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Friday, February 23, 2024

Put a Little Power Cube Under Your Couch

I’m writing this from my couch. My laptop was at about 10 percent when I sat down, but I’m not worried. I have a secret weapon for keeping my gadgets charged in the living room: a little block with outlets and USB ports. I love my power cube.

I can’t remember when I started doing this, but it’s been years of pure charging bliss. Prior to getting that power cube, I’d use long USB cables running across the couch or a portable battery to charge my phone while it sits on the coffee table. These were unsightly and unreliable options, and they didn’t get better as I started accumulating tablets, a Switch … and all my guests’ devices.

There are several decent options for charging gadgets on the couch. A side table with a drawer full of cables and some outlets isn’t a bad idea. I still have this charging station sitting on a small shelf next to my couch, though that doesn’t solve the cable problem for people on the opposite side. Surge protectors are huge and bulky, and wireless charging pads can only go so far.

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Enter the Cube

Photograph: Eric Ravenscraft

The first power cube I got was actually called the PowerCube. It featured five full-size outlets. The original was designed to plug directly into a wall socket, but later versions came with a cord attached so you could run those extra plugs further away. 

That’s the bit that makes this whole thing work. In many places I’ve lived, there’s been an outlet right behind the couch. That’s a terribly inconvenient place for an outlet, leaving you with an eternity of scooching one end of the couch away from the wall to finagle a plug. But the cable on the PowerCube was just long enough to pass under the couch and let the cube sit right in the middle. If you have a corner couch, it’s even more convenient. You can stick it right in the corner where it’s almost impossible to kick it or trip over it.

Now, no matter where someone is sitting on the couch, it’s easy to plug in a cable of any kind. Full-size charger for a laptop? No problem. USB cable for a phone? Easy. Eventually, other companies started making similar devices, which led to my current favorite, this cube from Anker. It has three regular outlets, three USB ports, and—crucially—one side that’s simply flat with nothing on it.

That might sound like wasted space, but it came in handy when I got a new couch that was just a little too tall. Some couches are low enough to the ground that the cube will simply catch on the bottom of the couch and stay put. But if it’s taller, the cube can slip too far under the couch and get lost or stuck. I solved this problem by putting a little bit of velcro tape on the floor and the cube where I wanted it to stay. (Folks with carpets, this might not be as easy.)


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