RoboReel - Review
Who knew we'd ever refer to an extension cord as intelligent? But oddly enough, that's the best way to describe the RoboReel. Even calling it an extension cord is a gross over simplification, it's more of a one-stop power system for your shop. Great Stuff, the makers of the Reel sent us one to check out a while back and we've had it in the mix for the renovation as well as general shop use. It's easily the most feature-riddled power cord we've ever put eyes on.
After a few days of testing, we abandoned the RoboReel name for the (we feel) more appropriate, "Orb of Power." As cyber-future as "RoboReel" is, we didn't think it captured the full Sauron-clutching, epic scope of the item. At the most basic, the RoboReel is a 50' 12 gauge cord with a self-winding feature. The body of the unit - where the coiled cord is stored - looks like a Pixar robot and can swivel in a complete circle with no damage to the cord. This means you can hold the cord and run wildly in circles around the unit and it will easily move around with you. This feature is particularly useful if you mount the RoboReel on the ceiling of your shop because it allows you 360 degrees of unimpeded cord motion.
The RoboReel plugs into the wall to power first the winding unit and then, after a button is tapped, the extension cord. The wall plug has a dust protected GFCI reset button in case you get a little too excited at the other end and try to run three table saws at the same time (we know this for a fact).
To extend the cord, simply grab on to the receptacle ball and pull it out. It has a nice easy release with no changes is resistance. The ball end has three plug-ins, a power button, and three slick little lights that indicate whether or not the ball has power to it. If there is no power and the base unit is plugged in, just press the button at the ball and it's live. To retract the cord, press the button again and watch as it slides out of your hand and makes it way back to the orb. It makes a pretty quick flight and it politely slows down just before it gets fully home and nestles just against the orb body. It's a cool thing to watch the first few times and the grace of it is one of the high points of the item. Other retractable cord systems are spring-loaded and with those, it's an all or nothing deal. The cord is either whipping back to the unit at face-slapping speed or it's stationary. With the RoboReel, you can even set the distance at which the ball shifts to the lower speed.
There are a number of safety features as well. First there's the current protection (already mentioned), then there's a sensor that detects if the cord is over-heating and kills the power. Also, if the cord gets severed, the power to the unit cuts. And as we implied, the mechanized cord retraction is safer than spring-loaded ones.
Not having to deal with wrapping up a cord is nice, having a built-in three tool outlet is nice, the added safety is nice, and feeling like you own something robotic is nice too. It's all really good. Tool Snob Jr. (age 4) also likes it and has spent at least one afternoon repeatedly extending the cord and then chasing it back to the base unit.
So we really dig this thing and our only hang-up is the price. Amazon is selling it for $280. Yikes, that's a lot of coin. We have no illusions about the costs of the technology or the sturdy manufacturing involved in this thing, but getting close to three bills is one heck of a pill to swallow. It's tough to justify that kind of purchase when a nice 12ga cord can run you about $30 (1/10th of the cost). So it's sort of like if Festool made an extension cord, lots of finesse, lots of features, lots of style, lots of money.
It's also worth mentioning that Great Stuff has incorporated the same reeling technology to a pneumatic hose system as well as a garden hose system.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at March 10, 2013 11:09 AM