By on March 30, 2017

Schumacher X114 Compact Inverter

If you’re looking for an inexpensive power inverter and don’t want to sacrifice a cup holder or other interior real estate, the Schumacher X114 might be just the ticket — as long as you don’t mind a bit of noise with your power. 

Capable of putting out 140 watts of continuous power, the X114 has more than enough juice to drive a laptop or other small electronic device. To that end, it comes equipped with one 120V receptacle, and a 2-amp USB outlet for charging a phone, music player, or most anything else that can be charged via USB. 

This series details some technological features you can add to your old ride to make it on par with new OEM offerings. We’ll take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, brand recognition with websites, and readily available customer support.

Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.

After covering phone mounts with the iOttie Easy One Touch 2, Bluetooth speakerphone kits by digging into the Motorola Sonic Rider, and power inverters with the Energizer EN180, and heads-up displays with the Garmin HUD+, it’s time to think smaller and cheaper with the Schumacher X114 compact inverter.

Designed to plug into a standard 12V power outlet, the Schumacher X114 has a swiveling head for easier access depending on the outlet location and configuration, and includes a green LED indicator light to indicate all is normal in converterland. It also includes an internal surge protector, and comes with a spare fuse tucked away in the tip of its plug. Using it is simplicity itself — just plug it in and it’s ready to power your devices.

Like other power converters, the operating instructions warn against operating the X114 for more than two or three hours with the vehicle’s engine turned off to avoid draining or damaging your car battery. The instructions recommend starting the engine every couple of hours and letting it run for 10 minutes or so. If you fail to do this, the X114 sounds an audible warning once the battery gets low, and will shut itself off if that warning is ignored. 

Perhaps best of all, the X114 is sold on eBay for under $15 (currently sold out as of March 30, 2017), and it includes a two-year warranty. 

Schumacher X114 Compact Inverter

However, there is one ear-piercing problem: It’s noisy. From the moment you plug it in, the Schumacher begins to emit a sort of metallic buzz, and it rises as its cooling fan comes up to speed. The noise never goes away. While not disruptive enough to prevent conversation or listening to music, we found the buzz annoying to the point where we just unplugged the X114 when it wasn’t needed. Other power converters we’ve used, including the Energizer EN180, can simply be left plugged in all the time, quietly going about their business without being heard. But the Energizer costs more, starting at around $32-$35. You pays your money and you takes your choice. 

The owner’s manual fine print warns of a possible “buzz,” which it says is normal. It also says that cheap sound systems may produce their own buzz through the speakers when the device is plugged in. We did not experience this in either of the two vehicles we tried with the X114, but the noise from the Schumacher was equally noticeable in both. Just to confirm, we called Schumacher customer service, who again assured us the noise is normal. 

Noise notwithstanding, the Schumacher worked well during our time with it, providing sufficient power for a phone and a laptop. Just plan on turning up the music while you use it.

What would you do with a $500 eBay Gift Card? We’re giving away three of them. Here’s how to enter to win.

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18 Comments on “The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Compact Inverter – Schumacher X114...”

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I don’t mind ads to keep the boat afloat, but you might want to disable the comments. People bitching about ads looks trashy.

  • avatar

    I find these things handy to have around since my family is more connected than both our 2010 vehicles ;)

  • avatar

    In my experience, cheap Chinese electronics always work well for just long enough to be reviewed. It’s the expensive Chinese electronics that actually last a few months.

    Any chance on getting a revisit for these items? Maybe just do a round-up post of all of them in 6 months and then again at the 1 year mark?

  • avatar

    I actually appreciate product reviews as long as they are honest. I like that the sponsor is eBay and not the manufacturer of the products.

    I recently purchased a 300-watt converter, but it is still in the box.

    I don’t know why they are not putting more USB connections and 120v plug-ins into cars… they don’t seem to be an expensive item.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually own this exact model (Xl14 0899006896), bought at Walmart several years ago, and it has served me well.

      It only cranks out 140W (square wave) if the car’s engine is running and charging the car’s battery. Otherwise it is 70W. Still more than adequate to run old-style portable CD/DVD players, laptops, etc. Even small TVs.

      It works extremely well for what it is designed to do, but it will drain the car battery if used for an extended period of time.

    • 0 avatar

      “I don’t know why they are not putting more USB connections and 120v plug-ins into cars… they don’t seem to be an expensive item.”

      Built-in inverters seem to a fad that’s already come and gone. Back in 2010 my Jetta TDI had one, my in-laws’ Malibu had one, and I test drove several other vehicles that also had them. Fast-forward to late 2016 and none of the vehicles I test drive had one, even though I was shopping cars at a higher price-point this time around.

  • avatar
    Big Wheel

    If all you need is USB power, this is much cooler.

  • avatar

    I have one of these and use it when I need to, but I wonder if the power is “dirty” enough to harm my laptop.

  • avatar

    A caveat: Check the capacity of your 12V power jack. Some older ones are fused for 10 Amperes, which means they’ll only supply 130 watts or so with the engine running. This device (if 90% efficient) means if you tried to use this device at its full rated capacity (140W), you’d draw 155W (11.9A) and probably blow the fuse for a 10A outlet.

    Most laptops only draw about 80 watts max these days, so no problem, but if you’re going to blend Margaritas…

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