ColecoVision 17 Watt 3.4 amp USB Power Supply solution (user review for the Col USB plug)
Some ColecoVision power supply history
The ColecoVision originally was released in August of 1982 and around that release date is when I first purchased my ColecoVision game system. I am posting this user review in January of 2019, and this means the oldest ColecoVision game systems will soon be around 37 years old. While I still own a couple of original ColecoVision power supplies that are in perfectly working condition, the problem is many of the original ColecoVision power supplies from the early 80’s are starting to break down. Even when one can find a factory new and sealed ColecoVision power supply in the box, sometimes even new ones no longer work since they are around 37 years old and experiencing age related problems with the electronics. The original ColecoVision power supply uses a unique no longer made 4-prong connector that outputs +12 volts, +5 volts, and -5 volts DC. Because of no working brand new power supply replacements for the ColecoVision, people would either repair their existing original ColecoVision power supply at the component level or instead they would remove the 4-prong power cord from their ColecoVision power supply with a de-soldering iron, and place the ColecoVision power cord on a ATX power supply with the legacy -5 volts DC feature. ATX power supplies with the -5 volts DC feature on the market, offer up to 600 watts of power, which is plenty of power to power up to 10 ColecoVisons at the exact same time. Some 550 watt ATX power supplies with the legacy -5 volts DC feature can be purchased in brand new condition for up to $35 and with around $5 in parts a ColecoVision wire harness can be attached ($40 total). However many people end up spending more than $40 on a ATX power supply for the ColecoVision since they have to purchase a broken ColecoVision power supply for around $20 which adds a total cost to the project of $60 instead of $40 since one might not have a spare ColecoVision power cord. The other issue is it can take a few hours connecting the ColecoVision wire harness to an ATX power supply, and the other issue is ATX power supplies with the legacy -5 volts DC feature are no longer being made anymore. That last issue with the -5 volts DC feature no longer being offered on all new ATX power supplies is the main reason why another longer term solution needed to be found for ColecoVision owners.
Those that own the Expansion Module #3 ADAM computer, power their ColecoVision over the front expansion module interface and the DB9 ADAM computer power supply is what powers the ColecoVision instead of using any 4 prong ColecoVision style power supply.
** The problem with most ColecoVisions on the market today is that the external power supply is failing and causing onscreen color problems and graphics issues, etc. When one replaces their ColecoVision power supply most of the time that is all that is needed to get the ColecoVision working again. I purchased a couple of defective as is ColecoVision consoles from people recently, and it was the power supply being bad that caused the problem. As soon as I switched to a Col USB power supply solution the power supply fixed the problem. I have heard many stories from other people that have had the same positive results (Sure once and awhile there are other issues like a bad power switch, controller problem, etc). ***
Col USB plug
In December 2018 a company located in Germany called Dragonbox released on the market a state of the art lightweight 4-prong black adapter plug for the ColecoVision called the “Col USB”. The Col USB plug is a voltage converter and voltage regulator and not a power supply (One uses their own USB-C style power supply/charger). The Col USB plug accepts a 5 volt DC input from a USB-C power supply and then the Col USB plug converts the 5 volts DC to +12 volts DC, - 5 volts DC, + 5 volts DC, and ground (each pin on the 4-prong Col USB plug receives the correct stable regulated voltage). The Col USB plug is made in an automated robotic factory using miniature surface mount components. The Dragonbox Col USB plug comes in a professional color retail box and with a nice color manual. Coleco started making the ColecoVision in 1982 and stopped manufacturing of the ColecoVision in January of 1985. The Col USB plug is designed to power any original 1982-1985 ColecoVision game console anywhere in the world (including both NTSC and PAL ColecoVisions), as long as one connects a USB C power supply/charger with an output rating of a minimum of 10 watts 2 amps. As a cost saving decision the Col USB plug is not UL listed or UL certified (UL listed has become an optional safety certification in the United States and is not required). On the positive side the Col USB plug has the official FCC and CE certification logos on both the retail box and also on the product itself. FCC certification is good to have in the United States so that interference with pace makers or other important RF communication does not occur. All or most electronic products sold in the USA is supposed to have FCC certification including small items (I have even seen FCC and CE logos on SD cards). The CE certification is a safety certification for European customers and CE is found on almost all electronics sold worldwide. CE listed or CE certified products is required in Europe and even appears on non-electronic items like stuff animals that are sold in the United States. Dragonbox has made a business decision to only sale consumers the “Col USB” plug and to not bundle any type of USB-C power supply or USB-C cable with the product. One advantage of doing this is that consumers can choose almost any style of USB-C power supply and USB-C cable on the market as long as that USB power supply/charger outputs a minimum of 10 watts 2 amps. Some consumers that do not currently own a USB-C type charger but currently have a USB-A type charger that is 2 amp or higher capacity, are buying a USB A to USB C type cable or a USB A to USB C adapter plug. A USB-C charger is just like any other power supply on the market. If the USB-C power supply/charger is rated at 2 amps and the power supply is 5 to 10 years old it might only put out 1.5 amps instead of the rated 2 amps, which would result in the Col USB plug not working correctly. On the other hand, the brand new USB-C power supply/charger might be a real low quality cheap off brand that does not output 2 amps like the stated specs. The best solution I have found is to use a 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C power supply/charger with the Col USB plug (The 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C adapter comes with a 1 year warranty and the Dragonbox Col USB plug comes with a 2 year warranty). Most of the time one cannot use a 85 watt or 65 watt USB-C charger with this Coleco compatible product since some multi voltage chargers put out 0 voltage unless the connected device handshakes with the charger to tell the charger what voltage to use. In addition, this Dragonbox Col USB plug is not designed to handshake with a smart USB C power adapter. Another issue is the select few 85 watt and 65 watt USB-C chargers that do default to 5 volts DC at 3 amps instead of 0 voltage without a handshake, are really outputting a maximum of 15 watts when 5 volts is being used. Which means a dedicated 17 watt 5 volt 3.4 amp USB-C charger is a better solution for the ColecoVision when compared to a 65 watt and 85 watt charger that actually only puts out 15 watts at 3 amps maximum if one can get it to work with the ColecoVision.
Ordering in QTY of 1 for the Coleco USB adapter results in $47.98 after shipping. Maximum order size is a QTY of 19 since 20 is not allowed because of weight issues. If ordered in QTY of 19 the price is more expensive because of shipping. The cheapest price per unit is to order 6 at a time and then one can get the Coleco USB adapter for around $38.75 delivered. All the above prices change daily because of the currency conversion rate at the time that one places an order. Dragonbox also offers a 2 year warranty on the Col USB plug (they well either fix or refund the defective adapter).
It should be mentioned that according to Dragonbox they are not making a profit on this Col USB plug. If they sale 500 of these Col USB plugs the profit is zero. If Dragonbox were to one day sale more than 500 of these adapters, then they would start to make a small profit.
The ideal 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C power supply/charger and USB-C cable to use with the Col USB plug
When it comes to 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C power adapters, I was not able to find one in a single port design. They all have a combo port design. The 17 watt 3.4 amp Cable Matters model ASSA83ac-050340 has an input voltage of 100-240 volts with 50/60Hz at 0.5amps. The output voltage is 5 volts DC at 3.4 amps for both the USB-C port and the USB-A port according to the specs. However, that is a shared 3.4 amp rating, so as soon as one plugs in two devices the maximum output well be 3.4 amps that is shared between the two ports (plug in only one device and that device has full access to the chargers 3.4 amps). This 17 watt 3.4 amp Cable Matters USB-C power supply has an energy efficiency level VI from the Department of Energy (which is required by law on all external power adapters manufactured or imported into the United States since Feb 2016). In addition, this Cables Matters 17 watt adapter is FCC certified, UL listed, CE Europe certified, ROHS complaint, and since it does not have a built in USB-C power cord it allows one to plug in just about any length of cable like 3.3 feet, 6 feet, 10 feet, etc. That top of the line Cable Matters 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C charger has just inflated in price when compared to a few days ago. It use to cost $9.99 plus tax/shipping that ended up being around $11 delivered. However now that Cable Matters 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C charger on both the Cable Matters website and Amazon website is listed for $13.99. After taxes/shipping one is looking at paying around $15 now.
Then one well need a USB-C male to USB-C male power cord to go with the above adapter. Since the above 17 watt adapter can put out a maximum of 3.4 amps, I went with a Gold plated 6 feet USB-C cable that is rated at 5 amps and 100 watts of power with a nice thick cable for around $9 delivered.
The above 17 watt 3.4 amp power supply and USB-C cable worked fine. However one might prefer to use a right angle or left angle 5A USB-C cable to possible reduce the cable from sticking out an extra quarter inch in the back of the ColecoVision. In all my testing I used a standard 100 watt 5 amp USB-C cable but in theory the above left angle 100 watt 5A cable should work fine.
Col USB power supply solution cost summary when compared to a ATX style ColecoVision power supply
The Col USB plug delivered in a QTY of 1 directly from Dragonbox in Germany is around $47.98. However lets say one purchases more than one at a time to save on shipping and then the cost would be around $40 each. But then one also needs to purchase the USB-C power supply/charger and USB-C cable. So $40 for the Col USB, $15 delivered for the 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C power supply, and then another $9 delivered for the 6 feet Gold Plated 100 watt 5 amp USB-C cable. The total cost of this 17 watt ColecoVision power supply solution comes to around $64 each. The ATX ColecoVision power supply solution is a cheaper price if one installs the Coleco 4-prong wire harness on the power supply themselves. If one purchases a 550 watt ATX power supply with the legacy -5 volt DC feature for $35 and with $5 worth of parts they can for a total of $40 have a high-end working ColecoVision power supply. However, the reality is some people don’t have a spare broken 80’s ColecoVision power supply with the ColecoVision 4-prong wire harness attached and well need to purchase a broken ColecoVision power supply for around $20 in order to make use of the ColecoVision 4-prong power cord. So then, the 550 watt power supply project increases in cost to $60 if one installs the ColecoVision 4-prong wire harness themselves (Or $89.99 if purchased fully assembled from a ColecoVision dealer on EBAY). However even though the 550 watt ATX power supply with a ColecoVision wire harness installed can be cheaper and more powerful than the 17 watt Col USB solution, the big advantage of the Col USB plug is its super small size. There is only two disadvantages to the ATX stlye ColecoVision power supplies, one is the ATX power supply is larger when compared to the original 80’s ColecoVision power supply and the modern Col USB solution. The other disadvantage of the ATX power supply is that its only cheaper if one installs the ColecoVision wire hardness themselves, and that could take a few hours depending on what needs to be done to the power supply. In addition, most of the time buying a completely new ATX power supply with the ColecoVision wire harness pre-installed well result in the power supply costing more than the Col USB power supply solution. The Col USB power supply solution takes less than a minute to install and is a lot smaller then the original 80's ColecoVision power supply.
Real world testing on several ColecoVision consoles with this 17 watt 3.4 amp Col USB solution
Using ColecoVision consoles with perfectly working NTSC RF channel 3 and 4 outputs, I was able to get a nice clean picture and sound on my ColecoVision because of the FCC certified Col USB plug and FCC certified 17 watt 3.4 amp USB-C power supply being used. After several days and hours of testing so far this product has been really awesome to use because of its small size and ease of use (Every expansion module and game used with the the Col USB plug worked fine, and running memory stress tests over several days resulted in no errors on the ColecoVision consoles that were tested). So far this product has been awesome putting out a nice stable voltage for all pins. The Expansion Module #1, Roller Controller, and to my surprise even the Expansion Module #3 ADAM computer works. The Roller Controller worked with games like Slither. The Expansion Module #1 ATARI 2600 adapter worked fine. The Expansion Module #3 ADAM computer worked with the keyboard and MicroSD Floppy Emulator using the ColecoVision Col USB plug instead of an ADAM computer DB9 power supply (However not enough power to power things like the Digital Data Drive with the Col USB plug). Also, the Col USB plug was never designed to power the ADAM computer and there may be some hardware variations of the ColecoVision and Expansion Module #3 ADAM computer that would not work 100% correctly).
This Col USB appears to be one of the best ColecoVision power supply solutions on the market as long as one has a good quality USB-C cable and USB-C power supply to use with the Col USB. The Col USB ‘s small size and since its using state of the art surface mount components that was assembled in a robotic factory is what makes it attractive. Sure, an ATX style power supply with a CoelcoVision wire harness has more power, however a ATX power supply is even larger than the original ColecoVision power supply. This Col USB product is highly recommended for anyone needing a new power supply for their ColecoVision game system.
Edited by HDTV1080P, Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:31 PM.