What’s the Difference between Converter and Transformer?

“Should I buy a converter or a transformer?”

If you’re asking yourself this question, you’re not alone. While traveling out abroad with electrical appliances, finding the proper way to power them up indeed adds to our headache. It’s because of the voltage system implementation, which varies in other countries from ours.

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However, you can take care of this headache without worries if you understand the difference between converter and transformer. And in this short write-up, we’re going to clarify it most comprehensively. So keep reading.

In simple words, both transformers and converters are meant to transform or convert the electrical voltage from the power socket into a level suitable for the connected appliance.

So, the purpose of both the bridging devices is pretty much the same. It’s their method of converting that makes them different.

The core disparity between their actions lies within how they handle the AC power, more specifically, the “sine waves,” the form of the AC power bursts. For instance, while reducing 220 volts to 110, a converter cuts the sine waves in half. In contrast, a transformer only alters the length of the sine waves, keeping them untrimmed.

It’s an essential dissimilarity, which is the reason why computers, cellphone chargers, printers, or similar electrical devices can work only with transformers since they require full sine waves for operating correctly.

On the contrary, hairdryers, automatic curling irons, portable fans, or similar electrical appliances work with either half or full sine waves. Therefore, they can operate with either a transformer or a converter.

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The USA and Canada employ 110v/120v voltage level, which is lower than the rest of the world that mostly use 220v/240v. So, while traveling abroad, you’ll need to bring either of these two voltage-alternating devices. But the fact that transformers are, in general, much larger, weighty, and costlier than converters, it’s wiser to carry the latter unless the former is a dire necessity.

Moreover, you can also use voltage converters with AC or DC input and change them into either DC or AC, whereas transformers can only work with AC inputs.

Interestingly, though, you can chop either of the devices if your appliances or devices come with a dual-voltage feature. Since dual-voltage devices can automatically make the running voltage step up or down as per necessity, they don’t require a converter or a transformer. So, in that case, you may only need to buy a plug adapter to make it match wall sockets different from its plug output.

Difference between Converters and Transformers in Terms of Particular Aspects

Conversion CapabilityA transformer is only meant for the conversion of the alternating voltages. It cannot work within a direct current (DC).You’ll find various kinds of converters that can convert both AC and DC voltages.
Intended forContinuous useShort-term use
DesignTransformers are usually heavy and bulky in size, and they require more wattage.Voltage converters are lighter and more compact in size. They require lesser power.
ComponentsTransformers have terminals, copper coils, and ferrite cores within them, and it’s a standalone tool. They generally have heavy and hearty designs depending on the wattage.Converters are actual electronic circuits that may come equipped with transformers too. They use a circuit board and a solid-state switch to convert and curtail the excessive voltage inputs.

The Bottom Line

There you have it. If you wondered about the differences between converters and transformers, you’ve definitely got a comprehensive answer to that.

Now, here’s what we recommend.

Try to bring dual-voltage devices when you’re flying out abroad. It’s the smartest thing you can do since traveling with them neither requires you to drag a converter nor a massive transformer.

Instead of buying a transformer beforehand, the right thing to do when you can’t quite do without it is to purchase it from the country you’re visiting. A voltage converter can be your go-to product if your odds are against buying new dual-voltage gadgets.

But either way, you may be going to need a plug adapter nonetheless. So, buy a universal travel adapter-converter, which can hopefully be your perfect solution by all means.


Kasun, Difference Between Voltage Converter and Transformer, June 15, 2017