The Gadling guide to finding power outlets at the airport

The airport is a terrible place for getting work done – lack of seating, poor (often paid) Wi-Fi and usually, being stuck at the airport means you are either waiting on a delayed flight, or waiting for a nasty connection time.

Worst of all – current technology has not kept up with our lifestyles, and battery makers don’t seem to understand how important it is for us to keep people updated on Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare.

So – here are the top tips from Gadling on how to find power at the airport.
Find an outlet

This is a tricky one – because it involves finding power ports that are not really intended for passengers. Some airports don’t mind their customers (you paid an airport usage fee, so you are a customer) using an open outlet, while others play nasty tricks by installing weird non-standard outlets (Yeah Las Vegas, I’m talking to you with your damn three prong locking outlets).

Power outlets are usually installed in pillars, behind boarding gate desks or hidden away in dark corners. One handy resource for locating power is the community built Airport Power Locator. On the iPhone, you can also try your luck with GateGuru, as it tends to list every amenity for your specific airport, including charging stations.

If none of the online tools help you out, ask around – some airport workers may be able to let you in on a secret outlet. If all else fails, you could always pay the $50 entry fee for the “luxury” airline lounge.

Find paid power

The concept of paying for a little bit of power pisses me off – but some airports at least offer this as a last resort option. Usually, these are the airports that went to great lengths to hide their open (free) power outlets. The power is provided in workstations, and you’ll need to swipe your credit card for a little juice. Some airports also offer cellphone chargers kiosks – these offer a variety of power connectors, so you don’t even need your own charger. Expect to pay between $3 and $5 for a short charge.

Be creative when you search for power

If you are really desperate, head on over to a food vendor and ask whether they have power behind the counter. Check for outlets behind the check-in desk, check for hidden outlets in the restrooms. Remember, a smile goes a long way, but in the case of food vendors, a couple of bucks may go even further.

When you do find power – think safety

I hate to pretend like I’m your mother – but when you do plug your laptop in, do us all a favor, and don’t drape your cords between rows of seats. You may end up injuring your laptop, or a fellow passenger. Also, if you can’t be sitting next to your computer or gadget when you charge it, do everything you can to keep an eye on it. Finding a laptop thief at the airport is a bad way to spend your time.

Bring your own portable power

You have a 50/50 chance of running out of options at the airport – no outlets, and no paid-power. In those cases, you are going to need your own power source. For smaller gadgets, we’ve reviewed a variety of them – from the compact Kensington movie friendly battery dock, to the massive Zagg Sparq, with enough power for six full iPhone charges.

Of course, none of those low power devices will charge a laptop, so for those high-power devices, you’ll need something like the Tekkeon myPower ALL. In its basic version, it’ll provide one full laptop charge, but a secondary pack can double that capacity. Expect to spend around $50 for a low power gadget charger, or up to $250 for a laptop version.

Whatever you do – carry a power splitter

So – you found the one spare outlet in the entire airport, and some punk is using it to charge his iPod? Don’t people realize how important it is for you to catch up with the latest on Facebook?

Prevent battles over power, and bring your own power splitter. This could be a $3 one from the local Home Depot, or a neat travel friendly outlet from Belkin, Kensington or Monster.

You’ll thank yourself later – and your fellow passengers will be grateful too (though don’t expect any tips). One quick word of advice: print a label with your name on the power splitter – it would be a shame to see that go missing.

One final tip – if you are abroad, remember that your US power splitters and power cords won’t work – so invest in a cheap international power adapter, and always check the local voltages before plugging your device in. Your power brick will tell you what it is compatible with. The last thing you want is to blow the one open outlet in the airport into little pieces with your gadgets.

Gadling gear review – Tekkeon myPower ALL MP3750 portable battery pack

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of any gadget that can keep my other gadgets powered. Last month, I wrote about my “power anything anywhere kit“, and in it, I described the equipment I recommend in order to keep your gadgets going, even when you are away from a power outlet.

One thing I mentioned in that article, is that my current universal notebook battery pack (from APC) was a discontinued item. Because of this, I started on a quest to find a replacement product, and boy did I find one!

My search for a better notebook battery pack took me to Tekkeon – manufacturer of portable power products. Their myPower ALL MP3750 is a universal notebook battery pack that is better than my previous notebook battery in every possible way.

The MP3750 weighs just under 16 ounces and houses a 50Wh Lithium-Polymer battery pack. The unit can charge a laptop or any device with USB charging capability. The MP3750 comes complete with a charging cord and a variety of input and output power tips.

To charge the unit, you find the correct input tip for your current laptop charger, then plug a tip onto its output cable. This sounds more complicated than it is, and unless you are swapping laptop computers on a daily basis, you’ll only have to find the correct power tips once.

If you only use the USB power outlet, you’ll be provided with enough juice to keep an iPhone or other low power device going for over a week.

The unit can auto-detect the input power being provided by your charger, so the entire setup is pretty much plug and play. Alternatively, you can switch the unit to “manual” and select the required output power using the power button on the top.

The biggest advantage of a universal battery pack over a second battery for your laptop is that the universal pack is future-proof. If you buy a new laptop, you’ll be able to use the same battery pack for the new machine. Another huge advantage is that you can keep the battery pack in your bag until you need it. Once you find the need for some more juice, you can plug the Tekkeon MP3750 into your laptop, without having to shut down or potentially lose work.

The extra usage time you get out of your laptop with the MP3750 depends on the kind of laptop you are using. A large 15″ laptop will gain about anywhere between one and two hours. My small 10″ netbook was able to run about 3 hours longer off a fully charged MP3750.

If the capacity of the MP3750 is insufficient, you can double its power by adding a second battery pack. The MP3450 second battery pack includes a bracket for connecting to the MP3750, providing twice the power ( an additional $99.95).

The Tekkeon myPower ALL MP3750 costs $189.95 and is available directly from Tekkeon, or one of their online retailers. If you already know that you’ll be needing more power, you can purchase a bundle of the MP3750 and its second battery pack for $259.95.

Included with the MP3750 is a laptop charging cord, assorted power input/output tips in a carrying bag and a carrying pouch for the battery pack.

Seriously, there is nothing negative I can find about the Tekkeon MP3750 – it is lightweight, supports virtually every popular laptop computer on the market, and has a bonus USB port. Anyone who needs to keep their machine going, should consider the investment. The price is on the high end, but the quality more than makes up for that.

Daily deal – Monster OTG400 travel power outlet for $13

My daily deal for today is for the Monster Power OTG400 “outlet to go”.

This 4 outlet device has a wraparound cord that plugs into one of the outlets when you are not using it. Built into the device is also a circuit breaker, which should prevent you from plunging an entire floor of hotel rooms into darkness if you overload something.

Even though we now carry more gadgets than ever, hotels still seem to think one outlet is enough for everyone, so I have been carrying one of these Monster travel outlets for several years.

The product usually sells for about $20, but Amazon has it on sale for $13.26. Shipping is free for Prime members, anyone else will have to pay shipping or buy enough to reach the $25 threshold for super saver shipping.

Daily deal – iPod travel kit for $14

My daily deal for today is perfect for all your iPod/ owners. This Cables2Go travel kit contains 4 separate items, neatly packed away in a pocket leather case.

Inside the case is an AC charger, DC (car) charger, retractable headphones and a retractable USB/Firewire charger cable. The cables will work on all iPod models with a dock connector, but the specifications say it is not compatible with the first, second and third generation iPod. Essentially this means that it will work on any iPod that plays video, and all the Nano versions.

The kit will most likely not work with the iPhone or iPod Touch. At $13.99 this is quite a good deal, and a great way to carry all the parts you need to keep your iPod charged anywhere you have AC or DC power. The user reviews do point out that the headphones are pretty poor, so don’t expect them to replace your current iPod headphones.

The Cables2Go iPod charging kit is available from, and shipping is free.

Product review – Medis 24-7 fuel cell Power Pack

Last week I reported on the upcoming availability of the “Medis 24-7 Power Pack” fuel cell power source. To recap; this portable device uses fuel cells and a chemical process to generate power, and has enough “juice” to charge your gadgets for up to 3 days of use.

The concept of fuel cells has been something that has always intrigued me, so when I got the chance to review this product in real life, I jumped on it. If you are into geeky stuff, you can read this Wikipedia article describing how the process works.

The Medis 24-7 Power Pack is available in 2 versions; a starter pack with the power cable and an assortment of power “tips” for $29.99, and a refill pack without the cables for $19.99.

The power pack itself is a small black box with some vents and a power connector on top. The pack is shipped in its “non activated” state, and has to be squeezed together to get the fuel cell process started. The device is sealed in an air tight bag and a green plastic strip is wrapped around the device to prevent it from being activated prematurely. The device weighs just 6.3oz (179 grams).

To activate the device, you remove the green strip and squeeze the top and bottom of the unit together till a gap at the bottom is fully closed. It takes some pressure to accomplish this, and the process can not be reversed; once you activate a power pack, it immediately starts making electricity until the fuel cell runs out. When you shake the unit, you clearly hear the liquids sloshing around. When the device is generating power, it is completely silent and it does not produce any heat.

Initially I had considered posting a full technical review, and digging out my multimeter to dazzle you with my amazing technical skills (I’m joking!), but I decided that it would be much easier to put the device through a “real world test”.

For the review, I’ll be using the 24-7 Power Pack with their Xtreme power cable along with a Blackberry Curve, a Nokia N78 and an HTC Touch Dual smartphone. These are all common devices, and the kind of device you might need an emergency power boost for when you are on the road.


Blackberry Curve

The starter pack includes a MiniUSB tip, so Blackberry owners going all the way back to the old 7000 series devices will be able to use the Power Pack. In my case, I plugged the Power Pack into my Blackberry when it was at 42% battery life, which is the average for me after about 2 or 3 days. The Blackberry instantly detected a power source (as indicated by the plug symbol next to the battery) and started charging. About every 10 minutes, I checked the battery status menu and a little over an hour later, the device had reached 100%. This charging time is on par with the original charger delivered with my Blackberry.

HTC Touch Dual

The Touch Dual uses the same power tip as my Blackberry, and the results were similar. Getting the phone from 57% battery power to 100% took just under 40 minutes.

Nokia N78

For my final test, I switched to a Nokia N78; this smartphone uses the Nokia power tip included with the Power Pack starter kit. Unlike my other tests, I waited to charge this phone until it was 100% drained (to the point where it would no longer turn on).

When I plugged the charger cable into the phone, nothing happened. According to the manual, this is normal; it can take several minutes for the phone to reach the stage where the charging circuitry actually has enough power to turn itself on. After about 2 minutes, the phone beeped once, and the display showed the charging process had started. With a completely drained Lithium-Ion battery, the 24-7 Power Pack took just over 2 hours 15 minutes to get the phone to 100% (the phone was turned off for this charge).

Fuel cell life

I first activated my 24-7 Power Pack three days ago, and since then I have charged 3 different devices 7 times. Most of those charges were from around 50% battery life (except for the Nokia N78, which received a 100% charge).

The specifications for the 24-7 Power Pack claim that the device can provide continuous power for about 20 hours. I’m currently on day 5 with the Power Pack, and it is still delivering enough power to charge my devices.

Flying with the Power Pack

One of my first questions about the 24-7 Power Pack was whether it would be allowed to come with you on board a commercial flight. Thankfully Medis have that covered, and the device has received a Department of Transportation approval. That approval is also printed on the device and the box.

A little bit about the “Xtreme power cable”

Medis has 2 different power cables for their 24-7 Power Pack; one is designed for low power devices, like the Motorola RAZR or an iPod Shuffle, the other is for high power devices like Smartphones and the iPod Nano/Classic.

The low power cable does not deliver enough continuous power to charge some devices, so you’ll need to check the Medis site to determine the cable you need. In most cases, a smartphone, PDA or MP3 player will require the Xtreme cable ($49.99).

The Xtreme cable is also quite a bit larger than the standard cable, but at just 2.5oz, it won’t take up too much space in your bag.


Unlike batteries, the Medis 24-7 Power Pack comes prepared for recycling. Included in the box is a zip-lock bag, and the side of the box has a return address for shipping the unit back to a recycling facility. The box is not postage-paid, so you will have to pay for returning it. Like all products, it’s “greenness” will depend on the discipline of the user.

Cost and final thoughts

I’ve already determined that the product actually works, so this brings me to the cost. There is no denying it; $20 for a non reusable, non rechargeable power pack is going to seem too steep to a lot of people. There is also no way I can come to the conclusion that it isn’t an expensive option.

The Medis 24-7 Power Pack is going to have a fairly narrow targeted audience, and the average traveler might not fit that profile. The advantages of the device don’t come to their full potential unless you find yourself in a situation where you are nowhere near a regular power source for several days, or where you are in a “life or death” situation holding a cell phone with a dead battery.

There are also some alternative products out there; I’ve previously covered a rechargeable battery power source that can recharge your device 2 or 3 times, this device is more portable. At $60, it is just 3 times more expensive than a 24-7 Power Pack refill kit. These battery packs do have a few drawbacks; they lose their capacity over time (a fully charged Lithium-Ion battery pack will lose between 20% and 35% capacity a year) and you will need an AC or USB power source to recharge it.

In the end, I really can’t do anything other than let you decide whether you think $20 is an acceptable investment for powering your devices, plus you’ll have to take into account the initial investment for the starter kit and/or Xtreme power cable. It is a fairly high price to pay, but there really isn’t any kind of similar product out there.

Personally, I think the
device is pretty cool, but I’ve got a weird geeky fetish for power products. I’ve spent far too much time traveling with a dead gadget to ever leave home unprepared again. If you travel a lot, and keeping in touch with people back home is important to you, then it might make sense to buy one of these and keep it in the box in the event disaster (or a dead battery) strikes.

The Medis 24-7 Power Pack will be on the shelves of your local Best Buy in early October which does prove that regular retail channels see some the same potential in this product that I see. Time will tell whether the concept is a successful one and whether consumers are willing to pay $20 for this kind of convenience.