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50 Watt or 1600 Watt converters for cell phones?

I have a 1600 watt converter to take to France but it says cannot be used with electronics. Is that true? Has anyone tried and did it cause any damage? All I need is charging for cell phone and digital camera.

Posted by
19136 posts

50W converters are little tranformers, that step down the voltage while preserving the wave form. A transformer for 1600W would be very heavy, so they use electronics to "chop" the top off the 230V sine wave. That wave form is not suitable for, and can damage, electronic power supplies, like those for cameras and cell phones. Radio Shack sells both 50W and 1600W converters, and some that can be switched between them. But check the specifications on the cell phone power supply. If it says something like 100-240VAC, 50/60Hz, it accepts the French power and you need only a plug adapter. Read my webpage

Posted by
4152 posts

The the plugs on both your camera and phone. Most are dual voltage so you'll just need a plug adapter and not a converter. If they are not dual voltage you'll need the adapter. If the converter says not to use with electronics you should get one that can be. I wouldn't take the chance of burning out my phone or camera.

Donna

Posted by
32237 posts

Michael,

The warning on the Voltage Converter is correct. This should not be used with electronic products, such as Cell Phone or Camera chargers. These are designed for high wattage appliances like Hair Dryers that consist basically of just a simple resistive heating element.

Without getting into a technical discussion, most high wattage Voltage Converters are a "Switching Power Supply" (as are many Chargers these days) and these produce a very "noisy" AC waveform. This isn't a concern with the products they're designed for, as the output is converted to direct current (USB levels are 5-volts) which is inherently "smooth". However, connecting two Switching Power Supplies together can have very unphleasant consequences (although this won't necessarily happen in every case).

The first thing you need to do is check the Input Voltage ratings for both your Cell Phone and Camera chargers. If these state "Input 100-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz" then you won't need a Voltage Converter. Just a simple Plug Adapter will suffice.

If you DO need a Voltage Converter, as Lee mentioned a Transformer model is the appropriate type, and a unit with 50-watt capacity will be sufficient as most Chargers are well within that limit.

If you'll be travelling with several devices, you could also consider a ChargePod which can charge up to six devices simultaneously. The AC Adapter/Charger supplied with that is designed for "world operation".

Happy travels!

Posted by
32237 posts

Michael,

My experience (so far) has been the same as the others. I've never had a Charger or other device "fried" when using it in Europe.

If the manufacturer's spec's indicate that a device is designed for use on 240 VAC, then you should have no problem.

Posted by
668 posts

There are two types of "dual voltage" appliances. Most cell phone and camera chargers automatically accept either 110 or 240 volts. Some other appliances (notably electric razors) have switches that need to be set to the correct voltage BEFORE plugging in. If you plug one of the latter into a 240V outlet when set to 110V, you will certainly fry the appliance.

Posted by
32237 posts

"why take a chance though when it takes 5 seconds off your life to plug in the appliance to a converter versus vs. just the converter plug"

If you connect the appliance to the wrong type of Voltage Converter (ie: connecting an electronic device to a solid-state Converter), you could "fry" it anyway.

One other point I should mention is that I always travel with "backup" Chargers for most of my electronics (Cell Phone, IPod, etc.). Those reside in my Camera bag, take up very little room and are ALL designed for operation from 100-240 VAC. No need for any Converters and if one of my Chargers does fail, there's no problem.

Cheers!

Posted by
1152 posts

Brad, what device got fried and in what country? The voltage converter I have is a heavy little sucker and I prefer to leave it at home if I can. I had no trouble on my last trip with just a plug adapter for my netbook and my cell phone.

Posted by
1 posts

I wish to god that I had come across this post before I went to Europe a couple of years ago. I mistakenly used a converter with my laptop charger to charge my laptop. It did charge my laptop the couple of times that I used it but it fried my battery and laptop charger (the brick that the plug goes into). I should have known there was something wrong when the converter was making a humming/whining noise. Also everything got really hot. I just thought that plugging my laptop charger straight into the 220v source with just an adaptor was going to damage my laptop. I was also thinking, what is the harm of converting a higher voltage (220V) to 110v because that is what my laptop is designed for anyway. Boy was I wrong. Now recently my wife went to the UK and did the same think with my Blackberry Playbook. She used a converter that someone over there gave her and it charged the playbook a couple of times but then the third time it was not charging. She brought the Playbook back and I see that the charger is fried. The charger won't charge the playbook or any other micro USB device. I have to get a new one. I just hope the battery for the playbook isn't also fried. From everything that I am reading on the web, she should have just used an adaptor. I wish I had done all this research before we went over there.

Posted by
7482 posts

I carry a 50 watt transformer (literally, the correct term for this device made only with iron cores and wire windings, no electronics at all) tiny but heavy, for my Phillips electric toothbrush charger. All my computer and GPS and phone chargers are labelled 100-240 volts and have never failed or been damaged. It is sometimes hard to get precisely the right outlet prong-changing gimmick. (I used that clumsy term to avoid saying "adapter".) But after a few years of travel you'll have them all.