Hama Piccolino Tiny AC USB Charger Review

hama piccolino main Hama Piccolino Tiny AC USB Charger Review

The Hama Piccolino is as far as I know the smallest AC USB charger out there. Read on for a review.

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The dangers of cheap USB chargers

The reason I bought the Hama Piccolino is that one of the chargers I had lying around was what you might call “unsafe”. This thing (DON’T buy one) is a classical example of why you should sometimes stay away from cheap Chinese sites. As the discussion thread on the product page clearly shows, that charger isn’t very safe. The thing about USB chargers is that it takes 110-240V (230V in my case) and turn it into 5V. There’s a lot of shortcuts to be taken to cut cost and size for a device like this; cheap parts, unsafe solder points, unsafe distances between copper paths etc. This can result in shocking you, shocking your player (with 230V), the charger catching on fire or melting etc- stuff which the charger linked to above has done. In my USB charging guide I mention some DX chargers that are a lot safer so there are cheaper options out there, but since I wanted a small charger I thought I’d try the real deal – the Hama Piccolino.

Design

This thing is small, very small. The shape fits into any European socket; grounded, full size or half size and isn’t that much bigger than a normal half sized plug you might find on lamp cords and the sort. The USB port is on the top, which means the USB cable won’t get in the way of anything (like those giant AC adapters that take up half the sockets in a 5-socket splitter). It’s really well built, as one would expect from something that’s a “real” brand and the feel of the thing is certainly more sturdy than the DX counterpart.

Specs

The Piccolino outputs 800mA, which is a bit more than the ~600mA of most computers and 500mA of the USB standard. Note that voltage is what you need to worry about being exact, Ampere is put simply a measure of how much 5V power you can draw. The point is that higher voltage will fry your player, higher mA won’t. In fact, many players will charge quicker with a 800mA charger compared to a 500mA one, and those that don’t still won’t take damage from it.

As for compatibility, I don’t have any of the brands that require the two middle wires connected or some other scheme to work (Samsung, Creative etc) but it does work with iPods which require a whole other kind of interesting workarounds to get to accept USB chargers. It’s annoying me that manufacturer’s ignore these limits when writing the tech specs- since they managed to make it work with iPods they obviously know about the limitations, yet it doesn’t specify on the box what devices it works with. This leaves you guessing as to whether it will charge your device when you have players that tend to want their own brand chargers to charge outside of a computer.

Conclusion

There isn’t much to say about a device that does what it’s supposed to. The point of this reviews was to present a problem with cheap chargers and also present what I find to be one the best chargers out there with regards to form factor. You can get multi-port chargers or cheaper ones, but this one is special in that it’s so small. Hama being a German company means the charger has a Euro plug and I don’t think there’s a US version (at least there’s no UK version as that would be physically impossible with their plug). It should work with small converters however, if you can find one that doesn’t add any bulk. The suggested retail price of 16,99 Euro is a bit steep compared to many other chargers, but sometimes “you get what you pay for” isn’t just a gimmick. Personally I feel a bit safer plugging my expensive electronic devices into this than its $2 counterpart.




13 Comments

MaTTM on December 7, 2009 5:19 AM

My buddy lost three fingernailsfrom using a cheap USB charger.Thanks for putting this out on ABI :)

Jakob on December 7, 2009 7:27 AM

Could anyone clarify on the ‘middle wires’ problem? I was planning on buying the Piccolino for a Creative Zen V. Am I right to understand there might be a chance this wouldn’t work?Thanks in advance.

beatmaster2k on December 7, 2009 7:39 AM

Bought one this summer and was surprised that it just worked with my Sony NWZ-player. Nice thing, definitely worth buying!

beatmaster2k on December 7, 2009 7:47 AM

@Jakob: My girlfriend has a Zen V Plus. I just tried it out and it seems to be working, at least the buttons are glowing blue while the screen is turned off, but there is no indication in the upper right part of the screen.Forgot to mention: This thing even lets you play music while your player is being charged :D Normally your player gets locked but with my Sony NWZ and with the Creative Zen V you still can play back music or videos.

toast on December 7, 2009 1:03 PM

Found a smaller one; it is somewhat cube shaped: 1.25″x1″x1″.Input: 100-240V (50/60Hz)Output: 5V @ 1AWorks fine with my Cowon S9 (charging + playing music)

ferd burfel on December 7, 2009 1:58 PM

Check out the AC adapter that comes with the SlotRadio player. It’s not much bigger than a wall plug:http://shop.sandisk.com/store/sdiskus/en_US/DisplayProductDetailsPage/parentCategoryID.20996100/CategoryID.20996400/productID.122615100

unagi on December 7, 2009 4:24 PM

Anybody know wheter the Piccolino works with the Samsung P3?Thanks.

john on December 7, 2009 10:33 PM

USB charger is more convenient than AC charger, it’s universal.

walter on December 15, 2009 10:01 AM

You forgot to mention the single most important spec: The weight.Or: How many grams do you save for your euro?thanks, walter – weight weenie

anon on December 16, 2009 8:48 PM

You mean mass? :pAmazon.de says 100 grams, packaging included. The Piccolino car adapter is 82 grams, also with packaging.Jakob: Some mediaplayers won’t put up with a standard usb-connection, they’ll require some other form of proof that they’re connected to a computer or an expensive “official” adapter. I don’t know the specifics, but I’m guessing there’s a fairly simple circuit involved (I’m sure Oedegaard has described it in an earlier article, or could explain it in minute detail). From what I remember from comp. sci. and looking at the pin out, I would guess it involves:if (data pins are active)then (charge)else(bugger off)end

walter on December 26, 2009 12:16 PM

yes,of course i mean mass, but it turns out several people on the internet don’t understand the difference, there is always a chance you meet one of them.But seriously, as a cyclist addicted to high-strength aluminium and carbon, who cuts out labels from his clothes and drills out his pocket knife, i am very interested in the mass of this thing without packaging…

Ben on December 29, 2010 3:41 PM

The euro plug adapter’s mass is 25.4 g, the 12V car adapter’s is only 11 g — that shouldn’t slow down even your carbon-based bike too much ;-)

John Wayne on March 25, 2011 5:37 PM

The point of cheap adapters is true. I had once a very cheap USB AC adapter which destroyed my first sansa fuze >:(

so pls DON’T buy these cheap shit, esp “universal adapters” like those for many cellphone brands

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