Seemingly Out of Spec AC Cables Could Be a Fire Hazard

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2015 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: Vantec, c13

I say “seemingly out of spec” because I am not an electrician, and this requires more understanding of wire classifications than I possess. Regardless, we found a story a little while ago about devices that ship with power cables that are labeled for voltages and amperages that are significantly lower than what they are capable of carrying.

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My cable

The minimum requirement for cables with a C13 connector is American 18 gauge (AWG), and they must be able to carry 10 amps. I own the device from the blog posting, like many others at PC Perspective. Again, the device itself (minus the cord that plugs it into the wall) is perfectly fine. The allegation is that the power cord (that goes between the wall and the transformer power brick) cannot carry its full, labeled wattage. The head claims that it can carry 250V at 10A, which is 2500W.

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My cable, close up.

We cut open the insides of the cable to see what gauge wire was used, and we were able to remove the insulation with an 18 gauge wire stripper. This is where my lack of applied electrical skills fail me. The power cable feels as flimsy as a quarter-inch audio cable, but I am not qualified to measure the actual internal wires' thickness. It might meet the minimum (18 AWG) requirements, or it might just be thick insulation. I wouldn't trust it, especially not at hundreds or thousands of watts. The blog post author apparently tested their own cable under load, and they claim that it started to melt at 2.6A 123V (320W).

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The blog author's wire vs a standard cable's wire. It's hard to tell how thin the Vantec one is, because the standard cable was twisted.

Image Credit: Fry's Acid Test

Now, to power a single hard drive and USB controller, you are not going to be drawing those hundreds or thousands of watts from the wall. The main concern is if you swap cables around with other devices. For instance, if that cable would be attached to a high-end gaming desktop, then it could easily see wattages in that range that are sustained for most of a play session, or even higher.

So I guess the takeaway from this is do not trust every power cables that you receive. Make sure your high-power devices are using the cable that came with them, or one from a vendor that you trust. Just because it says it can handle any given load, does not mean that it can.

USB 3.0 Hub with added ethernet goodness

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2013 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: Vantec, usb 3.0, usb ethernet

There are two ways to look at Vantec's powered USB 3.0 and ethernet hub; as a way to get external wired ethernet or as a USB 3.0 hub with extra features.  For those who have found out their house could be better grounded while surfing during a thunderstorm and losing your NIC you might appreciate the ability to use wired connectivity again.  For those who don't need an external NIC, an extra three USB 3.0 Superspeed ports and the ability to recharge USB devices without needing to hook up your laptop.  Legit Reviews took a look at this $50 device, check out the performance here.

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"Last month we took a look at the Diamond Multimedia UE3000 USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter and found it to be a simple way to add a Gigabit Ethernet port to a desktop or laptop PC. The one problem with this adapter is that it used up one of your computers USB 3.0 ports! We recently ran across another Gigabit Ethernet adapter, the Vantec 3-Port USB 3.0 Hub with Gigabit Ethernet Adapter, that looks very promising. This device plugs into a USB 3.0 port, but has three SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports and a single Gigabit Ethernet port built-in. It also comes with a wall power adapter that allows you to charge USB devices without being hooked up to a PC!"

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