James Stan­bury ex­plains why car­a­van own­ers need more in-car 12V and USB sock­ets than most, be­fore putting 10 mul­ti­plugs to the test

Practical Caravan - - Showroom Test Bench -

COM­PARED WITH THE older car’s one cig­a­rette lighter socket, to­day’s ve­hi­cles are pretty good at pro­vid­ing 12V and USB out­lets to power phones and other de­vices. But on a tour­ing hol­i­day, en­ter­tain­ment de­vices get heav­ier use. A wire­less re­vers­ing cam­era needs a 12V socket, and car­a­van own­ers are also more likely to have a dash cam and stand­alone sat nav. Car jour­neys are also the per­fect chance to charge de­vices with­out sap­ping the leisure bat­tery. In short, you sim­ply can­not have too many ac­ces­sory sock­ets. So in this test, we’ve con­cen­trated on adapters that have at least one 12V out­let. We started with the ba­sics, such as num­ber of 12V and USB sock­ets, how eas­ily de­vices can be po­si­tioned and whether sock­ets are il­lu­mi­nated for night-time use. Then we looked at the electrics. Most 12V sock­ets have a max­i­mum 7-10A ouput, of­ten needed when pow­er­ing sev­eral de­vices. Most USB de­vices re­quire at least 1A for rea­son­able charg­ing times, and many tablets need at least 2.1A. An­other use­ful fea­ture is bat­tery mon­i­tor­ing. Many of these adapters show the ve­hi­cle bat­tery’s cur­rent charge level, and when you need to min­imise the load on it. Fi­nally, we ac­knowl­edge the short­com­ings of 12V sock­ets and plugs – which were only ever de­signed for cig­a­rette lighters. The plug’s sprung end ter­mi­nal should en­sure good con­tact be­tween plug and socket. We also think it’s es­sen­tial for a mul­ti­plug to have an in­di­ca­tor show­ing when it’s live. Bat­tery mon­i­tors and il­lu­mi­nated sock­ets do this any­way, but a sep­a­rate power light ought to be fit­ted to more ba­sic mod­els.

Ring RMS3

Price £8.35 Con­tact 0113 231 0266 Web www.ringau­to­mo­ Not both­ered about USB sock­ets? Then this is a great bud­get al­ter­na­tive to En­er­gizer’s win­ner. Like the 50505, it con­verts one 12V socket into three. And again like the En­er­gizer, the max­i­mum com­bined elec­tri­cal load is 8A. Sur­pris­ingly, though, the bud­get price doesn’t mean a pared-down spec. A handy four-led dis­play shows bat­tery charge level at a glance. In ad­di­tion, a cou­ple of slide-out tabs can be used to screw the unit firmly in place. We’d rec­om­mend this, be­cause the coiled power lead is rather short and springy, mak­ing the unit dif­fi­cult to po­si­tion un­less it can be pinned down.

Ring RMS7

Price £10.50 Con­tact 0113 231 0266 Web www.ringau­to­mo­ If En­er­gizer’s 50505 is the best all-rounder and Ring’s RMS3 is the bud­get op­tion, then this is the half­way house be­tween the two. The 12V socket count drops to two, but Ring has shoe­horned in a USB out­let as well. Un­for­tu­nately, its max­i­mum out­put is 1A, which will be prob­lem­atic with some tablets and slow in charg­ing oth­ers. But like the RMS3, Ring’s ex­tras make the unit well worth con­sid­er­ing. These in­clude an on-board bat­tery charge level mon­i­tor, il­lu­mi­nated 12V sock­ets and slide-out tabs for per­ma­nent fix­ing. Our only gripe, once again, is that overly short coiled power lead.

En­er­gizer 50505 Price £13.28 Con­tact 0800 542 0825 Web www.en­er­giz­er­auto­mo­tiveac­ces­ A three-way balanc­ing act of get­ting the ba­sics right, hav­ing plenty of fea­tures and boast­ing a very keen price se­cures the top spot for this ex­cel­lent prod­uct. The 8A max­i­mum to­tal out­put is sen­si­ble, given the unit’s five sock­ets – three 12V and two USBS. Es­pe­cially as one of the USB out­puts is the faster-charg­ing, tablet-friendly, 2.1A va­ri­ety. The me­tre of straight ca­ble be­tween unit and plug gives plenty of po­si­tion­ing op­tions, and we like the il­lu­mi­nated 12V sock­ets – easy to use at night and a fool­proof in­di­ca­tor the unit is live.

En­er­gizer 50503

Price £13.99 Con­tact 0800 542 0825 Web www.en­er­giz­er­auto­mo­tiveac­ces­ A bizarre-look­ing adapter that’s well thought out and equally us­able, in most ve­hi­cles, from the front and rear seats. The ca­ble be­tween the ve­hi­cle’s socket and the main box is 20cm, and there’s a fur­ther 20cm be­tween the box and its three 12V sock­ets. As we’ve come to ex­pect from En­er­gizer, all the fun­da­men­tals are spot on. Max­i­mum to­tal load is 8A, the 12V sock­ets are il­lu­mi­nated and the sin­gle USB out­put is 2.1A. Un­usu­ally, the main unit has three switches to en­able/dis­able each of the 12V out­lets – handy if the driver wants to si­lence an an­noy­ing de­vice be­ing used in the back!

En­er­gizer 50502

Price £17.69 Con­tact 0800 542 0825 Web www.en­er­giz­er­auto­mo­tiveac­ces­ While sev­eral mul­ti­plugs here boast bat­tery charge level in­di­ca­tors, the 50502 takes things a step fur­ther. When the bat­tery gets so low that fur­ther dis­charge could mean the en­gine will strug­gle to start, the unit cuts power to its three sock­ets – one 12V, a 1A USB and a 2.1A USB. In short, it takes away the risk of leav­ing elec­tri­cally thirsty items run­ning unat­tended. But what the prod­uct gains in so­phis­ti­ca­tion, it loses on prac­ti­cal­i­ties. Es­sen­tially, the sin­gle 12V socket sim­ply re­places the socket used to power the de­vice. Surely, at this price level, there could have been a cou­ple more added?

Hal­fords 131253

Price £15 Con­tact 08457 626 625 Web www.hal­ Coiled power leads don’t end up a tan­gled mess like straight ca­bles, but they do ex­ert a pull that makes items at­tached to them tricky to pin down. Un­less, like this natty de­sign from Hal­fords, the unit sits snugly in a cupholder. Although a touch dear, there’s plenty to like here. Max­i­mum com­bined out­put is 10A, there’s a bat­tery charge level mon­i­tor, the four sock­ets (two 12V and two USBS) are il­lu­mi­nated, and there’s a handy adapter to en­sure the unit’s plug fits se­curely, even in larger 12V sock­ets. What a shame, then, that both USB out­lets are re­stricted to just 1A max­i­mum.

Ring RMS13

Price £15 Con­tact 0113 231 0266 Web www.ringau­to­mo­ At first glance, it’s hard to spot the dif­fer­ence be­tween this and Hal­fords’ 131253. On pa­per, the spec is sim­i­lar too – a cir­cu­lar body de­signed to fit in a cupholder, a 10A max­i­mum out­put, an in­te­gral bat­tery charge level mon­i­tor, two 12V sock­ets and all sock­ets il­lu­mi­nated. But whereas the Hal­fords model has two con­ven­tional USB sock­ets, this sports a snazzy mi­cro-usb plug on a re­tractable reel that rolls out up to 60cm. It’s def­i­nitely con­ve­nient to con­nect straight into your phone or de­vice with­out us­ing ex­tra leads. But bear in mind, this ap­proach won’t work with Ap­ple prod­ucts.

Hal­fords 589301

Price £10 Con­tact 08457 626 625 Web www.hal­ In sharp con­trast to Hal­fords’ other en­try, this one goes right back to ba­sics. No bat­tery charge level mon­i­tor, no il­lu­mi­nated sock­ets and not even any USB out­lets. But you do get no less than four 12V sock­ets, with a com­bined max­i­mum load of 10A – a sen­si­ble level, if your ve­hi­cle’s socket will sup­port it. Thanks to a cou­ple of slide-out tabs, and screws supplied, the unit can eas­ily be made a per­ma­nent fix­ture, even if its 1m of straight lead also makes it pretty easy to stash some­where con­ve­nient any­way. Our big­gest reser­va­tion is that there’s noth­ing to in­di­cate if the unit is ac­tu­ally live or not.

Sakura SS5105

Price £10.39 Con­tact 01488 689 400 Web Although nicely made, this unit is a lit­tle dated. Con­sid­er­ing that it con­verts a sin­gle ve­hi­cle plug into five new out­lets, the to­tal max­i­mum load of 5A is some­what re­stric­tive. Granted, the two USB ports only out­put a pal­try 0.5A each, but the three 12V sock­ets alone could eas­ily notch up more than 5A, even pow­er­ing rel­a­tively fru­gal de­vices. But what the SS5105 lacks elec­tri­cally, it makes up for in prac­ti­cal­i­ties. Well, partly. We like the ad­he­sive mount­ing pad, the 1m loosely coiled ca­ble and the power in­di­ca­tor. But the non-il­lu­mi­nated sock­ets make this chal­leng­ing to use at night.

Sakura SS5103

Price £10 Con­tact 01488 689 400 Web Some­times we won­der why any­body would buy a cer­tain item. Take this one, from Sakura. It’s not a bad piece of kit, and it con­verts your ve­hi­cle’s 12V socket into a new 12V socket plus a cou­ple of USB out­lets. OK, the wheezy USBS only out­put 0.5A max­i­mum each, and the 5A to­tal out­put for the unit is a touch re­stric­tive. But the real head-scratcher is that Sakura’s own SS5105 of­fers all this, plus a cou­ple more 12V sock­ets, for less than £1 ex­tra. For sim­i­lar money, Ring and En­er­gizer give you the same, plus wel­come niceties such as il­lu­mi­nated sock­ets and charge level in­di­ca­tors.

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