A little over 18months ago, I wrote about the Allocacoc PowerCube – a neat solution to plugging in all your wall-warts to one powerboard. Now, after completing the lengthy and torturous Australian testing and approval process, Allocacoc have released a new twist on this product to the Australian market – the PowerCube Extended |Remote|.
Why is a powerboard worth writing about? This one is quite intelligent, as it turns out – read on to find out why.
Packaging and included parts
The PowerCube Extended |Remote| comes in the same simple plastic carton as it’s predecessor, and will fit fine into an Express Post bag.
Included in the carton is a set of instructions in multiple languages, a clip that lets you mount it to a desk or wall using strips of double-sided tape, the PowerCube itself with a 1.5m-long cable and screw-mount cable-clip, and it’s battery-free remote button. The pic below shows the included clip attached to one of the power sockets, and stuck to the underneath of my desk – you lose the use of one of the four power sockets if you do this.
Like the original PowerCube (a made-in-China, designed-in-Holland product), this new version has a quality feel to it, with smoothed edges, concise English packaging and manual text, and up-to-date design language.
The ones being sold in Australia are made specifically for our market – be aware that ones available on eBay and shipped from outside Australia may not be suitable for use here – we’ve seen China-mainland-market ones without the plastic safety sheathing on the mains-plug pins, for example.
The PowerCube has been carefully engineered to make sure that any bulky power packs you attach to it’s four 240v outlets will not interfere with each other. The big orange button built-in to the unit switches all of the power sockets on/off at the same time. A subtle white light on the button-face lets you know if the unit is on or off, and it also flashes when you are “pairing” it with remotes.
The remote button is a lightweight pad with a big silicon-feeling button that requires a firm press to work – it makes a positive click when it bottoms out, which suggests it uses a piezo mechanism paired with a capacitor of some sort to generate and store enough power to send it’s radio signal.
I tried to pry the remote apart to see what makes it tick, but as there’s no screws, and it is either glued together, or clipped very firmly, I gave up before I injured myself.
The PowerCube Extended |Remote| is similarly devoid of externally-accessible screws, although you can expose some screws when you pry off one of the faces – note that opening one up is not recommended, as there’s no user-serviceable parts inside – only high voltage!
It’s supplied with two stick strips on the back, which can hold it down, and are re-usable when moistened. The Allocacoc promo material mentions that it could be used as a foot-operated switch, so it should be reasonably sturdy.
How does it work?
Connect the PowerCube to a mains socket, and press the button built-in to the PowerCube for 5 seconds – when the curved white light starts flashing, tap the remote once, and it’ll pair the two of them. Each time you press the remote after that, the unit will cycle through on / off states. The PowerCube won’t forget button pairings if you disconnect it from mains power.
You can also cancel any previous pairing arrangements by pressing and holding the PowerCube‘s built-in power switch for 10 seconds.
The PowerCube Extended |Remote| is pretty smart compared to other powerboards, though – you can pair multiple remotes to one PowerCube, and you can pair multiple PowerCubes with one remote, and you can mix-up variations of these.
This might be useful when you have more than one set of devices that you want to switch on/off at the same time, or when you might have more than one person who needs to switch on/off a single set of gear. As of writing, these are are being sold as a full set of remote button+PowerCube only.
Given that you can switch on/off from the PowerCube’s own built-in button, there is a possibility that you might end up with a scenario where multiple PowerCubes paired to a single button are out of sync – such as one PowerCube is off, whilst another one is on. This isn’t a problem though, as you can double-tap the remote button to switch all the paired PowerCubes off at once and re-synchronise them.
What about the working distance?
A quick test in our office soon showed the PowerCube remote had range greater than the length of our building – I walked out into our carpark to nearly 30 meters before the remote no longer controlled the PowerCube. We have a bunch of WiFi transmitters around our office, which makes it a radio-noisy environment, so more than 25m is a long distance, indeed.
Is it good value?
Regular “dumb” 4-port powerboards with a remote switch cost over $50 at Bunnings – the Allocacoc is a little more than this, delivered, plus it’s extra intelligence makes it better value, and since you don’t need to ever buy it’s remote any batteries, you’ll save even more over the lifetime usage of the unit too. We’ve stuck our sample behind a bunch of TVs making up a video wall that have no power switches, and it’s been in daily use for months now – recommended.