Blog Post

Why carry a big power brick when you can tote the world’s smallest laptop adapter?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

It’s not unheard of for a laptop review to ding the product for a surprising reason: A bulky power adapter. What’s the point of carrying a light slim laptop if you also have to tote a near-brick sized power adapter for it? A new Kickstarter project aims to rid laptops of their bulky bricks: Enter the Dart, touted as the world’s smallest laptop power adapter.

Dart is shockingly small but provides 65 watts of power to a connected laptop. That’s plenty of juice for most notebook computers although you’ll have to pay more for Dart if you use an Apple(s aapl) laptop because of the magnetic power connectors on newer MacBooks. How small and light is the Dart? When I first saw a picture of it, I thought it was meant for charging phones or tablets. Here’s a video showing a closer look at the Dart:
[protected-iframe id=”e48c2c0cebb9912e0526242136efd3db-14960843-4856826″ info=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]

The obvious question is how can something so small convert enough power for a laptop? According to the project team, the secret sauce is the Dart’s very high frequency (VHF) power conversion.

“It is well known in power electronics that increasing switching frequency is key to reducing size, weight, and cost. However, it is critical (and very hard) to switch faster while maintaining high efficiency. This is because modern power converters repeatedly deliver small packets of energy to the electronic device in cycles called switching cycles. Switching isn’t a perfect process and during every cycle some energy is wasted in the form of heat. At FINsix, our technology allows us to waste far less energy with each cycle. Thus, we can cycle up to 1000x faster without wasting any more energy than a conventional power converter. Cycling faster means we can transfer a smaller packet of energy to each cycle – and make the power converter a lot smaller.”

Aside from powering most laptops with such a small converter, the Dart can also pull double duty and charge mobile devices as well. Dart includes a 2.1 Amp / 10.5 Watt in-line USB port that can be used even while the laptop battery is charging. That added functionality, along with the Dart’s small size is certainly appealing: The Kickstarter project is already nearing its $200,000 funding goal on the very first day.

dart charger

Early backers can get a Dart in their choice of five colors for $89 as the first round of $79 backers is already gone. The Dart team expects to deliver the first batch of products in November; at that time, expect to pay the full retail price of $119. And if you plan to use Dart with a Mac full retail will be $199 although there are currently early bird deals costing $148.

4 Responses to “Why carry a big power brick when you can tote the world’s smallest laptop adapter?”

  1. landoncube

    This must be aimed at PC style brick replacement.

    MagSafe 2 45 watt chargers are:

    Brick – 5.5oz (158g)
    Cord with integrated AU plug – 5.9oz (170g)
    Just the AU plug (goes on brick) – 0.9oz 27g

    All up 12.5oz (356g)

    US chargers are smaller and lighter.

    Just look at the guy, sitting on the floor, with his Kindle, too…

    Oh, and MacBook Air is rated from 8-12 hour battery life.

    This is a solution without a problem…

    I guess if you’re this guy: “Here I am, a very dignified and otherwise highly professional business person, sitting on dirty airport floors and letting people step over me,” he says.

  2. Michael W. Perry

    As their website notes, the Mac version costs far more because they have to buy a Mac power brick just to get the tiny MagSafe connector. Mac users might want to give Apple a hard time about that. (As should environmentalists.)

    Apple should also offer these little jewels either stock with new Mac laptops or as an extra-cost, instead-of option. They might even license the technology and create their own version.

    It’s silly for Apple to devote huge sums to shaving a few grams off the MacBook Air, but ship it with a bulky power adapter, unchanged in years, that weighs almost as much as the laptop.

    I’m sure they know that….