Apple 5W Adapter Knock-offs: The Colorful A1265 Tear-Down

About the author
Daniel Sauvageau

Daniel Sauvageau is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He’s known for his feature tear-downs of components and peripherals.

This thread is closed for comments
31 comments
    Your comment
  • sitehostplus
    This is no joke. I once fried a mp3 player in a usb wall charger before. So I now only use either my computer, or a geniune apple charger.
  • laura.morris.ga
    Thank you for this incredibly valuable information. It's nice to see someone out there looking out for the regular guy who doesn't have this level of knowledge about electronics.
  • omegaman2
    This manufacturing, and marketing of imitation goods, and in this case electronic products can have very serious consequences, to the point of death, or serious injury. Thank you for your awareness, and knowledge about chargers that are not worth saving a couple of dollars.
  • Lutfij
    In my case, I'd wait to see what folks had to say about it so they would be my guinea pigs, of sorts. In most cases, I stay away from off quality hardware.

    Thank you for the write up though!
    ;)
  • canadianvice
    One of my critical rules for buying china: nothing connected to direct wall power.

    I do have one speaker lightbulb, but that's not powered when I'm not present, and it seems to have come from one of the better plants. Obviously, it's also less of a problem since I don't go out of my way to touch it on a regular basis.
  • Kennyy Evony
    how about, listing an alternative without all the flaws? Complaining does not fix anything. List an adapter without all the flaws that costs exactly the same for people to buy? Wouldn't that be a better article? Same price, a lot less risks for consumers? win?
  • TMTOWTSAC
    1736052 said:
    how about, listing an alternative without all the flaws? Complaining does not fix anything. List an adapter without all the flaws that costs exactly the same for people to buy? Wouldn't that be a better article? Same price, a lot less risks for consumers? win?


    The title and description seem to imply that this is the first of several reviews to come. Since this first product presents an outright safety risk, I take zero issue with presenting it now rather than collating all results first. As far as producing a better article, you are presuming an alternative meeting your criteria does actually exists. While I have no doubt quality 5W adapters can be found cheaper than Apple's ($19 list price at Apple) I would be shocked if any of them could be found for $1.50.
  • razor512
    2632263 said:
    This is no joke. I once fried a mp3 player in a usb wall charger before. So I now only use either my computer, or a geniune apple charger.


    I fried mine also, but with a quality charger, Some MP# players do not play nicely with quickcharge 2.0 and 3.0 chargers.

    Here are the photos of mine after it failed.

    Funny thing was that the battery was perfectly fine, the protection circuit kicked in and cut the output and input to the battery for a few minutes, then it self-reset and the battery continued to work fine (it now runs a flashlight).

    https://imgur.com/a/aOLQr

    Beyond that, I have an old DIY USB charger that works really well, and has the lowest noise of any of the OEM chargers that I have used so far.

    It is basically a USB port wired to the 5V rail of a 550 watt power supply. Even when charging my android tablet at 2 amps, the voltage is completely stable at 5V, and those cheap 5V amplifier circuits can run from it without filtering while on standard chargers that come with smartphones, will have lots of noise.
  • alextheblue
    2632263 said:
    This is no joke. I once fried a mp3 player in a usb wall charger before. So I now only use either my computer, or a geniune apple charger.

    Half my family uses Apple hardware and OE Apple accessories. The failure rate on the smaller Apple charging blocks is higher than I would have expected, given the cost. Since they have been conditioned to only use Apple accessories, I bought a couple of them the much larger Apple charging blocks you see used for iPads, to replace failed compact Apple blocks. Meanwhile I primarily use high-end third party chargers.
    129458 said:
    I fried mine also, but with a quality charger, Some MP# players do not play nicely with quickcharge 2.0 and 3.0 chargers.

    That depends on the charger. Just because it supports QC doesn't mean it is guaranteed to have issues like that. I've got a 2-port 39W (combined) Anker charger that supports QC 3.0 but it also supports what Anker calls PowerIQ. Works great with anything I've thrown at it, and I also use it with a 10W Qi mat.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    1736052 said:
    how about, listing an alternative without all the flaws? Complaining does not fix anything. List an adapter without all the flaws that costs exactly the same for people to buy?

    As the intro says, this adapter (hopefully) sets the low bar. I'm not "complaining" about the low quality, I am exposing it to drive awareness of how dangerous or even potentially lethal these cheap generics can potentially be. Increasing awareness reduces the number of people who will let themselves be tempted by suspiciously inexpensive adapters of questionable origins. Fewer people buying dangerous adapters will hopefully reduce demand and sufficiently reduced demand could potentially reduce offer. No awareness would allow propagation of these death traps to go completely unchecked.

    As for suggesting better quality alternatives, as TMT already wrote, I seriously doubt there are any decent quality adapters around the $2 mark or at the very least, the chances of stumbling upon one are slim. There was an intro story to this series that was supposed to come out first but some publishing pipeline hiccups delayed it. I have about a dozen sub-$5 adapters in my presumed horror box and I'm not expecting them to achieve a passing grade. I also have a few $10 adapters which I'm hoping will at least get most of the way to a passing grade. I'll get to them in due time.

    Right now, I'm half-way done testing a fairly promising aftermarket one (almost perfectly flat 5.06V from 0A through 8.6A regardless of test conditions with less than 20mV or RMS noise) but it is ~$25, so I'd be disappointed to get anything less. The next one after that will be a ~$10 adapter from a rising one-stop-for-everything home brand that I haven't taken out of its original box yet.

    I'll probably rotate sub-$5, ~$10 and $20-and-up adapters until I exhaust my inventory for a given tier as exhausting my "horror-class" adapters first might get depressing. It also increases the chances that I may have something worth recommending once in a while, albeit at a higher cost.
  • shehchao.sim
    Well, its down to you want it cheap or you want it good. If you want it good, obviously you have to pay for it.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    2626854 said:
    Well, its down to you want it cheap or you want it good. If you want it good, obviously you have to pay for it.

    Take this $1.50 adapter, add proper insulation within the transformer ($0.02), re-arrange the component layout to avoid the clearance/creepage issues ($0), use a 431-style shunt voltage regulator to provide more accurate output regulation ($0.05), label it 500mA instead of 1A, use a proper Y2-class capacitor ($0.06), add a 1uF X5R capacitor to spare the output electrolytic the worst of the switching noise ($0.01) and then I'd be willing to call it decent for what a 500mA adapter would be good for.

    Something that performs at least somewhat well and isn't a death trap should certainly be possible for $2 but I have very low expectations of finding one under $5. Will I get proven wrong? We'll see. The most interesting ones are likely going to be the ~$10 one: expensive enough that there should be no excuse for any major flaws or omissions, inexpensive enough that there may be no shortage of companies selling junk that belongs in the $2 bin and getting away with it.
  • SoNic67
    This was a great tear-down explanation. Sadly very few people today understand the presented technical issues.
    And always there will be people willing to risk their lives for a buck less on the price.
  • blackmagnum
    Your article may save someone's life, thanks.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    749236 said:
    Your article may save someone's life, thanks.

    Yup, that's the most important reason for this series. Satisfying my curiosity and having THG pay me for it are nice bonuses.
  • shrapnel_indie
    1737641 said:
    This manufacturing, and marketing of imitation goods, and in this case electronic products can have very serious consequences, to the point of death, or serious injury. Thank you for your awareness, and knowledge about chargers that are not worth saving a couple of dollars.


    When penny pinchers look to make a product at the cheapest price.... well a couple of cents difference in manufacturing costs can and will be made to get the profit margins up. In this case, t goes beyond profit making, and goes into product safety.


    AND... that makes me wonder if the CE certification is as bogus as the design and parts are flawed.
  • SoNic67
    As an electrical engineer that works with both US Listed products and CE marked ones, I can certainly say that anyone can slap a CE certification on their product, because CE is "self policed", not mandatory third-party verified as in US/Canada.
  • edlivian
    Thank you for that informative breakdown, this info is indispensable, when i try to convince family to never touch bargain bin power adapters
  • g-unit1111
    767784 said:
    This was a great tear-down explanation. Sadly very few people today understand the presented technical issues. And always there will be people willing to risk their lives for a buck less on the price.


    Yeah getting people to part with their money definitely isn't easy, especially on something mundane that people wouldn't think about like a cell phone charger. I have a phone that is a giant PITA with chargers and it helps to know that you have one that is certified and works with it as advertised. Going cheap isn't an option here, and it is good to see tear downs like this so you know what you are getting into.
  • canadianvice
    767784 said:
    As an electrical engineer that works with both US Listed products and CE marked ones, I can certainly say that anyone can slap a CE certification on their product, because CE is "self policed", not mandatory third-party verified as in US/Canada.


    With how they make it into the country, I doubt even "policed" ones have much trouble.

    One need look no further than your local dollar store - if customs were up to snuff, they could not sell half the counterfeit or infringing stuff they otherwise do.
  • canadianvice
    1736052 said:
    how about, listing an alternative without all the flaws? Complaining does not fix anything. List an adapter without all the flaws that costs exactly the same for people to buy? Wouldn't that be a better article? Same price, a lot less risks for consumers? win?


    I think the point of this article is that at this price point, you're not finding it.

    Go to your local Staples or w/e, buy one of the own brand chargers. They're safe, and relatively inexpensive. Plus, consider the associated costs - let's pretend for a moment this thing isn't liable to suddenly kill you (and this has been documented, btw. Not long ago a Chinese woman had the voltage jump while she was talking on a charging iPhone and was electrocuted to death) , you plug things in that are worth $200+. I think if you can spring for $200+, you can spring the $10 it costs to get a legit charger.

    The only reason you pay your $20s is because Apple. You can buy plenty of third party (legitimate) options for as low as $10 Canadian Pesos.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    884511 said:
    One need look no further than your local dollar store - if customs were up to snuff, they could not sell half the counterfeit or infringing stuff they otherwise do.

    Forget about customs: when the manufacturer lies beyond the victim's legal system's reach, many countries' laws make the first importer or seller liable for illegal imports. If a local shop imports illegal adapters from China (adapters with fake safety marks, don't pass local safety standards, infringes trademarks, copyrights, etc.), then the store or whoever within jurisdiction imported the illegal goods inherits the manufacturer's liabilities.

    If someone suffers losses, injuries or death from such an adapter in a jurisdiction with decent consumer safety regulations and the adapter can be traced back to the local seller/importer beyond reasonable doubt, that person/company may get a rough couple of years.

    As for the CE mark, it isn't enforced to any degree outside the EU, unlike UL and TUV which are present worldwide and actively enforce their marks. That's why Chinese manufacturers put the "Chinese Export" mark on practically everything as long as it doesn't ship through the EU.
  • Olle P
    First: I'd never call this a "fake" unless it was advertised as being an Apple product.
    Second: In the list of "Pros" I miss the "will provide 5V even after most components are fried"... ;)

    1736083 said:
    Take this $1.50 adapter, add [parts to a value of $0.15, and] re-arrange the component layout to avoid the clearance/creepage issues...
    I'm not sure that's possible within the budget and volume constraints.

    330834 said:
    ... that makes me wonder if the CE certification is as bogus as the design and parts are flawed.
    CE isn't even supposed to be a certification but more of a (legally binding) declaration from the manufacturer that the product fulfill EU regulations.
    In this case it's hard/difficult to tell who's the manufacturer and thus the marking is of no use.
  • SoNic67
    There are no actual checks for the CE certifications. Without any checks in place, it's just a fake certification anyway...