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RoboReel Portable Power Cord System review: Innovative power cord reaches deep into wallets

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MSRP: $279.00

The Good Great Stuff's RoboReel Portable Power Cord System makes managing 50 feet of heavy-gauge power cable a breeze with its automated two-speed retraction system. A number of safety features are built into this lightweight and flexible system.

The Bad High price will deter many home handymen and -women.

The Bottom Line The RoboReel is one of the most advanced and manageable extension cords around, but this heavy-duty system comes with a heavy-duty price.

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8.0 Overall

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Essentially, the RoboReel is a $279 retractable extension cord, but it's a very cool $279 retractable extension cord. Allow me to explain.

Physically, Great Stuff's spherical RoboReel is about the size of a basketball, its bright safety-orange color completing the illusion. The plastic main unit is held in place by a metal frame, also orange, with a black nonslip coating applied where it will come into contact with the floor.

The main sphere can tilt up and down by a considerable amount -- about 180 degrees of freedom if you've got the clearance. The sphere is split into two hemispheres, a bottom half that is fixed and a top half that can swivel freely through 360 degrees of rotation.

Hanging out of a small opening in the top hemisphere is the 12-gauge power cable, which can be pulled and freely extended to its maximum reach of 50 feet. At the business end of the cable is what I'm calling a "terminal head" that features three standard power outlets and a central power button.

The wall end of the cable comes out of the sphere's base and features a built-in fuse. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The RoboReel sphere itself has a power button top-center of its free-spinning hemisphere. The bottom hemisphere features another power cable that terminates in a male 120-volt U.S.-standard power connection and is where the RoboReel connects to a powered outlet.

What does it do?
Rather than use a spring retraction mechanism to return the cable to the spherical unit, the RoboReel makes use of a 180-volt electric motor. This, combined with some rudimentary intelligence provided by its electronics, gives the RoboReel a few advantages over loose cabling or conventional crank- or spring-retracted cable-coiling systems.

For starters, the RoboReel doesn't retract until you want it to. At a touch of either the button on the terminal head or the one on the coiling sphere itself, the RoboReel will begin to gather the cable. It doesn't seem to be able to do this while you have a tool connected to one of its terminals or while that tool is drawing power. So presumably you won't have to worry about it trying to yank a spinning circular saw out of your hand.

The end of the cord is home to three power outlets and a rubberized button in the center for retracting the cable. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

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