That's right Don't want to hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house" - Talking Heads
IF IT'S too inexpensive to be good, perhaps it's made in China. The country seems to have mastered the art of mass producing everything, but when it comes to quality, sometimes you have to look elsewhere. Of course, when talking quality in any low voltage electronic device, say a $15 webcam, "low quality" often means buggy, unsigned Windows drivers that leak memory and force you to restart the video capture app every few hours, or not very nice low light performance due to a cheap CMOS sensor, and ironically, poor Linux compatibility because few Chinese chipset manufacturers seem to understand there's life outside the Windows world. Yes I'm talking about you, Z-Star Microelectronics Corp..
But when we're talking about high voltage devices, things suddenly get a lot more worrying. When I saw a Made in China five sockets power strip for around $6.33 at a local store, and one supporting a voltage meter, individual power switches for every socket, "in use" lights for every device plugged to it, and a female socket design accepting almost every country's power plug out there - including the UK's three pronged one, the US one, and even Argentina's older two pronged and the current 45-degree three pronged one - I thought it was a deal I couldn't let pass.
Astra: chinese quality hidden behind "Japantex" and "Great Britain" references.
China's "Phantom Manufacturers"
This is a worrying trend. This power strip comes in a transparent, plastic blister with cardboard back. It's identified as "Astra", and below: "Japantex - Great Britain". Once you take it out you quickly realize there's nothing even remotely related to Japan or Great Britain in this unit. Everything leads to China: from the local 220v male plug at the end of the cable with Chinese inscriptions - by the way, assembled backwards, with the cable coming out of the wrong side, that is going up instead of down on a vertical wall socket- to the spelling errors throughout the packaging: "traiting socket", "electronic produsts", and the like.
But as it often happens with Chinese electric/electronic kit, there is no name of the manufacturer, no physical address, no web address, no phone number, nothing!. I really have no idea if these come out of government factories, prisons, sweatshops, or where. It's also difficult to blame anyone if something goes wrong, as nobody seems to be responsible for it.
Male plug rated 250v 10A. Blister reads 250v 13A.
Power cable coming from wrong side of 220v .AR plug.
The specs on the cardboard read: "Electrical rating: 250v, Current: 13A". Yet when you look at the male power connector it's rated "250V, 10A". You don't need a degree in electrical engineering to figure that if you rate a device for 250V, 13A, you cannot put a male connector that can only stand 10 AMPS, because the real maximum charge the device can endure will be 10A, not 13. Lie #1. Then it says it supports "2500W". Let me tell you: I opened this power strip and I almost fall over from my favourite chair. I'd be surprised if this power strip can endure a device drawing 1500w connected to it without bursting into flames.
250v 13A, with a male plug rated 10A? 2500 watts? if you dare...
Suffice to say that during the first month of use, it suddenly stopped working. The cause was simple: one wire leading to the voltage meter got loose due to a bad solder joint. What I saw when I opened it was wires so thin that could challenge IDE cables (remember this is supposed to operate at 250v), solder joints between the thin wires and thin copper tabs so poorly made that I touched one and it became loose immediately. The power sockets aren't really self sustained sockets... the whole structure remains in place because of the bottom screws hold the two halves together. Once you open the unit everything loosens, including the different plastic parts that comprise the supposed "female sockets".
Missing components, poor solder joints, breaking plastic
The "in use" red plastic indicators next to each female socket have nothing below them. There's obviously a place to put an LED or a light there, but nothing was assembled. When trying to reassemble the unit and tightening one of the screws with normal force (nor forcing it) one of the internal plastic legs broke. I quickly re-assembled it with some glue and a bigger screw because just looking at its internal construction made me see images of a house burning down to ashes.
Trivia: The brits got the biggest ones
This will be no news for readers in Blighty, but I couldn't avoid noticing how well designed the three prong UK power plug is, from a safety point of view. I think everyone - especially the Chinese - have a lot to learn about electrical design and electric safety from the UK.
Time for the US to admit UK supremacy: a fuse in every male plug beats every other country in the safety department
Power strips like this are, in my opinion, a potential safety hazard. Despite the ISO-9002 logo in the blister and a blurred, totally unreadable "registration certificate" written in Chinese, internal construction of these units leaves me wondering how these units don't self-destruct while being shipped in containers across the world. While I bought this in Argentina, I'm sure the manufacturer is shipping these units globally, only changing the male plug at the end of the cable, since the female sockets on it support almost every plug type in the known cosmos, including the American and UK ones.
The plastic is of such bad quality that I broke two thin plastic holders as soon as I touched them gently with the finger. Loose, poorly soldered joints - hint for the sweatshop bosses: if there's a hole in the metal strip where the cable must be soldered, it's there so the cable passes through it, first let the cable pass through, *then* and only *then* solder it!
Unless you plan to use it to power a low wattage lamp occasionally, I give it Zero Fernandos in my one-to-five personal rating scale. Avoid. And if someone knows the name of the manufacturer flooding the world with these, let us know, I'd like to have a word with them about design and electrical safety.µ
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Unless it's next day on Venus, because in that case they're smashing it