PowerCube Extended USB review: Quirky and efficient, but no surge protection
At a Glance
Few things are more irksome than a poorly designed power strip. So I was intrigued when Allocacoc pitched me on their PowerCube line of power outlets. If you’re like me, you probably have as many devices—smartphone, tablet, media player, and so on—that rely on USB cables for charging as you do hardware that needs an AC power cable. So I’ll cover four of Allocacoc's products here, but the rating above is specifically for the $25 PowerCube Extended USB.
The first thing you’ll want to know about the entire PowerCube line is that they don’t offer any power conditioning or surge suppression; these devices are designed primarily for convenience. They are, however, equipped with a resettable fuse, so they should provide at least some protection to the devices you plug into them. But unlike Tripp-Lite and some other companies that manufacture true surge suppressors, Allocacoc doesn’t provide insurance to cover your devices should their product fail to protect them from AC power transients.
The PowerCube Original ($13) has AC outlets on five sides, but you’ll still end up with five outlets in total when you plug it in to a wall outlet—not seven—because the PowerCube consumes one AC receptacle in the outlet and blocks the second plug. You can purchase a second PowerCube Original and plug it into the first, giving you a net total of nine outlets (because it consumes one of the first PowerCube’s outlets). Just make sure the entire load doesn’t exceed 15 amps. The PowerCube Original USB ($20) is pretty much the same device but with two USB charging ports in place of one outlet.
Each USB charging port delivers 5.0 volts and 2.0 amps to a connected USB smartphone, tablet, or media player, so you can power six devices at once. You’ll need to provide your own USB cables, as none come in the box. And if you own Apple devices with Lightning connectors, make sure you buy Apple-certified cables so you’re not hounded by those aggravating “this cable is or accessory is not certified and may not work…” messages).
The PowerCube Extended ($16) has the same five-outlet cube at the end of a five-foot extension cord, and the PowerCube Extended USB ($25) has two USB charging ports and four AC outlets. Plug one of these into a wall duplex and you’ll have a net total of five outlets, because the PowerCube Extended's plug doesn’t block the second outlet in the duplex. The Extended models come with a docking port that you can fasten to your work surface using the provided screws or a two-way adhesive pad, but that will block one of the cube’s five (four for the USB model) outlets. A small plastic collar with a screw hole slides up and down the cable, so you can tack the cable to the wall or underneath your work surface to keep it out of the way. Allocacoc also has PowerCube Extended cables in 10-foot lengths ($20; $30 for the USB version).
The cube form factor in all four of Allocacoc’s products ensures that one wall wart won’t block any of the other four outlets. I like these products. They’re attractive, efficient, and reasonably priced. But if I had to choose between the PowerCube Extended USB and the Tripp-Lite TLP606DMUSB I reviewed last November, I’d pick the Tripp-Lite because it offers more robust device protection.