Bits Limited SmartStrip Review
by Kevin Steele
(Update April, 2004: The Bits Limited SmartStrip is now available with a black power cord, removing the one minor complaint I had about it. The review has been updated to reflect this.)
“A review of a power strip,” you may be thinking, “Why?” It may be hard to see a power strip as being worthy of a product review, but the Bits Limited SmartStrip has a unique feature that makes it a valuable addition for the MAME arcade cabinet builder.
What could a power strip possibly do that would make it useful for a MAME cab? The SmartStrip monitors a special outlet on the strip, and turns on the rest of the outlets on the power strip if power use is detected on that one special outlet. This is great for a MAME cabinet, since you can turn the computer in the cabinet on, and the speakers, marquee, and other peripherals will all be turned on at the same time. Shut the computer down, and everything else shut down as well. It makes turning your MAME cabinet on and off a “one button” operation.
The Bits Limited SmartStrip features 10 outlets: 1 control outlet, six automatically switched outlets, and three constant hot outlets. The layout and spacing of these outlets even allows for up to four “power bricks” to be plugged in, a nice touch. The power strip includes a power switch an indicator light for proper ground and surge suppression, and a light to indicated when the switched outlets are active.
Of course, the SmartStrip also serves double-duty as a surge suppressor. Here are the specs:
In operation, the SmartStrip worked exactly as expected — turn on the computer, and everything attached to the SmartStrip's automatically switched outlets turn on as well. Turn off the computer, and everything shuts down.
This auto-switching power strip actually works even better than the @Power strip, which I had previously used in the MAMEframe. The @Power strip had a 3-4 second delay between turning the computer on/off and the rest of the outlets activating. The SmartStrip has no noticable delay — push the power button on the computer, and everything turns on immediately.
Honestly, there's just not much more to say about the SmartStrip. It works as advertised — I have not had any problems with it, and that reliable "invisibility of operation" is a testament to the design of this unique power solution. The SmartStrip is a great MAME cab purchase for about $36 ($29.95 + $6 shipping direct from Bits Limited). It's now even available with a black power cord in 6, 12, or 20 foot lengths for $3, $7, or $10 extra. Special thanks to Andrew Lattof for finding this unique power strip and bringing it to my attention!