iPad Charger Review: Twelve South PlugBug for iPad and MacBook Laptops
Reviewed by Jacob Spindel, December 2011
Editor's Ratings (1-5): 5
What's hot: Brilliantly reduces the number of cables and outlets you'll need.
What's not: May reduce the total length of your MacBook's power cable.
We all know it's a fire hazard to daisy-chain power strips. But if you're a gadget guru like me, your Mac may be sharing desk space with hard drives, speakers, ereaders, televisions, video game equipment, or maybe even the occasional toaster. With this many devices vying for electricity, it's easy to run out of available outlets fast. Don't you wish your MacBook and iPad could somehow share one outlet? With the new PlugBug from Twelve South, they can do exactly that.
Every MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air comes with some version of Apple's MagSafe power cable. One end of the cable plugs into your MacBook, and on the other end is the AC adaptor brick. Apple includes two different detachable options to connect to the power brick: prongs for plugging it directly into a power outlet, and a longer cable if you need a few extra feet.
The PlugBug provides you with a third option to connect to the MagSafe AC adaptor: It is a deep red, L-shaped add-on that piggybacks onto the AC adaptor using the same power connector as the two options included by Apple (thus making your AC adaptor slightly taller). On one side of the PlugBug are the usual prongs for plugging it into an electrical outlet, but on the other side is a 10-Watt USB charging port, so you can plug in your iPad and charge both your MacBook and your iPad with one charger. Besides freeing up a precious outlet in your home, you will also need to bring one fewer cable while traveling. Genius!
You could also use the PlugBug to charge an iPhone, iPod, or pretty much anything else that charges over USB. However, the device's primary appeal is to iPad owners, since iPhones and iPods can charge while connected directly to your computer's USB, whereas iPads generally cannot.
In our tests, the PlugBug was pretty trivial to install - it just snaps together with your MagSafe AC adaptor, almost like Lego blocks, although you may have to push quite hard at first. Twelve South's photos of the PlugBug often depict it as lining up flush with the AC adaptor, making it look like a seamless extension of the adaptor itself. However, with our 13-inch MacBook Pro's AC adaptor, the PlugBug was actually about a centimeter shorter than the adaptor, meaning they did not line up perfectly. This makes the appearance slightly less classy, but it has no effect on functionality.
Once you have the PlugBug connected, there is nothing else you have to do; we were able to charge our iPad and MacBook simultaneously, and it worked just as well as charging them separately. The only real downside is that it requires your AC adaptor to be directly connected to the outlet, so if you've been accustomed to using the longer cable instead of the short prongs, adding the PlugBug to your setup may cost you a few feet length from your MacBook's power cable.
The Perfect Plug
The PlugBug by Twelve South is the kind of product that makes you say, "Why didn't anybody else think of this?" It only does one thing, and it is a pretty simple and self-explanatory thing at that, but it is nonetheless a very clever and original solution for charging both a MacBook and an iPad from a single outlet, which comes in handy for travelers and office workers alike. I fully recommend the PlugBug as an innovative way to free up outlets and ease the burden on travelers, and all without offending the fire marshall.