Review: The Winplus Power Station

There’s a company out there that can read minds. No, seriously. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the only explanation I can come up with.

I’m a techie. I play around with computers all the time. It’s sort of a hobby (shocker!).  So naturally I have a workbench for my gadgets. Some guys have a workbench for working on cars. Others have one set up for making things out of wood. Mine’s set up for tech. I’ve got dual monitors mounted, two sets of wireless keyboards & mice, a couple of bluetooth speakers (my monitors don’t have speakers), a power strip, a wireless router, a bucket full of flash drives…the list goes on. I have to power/charge USB devices, so I have a couple of USB power adapters connected all the time. There are mounting brackets to hold up to three NUCs at at time, and an LED light with a camera mounted on it for recording those annoying installation videos.  So I’m pretty well set up. Everything works and I’m pretty productive.

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But it can get messy sometimes.  All these extra devices take up space, and they’re all separate, so I’m constantly grabbing one thing, moving something else out of the way, and plugging/unplugging what I need. It’s not ideal, but it’s all I’ve got.

My power solution is a Monster HDP850G:

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I chose this particular model because of the wide spacing between ports. It allows for large power adapters. It’s meant for home theater and the ports are labeled to help organize your TV, DVD player, and other devices for easier identification. That doesn’t help me much, but it doesn’t get in the way either. It has a single master power switch that controls power to the entire unit. The power strip does what it’s supposed to, and I have no complaints with it. Like most of my workbench, it gets the job done, but it’s part of a clunky setup.

The Solution

Last weekend my wife and I were at Costco stocking up on supplies. I like to check out the electronics section, just to see what’s out there.    All sorts of cool gadgets to check out. Plus I like to stop and drool over the 4k TVs. And it was while I was wandering through the electronics section that I saw it:

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I was intrigued, so I stopped to read the box. This gizmo seemed to have been designed by someone who knew exactly everything I needed for my workbench. It was as though an agent from the company had drilled into my brain and designed a product to fix every one of my issues.

  • Surge protection? Check
  • Power connections? Check six times
  • Bluetooth speaker? Checkity-check-check
  • USB charging ports? Double-check
  • LED light? Checkerino

And that wasn’t all; I’d mounted my power strip with zip ties (stop laughing at me) and while the ties kept it up and out of the way, they also tended to sag. Plus more than once pulling an extension cord out snapped the ties and I had to remount the power strip.  Looking at the back of the box on this unit showed it was designed to mount easily with a bracket.  Sounded awesome to me.

I looked it up on Amazon and found that it only had a couple of reviews and they weren’t great. But the reviews were complaints about specific features it didn’t have rather than the quality, so I decided to take a chance and bring one home.

Out of the Box

Not much in the box; you get the power station, the mounting bracket (with mounting screws), and the user manual.

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A Closer Look

The power station is larger than I’d pictured. It’s easily thicker than my current power strip. But given the sheer number of features I suppose that’s to be expected. It’s much more than a power strip, after all.

It has a total of six power outlets (a downgrade from my old power strip, which has eight).  One of the things I definitely like about the way the power outlets are set up is that they’re separated onto three different power switches.  Four outlets are on the primary switch, which also controls power for the bluetooth speaker, USB ports, and LED light. The other two outlets are spaced out, presumably to allow for large power adapters, and they each have their own power switch.

The separate switches are a big deal for me. I test systems out constantly, and regularly need to hard boot them (disconnect them from power completely) as part of my tests.  With my old setup that means either unplugging the power adapter from the strip or disconnecting it from the system I’m testing. These switches mean I can toggle power quickly and easily. I’m guessing that’s going to come in handy.

 

Behind the LED light is a deep groove. Looking at the package it’s clear this is meant to give you somewhere to prop your phone or tablet.

20160909_065140 I won’t be using this option as the power station will be mounted underneath my keyboards, so there won’t be room for anything on top. But I’m sure others will find it useful.

The Speaker

Connecting the bluetooth speaker to a PC is easy; scan for new bluetooth devices, then click on it.  Mercifully the speaker shows up as “Winplus”. You might think that’s a no-brainer, but I’ve got bluetooth headphones and speakers that show up as their model number instead, which is frustrating when you have multiple devices and don’t remember the actual model number, as opposed to the name.

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Once connected, the speaker sounds great…better than I’d expected actually. It’s not going to blow the doors off, but for a workbench speaker it does just fine. One of the reviews on Amazon complained that the speaker goes into some kind of standby mode, which cuts off the sound for a moment when it starts playing. I did notice this, but it seemed like a fraction of a second was lost. I can see why that could be an issue for some, but for my use it won’t make a difference.

On the other hand, there is something about the speaker I’m not crazy about. When you first turn on the unit, it emits a very loud tone.  When you connect/disconnect to/from your PC, it lets you know with another very loud tone. This happens every time, and it doesn’t appear to be adjustable. There’s no volume control on the unit, so regardless of where the volume on the PC is set, the connect/disconnect and power up tones from the speaker are at full volume.  I connected the speaker to several NUCs to test it out, and the connection sound caught me off guard every time. There’s nothing in the manual about disabling this “feature” so I’ll just have to get used to it.

Mounting

Rather than being mounted like a typical power strip, where there are holes to wiggle a screw into, the Power Station has a separate bracket. I like this option very much. It means I can mount/adjust/move the bracket, then slide the Power Station onto it. It’s a better option than wrangling the entire unit into position.

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The bracket’s mounting holes are spaced to line up with pegboard, so mounting to my workbench was a snap:

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It’s hard to tell, but the holes line up perfectly.

Two grooves on the back give you options for routing the power cable.

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The bracket attached to the pegboard easily with some screws and wingnuts, and the unit slid right on.

Once mounted, it looks great, and the extra bulk doesn’t create an issue:

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I may end up moving my “junk basket” to take advantage of the phone/tablet groove. I do tend to have my phone with me when I’m working, mainly to listen to music or radio.

The LED Light

Holy crap this light is bright! It has two settings: low (i.e. super bright) and high (i.e. blinding).  I seriously doubt I’ll ever have a need for the high setting.

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It’s fully adjustable, so I can angle it down onto the work space, or straight out to blind myself.

USB Charging Ports

I’m losing two of my power sockets with the Power Station, but that’s ok because at any given time I’d have one or two USB chargers connected for powering my bluetooth speakers. These ports eliminate that need. They supply enough juice for charging/powering my USB devices. I can even power my Intel Compute Stick from one of them with no problem.  Handy!

Conclusion

The Power Station is an awesome solution for my workbench. It combines several different pieces of my setup into a single, attractive unit. It cleans up my workbench and puts the things I need within my reach.  I can’t speak to durability as I’ve only had the unit a couple of days, but so far it seems solid. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and I’m going to get plenty of use out of it. Aside from the shockingly loud tones from the bluetooth speaker (and the “standby” thing, which could be an issue for some), this unit is the ideal solution for a tech workbench.  Even those not interested in tech will find a lot to love with the built-in options.  An excellent product, and if you’re a Costco member, a steal of a deal!

 

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