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Saturday, June 22, 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.

Enter the Cube

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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On the flip side, fitting fully under the couch can be a benefit. It’s usually pretty easy to tuck the excess cable under the couch or between the cushions so the area doesn’t get cluttered, but if you want to tidy up for guests, you can slide the cube under the couch and it’s like it was never there. I also keep a small drawer next to the couch where excess cables can hide out when they’re not needed.

Power Hour

Of course, the cleanest option is to have a couch with charging ports built in, which is a thing now. Technology has finally caught up with my needs! However, in my experience these are not only expensive if you buy them new—like the Lovesac Stealthech couch we tested with wireless charging pads in the arms—but also limiting. Most only include a couple of USB chargers, which is fine for phones, but you’re still stuck if you need to plug in a laptop charger or some other power-hungry gadget. Plus, some models still leave cables dangling all over your couch.

No. For my money, the cube is still the way to go. I’ve sat on my couch playing on the Switch, writing on my laptop, and charging my phone, occasionally all at the same time! (Please don’t tell my editor I took a Stardew Valley break after that last paragraph.) So far, nothing I’ve tried has been as convenient for keeping all these gadgets topped off, with minimal clutter, as my faithful companion: a little power cube under my couch.

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