You wouldn’t know it from hefting my backpack, but I’m always looking to lighten my load with clever, compact, versatile cables. With so many devices now using USB for both data and power, I’m always on the lookout for nifty new cables. Here’s a quick overview of a few cables that I found useful recently.
StarTech 2-in-1 Mini-USB and Micro-USB Combo Cable
Perhaps sensing my cable fetish, StarTech offered to mail me their latest invention: A T-headed cable with both mini USB and micro USB connectors. The tiny cable arrived in a massive box, and I immediately went about plugging it into just about everything I could find.
Sure enough, it’s a cable. You plug things into it, and it connects to them. There’s really nothing special at all about this tiny cable apart from the fact that it includes both micro- and mini-USB connectors. Unfortunately, the micro-USB side does not include any of the special resistors required by devices like Novatel’s MiFi routers.
Retractable USB Cables
The StarTech cable is really an awful lot like my previous solution: A retractable mini-USB cable from Emerge. I’ve had a whole pile of retractable cables in the past, and they always fail me. They either fray and break at the ends or the retraction mechanism stops locking. Higher-quality cables from companies like Emerge and Belkin seem to last a bit longer, but I’m not sure if their high price is really justified.
I do like the fact that retractable cables sit neatly in my bag, however. And I’ve picked up a few adapters along the way, including a mini-USB to micro-USB adapter from Motorola. Sadly, this won’t power a Novatel MiFi either, so I have to carry the bulky Novatel power brick wherever I go.
The Accursed Apple Dock Connector
I have a lot of devices from the Cupertino Fruit Company, and they all seem to use proprietary cables of various sorts. My bag currently includes both fixed and retractable Apple dock connector cables as well as both 1 Amp and 2.1 Amp supplies for the iPhone and iPad, respectively. I even have a dual USB 2.1 Amp car charger left in the outlet by the previous renter.
Probably the coolest solution to the Apple dock connector conundrum comes from Apple itself by way of European Union regulations requiring mobile phones to use a standard micro-USB cable. This little guy is only available in EU countries currently, but I’ll definitely be dropping £8 on one the next time I am in the UK.
Cables are the bane of my existence as a business traveler. They’re always getting misplaced or lost, and you can never find the absolute perfect one for the job. The StarTech has earned a spot in my bag since I can’t lose the tip, but I’ll keep looking for a cable that will charge my Novatel MiFi. What’s your favorite cable?