USB Wall Charger Roundup Review: All Ports Are Not Created Equal

Like most average geeks, I assume that when I connect my phone or tablet to a USB power source, it’s going to deliver the level of power it says it will. I don’t know nearly as much about electrical system as some do, so when I saw a crowdfunded gadget called the Legion USB Power Meter, I thought it would be a great tool to help me understand power flow and collect real-world data. So, I dusted off my old tech reviewer’s hat, grabbed a bunch of different USB power sources, and got to work. The goal? To understand if the USB chargers I was using were delivering maximum efficiency and letting me charge my devices as fast as possible.

To test each scenario, I used both an HTC One M9 (with around 50% to 80% battery level in each test), and my iPad Air 2, with around the same battery life. I used an Apple Lightning cable for the iPad, and a microUSB cable a friend sent from Singapore that is supposed to allow for a greater efficiency in power transfer (but that’s a test for another day).

One thing that people often forget: modern devices are smart enough to pull as much power as they can handle. What that means though is that if you connect a phone to a 2.4amp charger, it’s unlikely it’s going to pull the full 2.4 amps. Tablets can cope with more power though and tend to gobble it all down.

Below are the various USB power sources I tested, links to them (where applicable), what level of power they claim to put out, and the actual tested results. In each case I left the device connected for 30-60 seconds, and did a guesstimate on the final number (since it constantly bounced around within a tenth of a point).

The takeaway? Android phones don’t charge very well on ports designed for iOS devices on some chargers, nor iOS devices on Android phone chargers, and you have no way of knowing that unless you’re able to measure it. I used the Rosewell wall charger in my office for months without realizing it was terribly slow at charging my HTC phone. Lastly, some chargers will have iOS ports, Android ports, and “other”, basically forcing you to think far too much about what plugs into where. I’m not a fan of those types of chargers.

Charging-Speed-Animation-21

The ChargeTech charger is the best I’ve seen: super small, dual ports, kicks out great power, and is great for travel because of the folding prongs and angled body corner. Anker chargers are also very solid and I’d buy them again. Apple chargers surprised me by being platform agnostic. Who’d have thought that would be the case?

Below is my list in terms of best to worst chargers, coming from the perspective of a household with Android phones and iOS tablets (plus one Fire HD 7).

ChargeTech Charger

  • CLAIMED: 2.4 amps
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.48 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 2.35 amps

Anker 40 watt 5 port Turbo USB Adapter

  • CLAIMED: 2.4 amps
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.47 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 2.3 amps

Apple 12W USB Power Adaptor

  • CLAIMED: 2.4 amps
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.5 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 2.4 amps

Skiva PowerFlow QuadFire:

  • CLAIMED: 4 amp
  • UNIVERSAL PORTS 1 & 2 ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.46 amps
  • UNIVERSAL PORTS 1 & 2 w/iPad Air 2:  0.93 amps
  • PORT 2 UNIVERSAL ACTUAL: 1.46 amps (0.93 amps with iPad Air 2)
  • PORT 3 iDEVICE ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 0.45 amps
  • PORT 3 iDEVICE ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 1.97 amps
  • PORT 4 SAMSUNG ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.45 amps
  • PORT 4 SAMSUNG ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 0.45 amps

Motorola X USB Charger:

  • CLAIMED: 1.1 amps (1150 mAH is on the label)
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.25 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 0.95 amps

HTC High-Power Charger that comes with newer phones:

  • CLAIMED: 2.1 amps
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 1.45 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 0.95 amps

Powergen Dual USB 15W AC Adapter

  • CLAIMED: 3.1 amps
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9 on Non-Apple Port: 1.45 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2 on Apple Port: 2 amps
  • Side note: plugging in both an iPad Air 2 and an HTC M9 effectively “crashed” the charger – it would power both, then cut power, then power them, etc.

Rosewell Wall Splitter with 2.1 amp USB ports

  • CLAIMED: 2.1 amps
  • ACTUAL w/HTC M9: 0.43 amps
  • ACTUAL w/iPad Air 2: 2 amps

Interested in which phones charge the fastest? Tom’s Hardware has a good article on the subject, though the missed the opportunity to discover which phones charge the fastest given the same power source. Maybe that’s a follow-up article…

Someone Invent This: An Online Memories/Scrapbook Company

Sometimes I think about businesses or services that I wish existed, and create an imaginary list of features I’d create if I were launching them. Here’s one such company, centered around a sort of “next-generation” photo album. Photo albums today are pretty crude insofar as the methods by which they gather photos from external sources. Some allow you to pull in photos from Facebook, but I haven’t seen any particularly strong implementation. Here’s a list of ideas for such a service… Continue reading Someone Invent This: An Online Memories/Scrapbook Company

The Harsh Reality of Crowdfunding Time to Market

The first time I backed a Crowdfunded project was in 2011. It was a documentary about MMA legend Jens Pulver and from that moment on I was hooked. It always bothered me that the only technology I could buy was whatever large companies decided was what would sell; dumbing down to sell to the general market doesn’t always generate the best products. It’s similar when it comes to movies and creative endeavours, though those artists have had a someone easier path of direct support since the dawn of the Internet age and electronic payments.

Since that first project, I’ve backed 20 more products on Kickstarter, and another 27 on Indiegogo; 48 total campaigns, mostly in the technology or entertainment realm. While only one has truly flamed out into oblivion – a D&D documentary project that got sued by, I think, another D&D documentary project – many are in the vague “we’re building it” phase. Continue reading The Harsh Reality of Crowdfunding Time to Market

HTC IMEI Stickers: Oh For the Love Of…

I was watching an episode of Under The Dome a couple of months ago, and I saw something that make me groan:

the-dome-HTC-IMEI-tag

See what it was? That big, ugly white sticker on the back of the HTC 8X. It’s a sticker designed to be removed by the customer – it has the IMEI number on it so customers can reference it if they need to call in for support. The 8X is a beautifully designed product – it’s has gorgeous soft-touch plastic that looks great (but sadly doesn’t wear well long-term) and HTC made it in bold, powerful colours. Beauty ruined by a sticker. Continue reading HTC IMEI Stickers: Oh For the Love Of…

Not typically the kind of wisdom shared on a bathroom stall wall, but very true. I'm amazed at how few people daytime drive with their headlights on here in the Seattle area, especially when so many days are grey and overcast.

Not typically the kind of wisdom shared on a bathroom stall wall, but very true. I'm amazed at how few people daytime drive with their headlights on here in the Seattle area, especially when so many days are grey and overcast.
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