FastMac U-Socket USB Receptacle Review
- Product Name: U-Socket USB Receptacle
- Manufacturer: FastMac
- Review Date: April 29, 2012 19:25
- MSRP: $24.95
- First Impression: Gotta Have It!
- 15A-125V AC Outlet
- 2.6A-5V USB Power Ports
- UL Listed & NEC/IEC Approved
- Standard & Décor Styles
- Tamper Resistant Option
- Multiple Color Options
Not much has happened to the electrical outlet in the past 85 years. Not much at all... except for the fact that more and more devices require power. There was a time when toasters, vacuums and televisions were about all that ever needed to be plugged in to an outlet in the standard home. But now... now, we've got all manner of electronic gadgets. And that's where the U-Socket comes in. With smart phones, Kindles, and all sorts of portable electronic devices, your wall outlet might look sort of Frankenstein-ish with a host of wall-warts, adapters and USB chargers all plugged in. And who wants to manage all that clutter? Apparently not FastMac, who invented the U-Socket as a way to wed the standard wall receptacle with a pair of 2.6A (2600mA) USB outlets.
The result is quite impressive.
The U-Socket is available in White, Almond and Ivory - and you can get it in standard and Decora-style, so it will blend with just about any style of home or wall plate. There is even a build-to-order tamper resistant (TR) model to conform to municipalities adhering to the 2008 NEC codes regarding the requirement of TR outlets in new and renovated homes.
The U-Socket itself looks like a standard wall outlet - and in fact, it is. The outlet portion of the U-Socket is a technology/product that is adapted to work with receptacles from four of the leading manufacturers (Leviton, Pass & Seymour, Cooper and Hubbell) and the U-Socket simply applies some ingenuity in affixing a couple of USB ports to the side. The USB ports draw up to 2.6A (when connected) to charge higher current products like the new iPhones and iPads that are on the market. This is important, since a lower powered USB port would either charge these devices at a much slower rate, or worse, not work at all.
Installation and Use
Since the FastMac U-Socket is, after all, more or less a standard receptacle, we installed it in much the same way. The only thing we needed to mind was the extra girth, provided by the twin USB ports. This brings us to our only real criticism: the U-Socket is a slick solution that adds USB to a standard 15A receptacle. If it were designed by, say, one of the big four companies, it would likely be a bit more compact and durable. As it stands now, the assembly a little fragile since the housing is designed to wrap around the side of the existing receptacle and house the added USB components. While a standard receptacle can be literally thrown across the room and not break, the U-Socket can't handle that type of abuse. Of course, that's easy for us to say - we didn't go through the R&D process. When we spoke with the inventor and engineer behind U-Socket, Abbie Vakil, we found out just how impressive and involved the development, and even more - the UL and NEC approval of the U-Socket was. While it's nice to say that the U-Socket could be smaller and more compact, the truth is, there was a ton of work involved, and the way the device was invented means that the U-Socket can be placed on just about anything, including 15A and 20A outlets, TR and commercial-grade products.
Installing the U-Socket was very straightforward. There are two hot connections on the one side of the receptacle and a single unified neutral on the opposite. Ground is at the bottom where you'd expect it. You can still clip the hots to separate the outlets, but we're actually not sure which outlet feeds the USB ports (we only had one sample and didn't want to tear it apart). If you need to switch the outlet, FastMac makes a different product called the U2. Or, you can just use a standard receptacle and place the U-Socket somewhere else.
Here's a quote from Abbie that we found particularly enlightening:
By letting the outlet manufacturers make what they make best allowed us to concentrate on the DC portion & make that part as slim as possible whilst still outputting more than 2A on the USB ports AND staying within temperature limits. This is no minor feat let me assure you.
The U-Socket is a bit wider than a standard receptacle, but not prohibitively so. It still fit comfortably into a single-gang box, but it will be more difficult if you are retrofitting into an exterior block wall or an older home that uses the smaller metal enclosures. We were able to feed it from an existing GFCI in our kitchen. While a single-gang GFCI version of this receptacle would be welcome, it's almost impossible (we're told) due to the space requirements. The electronics to convert 110V AC to 5V DC simply refuse to fit into a single gang box. FastMac does make a double gang box GFCI versions , however. In a pinch, you can always daisy-chain it off an existing circuit makes a lot of sense and is fairly easy to do. In our particular case, this left only one location where we could use it, due to the way the wiring was run.
Really, the only surprising thing is that this hasn't been done before. We just hope that this is the wave of the future and that home builders will start putting products like these as standard fare in bedrooms and kitchens. FastMac has also assured us that the U-Socket meets UL & NEC specifications, and that it is officially approved and listed for use in residential construction. Now that I've used the U-Socket, I can't imagine an outlet that wouldn't be better off without it, excepting perhaps outdoors or if it is located where it would be otherwise impractical to plug in a USB device for charging. If you don't have one of these, go get one - your electronic lifestyle will be much improved.
what they need to make is a power strip with about 10 usb outlets on it that you plug into the wall.
Amazon.com: Satechi 12 Port USB Hub with Power Adapter & 2 Control Switches: Computers & Accessories [amazon.com]
and it does plug in the wall (AC adapter)