Amazon Prime Day is right around the corner, and if you’re a lover of tech (or gardening, or tools, or home audio, or anything else) it’s like the best days of the year to spend money. While spending money is fun in its own right sometimes, it’s even more fun when the stuff you bought is the right stuff.
I know that every year for Prime Day there is one type of product I always end up buying: chargers and cables for all the stuff I have here that needs to be charged. I know I’ll buy a handful of them this year, too, because the ones I bought last year are lost or left in rental cars or hotel rooms somewhere. Since I’m that type of person who will spend hours reading and researching so I can save a dollar, I figure now is a good time to make sure I pass the wisdom of getting the right charger and cable on to others.
What do you have?
One of the cool things about chargers and cables is that a lot of the stuff you have can use the same ones. USB-C ports have finally become somewhat ubiquitous and you’ll find them on phones, headphones, handheld game consoles, laptops and most anything else that needs to be plugged in and charged. But not every charger setup is the best way to charge any certain item.
Fast charging comes in all shapes and sizes.
We all want our stuff to charge fast so we can unplug it and get back to using it as quickly as possible. The companies who make the products we love know this and spend a lot of money making sure we can do that, but this can lead to different standards between brands. There’s not anything wrong with this, as long as we get our stuff charged quickly and safely, but it does mean you need to buy the right stuff. Here are fast charging standards your devices might use:
- USB Power Delivery is a standard that can be used by a wide, wide array of devices from phones to handheld consoles like the Nintendo Switch to laptops like Chromebooks and the newest generations of MacBooks. PD chargers can charge at up to 100W, but for most phones and accessories, you shouldn’t need more than a 18-30W charger. If you have a laptop that charges over USB-C, you’ll want a 45-60W charger.
Qualcomm Quick Charge is the standard used by most phones made in the last 3-5 years, namely Samsung phones, which use QC 2.0. All QuickCharge generations are backwards compatible, so buying a QC 3.0 charger for your Galaxy S10 is perfectly fine — and your next phone might very well be QC 3.0.
- Motorola Turbopower is compatible with QC 2.0, so if you have a Motorola phone, you can just buy a QC charger on sale rather than shelling out for OEM Motorola chargers.
- OnePlus Warp Charge and OnePlus Fast Charge is not compatible with Qualcomm QuickCharge — or USB Power Delivery — so you’ll need to buy a charger that is officially licensed by OnePlus or Oppo.
- Huawei FCP (Fast Charging Protocol) is its own standard and will need a charger that is marked as FCP.
If you have a Huawei, OnePlus or Oppo phone, you’ll want to shop smart and buy the correct charger unless you’re happy with slow charging speeds. For other phones, you’ll usually be served well by a QC charger or a PD charger. PD chargers can be used with a much wider variety of devices, so if you can grab a quality USB-C Power Delivery charger during Prime Day, it’s an investment worth making, especially if you get a 45W or 60W charger that can negotiate charging rates to safely charge phones and laptops.
Wireless is a thing
Like wired fast charging, wireless charging has several different standards. I don’t mean the Powermat versus Qi standard either — unless you have an old PMA-only device, you can ignore all those letters — I mean Samsung versus Apple versus every other company.
If you have a Samsung phone that supports wireless fast charging buy a Fast Charge Wireless Charging Pad that mentions Samsung by name in the sales listing. You can still wirelessly charge any other device that can rest on a regular charging pad and you’ll be able to top off your Galaxy phone in half the time you would with another model.
For everyone else, you want to look for a charger that has two coils and can output 10 watts. That makes it compatible with almost every device because of the two sweet spots and you will have enough power to charge an iPhone (which can use 7.5 watts). Many of these chargers will also be Samsung Fast Charge Wireless ready, too.
Lastly, look for one that includes a 24 watt or higher wall plug, so you don’t have to buy one separately.
At one time, you had to be careful about buying USB-C cables because some were made incorrectly and could fry your expensive device. You should still pay attention and buy a reputable brand, but this problem has mostly gone away. Thankfully.
Your USB-C cable probably won’t fry your phone now. Still, don’t buy just anything.
Now you can look for other things that make a great cable instead, like a braided cover or shielded core. Or both. Cables are what gets the most wear and tear so it’s usually worth spending a few dollars more to get ones that will last a little longer. You definitely want one that’s long enough but not too long (3-6 feet) and isn’t stiff enough to put pressure on the charging port of your phone. Mind what generation cable you buy because different generations support different power and data speeds; USB 3.1 Gen 1 is the sweet spot between good charging speeds and decent prices right now.
There are plenty of great charging cables out there, but I really recommend Anker’s PowerLine+ brand. They are one of the few cables I’ve bought that last long enough for me to lose them instead of wearing out. I could save 3 or 4 dollars and buy something else, but then I’d need Prime Days to come twice per year to buy a replacement.
The more you know
You’re going to see a gazillion cables and such on sale at Amazon very soon. Chances are any of them will work, but you can maximize the whole charging experience by spending a few minutes to make sure you buy the right stuff. It’s fun to buy accessories and gizmos every year, but it’s even more fun knowing you bought it like a rock star. Yes, that’s a thing.
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