If you own a lightweight laptop, you've probably noticed that the charger it comes with isn't quite as svelte as the device itself. Even the best Ultrabooks often come with AC adapters that are rightfully called “power bricks.” But if you can use your existing laptop charger to bludgeon someone in self defense, it’s worth spending the money on a third-party unit that won't weigh down your bag and eat up space.
Fortunately, if your system gets power via USB-C, you can easily find a third party charger that weighs less, looks better and may even have additional ports for charging other devices at the same time. The latest, greatest and best USB-C laptop chargers use semiconductors made from GaN (Gallium Nitride) rather than silicon, which allows them to handle more current in a smaller space.
The marketplace is flooded with GaN-powered USB-C laptop chargers with wattages that go all the way up to 100 watts (the maximum allowed by the current USB Power Delivery standard). But not all of these adapters are created equal, with significant differences not only in design and ports, but also in the amount of wattage they can deliver, which is often higher and sometimes a little lower than advertised. In order to help you find the best USB-C laptop chargers, we’ve tested the latest GaN-powered models from major brands such as Anker, Aukey, IOGear and RAVPower.
USB-C Laptop Charger Shopping Tips
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- Bring your own USB-C cable: Most USB-C laptop chargers come in wall wart style, with a single chassis and prongs that fold inward for compact storage. However, they usually don’t come with cables, so you’ll need to buy a USB-C to USB-C cable of appropriate length, usually at least six feet, if you don’t already have one.
- Get ready for heat: If you're running anywhere close to the rated wattage (or above), expect your USB-C laptop charger to feel toasty to the touch. In our tests, after 20 minutes of running at one watt below their rating (ex: 64 watts on a 65-watt charger), temperatures ranged from 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48.3 Celsius) to 154 degrees (67.8 Celsius). That's unpleasant, but not dangerous. You can get a cooler skin temperature by purchasing a higher capacity charger than you need and running it at less than its maximum.
- Mind the second port: Many chargers also come with a second port that's either USB Type-A or USB-C. You can use this port to charge a mobile device or even power a Raspberry Pi, but it will take a certain amount of amperage away from the main port.
Best USB-C Laptop Chargers You Can Buy Today
The super svelte and lightweight Aukey Omnia PA-B4 tops our list. It not only performs well, but also provides dual USB-C ports which give you just enough juice to use an ultrabook while charging a Nintendo Switch, a mobile phone or even a second laptop (albeit it slowly and only when you’re not using it).
Though it is conservatively rated for 65 watts, in our tests, the 3.65oz Aukey Omnia PA-B4 managed a maximum sustained rate of 72.6 watts (19.2V / 3.78A). After 20 minutes of that maximum the temperature hit a steamy 139 degrees Fahrenheit, but the charger was a much cooler 120 degrees, the second coolest of all chargers we tested, when run at 64 degrees.
Better still, the Omnia PA-B4 offers up to 15 watts of juice from its second USB-C port (only the top port can be used for max wattage), which is more than enough to charge a second device or comfortably power a Raspberry Pi 4. The primary port will emit less power, however, if a second device is plugged in. In our case, we pushed the primary port 50 watts under those conditions, though Aukey only advertises a maximum of 45 watts.
If you’re using a 16-inch MacBook Pro or another USB-C laptop that requires more than 65 watts of juice, the Aukey Omnia PA-B5 is your best bet. This super-svelte charger can not only hit its rated 100-watt output capacity but, in our tests, it exceeded that number by more than 10%, delivering 113.7 watts (19.6V / 5.8A), which is more than the USB-PD standard even supports.
When outputting either its maximum wattage or just below its rated wattage, the Aukey Omnia PA-B5 can get pretty hot, returning skin temperatures of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.9 Celsius) and 154 degrees (67.8 Celsius) respectively. However, if it's not pulling close to the maximum -- as laptops rarely do -- the charger will be quite a bit cooler. When we pulled just 65 watts, the Aukey Omnia PA-B5's temperature hit just 119 degrees Fahrenheit, which is in line with what the coolest 65-watt chargers.
Perhaps just as important as the Aukey PA-B5's output is its size and weight. This wall wart is just 2.24 x 2.24 x 1.26 inches and 5.3 ounces, which compares very favorably to the RAVPower Pioneer 90W (RP-PC128) that tips the scales at 6.7 ounces with dimensions of 2.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches.
As of this writing, Aukey's Omnia PA-B2 is the smallest USB-C laptop charger on the market. This diminutive wall wart measures just 1.77 x 1.77 x 1.18 inches, which makes it even smaller than RAVPower’s tiny Pioneer RP-PC112, which is just 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.2 inches itself. The Omnia PA-B2 is also a full 0.45oz lighter than its competitor.
Likely because of its small size, the Aukey Omnia PA-B2 can get hot. When running at 60 watts, the PA-B2 hit a toasty 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 Celsius). At its maximum draw of 65 watts, the temperature jumped up to 141 degrees (61.1 Celsius).
However, even at these temperatures, the Omnia PA-B2 is cooler and more consistent than the RAVPower Pioneer RP-PC112, which hit 143 degrees at 60 watts and could not maintain its maximum wattage of 69 watts for more than a few minutes before it turned itself off.
While most modern-day mobile devices charge over USB-C, there are still many gadgets, including budget Android tablets and Raspberry Pis older than the Pi 4, that utilize micro USB. Though you can buy a USB-C to micro USB adapter, many of us have drawers full of USB-A to micro USB or USB-A to USB-C cables. So it can be pretty useful to have a USB-C Laptop Charger like the RAVPower Pioneer RP-PC133, which has a secondary Type-A port.
In our tests (using a load tester), the RAVPower Pioneer RP-PC133, delivered a full 15 watts (3.27V, 4.72A) from its Type-A port while also providing up to 54.9 watts (19.6V, 2.8A) from its USB-C port at the same time. More importantly, when we hooked the RP-PC133 up to both a laptop and a phone at the same time, it gave the laptop a full 51 watts of juice, which is better than Aukey's slightly-smaller Omnia Mix PA-B3, which gave the same laptop only 38 watts with the phone attached.
RAVPower appears to have a different design philosophy than Aukey when it comes to exceeding its rated wattage. Where the Aukey chargers we tested could sustain wattages above their advertised maximums, RAVPower units could hit higher peaks, but then would shut themselves down after a few minutes. For example, the Pioneer RP-PC133 outputted an epic 73.7 watts (19.5V, 3.78A) on the USB-C port alone, but it didn’t last long.
At 64 watts, one below its rated maximum, the RAVPower Pioneer RP-PC133 maintained a skin temperature of just 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48.3 Celsius), which is pleasantly cool compared to most chargers we tested.
IOGear’s GearPower 60W (GPAWC60W) has an oblong box shape that’s a little different from the rectangular shapes from competitors Aukey, Anker and RAVPower. At 3.5 oz it's not quite as light as the Aukey PA-B2 nor is it as small, but it hit a higher maximum wattage, achieving a full 69 watts (19.6V, 3.55A), even though it’s rated for only 60.
The IOGear GearPower 60W is a bit expensive compared to its competitors. At press time, it was $5 more than the Aukey PA-B2 and not available at Amazon in the U.S.
Other USB-C Laptop Chargers We Tested
- Aukey Omnia Mix 65W (PA-B3): Aukey's USB Type-C / Type-A charger is also really good and about on par with the RAVPower Pioneer RP-PC133 while weighing less. However, we found that in real-world charging, the RP-PC133 gave more power to a laptop (51 watts vs 38) when a phone was attached to the Type-A port.
- Anker PowerPort Atom III (60W): At 4.6oz, this is the heaviest 60-watt charger and it’s also the largest. It also gets warmer (127 degrees Fahrenheit) than competitors in the same capacity when running at one degree below rated wattage. Having come out in mid-2019, this is one of the older GaN chargers out there, and it shows.
- RAVPower Pioneer 61W (RP-PC112): This 61-watt charger isn’t as small as the Aukey Omnia PA-B2, but it gets significantly warmer after 20 minutes running at 59 watts. It can hit a full 69.48 watts for a time, but it can’t sustain that wattage and will shut down before 20 minutes have passed.
- RAVPower Pioneer 90W (RP-PC128): In theory, this charger would be a decent one, because it has dual USB-C ports. However, it can’t exceed its 90-watt rated maximum for any length of time and, considering that the most powerful MacBook Pros now use 96-watt chargers, it’s hard to recommend this over the Aukey PA-B5, which is rated for 100 watts and can deliver far more.
How We Tested
To see how each USB-C Laptop Charger performed, we attached it to a MakerHawk load tester.l. In order to get the chargers to perform, we had to run them through a USB PD trigger chip, which allowed us to turn their voltage mode up to the 19 - 20V range that's required for laptop charging. Then we turned the dials on the load tester until we reached the maximum amperage each could deliver and then set a timer for 20 minutes to see if the charger could sustain this wattage and how hot it got after that time.
We found that some chargers, specifically all three RAVPower chargers we tested, could not sustain their highest possible wattages and, after less than 20 minutes, would shut down. We conducted a second series of heat tests with each charger at one watt below its maximum rated wattage (ex: 59 watts on a 60-watt charger) and recorded the temperature there as well.
If a charger had dual ports, we plugged one port into a USB-C phone while we used the other with the load tester. We also tried these dual-port setups with a real laptop, a ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 8) and used a USB-C power meter to see how much the charger was delivering.
|Model||Ports||Max Rated Watts||Max Tested Watts||Skin Temp (Max Rated - 1)||Skin Temp (Max Tested)|
|Aukey Omnia 65W (PA-B4)||2x USB-C||65W||72.6W||120°F (48.9°C)||139°F (59.4°C)|
|Aukey Omnia 100W (PA-B)||1x USB-C||100W||113.7W||154°F (67.8°C)||165°F (73.9°C)|
|Aukey Omnia 61W (PA-B2)||1x USB-C||61W||65.8W||134°F (56.7°C)||142°F (61.1°C)|
|RAVPower Pioneer 65W (RP-PC133)||1x USB-C, 1x USB Type-A||65W||73.7W*||119°F (48.3°C)||N/A|
|IOGear GearPower 60W (GPAWC60W)||1x USB-C||60W||69.6W||128°F (53.3°C)||138°F (58.9°C)|
|Aukey Omnia Mix 65W (PA-B3)||1x USB-C, 1x USB Type-A||65W||72.5W||119°F (48.3°C)||125°F (51.6°C)|
|RAVPower Pioneer 61W (RP-PC112)||1x USB-C||61W||69.5W*||143°F (61.7°C)||N/A|
|Anker PowerPort Atom III||1x USB-C||60W||69.1*||127°F (52.8°C)||N/A|
|RavPower Pioneer 90W (RP-PC128)||2x USB-C||90W||90W||140°F (60°C)||N/A|
* -- Charger shut down before 20 minute stability / heat test could complete at that wattage.
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Now you might think, why are those words wrong when they are in the current vocabulary. There are two important reasons:
A) Because they sound stupid to anyone with a technical background, and someone using them will instantly make it known to the technical people they are dealing with a non or less technical person.
B) Because they are wrong, even though they are in the dictionary. The best explanation is to compare these with some other more known ones. For instance lets take temperature, temperature is expressed in Kelvin, Celsius or Fahrenheit. You don't say it's 23 temperature today, no temperature is what you are talking about and you can measure it compared to a reference, for example: "it's 300 Kelvin" is a valid expression. No lets say we have two objects with a different temperature. You can say object A has a lower or higher temperature than B, or you could even tell the exact temperature expressed in one of the usual units. But you never would say, object A has a higher Kelvinage then B, or Fahrenheitage or Celsiusage, that sounds ridiculous doesn't it?
If you aren't convinced try this with distance in meters, or light years or use weight in pounds or kilograms.
The only difference with wattage and amperage is that so many people have been misusing these words persistently that they have become accepted.
So remember this: power is measured in Watts and electrical current is measured in Amperes.
As an electrical engineer this article has offended me, unfortunately I am not a woman, a gay or black so I suppose this is not going to help me get any compensation in the current PC culture but I still hope some will read this and better their lives and start using power and current! (If you really can't tell, this last part is ironic)
Which of these chargers comes with a three-prong power connector? I hate the tingly feeling I get when I use a power adapter for my MBP 16" that doesn't have a ground...
Some other examples I can think of are mileage and tonnage. I'm sure there are more that I can't think of at the moment.
I've never seen someone take issue with the terms amperage/wattage (although admittedly I'm not sure how often they come up), nor do I take issue myself. I am also an electrical engineer.
One thing I like about this place is the ability to have discussions on the basis of ideas. Unlike certain social media networks, things like race, gender, etc. don't play a part, unless you choose to inject it (in which case it's almost guaranteed to distract or derail the point you were trying to make).
I'm not trying to shut you down: it's your right to take it there (as far as I'm concerned), but I would point out that I like having a place on the internet that's not consumed by social issues, right now.
@bit_userI am sorry for the unnecessary addition. I agree it is good if there is place were we aren't distracted with all those social issues and can focus on something else. Unfortunately these things are permanently popping up everywhere where, and also in my mind. So the rebel in me pops up unexpectedly sometimes
Plus, we don’t even really know the particulars of said negotiation – according to the article, they used load testers set to deliberately overdrive the power supplies. A real-life, laptop-grade PD sink is a subtler construct, designed by dint of obediance to the PD rules to specifically not do this kind of thing. The fact that the RavPower supplies reset themselves under these contrived and extreme conditions is good behavior, no?
… For the curious, here is a fantastically well-written and rigorously illustrated article on this subject, describing the minutiae of a PD implementation bug (in Apple’s own hardware, no less!) that I would recommend to all interested parties.
But so, either way: I have both Anker and RavPower devices, and if someone were to buy me a beer I would tell them the story of how two of these namechecked GaN chargers – as well as an Innergie 60c – each individually dealt with sustained AC input power instabilities on the allegedly 120V/15A rail furnished to passengers on Amtrak trains… spoiler alert, the non-GaN Innergie was the least problematic on this one.
I would totally welcome a certified EE’s opinion on this, personally, for what it’s worth. Erm. Yes!