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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Power off accessories with a smart switch

I wasn’t expecting one of the bigger reactions to my Mac Studio review to be my aside about the power strip I’ve been using for more than a decade, but that’s what happened! Here’s what I wrote:

Funny thing about Apple silicon: Apple’s not kidding about power consumption. For 15 years, I’ve used an auto-switching power strip in conjunction with my desktop computers. When the computer turns off, the power strip automatically turns off many other devices—powered speakers, USB hubs, you name it.

The Mac Studio, even with its powerful M1 Max processor, freaked the power strip out. It kept clicking between on and off states because the Mac Studio uses so little power compared to a traditional computer that it dips below the power strip’s threshold. (I just ordered a new power strip with an adjustable threshold.)

The power strip in question was the APC Power-Saving SurgeArrest, which Amazon tells me I bought in April 2008, right after I read about it in a David Pogue New York Times column. APC doesn’t make it anymore, but they do make larger and smaller follow-on versions. Those new power strips have a feature mine did not: a switch to change the auto-switching threshold to a much lower level, “for Chromebooks.” But maybe it would work with the power-sipping Mac Studio?

I decided to go in another direction and bought a $20 Smart Strip. It’s got four switchable outlets (and two always-on outlets, which I need!) and a little plastic screw you can turn with a small screwdriver to adjust the power threshold. (Bonus: It doesn’t have the awkwardly placed switch that the last one had, which led to sudden power cuts on my desk at inappropriate moments.)

I plugged the Mac Studio into the strip’s control outlet and a floor lamp into a switchable outlet, then gradually turned the control screw clockwise until the lamp turned on. That seems to have done the trick. I’ve mounted the Smart Strip under my desk where the APC model used to be, and it’s shutting down other devices when I shut it down. It goes to show you how little power draw an M1 Mac, even an M1 Max model, can have in normal operation.

These switches are pretty great. Yes, they save power by turning off unnecessary accessories like monitors and USB hubs, but they can also save your sanity. For years I used an iPod Hi-Fi as my external computer speaker, and before that, I used a pair of Altec Lansing computer speakers. Both had the unfortunate quirk of making a low buzzing noise when they were powered on while the computer they were attached to was shut down. The smart power strip ensured that when the computer went off, so did they.

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