Travel Gear and Gadgets #2: Energizer Duo and mini-USB hub review

I find the Energizer Duo to be a marvelous $16 device. You can use it to recharge 2 AAA (included) or AA batteries (not included) in two different ways: via powered USB port or wall outlet (US standard, though it should work in an outlet adapter just fine). It comes in two pieces, which makes it more valuable as a multitasker – the charger part has a 4-pin USB A connector on the end, and the second piece is a USB wall adapter.
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That means you can use this wall adapter to charge other devices that use a USB cable, from mobile phones to many PMP/mp3 players without needing access to a computer. Why would you buy the $29 Apple USB Power Adapter, when for $16 or less, you can get something that will do the same job (in a smaller form factor), plus throw in a battery charger and 2 rechargeable AAA batteries?

I’ve combined the adapter with a Targus super mini-USB hub to charge 4 items simultaneously in hotel rooms: a pair of batteries, two mobile phones, and an mp3 player.
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Just make sure you have enough cables. You might be a lifesaver at an airport when someone needs to use one of the inexplicably hard-to-find wall outlets at an airport to charge up a phone/mp3 player. I’ve helped a couple of people who wanted to charge their iPods before getting on the plane, but I was already using the outlet – lucky I had extra unused USB ports. I keep it in my laptop bag with two batteries in it for my digital camera, in case the camera batteries run low (quick swap and charge the dead ones later), along with the wall outlet piece and the mini-USB hub. Stay tuned for the next Travel Gear and Gadgets post for another device I keep in the bag that comes in real handy when traveling (also another airport lifesaver).
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If you charge batteries from your computer USB port, you can download software that allows you to track the charging process on your desktop. I’ve bought 3 at Office Depot (one for me, two were gifts), where you can trade in an empty printer ink cartridge (from certain brands only, I think HP and Dell) for $3 of store credit. Make sure to comparison shop, as some places are more expensive.

One drawback: it’s not a rapid charger, so 2 dead AA batteries could take several hours to fully recharge. Hopefully you won’t need more than two right away. If you feel you may need to charge more than 2 at a time (for some cameras or larger devices), you may want to buy a second unit or consider a rapid travel charger or a 4-battery charger (which will certainly be more expensive, but justifiable if necessary).

Previous Travel Gear and Gadgets:

1. Mini-laptops

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