First Looks: Cooler Master USNA 95 Ultra Slim Notebook Adapter
Some Like it ... Small
It likely puzzles us as much as you why, to this day, we haven't seen any of the major notebook manufacturers (or their OEM companies) develop a power adapter eye-catching enough to be shown in a publicity image together with the hordes of stylish enamelled, chrome-plated and metal-bodied netbooks and notebooks out there. Thankfully, demonstrating that Apple has no monopoly on compact and stylish notebook power adapters, Taiwanese company Cooler Master strikes once again with the USNA 95 Ultra Slim Notebook Adapter, a follow-on to last year's well-received SNA 95 model. Like its predecessor, this is claimed to be "the world's smallest 95W notebook power adapter".
It's Still a Brick - But a Light, Small Brick
Black plastic is what we've grown used to from the majority of notebook power adapters, and the USNA 95 barely bucks the trend. For sure, a slightly sliced-off edge and a diagonal line visually split the top cover into two halves which are then slightly "twisted" apart, making it look like it was hit by a mild earthquake. The status LED also takes on a similarly free-form appearance, though its placement at the edge of the top cover is a good move that helps you see whether the adapter is switched on easily. The gray plastic back cover visually reduces the USNA 95's thickness, but it still cannot help this adapter break away from the "brick" form.
However, form becomes unimportant when you actually hold the USNA 95 in your hand, as seeing it in images and even in its packaging makes for useless visual comparisons. This adapter is incredibly compact, and especially more so for an AC 95-watt model; it is only slightly larger than, and twice the thickness of, most modern smartphones. We did some quick calculations and found that it weighs in at just 110 cm3 versus 224 cm3 and 164g versus 390g against a major notebook manufacturer's original 90W adapter. Impressive indeed - and evidently, the judges of iF Product Design Award 2010 shared the same senti.
Great Bit Parts
Both on paper and in our tests, the USNA 95 really puts up a good show when it comes to its key purpose in life. The box specifies autovoltage (that is, from 100-240 volts) AC input, which is par for the course but still leaves us in some awe considering that the USNA 95's dimensions were only seen on low-voltage "auto/air" adaptors until recently. The list of the nine available tips and their compatibility with each laptop is printed clearly on the box, on which a slot has also been cut in the back so buyers can see more clearly whether the available tips fit their particular computer(s). It's also stated that the USNA 95 may only power, but not charge, certain laptops.
Secondly, the USNA 95 comes with an added bonus: a USB port which provides the usual 5 volts at up to 1 amp. The status LED, a little confusingly, turns red when a USB device is plugged in - we wish a separate LED had been used instead. Other features include protection on both the AC input and DC output ends as well as over-temperature and surge protection.
The actual testing was, paradoxically, the least eventful part of this article: we plugged it in, it worked well on all of the laptops we tested it on, and there was little else to report. However, when both a mobile phone and our HP Envy 15 were both hooked up to the USNA 95, the notebook occasionally showed a message warning of low adapter current. It is possible that the HP Envy 15 (whose original adapter is rated at 120W) was pushing the limit of the USNA 95's 150-watt peak power output capacity, which is likely to be sustainable only for a short time. Nevertheless, the USNA 95's top cover never exceeded 47 degrees Celsius at its warmest part, which is commendable considering that some adapters have warning stickers in this regard.
An interesting observation was that the laptops we tested which were equipped with a metal palm rest appeared to produce no annoying "tingling", or current leakage, when powered with the USNA 95, which is noteworthy as it uses a 2-pin AC power cable to reduce its thickness. While we cannot confirm this will be the case across all laptops, some notebook manufacturers' original adapters do tend to produce this unpleasant effect for certain individuals, so if (like this writer) you're one of the afflicted, you may want to consider the USNA 95 as a spare or even replacement adapter.
The Last Word
For the road warrior or student who happens to be bound to a large-screen notebook and whose back and arms ache from the weight, the Cooler Master USNA 95 Ultra Slim Notebook Adaptor provides relief you won't get from medicated plasters. It is unbelievably small, weighs less, and offers a nifty USB port into the bargain. What's not to like?