By: Jonathan Kwan
December 31, 2009
If you own five different brands of laptops in your household, chances are that, you will have five different AC adapters that are simply not compatible with each other. Heck, if you own five laptops from the same manufacturer in different product lines, chances are that you would still have five different AC adapters! What gives? If you ever lose, break, or just want an extra power adapter later on, you are most likely to go hunting for an OEM or proprietary replacement unit from various channels. While this has thankfully not happened to me in particular in the past, recently, I found it particularly interesting to see one of my friends spending a whopping $60 on a replacement power adapter for her four year old laptop. It's hard to say that her laptop in particular is even worth $60 nowadays in the first place, haha; and if she was to buy a new laptop anytime soon, that's pretty much a guaranteed sixty bucks down the drain. In the modern computer world, there must be something that provides a more viable solution than what I have just described above. I've searched high and low, and at seemingly just the right time Cooler Master steps into the scene and promises to solve these problems and beyond, once and for all. The Cooler Master SNA 95 (SNA standing for Slim Notebook Adapter) is a universal power adapter that comes with nine different tips out of the box for compatibility with majority of the laptops out there. Not only that; it features an auxiliary USB power port for charging your electronics, as well as being marketed as the smallest 95W laptop power adapter available on the market today. Price, you ask? No more than the average aftermarket proprietary replacement power adapter(!). But is it really as good as it sounds on paper? Read on to find out in our last review for the year!
Our review unit of Cooler Master's SNA 95 universal power adapter came in a surprisingly large brown corrugated cardboard box from Cooler Master's American offices in California, USA. Using UPS Standard, everything arrived in commendable condition. Like the Seasonic S12D 850W power supply we wrote about in the preceding week, it was delivered on the same day as marked 'Delivered' on the UPS tracking page. Location was listed as 'MET CUST WOM'. At first, I was like, "What the heck is 'MET CUST WOM'?" A quick Google search shows that this note indicates the UPS driver met the customer in person for delivery, who happens to be female. A bit confused about what the heck is going on, I walked away from my computer and noticed there were two packages conveniently placed at our doorstep, placed on top of each other. I don't recall UPS knocking on the door, or meeting a female customer for that matter, earlier that morning, haha.
Cooler Master's retail packaging of the SNA 95 comes in the brand's signature purple-and-white color scheme, as seen in various different products from the company. The front and back of the box incorporate a white background with mainly purple text; the perimeter sides are designed with a saturated purple gradient in the back overlaid with white printing. Occupying the majority of the room in front of the box is a cut out for a first hand display of the Cooler Master SNA 95 power adapter itself, placed behind a plastic window for protection. An array of four icons are located across the bottom left on the same surface to indicate its notebook, mobile/smartphone, digital audio player, and PDA/GPS compatibility. Adjacent to the aforementioned array of icons is the statement, "Up to 150W" -- is that a mistake? Fear not. The product name is not wrong. The SNA 95 is indeed a 95W power supply, but it can peak up to 150W. (95W is sustained power.)
Specifications and feature highlights, along with its power tip compatibility, are listed on the remaining sides of the box. Speaking of specifications, before we move on, let's take a look at the technical information regarding the Cooler Master SNA 95, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
- Unique H-shape reel base for cable management and dustproof function.
- Slim-shaped, light, and easy to carry.
- USB port supports most USB charging devices.
- LED indicator: white for power-on, blue for USB-charger.
- Delicate surface pattern and texture.
- 9 different tips compatible with most laptops.
- The highest 95W power density with a small dimension.
Input Voltage: 100-240Vac full range
Input Frequency Range: 50-60 Hz
Output Rating: 18 ~ 20Vdc / 19Vdc?4.74A
4.75 ~ 5.25Vdc / 5Vdc?1A
Output Power: Total 95W / Peak 150W
LED Indicator: White LED for power on
White LED flickers for OCP/OPP/SCP
Blue LED for USB charge
Operation Temperature: 5 ~ 40°C
Efficiency: Up to 90%
Dimension: 75 x 17 x 145 mm ; 2.9 x 0.7 x 5.7 inches
Protection: OVP/ OTP / OCP / OPP / SCP
Warranty: 2 years
UPC Code: 884102004506
The box opens via a series of flaps locked consecutively at the top of the package. Sliding out its contents reveals two PET shells stacked on top of each other, with each clear plastic tray holding its own share of items. The upper shell has the Cooler Master SNA 95 power adapter itself, as well as an instruction poster printed in various different languages clipped in a purple background insert. The lower tray contains a stand with nine color coded adapter tips in their own array of independent sockets. Adjacent to the partition containing the adapter tips is the detachable end of the power cable as well as a nylon drawstring pouch, in which I believe it's a safe assumption to make with regards to the latter that the pouch is for carrying the adapter around. There's nothing excessive out of the box; personally, I found the adapter tip stand and pouch to be an excellent touch. It's much better than simply including a bag of adapter tips, which are usually bound to be lost later on. However, we'd much prefer the tips to be able to be contained on the adapter itself for maximum convenience, rather than being placed separately.
Cooler Master's SNA 95 universal power adapter incorporates a very subtle design. Its textured matte finish is very much the same kind of plastic used on my Lenovo T400 laptop, which is generally very scratch resistant and durable in the long run. The overall construction of the SNA 95 is also very solid. Cooler Master's logo is boldly engraved into the center of the top of the power adapter; a sleek discontinuous trench line runs from the bottom to the top through the center of the brick. Aligned at the center and consistent with the design is an LED near the top of the SNA 95. The LED glows white during open circuit or activity through the main line, flickers for protection, and/or glows blue when USB charge is active.
Both the lead in and lead out power cables are aligned at the center of the Cooler Master SNA 95 on both ends. The cable attachments are done properly and appear to be of good quality. The AC lead in cable is detachable; it also has an attached Velcro strap for organization and convenience. According to my measurements, the lead in cable is approximately 1.25m in length, and the non-detachable lead out cable excluding the power adapter itself is approximately 1.72m in length. The overall length including the SNA 95 itself is a little over 3m, which is generally pretty good; and should be sufficient for most laptop users. For reference, my stock T400 adapter is just a notch under 3m.
Cooler Master claims that the SNA 95 is the "smallest 95W adapter in the world". Its dimensions are 7.5 x 1.7 x 14.5 cm, or 2.9 x 0.7 x 5.7 inches without the base. Its thickness increases approximately 70% to 2.9cm according to my own measurements and calculations; that's with the detachable H-shaped base attached. Interesting, I checked against Cooler Master's claim by placing the SNA 95 next to my Lenovo T400's power adapter. While the SNA 95 is indeed significantly thinner without the base than my T400's power adapter, it's both significantly wider and longer. It also becomes significantly thicker than my T400's stock power supply when the base is attached. Both weigh about the same. How could they justify their statement, "smallest 95W adapter in the world", then? Well, here's the whole deal: My T400 comes with a 90W adapter, and the Cooler Master SNA 95 is a 95W adapter. Yep, that 5W makes a difference. I had to admit that's pretty clever, haha.
Nine power adapter tips are included out of the box for basically universal laptop compatibility. Each tip is securely placed in its own circular socket on a stylish base marked "Cooler Master" across the front, as shown in the photo above. As aforementioned, it's quite a nice touch for both practical and aesthetic purposes, but we'd much prefer the tips to be able to be contained on the adapter itself for maximum convenience, rather than being placed separately. In a practical sense, if you need to swap between different adapters frequently, it will prove to be much more convenient to have the tips on the adapter itself and be able to carry them with you all the time. Also, you are less likely to lose them in the long run. But the stand does look pretty, haha.
Each tip is color coded at the end; and can be matched against an included table of compatible brands to determine which end is correct in each scenario -- to reduce the need to guess and check. The tips attach to the end of the power lead out cord securely by friction at a 90 degree angle. I found the attachment to be pretty secure, but since it is a frictional attachment and not a latched attachment, it may degrade over time. Anyways, here is the compatibility guide for the tips, categorized by color and brand:
Orange: Acer, Asus, HP, Compaq, Benq
Blue: Acer, HP, Compaq, IBM, Lenovo
Green: Acer, Asus, HP, Compaq, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Gateway, NEC
Gray: Acer, Asus, Compaq
Black: Dell, HP, Compaq
Yellow: IBM, Lenovo
As seen in our list above, the same brand could use up to five different tips, so there may still be the need to use trial and error in various cases. Cooler Master also warns that certain notebooks manufactured by companies like Dell have proprietary laptop adapters, and may only power on, but not charge. The reason behind this is because some laptops 'authenticate' connected power adapters before they permit it to charge, and Cooler Master's SNA 95 universal power adapter does not supply the proprietary identification. I have no issues using the SNA 95 with my Lenovo and several other laptops around the house. Also important to note is that the Cooler Master universal power adapter only supplies one voltage (19V) -- which would work with any laptop in the 18-20V range. The majority of laptops are within this area, so it should not be a significant problem, but do check what voltage your computer needs before purchase.
The Cooler Master SNA 95 also features an H-shaped base that can be clipped onto the brick itself. It has a secure fit, but can also be easily removed at the user's discretion. The base features no rubber grips at the bottom, and while it adds significantly to the thickness of the device (The SNA 95 itself is very thin, though), what it does offer is cabling convenience. The user has the option to wrap the cables around the base for improved cable management.
An auxiliary USB port is located at the side of the Cooler Master SNA 95 universal power adapter, so you can easily charge your devices that normally receive power via USB. The USB port can supply up to 1A at 5V (5W) with the main line active simultaneously, assuming it does not exceed the maximum power the SNA 95 is able to provide. This provides faster charging since your computer's USB port only supplies 500mA.
Before you ask, 15W is idle with Maximum Performance power profile. Our test result below is based on the fact that the computer is under load.
There's actually not much that can be tested with regards to the Cooler Master SNA 95 power adapter. However, what we can test is power efficiency of the universal power adapter -- through numerical means, as well as a comparison against the stock power adapter. In our tests, using the same power management profile, our Lenovo T400 laptop (P8600, 8GB, 250GB 5400RPM, 14.1" LED LCD, X4500 active, 5300AGN on) itself consumes 32W under load at the other end. Our outlet input measurement came in as 37W. We can see that at 33.7% load, the Cooler Master SNA 95 is capable of delivering power at 86.5% efficiency -- not bad at all. At this specific load, the SNA 95 is no more and no less efficient that the stock Lenovo power adapter from my measurements. Cooler Master claims that the SNA 95's efficiency is "up to 90%", which is generally safe to say is entirely possible, because power supplies are most efficient at around 50-60% load.
During my tests, the Cooler Master SNA 95 ran fairly cool. My only complaint is that the SNA 95 emits a relatively quiet but high pitched noise when plugged in. This may be annoying to noise sensitive users in very quiet rooms.
Ahh, our last review of the year. The Cooler Master SNA 95 proves to be an excellent universal power adapter in many regards. It is built very solidly, and delivers generally excellent power efficiency according to our measurements. It also serves many different purposes, thanks to its universal compatibility with different laptop brands. Whether you often do notebook computer repair, lost or broke your original power adapter, or are just looking for an extra unit that you can use at work or at home, the Cooler Master SNA 95 can easily accommodate your needs. It also has a side high power USB port to charge your miscellaneous devices! However, this product has several areas of improvement. With regards to its physical design, I feel that, while it is indeed very thin, its footprint is a bit larger than what most users would prefer for maximum portability. My OEM adapter is much better in this regard. It would be excellent if they could integrate the function of the stand for cable management onto the brick itself, because the base adds way too much bulk to the unit when attached. Additionally, if the brick has room to hold the array of tips onboard in an internal compartment rather than on a separate stand, it would be much more convenient to the end user. It is also important to note that Cooler Master's SNA 95 does not authenticate to charge Dell laptops, but it will power the computer itself. Minor figures that may or may not concern you are that the tip attachment may wear down over time, and that the SNA 95 generates a small high pitched noise during operation. Other than that, the Cooler Master SNA 95 is still undoubtedly an excellent product, and may prove very valuable in the long run -- since the universal power adapter would still retain its usefulness almost regardless of what laptop you own!
Special thanks to Lulu over at Cooler Master for making this review possible.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.0/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
Carrying an MSRP of $69.99 USD, and retail price of approximately $59.99 USD at press time, the Cooler Master SNA 95 delivers universal notebook compatibility and beyond -- all at the price of a proprietary OEM adapter!