The gadget gods decree slimmer phones and battery life measured in weeks is a relic of the past. We’re still hunter-gatherers, only do we now hunt for chargers and gather energy. At some coffee shops, electrical outlets are in higher demand than the actual coffee. Airport construction engineers around the world seem to have agreed that the best spot for an outlet is closer to the ceiling than the floor. Phones angling by a thread in mid air, just held up by already worn out USB-plugs. All of these suck and logging power strips around with you is a necessary, but terrible solution. Especially when bulky laptop power supplies block half of the ports. The same goes for extension cords and worse, still, packing clunky travel adapters.
None of these are life threatening issues (until the first person gets killed in a fight for the last electrical outlet). But that is the beauty of platforms like Kickstarter: people coming up with clever solutions to problems you did not even know you had.
But that is the beauty of platforms like Kickstarter: people coming up with clever solutions to problems you did not even know you had.
Mogics, a Singapore-based company, came up with a solution: the power bagel. Their Kickstarter campaign got successfully funded in just 9 hours. Although success in this case meant amassing $440,000 in pledges, way past the humble goal of $10,000.
The company is rather Kickstarter savvy, having already launched five products on the platform. Still, raking in 44 times of what you planned for is still quite impressive.
To avoid confusion with the terminology: The power donut is the American version for US-plugs whereas the power bagel is the worldwide version with universal sockets for EU, UK, US and AU. I have the universal one, so this review is about the bagel.
So what is the power bagel? It’s a power strip with an extension cord, two USB-sockets and a built-in travel adapter. (The travel adapter actually comes separate, but they work so well together they should be considered as a single product). In the box is the power strip itself with the travel adapter clipped in, a carrying pouch, a sticker, and a US-to-EU adapter (at least for the European models).
The most striking feature is the size, or, the lack thereof. This thing is tiny, just covering the palm of your hand. Taking the length of a power strip and rolling it up is the ingenuity in its design. It shrinks in size, allows for the extension cord to roll up and lets power supplies coexist on the same strip without blocking each other. So what do you get?
Four universal sockets and one US (five US on the donut), two USB type A with fast-charge (2A) and a 90cm extension cord (3ft). That’s the power bagel. In the center sits the MA1 travel adapter, which fits in UK, EU and AU sockets. All in a package that is 8.2cm in diameter (3.2in). That is impressive.
Arriving at your destination, the process goes like this: First you unplug the extension cord and unwind the cable. Small clips around the outside stop the cable from falling out on its own.
Then, with a light press, the travel adapter slips out the bagel. Choose the appropriate plug for whatever country you’re in, connect the extension cord and you’re good to go. Your power-hungry electronics won’t suffer no more. That’s it. There is your perfect travel adapter power strip.
The other good stuff
The design is just ingenious. It does not even compare to regular power strips. The USB plugs support fast charge (though no proprietary standards) and top out at 2 Ampere for both. So with two devices connected, they each can draw 1 Ampere, but only one could in theory max out at 2A. I haven’t measured the output, but my Nexus 9 takes about the same time as with its original charger.
The power bagel includes two fuses, one in the bagel itself and another one in the MA1 travel adapter. This might seem like overkill, but also allows to use both alone and still have some protection – especially in places with less stable grids. And there are two replacement fuses built into both the bagel and the travel adapter – in case one blows.
For non-Americans the power bagel is the obvious choice, but consider the bagel even if you’re surrounded by US-plugs. It has the same number of US sockets and the option for universal plugs to help out another traveler on the road. Although the American version is a bit thinner, I cannot imagine it is a massive difference at this size. Plus, when traveling for longer periods you might end up using local plugs as well and the universal sockets come in handy. The power bagel is the way to go.
The other stuff
The build quality is solid, high quality plastic all around. Nothing wiggles, nothing moves. The same is true for the sockets: they provide a snug fit, considering the variety of different shapes the plugs come in. The only thing I dislike is the travel adapter. While it works well (the fold-out third pin of the UK-plug in particular), it does not quite match the premium feel of the bagel itself. The 3-1-adapter also contains a lot of moving parts, so it might end up being the first part to malfunction.
My biggest personal issue with the bagel is that the they kept the US-plug on the main cord (same on the power donut). From a business perspective, it makes sense to limit the non-US version to a single SKU, but from a consumer perspective it feels like a major oversight. This results in two problems: To use the bagel at home (in Germany), I have to use the travel adapter for the European sockets. While they do provide a separate US-to-EU adapter, it somewhat diminishes the idea of a singular integrated power strip. And the US-plug on the extension cord means there is one US-only socket on the bagel. They could have made it universal, but they did not. Since I don’t have any devices with US-plugs, this socket is useless. The only function it serves is a place to store the end of the extension cord (which the other universal plugs on the bagel do just as well). So instead of five universal sockets, only four usable remain.
So my message to the Mogics team for the bagel V2.0: Make the fifth port universal and create separate international versions with localized plugs. It improves the product tenfold.
One more thing to consider is the power limitation. With a 6.3A fuse, the peak power is 630W @ 100V or 1500W @ 240V. This doesn’t matter when charging electronics, but the bagel is not for clothing irons.
I still agonize about the US-plug on the cord and the one lost socket on the bagel. It would take the power strip from close to perfect to everything I could ever need. It’s my first choice for traveling, but having to use an adapter at home adds just the tiniest bit of friction, enough to make it not seamless. Talk about first-world problems. This should not distract from the design and its portability. If you’re American anyway, you’re golden. Get one and never worry about parallel charging on planet earth again (bagel or donut, doesn’t matter). For everyone else, get one as well. It’s the best travel-adapter-USB-outlet-multi-port power strip out there. And it comes highly recommended.
PS: @mogics, if you want my money again, just make a EU-plug version with 5 universal sockets, thank you very much :).