A Truly Electrifying Stocking Stuffer

It’s mandatory for anyone who writes for special interest publications covering subjects such as, oh, I don’t know, maybe AV gear, to come up with a list of holiday gift ideas. I won’t bore you with a “10 Best” or “Electronic Gifts for Her” selection. I’ll give you one item. It’s extremely useful. It’s extraordinarily convenient. It’s stupidly simple to use. It’s something any gear head who owns multiple USB-chargeable devices will absolutely appreciate (and not immediately wonder if he’ll be able to re-gift it to someone else). And it’s shockingly affordable. (Plus, it will actually fit in a stocking if that’s what you need.)

One reason why I know this gift will be such a hit is because I recently installed one in my bedroom. And now I want more of them. Lots more. At least one in every room. Why? Because NewerTech’s Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlets combine two three-prong AC wall sockets with a pair of built-in USB charging ports. The result is that now next to my bed, I can have both my cordless phone and my light plugged in to the same wall outlet while I’m simultaneously charging my iPad or iPhone (or other two USB devices). Notice that nowhere along the way did I mention the need for a power strip or charging adapters to fiddle with?

Those two USB charging ports, by the way, have little spring-loaded sliding covers that automatically cut power to the port when closed. Sure, it’s only a minor bit of electricity being saved, but it’s one less vampire draw in your house that adds to the electric bill. (Just remember to pull the USB cord out.)

The Power2U is definitely a DIY retrofit kind of product that installs as easily as any standard wall outlet. NewerTech says it can be installed in an existing 16-cubic inch electrical box in “20 minutes or less”...unless you’re a klutz like me who lives in an old house and spends way too much time crawling around looking for one of the tiny wall plate screws that was dropped and disappeared in the carpet. So, unless you’re grandmother is a retired electrician, I probably wouldn’t put one in her stocking. For everyone else, it’s a no-brainer.

The original MSRP of the Power2U was $24.99 (and still is), but for the time being NewerTech has dropped the price of a Power2U in white down to $11.50. (Power2Us in other colors – black, light almond, white, and ivory – are available for a dollar more.) You might be able to scrounge together a standard AC wall outlet and a couple of USB chargers for under 12 bucks, but why bother? The all-in-one Power2U is what every wall outlet should be.

One thing to note, however, is that due to the design of the spring-loaded USB-port covers, you have to use the Power2U’s included generic-looking wall plate. If you’ve decked your house out with ritzy designer wall plates, you’ll have to suffer with egalitarian looks in order to enjoy the Power2U’s convenience.

If you like the idea of a wall outlet with a built-in USB-charging port but don’t want to (or can’t) rip out the old AC outlet, there are a few less-permanent—and less-elegant—alternatives. For about $20, for example, Home Depot sells a GE-branded two-outlet box-like on-wall surge protector with two USB-charging ports and a small shelf that hangs off the bottom of the unit. Lowe’s has a slightly less expensive and less obtrusive plug-in wall plate from RCA that includes two USB ports but only one electrical outlet. Then, of course, there’s a variety of plug-in mini- and full-size surge protectors with multiple outlets and dual USB charging ports from Belkin and others.

So, forget the Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter or the Personal Soundtrack Shirt (I know, the built-in speaker is pretty cool), as far as I’m concerned, the clean looks and ultimate convenience of NewerTech’s Power2U makes it stand out as THE gadget-lover’s gift of the season. And since they’re less than half the normal price, it’s one of the most affordable gadget gifts this year, too.

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