Review: MacAlly AC Adapter

by on July 2, 2004

AC adapters. These are one of the most-replaced item on laptops (besides batteries and things accidentally broken). One reason is that they are one of the big wear and tear items (they have to take that raw AC power and clean it up for your laptop), and also wires tend to wear out (lots of plugging and unplugging, as well as wrapping). Some people want to keep one at their desk and one in their computer bag, but is an Apple one the best choice?

We love Apple’s AC adapter – it’s cleverly designed, compact, and came with the iBook. Unfortunately, some have failed, and others find their shape awkward in many computer bags (the bags are designed for a long, rectangular one, rather than a square. We took a look at a replacement from MacAlly.

AC Adapter Tip
AC Adapter

AC Adapter
AC Adapter w/Cable Detached

The MacAlly AC adapter is small and although advertised to work with PowerBook G4s, also works with the iBook G4 and white (dual USB port) iBooks. Being made out of white plastic, it matches iBooks perfectly.

The AC adapter has a total cord length of 10′ (the power brick is in the middle) with a long velcro tie attached to keep the cables organized when traveling. The cord that connects the AC adapter to the computer is detachable, but twists to lock into place on the AC adapter. It’s also slightly thicker than the Apple model.

On the AC adapter, a blue LED glows when the AC adapter is receiving power. It should be noted that the AC adapter lacks a notice whether or not the battery is charged or is charging (but many other AC adapters, including Apple’s yo-yo one do not – that’s what the battery menu extra is for).

Performance-wise, the MacAlly AC adapter worked identically to the original Apple one, including charging our iBook and powering it. Apart from the blue LED on the adapter itself and the lack of an LED on the plug, it’s hard to remember that our iBook is not being powered by the original.

One problem is that this AC adapter’s wattage is quite low, compared to its competitors…Instead of the now-standard 65 watts, this AC adapter is somewhere between the 40 watt and 48 watt range (MacAlly claims 48, although nobody can give us specifics). What does this mean? Well, some Aluminum PowerBook G4s cannot get enough power from this, and won’t be able to charge their batteries. iBooks and the older Titanium PowerBooks should work fine (our 600MHz iBook had no trouble), but the batteries may charge slower.

The main advantage of this AC adapter, is price. At about half the cost of the Apple-branded model, one can be kept in a computer bag and one can be kept at a desk. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for, and this will have a hard time working with more powerful laptops.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

Some people question the reliability of Apple’s familiar square AC adapter, or just want to keep a second one around and this little AC adapter is a nice, inexpensive choice, although limited to certain machines.

Pros: Half the price of Apple’s AC adapter, more totable in many computer bags

Cons: Amber/green charging light present on Apple’s AC adapter is not present (although many replacement AC adapters lack this), low wattage output compared to others

The Facts

3/5Product: AC Adapter
Company: MacAlly
Platform: iBook (G3 or G4) or PB G4
Price: $39.99

This post has been filed in 'Book Accessories and Reviews