You know how we have all these spare phone chargers laying around, infuriating government bodies like the EU? I now have that problem with too many spare laptop chargers.
USB-C is a revolution that I think we haven't fully comprehended, much more important than ChatGPT (which, in my opinion, is a ruse). The initials in USB are short for Universal Serial Bus, and only with the third generation did it truly become universal by handling data, low levels of power, several graphics standards, networking, and now high levels of power.
All portable devices in our home now use USB-C connectors -- laptops, tablets, and phones running Windows, ChromeOS, and Android. (The exceptions are Apple products, the iPad my wife uses and the two Mac minis I have in the corner of my desk, as the walled company hasn't caught up to the new standard -- yet.)
Some months ago, it dawned on my that I no longer need to use the power supplies that came with those devices: that I could use a single power bar to charge all of them -- along with a bunch of USB-C cables.
I began the experiment upstairs, where I have a Chromebook next to my easy chair. I bought a power bar that had regular power outlets but also high-power USB-A and -C outlets. See figure above. It has worked well, keeping the Chromebook fully charged but also eliminating the clutter of the now-superfluous power supply and its now-no-long-necessary extension cord.
Being in our living room, the power bar is available to guests who desperately need to recharge their devices.
As this worked out well, I looked for the next solution: a power bar that could handle lots of devices. On my office side desk I have a Dell laptop, an Android phone (for playing music on my office sound system), and an HP tablet -- along with a smartwatch I sometimes wear to check my pulse, and miscellaneous things that might need charging from time to time. The power bar would need to handle lots of Watts and lots of outlets for the many devices.
I finally settled on a six-port unit from Ugreen (about $200), which outputs up to 100W on two USB-C ports, up to 65W on two more, and then up to 22.5W on the two USB-A ports. (See figure at right.) I say "up to" because it depends on how much power the devices draw, and how many devices are plugged in at once.
How Power is Delivered
I chose six ports, because I wanted too many. And 200W to handle two laptop-style devices. Be aware that this is the maximum power delivered to all ports, so you won't get 370W of charging when you plug a device into every port; power to each is reduced when all ports are in use.
Also keep in mind that today's devices are smart in their charging, and so draw only as much power as they think they need for their batteries. It harms a battery to be charged at full speed. As a result, you you use a USB voltmeter, you might see a laptop drawing only 3W.
When I tested the Dell laptop, after discharging it for an hour, it drew 20V and 36W (1.8A). After discharging the HP tablet overnight, it drew 20V and 55W. The wattage diminishes when the screen is turned off off. Once their batteries are fully charged, they revert to trickle charging: 1W.
(Reminder: power is the same as Watts, current the same as Amperes.)
Reviewers have complained that all devices are briefly disconnected from power when a new device is plugged into this UGreen charger. This is the result pf the charger pausing for a moment to redistribute the current load to all active ports; my other multi-USB-C chargers do the same.
The Cables You Need
The power bar includes one 100W USB-C cable, which is what you need to properly charge devices with big batteries, like laptops. You may want to buy a few more cables rated that high. To help distinguish between the ports, I use a different colored cable for each one.
So now I have one power supply feeding the following four devices -- and three fewer chargers clutter the back of my desk:
- 100W USB-C -> Dell laptop
- 100W USB-C -> HP tablet
- 65w USB-C -> spare
- 65w USB-C -> spare
- 22.5W USB-A -> Android phone
- 22.5W USB-A -> Garmin smartwatch
One minor problem is that the Dell laptop sometimes complains that it needs a 65W charger, but claims it is getting only 60W, which is not a big deal.
The bigger problem is that the power cord has tended to come out on its own, resulting in no charging.