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Working Toward a Universal Power Brick For Laptops

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the please-don't-base-it-on-micro-usb dept.

Portables 365

An anonymous reader links to PC Authority with some hopeful news about untangling a persistent annoyance for laptop users — namely, the myriad power supplies called for by laptop makers: "'On a PC, an ATX power supply for example will screw into certain mounting holes, have a maximum size and shape, and will take a standard 3-pin "kettle cord" for incoming power. If it complies with these standards, the PSU will be able to bolt into any manufacturer's ATX case.' Laptop design, on the other hand, involves cramming a PC into a tiny chassis, which usually has its own thermal design and power distribution requirements. This has led to the somewhat bizarre situation where every manufacturer has its own laptop power supply design. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. Not only are big players involved, but the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has created a team to work on the power supply standard."

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good. (5, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811636)

Its about fracking time.

Hey industry (Sony I am looking at you) repeat after me:

Open standards help EVERYBODY!

Re:good. (1)

TechJag (1092575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811686)

Agreed, I have so many stupid power bricks... a world with only one type of connector? I can't even imagine!

Re:good. (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812086)

That's what we said about 20 years ago when we imagined the "connector of the future", which would allow you to drop the serial, parallel, centronic and other various connectors for a single one. A single connector for your keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner, external drives, etc.

And then USB appeared. No longer did we have to mess with dozens of types of connectors! We only have to care about USB, USB3, FireWire400, FireWire800, eSATA, VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPo... oh wait.

Re:good. (2, Insightful)

Red_Chaos1 (95148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812518)

USB3 is backward compatible with USB/USB2. USB failed to keep up with storage medium speeds, necessitating eSATA. USB was never intended to replace display connections.

So nice try at painting USB as a failure, it really isn't. Thanks to USB you no longer have 2x PS2, 2x COM and 1x Parallel ports wasting space on your motherboard. Instead you have 6x USB, 2x Ethernet, and other smaller and much more useful ports to play with.

But I'm sure someone could dig you up a motherboard that has all those clunky old ports on them, since clearly USB did nothing at all to help.

Re:good. (1)

CodingHero (1545185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812594)

I'm reminded of a quote I saw somewhere:

You find yourself in a maze of standards, all conflicting.

Re:good. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812224)

Not only do i have a lot of stupid power bricks, but when i go somewhere for work i have to carry 2 laptops and 2 different power bricks...
When i arrive, the client will undoubtedly have their own laptops but most likely they wont have compatible power to mine.

If i could walk around with no power bricks and be sure that any laptop supply would be compatible things would be much easier. Even just carrying one brick instead of 2 would be a huge improvement.

Well... (4, Interesting)

rainmayun (842754) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811736)

Good luck getting Apple to play along. While I prefer their design, I doubt they'd even license out the spec to other manufacturers.

Re:Well... (3, Informative)

TwiztidK (1723954) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811772)

At present, Apple won't license their "MagSafe" connector to anyone.

Re:Well... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812116)

At present, Apple won't license their "MagSafe" connector to anyone.

Indeed. But from my experience, there are times when life might be easier without it. Yes, it does prevent breaking things if you yank too hard on the cable, and that's cool. But unless it (and the socket) is quite new, it doesn't always make a good connection. And as time goes by, the magnetism loses some of its mojo and the plug develops an annoying tendency to fall off the computer if you so much as look at it sideways.

On balance, I think I preferred the physical plugs Apple used with their iBooks.

But there are a couple of little things Apple did get right with both models: the fold-out "arms" on the transformer for stowing the cable neatly, and the orange/green light on the plug that tells us at a glance whether or not the battery is charged. These features are so simple and obvious, they should be commonplace.

Re:Well... (1)

Reece400 (584378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812530)

I have a deep fryer with a similar kind of connection (two contacts and a magnet in the middle). Is it ever a pain in the ass, I have clean the contacts weekly to keep it working.

Re:Well... (2, Interesting)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812480)

Are you certain? I've seen similar tearaway connectors on deep fryers.

Re:Well... (1)

Reece400 (584378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812548)

I suspect that the connection system was already widely used, and apple somehow managed to patent using it for a laptop... Apple is good like that.

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811794)

Still, its not like Apple HAS to play along. Essentially if everyone else jumps on board, wouldn't it take away from Apple's value if its the ONLY laptop without the interchangable power brick?

Who am I kidding, they'll tote it as an exclusive feature.

Re:Well... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811860)

they'll tote it as an exclusive feature.

You mean tout.

You're the one who has to tote the thing around.

Scalper (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812150)

You mean tout.

No, Ticketmaster are touts [slashdot.org] .

Re:Scalper (2, Informative)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812500)

Yes because they tout, i.e. flaunt, the tickets.

Tout: advertize in strongly positive terms; "This product was touted as a revolutionary invention"

Tote: Lug: carry with difficulty; "You'll have to lug this suitcase"

Re:Well... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812056)

They will, and they'd be right to do so. The MagSafe connector is the first power connector I've used on a laptop or phone that didn't suck. The older Mac ones were terrible (really easy to deform or short by accident). The one on my ThinkPad fits so tightly that I managed to throw the laptop across the room when I tripped over it (in IBM's defence, it didn't suffer any ill effects as a result of this, and continued the compile job it was running with only a brief pause). The MagSafe connector is easy to connect - you can plug it in either way around - and it comes out easily if you catch the cord.

The only thing wrong with it is that, in Apple's implementation, the connection between the cable and the MagSafe plug is fragile. If they're going to design a standard connector, they need to make it better than Apple's one. Making it better than Lenovo or Sony's connector is trivial, but still a step backwards. Getting Apple to license the MagSafe connector, and then attaching it to the power lead in a less-braindead way would be perfect.

Re:Well... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812250)

The connection between the cable and MagSafe was fragile, but the newer versions are a lot more sturdy...

Re:Well... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812354)

My only complaint about the MagSafe connector is that it doesn't survive being plugged into an apple.

When I say "apple", I mean the red delicious variety.

My son has ruined several component power cords by plugging them into various types of fruit.

Re:Well... (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812368)

I don't understand what aspects, exactly, of the "magsafe" connector Apple actually possess exclusive rights to.

Deep fat fryers, possibly among other appliances, have been using magnetic breakaway cords for decades to avoid the hazards associated with people snagging cords and being rewarded with a hot oil bath. Surely, using this principle in DC cabling can't qualify as novel...

Is it the palendromic, connect-either-way bit?

Who cares about the power brick (3, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811642)

I want laptop internals to be standardized, which would help upgrades be much more bearable (and, in some cases, make them possible).

Re:Who cares about the power brick (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811700)

The power supply is a good start. Just hope that they also can take a bite at the batteries which are incredibly expensive related to what they actually contain.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (0)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811750)

Simple question -- why?

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811800)

Upgrades and replacements. Currently, there's a limited number of components that can be replaced. I think memory, hard disk and sometimes the wireless card. That being said, upgrades are pretty dumb as the laptop has to be designed to deal with the energy dissipation and battery life in mind from the start.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812048)

That's my thought...these things are so custom designed, that I would think requiring eg a discrete video card module with a standard connector would really limit case size, heat dissipation (as you said), and general advancement of laptop state of art.

When average laptops are $1000, how many people are going to spend $200 to upgrade a video card in 2 years when they could get a whole new (much better) laptop for not much more?

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812026)

So it is easier for 3rd party manufactures to make less expensive power bricks because they won't have to resign them for almost every laptop on the market, only for different power requirements. In the end, this will save the consumer money, and space. If I only had have one laptop charger plug in my wall, it would cluttered my desk area as I have 3 in their now.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812074)

Hey, I've got no problem with power connector standardization (though like others here I think the Apple Magsafe beats just about any other connector I've seen)...

The post was in reply to somebody saying "I want laptop internals to be standardized"

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812614)

oh wow, Whoops. Clearly I got confused. Laptop internals will never been standardized, though I would appreciate the ability to upgrade video cards universally in laptops.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

Dr.Merkwurdigeliebe (1055918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811806)

Aren't laptops lifespans something like only 2-3 years? I think the idea of standardizing an external interface to a laptop, in this case it's power, has merit and should be looked into. However, different laptop manufacturers have different specs for products they want to create. If we standardize them, I feel that the laptop industry would homogenize and nothing would be unique. which means no one could innovate.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811980)

There's a big difference between being different for a technical reason and being different because you want to make more money selling accessories.

Apples magnetic connector is an interesting example of a technical reason for being different, and I support that.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812096)

That certainly used to be true, but these days there is less of a reason for upgrading. My current laptop is almost 4 years old, and doesn't really feel slow most of the time. I still occasionally use the one that it replaced (I usually leave it connected to a projector for playing iPlayer stuff and music, and for settling arguments at parties), and it is around 7 years old.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811840)

That would really restrict innovation if they did that.
And let's be honest they pretty much have standardized the parts you tend to upgrade the most.
1. Ram.
2. Hard drives.
3. wifi cards.
What else do you want standardized?

Re:Who cares about the power brick (2, Interesting)

bami (1376931) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811968)

Graphic cards.

Most laptops have stupid Intel graphic chips that bolt onto the motherboard, but some laptops connect the graphics card to the motherboard using a MXM connector (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_PCI_Express_Module).

I'd really hope that gets standardized, since it's being one of the most important components in a computer nowadays, with graphical acceleration not only for games but for example Photoshop, or all the nice CUDA things you can do with it.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812234)

"That would really restrict innovation if they did that."

Well-designed form factors did the opposite for desktops.

The standard PC form-factors fostered component innovation because development could be devoted to specific components with the assurance that they would have a standard "home" and a large potential market.

That FREED them to compete on performance, which reinforced the value of standard form factors, and is why you can select from any number of standard PC cases today.

Re:Who cares about the power brick (1)

Shin-LaC (1333529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811882)

Who cares about the power brick

I do. Well, not for laptops, since I use Macs, but for cell phones and the like, sure.

I want laptop internals to be standardized, which would help upgrades be much more bearable (and, in some cases, make them possible).

They're already standardized. SATA HDs, SODIMM RAM, etc.. If you want to upgrade your CPU or your GPU, just find something that's compatible with the bus/chipset your motherboard is using, desolder/rip out the old one, and solder the new one in. Replace the BIOS as needed. I don't want my laptop to be 1 cm thicker just because you need a slot or a socket to do upgrades.

Magsafe (4, Interesting)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811650)

It would be nice if they all standardized on a magsafe interface. Although I doubt it would happen, too expensive.

Regardless, this is great news. It would be very nice to have just 1 power brick for multiple devices.

Re:Magsafe (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811826)

It would be nice if they all standardized on a magsafe interface. Although I doubt it would happen, too expensive.

If this comment [slashdot.org] is anything to go by, getting MagSafe on any non-Apple hardware before 2026 would cost half the market capitalization of Apple Inc.

Re:Magsafe (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812294)

It would be nice if they all standardized on a magsafe interface.

I hope not, at least not the earlier incarnations of it. Apple forums are full of people complaining about problems with their MagSafe failing to charge, not working at all, etc. I had problems with mine - power brick wouldn't charge the machine after about two years. It was going to be $60 for a new one, but I cajoled the guy at the "genius bar" into letting me have one for free.

Re:Magsafe (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812390)

I'm sure Apple would come out ahead if they licensed it, like they did with IEEE1394 for 3-5 bucks a connector. The precursor of a magnetically held connector was used in existing products (Japanese hot pots), but how Apple revised it for a laptop, it is very useful.

However, unlike IEEE1394, every MagSafe connector sold to a competitor may mean one less laptop sold to them, so I can see why Apple is not licensing it.

Finally! (1)

TwiztidK (1723954) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811652)

I hate that I always have to buy a new power brick if one breaks even though I have dozens of the things from other laptops.

About time (4, Interesting)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811664)

At work we have a fleet of assorted laptops, and regularly have to go on a scrounge to find a power brick for someone who is visiting from another location who either left their brick at the other office/hotel/home/car and is running low on power

Or someone is issued a new laptop, and it only comes with one brick (which is semi-permanently tied to the docking station) and they need another for portable use. Why can't we use the one from their old laptop?
Even if it's the same manufacturer, the voltage or connector don't match. WTF?
If we need a second power brick, we don't reward the OEM with extra money. It's 3rd party for that (and usually cheaper too)

PC laptops have sucky power supplies and ports (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811716)

Let's hope they come up with a connector that is robust yet small, tugs out under pressure, doesn't limit the minimum height of the laptop, and so on.

I doubt Apple will sign up, their connector already does all of the above. Now this Dell one here which meets none of them on the other hand is a good candidate for such a scheme.

Also - kill off the large bulky power supplies, and give us smaller, more convenient supplies. Oh, look, Apple are already doing that too.

I think the power supply on my netbook is nearly as big as the netbook itself. WHY OH WHY!!!

Here are the specs, no further deliberation needed (1)

Ted Stoner (648616) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811720)

One knob to set the voltage, probably between 15V and 20V. Maybe we hide the knob so it doesn't get adjusted accidentally. n amps of current max. 2.5mm or bigger jack size. There, specs all done. Build 100M of them and cut me my cheque.

Re:Here are the specs, no further deliberation nee (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811758)

If you're making a standard, why not settle on a voltage level and stick with it? Adding a knob is just asking for people to set it wrong and fry their laptop. If you absolutely must have multiple voltages for some reason, then design the brick such that it automatically chooses the correct one. Plus a knob is a moving part, and will break.

Re:Here are the specs, no further deliberation nee (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812476)

If a standard voltage can't be used, how about a sense pin so the PSU can send 5 volts, 12 volts, or another standard? If the sense pin receives no signal, then send the lowest voltage so it doesn't fry any components.

I agree on the knob. This would bring many incidents of Joe Sixpack thinking it is the volume control for Jane Wine Cooler's laptop, flip it to a higher voltage and fry the machine. The few things that a user has to fiddle with that might cause immediate electric over-voltage death of a device, the better.

Re:Here are the specs, no further deliberation nee (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811798)

Those already exist, but you've completely missed the point. That's not a standard, that's one that can adjust to many standards. And if you handed one of those to someone and told them it was a standard laptop power supply that would work with any laptop, they'd probably do some pretty serious damage unless it happened to be set on the necessary settings for their current laptop.

I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811724)

If every PC laptop uses the same plug, I would jump for joy. If it was an Apple style "magsafe" style connector I would get down on my knees and fellate each and every member of the standards committee. I've been griping for years now how the connector conspiracy is still going strong in the laptop space and what a pain it is to keep matching power cords to laptops.

Also, a standardized connector would let third parties come in and start making accessories and replacement bricks for a lot less than the highway robbery prices that the brand names charge.

Also, while they're at it, why not spec out a standarized battery compartment? Not everybody has to use it, but if all "regular size" laptops did, that would be a huge win. A standardized modular bay connector would be nice too. Not to mention a standardized docking adapter. It's like laptop manufacturers stopped caring about standardization after PCMCIA/PC-Card/Expresscard and have been more than willing to custom engineer everything every time. It's really annoying and the standardization efforts are long long overdue.

I half agree (3, Interesting)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811854)

If every PC laptop uses the same plug, I would jump for joy. If it was an Apple style "magsafe" style connector I would get down on my knees and fellate each and every member of the standards committee. I've been griping for years now how the connector conspiracy is still going strong in the laptop space and what a pain it is to keep matching power cords to laptops.

Ok, no on the blowjob thing; you don't know where those committee members have been.

The "magsafe" connector is better than anyone who hasn't used it realizes. Not only does it "break away" nicely and easily, but it also means you don't have to use any effort to plug the thing in. I just get the connector within an inch or so and the magnet pulls it into place. I've just dangled the cord near my MacBook Pro and it will snap into place by itself.

The strain relief on the Apple connectors sucks - it's basically nonexistent, so they can fail there, but if they fixed that (pretty easy) then it would be perfect.

Also, while they're at it, why not spec out a standarized battery compartment?

Because it's a silly idea. Even cars don't have standardized batteries. Ok, they do, but there are something like 20-30 different standardized car battery types.

Re:I half agree (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812346)

"Even cars don't have standardized batteries. Ok, they do, but there are something like 20-30 different standardized car battery types."

That's another way to sell overpriced batteries, and wasn't so pronounced until the last couple of decades. IAAM (I Am A Mechanic).

They DO have standard connections (side post, top post, etc) and voltages, facilitating much wider interchange than is listed in vendor literature.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

diamondsw (685967) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811858)

Don't stop at standardizing the connector - you need to specify wattage as well. Perhaps multiple classes so as not to burden netbooks and low power systems with adapters designed for 17" desktop replacements.

I found out the hard way that you can't use Apple's older 60W adapters with the new Core i5/i7 MacBook Pro's, which come with 85W adapters (the reverse works fine and is fully supported). It used to be it would work, but charge very slowly - a fine tradeoff. Now with the new i5/i7's it confuses the hell out of the system management controller, and makes the system act as if it has no battery at all - it sleeps immediately if the AC is removed, even if the battery is fully charged. I found that out when I packed my wife's MacBook AC adapter by mistake - which is visually indistinguishable from the new 85W adapter.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812454)

AFAIK, as long as the voltages are the same, you can use a higher wattage power supply on a smaller device without problems. The device will only take what amperage it needs.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811864)

Also, a standardized connector would let third parties come in and start making accessories and replacement bricks for a lot less than the highway robbery prices that the brand names charge.

That's exactly the problem. The brand names are both in charge of choosing the connector design and of earning the income from selling their proprietary power bricks.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811910)

If it was an Apple style "magsafe" style connector I would get down on my knees and fellate each and every member of the standards committee.

If we ever needed proof Apple fanatics are promiscuous homosexuals (it's well known that no females ever visit this website), this is it.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811920)

The modular bay should be doable. A power connector, SATA, and USB on a connector would do it for just about anything that I can imagine in a docking bay outside of something super exotic.

That's a sore topic for me. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811972)

Also, a standardized connector would let third parties come in and start making accessories and replacement bricks for a lot less than the highway robbery prices that the brand names charge.

You know, a lot of folks complain about our "throw away" culture. It's cost prohibitive to get something fixed and sometimes it's cheaper to buy new than to fix it - if you get it fixed. And the manufacturers want it that way. They want you to buy new and throw way the old one to boost their sales. It's fucking ridiculous that a laptop battery costs over $100 when they get them for under $10. The cells inside are just off the shelf stuff that they put in their own package to keep them from being interchanged - including Apple.

Screen goes out: that'll be $200 for the screen and $125 minimum for labor plus S&H. After it's fixed, who knows what else will crap out.And it doesn't have to be so expensive. I understand labor and S&H, but the ridiculous markup on parts?

I can buy a new one for less than $400. WTF?

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

jemenake (595948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811988)

If it was an Apple style "magsafe" style connector I would get down on my knees and fellate each and every member of the standards committee.

Hear, hear. And, as a bonus, I'd cook them breakfast for a year if the brick actually was designed to have the cords easily wrap around it (like the Dell's did, although not so well lately, even better than the Apple ones). Granted, it isn't something that needs to be in the spec (like voltage, current rating, and connector dimensions), but it's still on my wishlist.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

jemenake (595948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812036)

If it was an Apple style "magsafe" style connector I would get down on my knees and fellate each and every member of the standards committee.

Hear, hear. And, as a bonus, I'd cook them breakfast for a year if the brick actually was designed to have the cords easily wrap around it (like the Dell's did, although not so well lately, even better than the Apple ones). Granted, it isn't something that needs to be in the spec (like voltage, current rating, and connector dimensions), but it's still on my wishlist.

Oh, and one more thing: Some kind of light or indicator on the connector to indicate that the brick is plugged in (like the little dot on MagSafe connectors or the new "blue ring" on the Dells).

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812038)

Also, a standardized connector would let third parties come in and start making accessories and replacement bricks for a lot less than the highway robbery prices that the brand names charge.

You mean a third party like Monster Cable?

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812120)

Also, a standardized connector would let third parties come in and start making accessories and replacement bricks for a lot less than the highway robbery prices that the brand names charge.

That's exactly why I don't think it will happen on name brand PCs (Dell/HP/Lenovo). It's a great way to increase margins when someone wants an extra power brick and has to pay $80 for it. The fact you can't rely on your ability to buy a 3rd party brick that will work only helps that fact.

In fact, my friend in the cubicle next to me has a very nice Dell desktop replacement laptop. He's been through 2 powerbricks (now on his 3rd) because the DRM/authentication in the bricks would fail and thus the laptop would refuse to draw full power, preventing it from playing games and running at a decent speed. So even if the connector is standardized... you still might not be able to use a 3rd party adapter.

As for MagSafe, I love it. It's fantastic and I've tripped over the cord at least a dozen times in the last few years and it always pops off safely. I'd also assume Apple has some kind of patent and so no one else can use it.

Re:I hope they figure out a magsafe type solution (1)

Red_Chaos1 (95148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812340)

DRM/Authentication? I've not heard of any such thing. Perhaps your friend is just getting replacements that don't meet the required wattage output the laptop needs for full power operation? I was borrowing a friends Dell Latitude D600, and it refused to go faster than 600MHz on power because the brick was an iGo brand replacement that was short about 15 watts. Those bricks don't have any fancy signaling electronics in them. They just supply power.

Not for my laptop (3, Insightful)

davebarnes (158106) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811740)

"a standard 3-pin "kettle cord" for incoming power."

Not for my Apple MacBook.
I understand the desire for a standard brick, but I do not want to give the magnetic connector on my MacBook.

Re:Not for my laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811896)

Don't worry.There'll appear a standard-to-magsafe adapter in no time.

Re:Not for my laptop (1)

thue (121682) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811902)

Nobody is going to force Apple to follow the standard.

On the other hand, nowhere does it say that the standard could not be MagSafe.

Re:Not for my laptop (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811908)

You can blame Apple's "Think Different" approach to things. (Though oddly ironic in that it's misspelled) It's been their brand for sometime to do things differently even if it's not a good idea. Think hockey puck mouses and single button at that. Fortunately they've ditched that, but Apple does seem to have an at times pathological need to be different.

I don't think that completely standardizing the plug is a great idea, what I'd like to see is for them to decide on how the polarity is expressed, sort of like how power outlets generally do. And for the cord that plugs into the brick to be one design. Preferably 3 pronged. And have a different size and color for the notebook end depending upon voltage.

Re:Not for my laptop (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812002)

He was referring to the cord that plugs into the wall receptacle and delivers AC power to the power brick, not the DC output from the brick to the laptop.

Magnetic connector (1)

Trevelyan (535381) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812006)

It does not have to be the Apple one, but I do hope that its a magnetic connector. Anyone who has tripped on their power cord* will likely hope so too.

*The power cord is really the only cord left and the only one I have tripped on; luckily I have never brought my laptop to the floor.

Re:Not for my laptop (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812012)

Your MacBook isn't an ATX desktop.

Re:Not for my laptop (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812110)

I think nobody suggests using that particular connector on a laptop (although the AC side of the brick will probably sport that one or the two prong figure eight version)

Slight nitpick in the writeup, the plug that fits into an ATX PSU won't fit on a kettle. That one has a slightly different shape (even though the prongs are the same) and is made from heat resistant material.

Re:Not for my laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812174)

Not for my non-apple laptop either. If you RTFS you'll notice the kettle cord they mention is for desktop power supplies.

Please, electrical gods, make it 12V (4, Interesting)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811754)

Then we can just connect straight to car batteries.
Easy peasy charging in the car.
12V sealed lead acid motorcycle battery in your pocket for when the li-ion is failing after a year.
The broken-screen laptops we use as headless servers could have UPS for cheapness using old car batteries.

It would be awesome!

PleasePleasePlease!

Re:Please, electrical gods, make it 12V (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811950)

If you think most computers can run on only 12V, you are in for a sad surprise

Re:Please, electrical gods, make it 12V (1)

mk2mark (1144731) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812192)

Also, unless the car is turned off the voltage regulators on car alternators mean you're getting closer to 14v

Re:Please, electrical gods, make it 12V (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812256)

If you think most computers can run on only 12V, you are in for a sad surprise

There's nothing in a garden variety desktop computer that requires more than 12 V. The only reason they require 100-240 VAC in is because that's what happens to be in the wall socket. The power supply does not deliver any voltages above 12V.

Why would a laptop be any different?

Re:Please, electrical gods, make it 12V (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812298)

DC-DC converters can turn +12V into any voltage and polarity you want.

Wake up European Union and other Governments (1)

tessellated (265314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811810)

Smelling another lawsuit opportunity?

Really, I had (and continue having) to struggle with the mobile charger situation for years...
lately, I finally consider buying myself a netbook and now this!

Good to see lobbying going in proper directions.

Non-standard form-factors = planned obsolescence (5, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811822)

Laptop makers have NO REASON to standardize.
The ideal consumer product is shitcanned at point of purchase by a delighted customer (toilet paper comes to mind).

Desktop PC form-factors made maintenance, part sourcing, and upgrading easy, but didn't help kill off old PCs.

Notebook makers OTOH can count on the failure of key components such as batteries to render their products "beyond economical repair". Combine that with low prices and crap build quality, and you have the recipe for repeat sales. (Good to foster performance upgrades, not so good for economy and ease of maintenance.)

Re:planned breakage (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812226)

One thing that happens to my parents is that the connector gets wiggled so that the plugin disconnects from the motherboard. The motherboard is layered so that it cannot be soldered. Basically, the laptop is toast because the connector won't consistently provide power to the motherboard. It would be SO easy for manufacturers to solder the connector to a tiny inexpensive and easily replacable seperate board and then have internal wires that lead to the motherboard inside, but they rightly figure that the connector won't go until a year or so. This has happened to two laptops of theirs so far ( about once a year ) and they are on their third.

Re:Non-standard form-factors = planned obsolescenc (2, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812264)

You know.. Cell phone manufacturers were in the exact same camp. Until China decided no Cell phone could be sold in China without a Mini or Micro USB power adapter. Suddenly, darn near every cell phone now has one..

power adapters in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811866)

something that i wish all mobile electronics manufacturers would do is implement a common standard for power (battery recharge) connections ... with about a dozen different cell phones in the house over the years, each new cell phone has its own stupid connector. some of the samsung and LG phones have those wide connectors that are easy to bend/break, and if they fail, it's an expensive replacement. an older kyocera phone plus some older nokia phones have a simple power jack (the typical positive on centre, negative sleeve) ... perhaps mini USB for all mobile devices that run off 5V or less? then adaptors could be exchanged as needed. No need to take a dozen wall warts on a trip just to recharge Nintendo DS, PSP, cell phone, GPS and so forth ... one would suffice for all.

laptop manufactures make stupid power connector types as well. Dell changes theirs on a regular basis. my acer netbook has the simple power jack, that's easily repaired or replaced if it fails. Dell's are non-standard and are expensive to find replacements. doesn't have to be the magnetic kind like Apple has (cool but expensive), just a simple easy to source connector that you can find at radio shack if it gets bent or broken.

if all manufacturers agreed upon a standardized power connector for all mobile electronics, life would be so much simpler.

Re:power adapters in general (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812040)

Most mobile phones made in the last couple years have moved away from proprietary connectors and toward using micro USB as a charging interface.

Re:power adapters in general (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812164)

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-10274953-94.html [cnet.com]

Looks like industry is moving in that direction. I thought Mini USB was going to win out but looks like Micro USB is the future.

Don't stop with laptops! (1)

Confucius II (1849714) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811904)

Don't stop with laptops! I have a box of anonymous, Chinese-made power adapters for a bewildering array of rechargeable devices at my home. None of these power adapters have the name of the manufacturer of the actual device, so they get lost. Standardize down to four or five types and I'll be happy. My laptops have different power bricks even when two of them are made by the same company. It's nuts!

Re:Don't stop with laptops! (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812396)

Honestly even if every device maker simply wrote the name of the product clearly on the power brick, and all power bricks/transformers and their devices specified the voltage, current, and polarity, we'd be in a better place.

Battery (1)

Ren.Tamek (898017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811916)

Fuck the power brick, those are easily and cheaply replaced and rarely ware out. Laptop batteries are constantly needed for the machine to function away from a desk, and lose their capacity very quickly. How about a common housing and voltage for those? You could have like 5 standard shapes and sizes, ranging from small to large for different sized laptops. Every dell 15 inch is about the same size, shape, and colour (black) as a toshiba 15 inch, an asus 15 inch etc.

Standardise This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811934)

My laptop requires 11A/20V, try standardising that. It's literally the size of a house brick.

Re:Standardise This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812592)

11A/20V???

Does it have a deep fryer attachment or something?

Before you get too excited. (5, Informative)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811944)

Here's a huge grain of salt:

According to Taiwanese industry news site Digitimes these kinds of solutions may soon be superseded. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. This includes the big branded players ASUS and Acer as well as the OEM manufacturers like Quanta and Compal, which are responsible for a lot of the non-brand name laptops available on the market.

Basically it's just four Taiwanese OEM manufacturers (Yes ASUS is just as much an OEM as a brand name) trying to lessen the cost of manufacture by making the laptop power supply a commodity item. While this would be a good thing for all involved, I wouldn't start rejoicing until Foxconn expresses an interest and of course Dell, Apple, Lenovo, etc.

Re:Before you get too excited. (3, Informative)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812582)

Here's a huge grain of salt:

According to Taiwanese industry news site Digitimes these kinds of solutions may soon be superseded. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. This includes the big branded players ASUS and Acer as well as the OEM manufacturers like Quanta and Compal, which are responsible for a lot of the non-brand name laptops available on the market.

Basically it's just four Taiwanese OEM manufacturers (Yes ASUS is just as much an OEM as a brand name) trying to lessen the cost of manufacture by making the laptop power supply a commodity item. While this would be a good thing for all involved, I wouldn't start rejoicing until Foxconn expresses an interest and of course Dell, Apple, Lenovo, etc.

Yea right, just some OEM manufacturers... LMGIFY:

"Quanta Computer Incorporated (TWSE: 2382) is a Taiwan-based manufacturer of notebook computers and other electronic hardware. It is the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world. Its customers include ACER, Alienware, Apple Inc., Cisco, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, Gericom, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Maxdata, MPC, Sharp Corporation, Siemens AG, Sony, Sun Microsystems, and Toshiba.[...] It is estimated that Quanta had a 33% worldwide market share of notebook computers in 2005."

Housing only? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32811948)

Given the broad power requirements for laptops (netbooks to pimped out gaming machines), how could it be standardized? If there were some kind of variable transformer, would it have to manually set when switching systems?

Re:Housing only? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812078)

Apple currently has two for all of their laptops. A higher power slightly older one, and the current lower powered ones.

Its not hard to do and considering the cost to manufacture difference between the lowest power output requirements and the highest are almost undetectable, running one production line makes more money for everyone, even if they're putting over powered PSUs out with little low usage laptops.

Re:Housing only? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812270)

considering the cost to manufacture difference between the lowest power output requirements and the highest are almost undetectable, running one production line makes more money for everyone

The transformers designed for 17" desktop replacements are also physically bigger to carry with your 10" netbook.

power cord (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32811964)

fix the problem on pc laptops of the power cord port wearing/loosening/becoming jiggly from the strain of the cord getting hit etc. the apple magnetic thing is a perfect solution to this problem.

But not wattage. (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812004)

Although they could standardize on a laptop connector (size, shape, polarity) and brick connector (the mains), and even voltage, the one thing they won't be able to do is standardize on a size. Laptops/netbooks vary greatly in their power requirements. I, for one, don't want to have to carry around a huge 80+ watt brick, simply because that is the standard and my netbook only needs a tiny 30 watts.

Still, I welcome ANY type of standardization... right now it is really crazy. At least most of the phones (at least smart phones) have finally standardized on micro-USB connectors and standard USB power levels.

It would be good but Listen To Users!! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812054)

We do NOT like those stupid replaceable tips. Those things come off and get misplaced. Instead, I would rather see replaceable DC power cords. Even if they are more expensive, I would much prefer to see a solid cord as they tend to be more durable and contain nice features like lights at the end of the cable. (Have you seen the new Dell E series power supplies? The blue light at the end not only looks nicer but gives clear indication that power is likely working at that end of the wire!)

Like most people, I am willing to pay more if the damned thing works well.

Now if all laptop makers were to agree on amps and voltage outputs, I would be a little surprised. There are netbooks and notebooks and depending on the notebook whether the processor is a heavy power load or the machine itself is just huge or whether it will be supporting a port replicator or docking station, these variables present a wide range of situations that require diverse ranges of power supplied. However, if the only variable were amps, then I'd be okay with that just as I would be okay with more expensive replaceable DC power cords.

At last... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812178)

Considering that the internal components of laptops are largely standardised, its pretty alarming that manufacturers still use all kinds of different connectors and voltages...

On the other hand, the Apple magsafe connectors are pretty neat (and has saved me a few times) and noone else seems to have copied them yet...

Even on desktops you quite often get non standard power supplies on pre-assembled machines, they tend to be the lowest quality units too so you can't just buy a normal ATX replacement once the proprietary one dies.

Just like they did with cell phones.... (1)

Tmack (593755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812258)

Yeh, and how did that go? Cell phones were going to centralize around mini-usb, a bunch did, but to retain the market in power supplies, and to keep their customers aggravated and maintain their image as sadistic bastards, there are still plenty being made with proprietary connectors. Even Blackberry has decided it missed its power supply revenue, switching (for no reason) to micro usb instead of mini usb, forcing existing BB owners that upgraded to newer phones to get yet another type of USB cable, and more new and different supplies that look almost the same as the old ones but dont fit. Sure, there are adapters, but most only work for charging, not actual USB, and most are sold by the shady cell-phone vendors, the ones that will sell you the adapter for $0.50, but charge $10 S/H for something you could stick in an envelope and send first-class mail.

Anyway, back on topic, even if they standardize, it wont last long. One brand will see an opportunity to get more $$ and slightly change the plug so only their brand will fit, keeping everything else in the supply the same (think Dell power supplies for desktops). Vendor lock-in is an old practice, and wont go away, even if they say it might.

Tm

Re:Just like they did with cell phones.... (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812458)

I actually don't have a problem with Micro USB... it's a standard, and you can get cheap cables from Hong Kong off of eBay for less than $3 including shipping. My Kindle uses one, and I wanted an extra cable, so that was easy enough. But most Blackberries are pretty thick, makes you wonder why they went to Micro, which is primarily to save on device width.

IBM/Lenovo has been doing this for years (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812278)

I've had a series of thinkpads over the years, and there have been exactly 2 power supply types. Pre-T60, everything worked with the 16V adapter. Everything since the T60 has worked with the 20V adapter. (yes, everyone grumbled when the 20V adapter came out, but you can't roast a turkey with 16V)

I don't get the fetish everyone has with the magsafe. Using laptops exclusively for the last decade I've had the power cord tugged on hard enough to cause a problem exactly 0 times. What are you all doing? draping your power cord across the hallway?

Computer Reaor Industry (1)

helix2301 (1105613) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812576)

A lot of people in the PC repair industry are going to be happy about this. Now they will not have to have a bunch of universal power adapters hanging around.
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