The latest gadget to hit the market is a conventional dual 13A amp socket with a built in twin usb port outlet sockets. Intended largely for the hospitality industry, for fitting in Hotel Bedrooms and conference centres, they are equally at home in offices, schools and even domestic households.
It has to be said that having two 5V 2.1A usb outlet handy in a wall socket is very useful, especially as it frees up the clutter of chargers which would otherwise be occupying one or more available 13A sockets in a room. So I purchased one of these products for the sum of £14.99 from a popular high street store. Upon taking it out of its packaging and examining it, I found that cosmetically the socket was identical to a standard UK 13A double socket, and it would fit into a traditional back box, making retro-fitting the product as a replacement to an existing 13A twin socket possible, with no modifications or having to chisel the wall out in order to fit a larger back box.
First impressions are that the outer build quality is also exactly the same as an average dual 13A socket obtained from an Electrical Wholesaler, with the casing, socket switches, pin shutters etc all appearing to be no better or worse than your average £2 Electrical Factors product. Given the huge price premium of this product over a traditional double socket, I assume that the additional cost goes towards the R&D costs and quality of the built in USB section, and that it is this feature which you are ultimately paying for in the product and so my expectations are high for the future long term reliability of the product, but only time will tell as longevity and reliability is obviously not something which I can review at this time.
Certainly one negative of the product is the price, and it will probably be argued that you can buy one non usb equipped socket along with several cheap USB chargers from Ebay for around the same price as one of these Double Sockets with built in USB outlets. With time, i’m sure that the price will eventually fall, however at the moment, installing one of these in multiple hotel bedrooms or at individual desks in an office, for example, may prove to be prohibitive and unattractive, however you do have to balance up convenience with cost.
The other issue for me personally, is the absence of an on/off switch for the actual USB section of the socket. Whilst it is true that each 13A socket outlet has individual on / off switches, there is no way of isolating the USB section other than to switch off of 32A amp circuit breaker feeding the ring main which is powering the socket (and probably several other sockets)., so I assume that the USB internals are powered constantly from the mains, even when no USB products are connected. Not only may this prove to be a concern for those who like to switch off unused electrical items when going on holiday, but in time, should the product develop an internal fault, there is no easy way of isolating it.
Upon connecting items to each USB port, I found that the USB sockets themselves seem fairly robust with little or any movement when plugging in a USB plug, however once again, the long term reliability of these sockets can only be determined with time, after a few hundred insertions. The product however, had no problem charging a wide and varied combination of phones, tablets, a GPS Navigator and a Mifi dongle, and it charged them just as quickly as their original USB charger, and so I don’t doubt the advertised 2.1A rating of the USB outlets.
The instructions also state that the USB outlets are protected against overloads and short circuits, and whilst I have no way of testing this, I would hope that protection circuits are evident and reliable given the high overall cost of the product and that some kind of fuse protection is incorporated into the internal design due to the fact that the section cannot be isolated from the mains from the socket itself.
Given that traditional wall sockets will last in excess of 10 or 20 years before requiring replacement, i’m a little sceptical that this product will last anywhere near to that figure due to the internal electronics of the USB outlet section, and it would be a shame to condemn an otherwise perfectly working 13A twin socket should the USB section eventually go faulty, especially at a replacement cost of £14.99 a time.
I have bought many plug in USB chargers over several years, and non have lasted beyond two or three years, so I will be surprised if this area of the product lasts much in excess of that period, especially as it appears to be powered 24/7 even without any external USB products connected.
I will therefore award this product 3/5, it loses 2 points largely due to the current high cost of the product and the lack of a switch isolating the mains side of the USB circuit section. If the manufacturer does eventually add an on/off switch to control the power to the USB outlets then I would award the product 4/5. I would anticipate that eventually the product price will fall to a more realistic £6 or £7, so those intending on multiple purchases may wish to wait for a time.
I will add an update to this review in twelve months time, to comment on the overall robustness and longevity of the product, but at the moment the product is working and charging and will be put to daily use.