UL-Certified AC Adapters 101: Everything You Need to Know

UL-Certified AC Adapters 101: Everything You Need to Know

With any educational technology program, AC adapters, aka power chargers, are crucial to sustain the daily functionality of your Chromebooks. AC adapters are a high-failure item, and therefore commonly replaced. It’s imperative when doing so to only purchase and use UL-certified AC adapters. While generic adapters may seem like a more budget-friendly option, they may cost more in the long run. More importantly, they could put your students and staff at risk. AGParts Education stocks 500,000 OEM new and recertified Chromebook parts, including authentic UL-certified AC adapters.

So, what exactly is a UL-certified adapter? Why is it so important to use only authentic UL-certified AC adapters? And, how can you spot a counterfeit adapter? Today, we’ll answer these important questions.


What is UL?

UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories. Founded in 1984 in Chicago, they are a third-party certification company that provides benchmarks and standards for products and processes in regard to safety, quality, security, and sustainability. Their mission is to make the world safer, smarter, more secure, and more sustainable.

UL holds manufacturers to higher standards during the manufacturing process, reducing risk and increasing safety. When a product bears the UL Mark, it means the product:

  • Has completed and passed rigorous UL testing to ensure reliability, functionality, safety, sustainability, and overall quality
  • Has been manufactured according to UL guidelines
  • Meets operating standards set by the Original Design Manufacturer (ODM)

Non-UL-certified products may have been manufactured using substandard parts or under inconsistent manufacturing processes. This could lead to unpredictable output voltages, higher-than-normal operating temperatures, and overall lower quality and reliability for products. Overt time, this could lead to damage, failure, and possible fire hazards.


What is a UL-certified AC adapter?

A UL-certified AC adapter bears an authorized UL Mark. This means it has been evaluated and meets the appropriate Standard for Safety. These adapters comply with UL safety requirements for the US.

It’s important to understand that if an AC adapter bears a UL Mark, this does not mean that it is not a counterfeit or generic adapter.


Why is it so important to use a UL-certified AC adapter?

It’s simple: generic AC adapters are dangerous. We understand that electronic devices are expensive and generic accessories could seem like a good way to cut costs. But their risks far outweigh the money saved.

Counterfeit and generic AC adapters are often are made with substandard parts that fail to meet basic safety requirements. These faulty parts are a serious safety risk because they can overheat. Overheated parts can damage your equipment. More importantly, these sub-standard parts pose an immediate fire and burn risk and hazard.

Since generic parts are made with substandard parts, they also have a higher risk for failure. The money saved on buying a generic part quickly vanishes when your district has to replace the generic parts with authentic UL-certified adapters.

When you use a UL-certified AC adapter, you have the peace of mind knowing that this product has met stringent requirements for safety and quality.


Head-to-Head Testing: UL Certified Vs Generic

We internally tested generic adapters against the UL-certified adapters in our inventory. Here are our observations and results:

  • Substandard parts which pose a risk for part and device failure, fire hazard: The generic adapters used substandard parts. One had a clip-type plug for the grounding wire, whereas a UL-certified adapter uses a solder joint. Another generic adapter had additional exposed wire not covered by an insulator.
  • Above-average operating temperatures posting a potential fire hazard: Internal testing showed that some generic adapters ran 14% warmer than their UL-certified counterpart.
  • Continuous voltage and current ratings outside of UL specifications: Internal testing showed output voltages registering less than the 5% variance acceptable under ODM standards.

While we could not verify the differences in the components, the results indicated that the clear difference between a reliable UL-certified adapter versus a substandard generic adapter.

How can you spot a counterfeit AC adapter?

If an AC adapter is branded and bears a UL Mark, this does not necessarily mean that it is a UL-certified AC adapter unfortunately. Most counterfeits will closely resemble an authentic UL-certified AC adapter.

To truly discern whether a product is fake it should not only be examined for label inconsistencies, but it should be tested by a trained technician. Below, we’ve outlined our process for authenticating AC adapters.

The first step is label inspection. There are several tell-tale signs on the label of an AC adapter to help you identify a counterfeit. These are easy indicators that you can spot yourself. The trick is to look for inconsistencies. Counterfeit products have phony printed logos, texts, and in some cases, typos. See photo below.


UL-Certified AC adapters should include:

  • OEM logo
  • Matching OEM part numbers
  • UL Mark
  • Clear text and no typos

If the label passes inspection, this still does not guarantee it is an authentic UL-certified AC adapter. That’s why further mechanical testing and inspection are required.

After label inspection, AGParts Education tests the AC adapters for power and current under load. Once the adapter passes, our technicians then perform an internal component inspection. We perform a spot check, opening a percentage of each shipment to verify:

  • Industry-standard construction methods
  • Authentic OEM identifiers
  • Safety compliant materials

The best way to ensure that your school district has UL-certified AC adapters is to purchase from a supplier that sells authentic UL-certified AC adapters. At AGParts Education, the safety of your students and teachers are our number one priority. We only sell authentic UL-certified AC adapters.

For more information on how we can help with your district’s 1:1 Chromebook program, contact us today!

Originally published 7/14/2020. Updated on 8/25/2021, 3/30/2022.

The History of the Laptop: An Essential Guide to Laptops, Notebooks, and Chromebooks

The History of the Laptop: An Essential Guide to Laptops, Notebooks, and Chromebooks

For 1:1 education technology initiatives, it’s important to understand your options when it comes to mobile devices. Chromebooks are a popular choice for many education technology programs. With so many industry terms flying around and sometimes used interchangeably, it can cause your head to spin making it difficult to choose the right device for your ed tech program. We’re breaking down the foundational and influential history of the laptop, and ins and outs of each type of device.

What is a Laptop?

In the simplest terms, a laptop is a portable computer. It was created as the compact and portable version of a desktop computer.

The History of the Laptop

All roads lead to the laptop. Arriving on the scene in 1981, the Osborne 1, of Osborne Computer Corp., is widely regarded as the first laptop. It’s a far cry from the sleek and light laptops we see today. Weighing in at a hefty 24 pounds with a price tag north of $1,500, the Osborne 1 featured a 5” screen, two floppy drives, and bundled software. Introduced as an ideal office solution for business execs on the move, this model never saw any type of real success.

Fortunately, though, Osborne Computer Corp. was not the only computer company with an interest in the advent of the portable computer. Epson, Microsoft partnered with Radioshack, and IBM all released laptop computers by the mid 1980s. Microsoft was the first to feature a laptop with an LCD display.

Various computer powerhouses continued to introduce new laptops and integrated technologies in the late 1980s into the 1990s. Most notably:

  • Compaq released their version of the laptop in 1988
  • Apple released the first portable Macintosh in 1989
  • Microsoft released mouse and trackball technology for laptops in 1991
  • IBM released the first ThinkPad in 1992

In 2008, laptops eclipsed desktops in sales for the first time. This trend has continued since, with laptops consistently outselling desktop models yearly. Today, laptops are still very popular despite decreased net sales for personal computers. This decrease is due in part to the increased popularity of smartphones. Although net sales have decreased since 2012, laptops are on the uptrend, with laptop sales increasing since 2016. In 2019, 166 million laptops were sold worldwide.

Traditionally, laptops use the Windows or Apple operating systems and support Microsoft Office applications.

What is a Notebook?

A notebook computer, which is typically a smaller, slimmer, and lighter laptop, was first introduced in the late 1980s by NEC. It was a similar in size to a laptop but weighed in at mere five pounds. By the early 1990s, Compaq and Apple had both released versions of the notebook as well.

Generally, notebooks are less expensive than laptops, ranging in price from $150 to $400.

A type of notebook, the ultrabook, was first introduced in 2011 as Intel’s answer to Apple’s thin and light MacBook. They are a high-end notebook that use low-power Intel Core processors, solid-state drives, and unibody chassis to create an ultra-light computer without sacrificing battery life.

Traditionally, notebooks use the Windows or Apple operating systems and support Microsoft Office applications.

What is a Chromebook?

First introduced in June 2011, a Chromebook is a type of laptop that uses the Linux-based Chrome OS as its operating system. Chromebooks are specifically designed to use the Google Chrome browser and most activities occur online via Chrome. This includes word processing, creating spreadsheets and slideshows, note taking, etc. These docs are automatically saved to cloud storage via Google Drive.

One of the biggest differences between a laptop and Chromebook is security. There is no need to purchase virus protection because it is built into the Chrome OS. This built-in protection is regularly updated via the Chrome OS’ auto updates. This makes Chromebooks nearly impervious to viruses and malware.

Closely related to this is the Auto Update Expiration (UAE, formerly known as EOL). This is the date that the Chrome OS will no longer support regular auto updates for software and security patches, as well as technical support. The Chromebook will still be functional, but it would be risky to use the device past this date.

Don’t let this deter you—AUE allows Google to focus on providing the best and most secure updates for the newest and most recent hardware. Additionally, AUE date far outweighs the average shelf life of four to five years for a traditional laptop. In fact, AUE gives Chromebooks a shelf life of six-and-a-half years to eight-and-a-half years from the date of launch.

Another difference between a laptop or notebook versus a Chromebook was storage. Chromebooks rely on cloud-based storage for most applications and data, as opposed to internal storage on the machine itself. However, cloud storage is common for any laptop today, whether it’s powered by Microsoft (OneDrive) or Apple (iCloud) operating systems. Various cloud storage platforms, like Dropbox and Google Drive, can also be used for older laptops where cloud storage is not as common.

Chromebooks are a popular choice for ed tech program because they are affordable, fast, secure, require little maintenance, and collaborative. Whatever device you may be considering for your school, AGParts Education can help. Our dedicated team of Account Executives have the knowledge and expertise to help you build the right education technology program for your school. Contact us today for more information on devices for 1:1 education technology initiatives.

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