there may be some safety standard as to why they are not used in these sorts of applications.

            Yeah to be honest I thought the same until I realised that the three positions are in a tight arc. It seems like an oversight to make it rotate, but not a full 180.

            But you could be right about safety. Maybe too much rotation risks pinching and damaging the internal wiring. Which at best results in a plug that doesn't work, and at worst a fire.

    I can't wait for the USB Revolution.

    Now that we have a USB standard capable of taking and efficiently distributing mains power, the days of power bricks and regional adapters are numbered.

      Standard sockets will be around for decades to come, if only for legacy items. People have items they've had for decades - fridges, washing machines, microwaves, etc, and they arent going to replace them just to retrofit them into a new socket. Instead, they'll have to get an adapter which simply replaces one problem with another.

      Then you have the building industry itself, who will largely be the ones responsible for rolling out any sort of USB based power system. Most are notorious cheapskates and will take the cheaper option before the better option. Similar options have been around for 10 years or more already and they wont do it. Or when they do, its an optional extra you pay thousands for. Thats not saying there arent places with dual points already, there are, but they arent anywhere near common.

      I think it will get there eventually, dont get me wrong. But its not going to be a fast process.

        Yeah, I don't think it's going to happen quickly. But it could. Obviously there would always be a time of legacy phasing out, but that's obviously going to take a hell of a long time because people are jerks.

        I don't think replacing standard sockets with USB is a viable option. Can USB carry the sort of power required to run a microwave or an electric fan heater or an aircon? Hmm wikipedia says 5a and 100W so I'd think not.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_hardware#Power

        There also needs to be a critical mass for a massive change too. And that typically only comes when something offers massive improvement. Either that or it slowly permeates the infrastructure until it takes over (VHS-DVD-Bluray-UHD-Streaming for example).

        So standard plugs and sockets as we have now are fine. Adding an adapter to them is a logical solution. What would be nice is if we could standardise on adapters and connectors. So rather than having a dozen different plugs each with a dozen different voltages making hundreds of different combos we settled on just a few.

        I've already seen the problem arise when my Mum has tried to charge her Samsung phone using a Nokia charger. Plugs are the same but the voltages are different and it just doesn't work (fortunately it didn't fry her phone).

          Yeah, its frustrating. I have a few USB-C cables floating about, and a couple of them just barely charge my S9, while others that look identical happily fast charge without a worry. Annoying when I grab the wrong one... Wireless charging is the same - desktop stand I have (its meant to do S9 standards) barely charges, while the pad built into my alarm clock goes from 0-100 in about 90 minutes.

          But its getting better. I think there was some talk earlier in the year about Apple moving to USB-C at some point (dont quote me on it though), and thats the critical mass moment, at least for small(ish) devices. If that happens, theres a standard that nearly everyone would now be behind. Much better than a decade ago when every device had a proprietary connector.

          As for overall, who knows. Based on @pokedad s original comment I thought standard USB could now handle 5A/240V lines, but happy to be wrong on that. I dont think we're far from it though, and I think it will happen naturally anyway. The jump in the past few years in what USB can handle is noticeable, and its not going to go backwards.

          Issue for me is more the international variations in voltage. Some countries do 120V, others do 240V (and others do 220V) so the adapter needs to be able to handle both. Thats leaving out any amperage differences as well. Major appliances dont adapt so well so a universal connection isnt as beneficial. The benefits are minimal when the appliance itself has different builds for different countries.

          Small devices I think are almost there, bigger ones not. Which is why I think those will keep the standard 2 or 3 prong connections going for a while. Its not a stretch now though to have a USB bank acting as a form of powerboard though, so kinda getting to that point anyway. Its just what the USB bank plugs in to that changes.

            I should have been a bit more clear in that usbc can't take 240 just yet. But 100w is enough for practically any peripheral, including monitors, the data throughput is massive and it can send and receive video. VGA should've died years ago, DVI and HDMI are redundant now... You can also daisy chain them from device to device. We can just get rid of so many cables and soon enough powering everything through a USBish standard will be totally possible.

            But I'm going to have a bullshit tub full of cables for the foreseeable future and it saddens me.

              That's cool for "tech" devices, but I was also referring to white goods like microwaves, aircons and heaters. Trying to push 2000w through a tiny USB cord is problematic. I can see them basically melting unless they're beefed up massively.

              @grunt: I think it's still possible to have a universal connector even with differing international voltages. As you mention it can be the adapters job to convert the voltage/amperage. I mean we can already buy cheap adapters now. And most of the phone adapters I've seen lately (like the one in the article) happily deal with 120/240v. I'd think that for more expensive goods (like a fridge) the slight extra cost of a power adapter would be offset by the fact they didn't have to make different versions for different markets.

                Most modern home fridges only use 100w-200w. They've come down significantly in the last twenty years. They used to be disgustingly power hungry. Without a power brick they'd be pretty susceptible to variation if the grid isn't super stable, but I don't see any reason for modern appliances to not be made for modern usage. If a tiny laptop can do it without ratcheting up the price, so can a fridge or washer. They've already got computers on board, anyway so they almost certainly have a PSU of some kind.

                  2000W microwave, regular oven, 1800W fan heater, 2000W (or more) aircons... They're the real sticking points. Heck a lot of serious PCs are running 1000W PSUs (though the draw is probably more like 600-700w).

    You're comparing AC to DC though. Local PSUs and DC appliances could fix a lot of that.
    Like ii said, I know it's not magic and it'd take a fairly long changeover period, but we're using the same electricity tech that's more or less unchanged since houses starting getting electricity. We could improve it hugely if companies were willing to work together on a new standard.

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