SLIDESHOW

Cool Power Strips of Today and Tomorrow

Built-in Wi-Fi, spaceships, energy-vampire slayers, and water-resistant designs--who knew?

Power Strips Can Be Cool

Wait…power strips can be cool? It's true. The clever outlet extenders in this slideshow break the mold of the boring beige brick. Some are strictly conceptual, but others you can buy today. So if your home or office needs a little power pizzazz, click away.

Wet and Wild

Liquids and electrical outlets don't mix, but few power strips are built to withstand even an everyday water or coffee spill. Wet Circuits is a water-resistant strip that won't short-circuit or leak electrical current when wet. Priced at $70, it conducts electric power only when a plug is fully inserted--good news for parents with curious kids who try to jam hairpins, tweezers, or even tiny fingers into a socket.

UFO Power

Earthlings, meet the mother ship of all power supplies. The $100 UFO Power Center is larger than most strips, and its power-saving features are designed to lower your electrical bill. Featuring four 110-volt sockets, the Power Center measures (and logs) energy usage of each socket. The free Energy UFO app for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad communicates with the Power Center via Wi-Fi and has diagnostic tools to help you manage power consumption.

Wi-Fi Strip

Here's a power strip with a built-in Wi-Fi network. The iRemoTap from Japanese embedded-systems developer Ubiquitous has four sockets that you can control wirelessly via PC or mobile device. If a device is using too much power, iRemoTap sends you a tweet, text, or email, and invites you to turn off the energy hog remotely. Today, iRemoTap is a prototype, but Ubiquitous plans to sell the product eventually for less than ¥10,000 ($129).

Clever Calamari

One common problem with power strips is the lack of space between sockets. A bulky power brick can obstruct an adjacent socket, preventing you from using every outlet at the same time. The unique design of the PowerSquid Surge3000 Calamari Edition solves this predicament: Six tentacle-like sockets extend from a base unit. Also, two of the outlets glow with a blue neon light, making it easy to find a plug under a desk, or in low-light conditions.

Swivel Sockets

Need a creative outlet? This flexible strip folds around table legs, bed posts, and other home and office obstructions. In addition, the bendable design of the Pivot Power accommodates bulky AC adapters that won't fit on a conventional power strip. With six surge-protected outlets and 6 feet of cord, the $30 Pivot Power can snake its way into hard-to-reach places.

Pop-Up Power

Power strips and the wires they attract are almost always an eyesore. This clever hideaway strip from custom furniture designer Doug Mockett, features two electric sockets and two data jacks. When pushed down to its closed position, the not-very-descriptively named PCS27 hikes the cables and clutter. The cap's pull ring makes it easy to raise the strip when you need to plug in or unplug a device.

Vampire Slayer

The Belkin Conserve Smart AV lets you automatically shut off your TV and up to four components--say, a Blu-ray player, a gaming console, a receiver, and a speaker system--with your TV remote. Designed for home entertainment systems, this $30 surge protector/power strip has a green master outlet for your television, plus four sockets controlled by the remote, and two additional sockets for devices that you want to leave on all the time. Conserve Smart AV is a good way to slay the energy-sucking power vampire appliances lurking in your home.

Another Mothership

What is it with spaceships and power strips? The $30 ezSpace UFO has six standard grounded outlets, each with enough elbow room to accommodate a large transformer. The on/off switch is situated on the bottom of the unit to prevent you from accidentally cutting power to your devices.

A Number-Cruncher's Delight

If you wonder how much money your gargantuan 3D plasma HDTV costs to run each month, here's one way to find out. The Power Cost Controller is an eight-socket strip and surge protector that measures energy consumption by 8- to 1800-watt appliances. The LCD shows costs by kilowatt-hour, so you can monitor the hourly, daily, or weekly expense in electricity. This $75 superstrip ships with a replaceable 1.5V battery, too.

We Are the Champions

Which of your AC-powered devices deserves the gold? The Olympic Power Strip, a concept product from Russian product designer Yar Rassadin, lets you decide which gadget earns first, second, and third billing. But do you play the national anthem of the manufacturer's homeland after plugging in the winner?

Out of Sight

The $50 Belkin Conceal Surge Protector hides the plug clutter with a closing cover that keeps things neat. Toddlers and pets can't reach the 11 surge-protected outlets, and the 6-foot power cord is long enough for indoor use.

Build-a-Strip

Why buy more sockets than you need? The Multi-Tab Power Strip concept consists of detachable sockets that hook up train-style. To remove a plug, simply press (or step on) the socket's tab, and the plug pops out easily. One potential drawback: The mini-sockets seem likely to be easier to lose than a connected (albeit boring) beige brick.

Pod Power

No one likes crawling under a desk to connect devices to a power strip. Power Pod is a knee-saving alternative that looks good on a desktop--well, at least until you connect a rat's nest of cables to it. This $99 circular power-provider has six surge-protected sockets, and a removable top container for office supplies. It comes only in "milk" color--neutral enough to work with any home or office décor.

Power Dude

What's more fun than an anthropomorphic power strip? Electric Man is a whimsical change from the boring brick o' sockets. With four grounded plugs masquerading as arms and legs, Electric Man provides plenty of room between sockets, so you don't have to worry about a bulky power brick blocking an adjacent plug.

One-Handed Delight

Here's another ergonomic concept. The Single Hand Socket Strip by Chinese designer Zhao Zhaohui has a tab for each socket, the Gadgetsin blog reports. To pull a plug, simply flip up the tab. The clever design is convenient for arthritis sufferers and other folks who find plug-pulling a difficult chore.

Cute Sockets

Who'd have thought a power strip could be so adorable? Designer Casey Hopper's Power Nest concept comes with only four sockets, but you can add more and plug them into the end of the strip. Power Nest manages cord clutter, too: Push a button on the top of each outlet, and up pops a pair of "wings," which you can wrap the cord around. The design also calls for a USB port and an LCD display to monitor energy usage.

Socket Clock

Designer Kihyun Kim's alternative alarm clock concept is both stylish and practical: A simple digital clock with two electric sockets for charging your phone, tablet, or other device while you sleep. This handy timepiece isn't for sale--but it should be.

Cord Meets Strip

The folks at Connect Design are onto something here: an extension cord that doubles as a power strip. The Multi Lines power cord ($16 to $22) has three sockets evenly spaced along its length. Three cord lengths are available: 2 meters (6.5 feet); 3 meters (9.8 feet); and 5 meters (16.4 feet). And you can choose from three color options: white, pink, or blue.

Mmmm….Donuts

We've seen everything else, so why not a donut-shaped power strip? Designer Ramei Keum's innovative concept resembles an old-fashioned rotary phone dial. An AC plug can spin inside one of six sockets, making it easier to accommodate oversize bricks. The power cord, when not in use, wraps around the donut for easy storage.

Socket Sense

On a conventional power strip, bulky adapters often block adjacent outlets, rendering them useless. Socket Sense solves this dilemma by offering six movable sockets and a base that expands and contracts accordion-style. Priced from $20 to $35, Socket Sense comes in four models, with 1080 to 2160 Joules of surge protection and with cord lengths ranging from 3 to 12 feet.

Green Monster

Home-theater buffs, this one's for you. The Monster GreenPower HDP 1400G High Definition PowerCenter comes with a remote control for shutting off power to your HDTV, DVD or Blu-ray player, receiver, and subwoofer when they are idle. The 10-outlet PowerCenter automatically disconnects from live power lines during surges and spikes, protecting itself and your expensive gear, and reconnects when power levels are safe. One drawback: This Monster is awfully pricey at $280.

Built-In Timer

The Coralife Power Center is designed for reptile owners who want a timer-controlled power strip to run heating, lighting, and humidifiers for their cold-blooded friends. It features a 24-hour timer and eight outlets for indoor use. Available in three versions priced from $24 to $36, Coralife has separate diurnal and nocturnal outlets that alternate power depending on the time of day. Your anaconda will love you.