ABCSell AR-18 USB Power Adapter Tear-Down: Another Death Trap

One More Death-Trap Adapter For The Record

While my expectations weren’t particularly high, my previous generic adapter tear-downs made me slightly optimistic about the possibility of finding a decent ~$3 adapter. However, the AR-18 clearly demonstrates that I hadn’t scraped the bottom of the barrel yet by showcasing the complete lack of isolation I had expected to see in my Colorful tear-down (but didn’t find). Let’s recap.

The Good:

  • Very low standby power
  • Level VI efficiency up to its maximum test load
  • Best output quality among cheap adapters so far
  • Didn’t self-destruct

The Bad:

  • Pathetic 0.96A out of 3.1A claimed output

The Ugly:

  • Non Y-class EMI filter capacitor
  • Insufficient creepage distance between primary and secondary board traces
  • Feedback winding wound directly atop the output winding

In short: extremely unsafe construction. Don’t buy. Crush and recycle if you own one.

Daniel Sauvageau is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He’s known for his feature tear-downs of components and peripherals.
  • lazymangaka
    Another awesome teardown! Thanks for doing these!
  • dudmont
    Sauvageau, you've got a touch Doc Brown in you, don't you? "Now where am I going to find that 1.21 gigawatts?....."
  • chaz_music
    For me, the picture of the housing bottom side (plug view) is all that is needed. It does not have a UL or ETL mark on it. These are safety agency marks that certify that the device won't kill you. :)

    For Europe, you would also have a CE mark. I have found many power supply products in the past few years without UL or ETL on them. I won't use them if those marks are not there. That is because I am an engineer who has to make products that meet UL/ETL and CE. The requirements to meet these agency tests check for exactly the same thing that you showed in your tear down. And you did a great job!

    Anything that connects to the utility or mains should have safety marks for your country.

    - Charles
  • wuethrichtech
    @dudmont .... ahhhh look, its retarted....
  • wuethrichtech
    idk, i understand things in this world almost well enough to do tear downs like this...which is why i find myself torn. All the saftey features we would require if it were made here are left out and millions of these must be all around the world... where are the deaths? where are the fires that were not caught in time?

    yet having a decent understanding, If this sorta crap not only snuck by but was tolarted and produced be extra woried about living in an apt where joe schmo the window licker is going to put one of these in every room and thinks he can rebuild his ebike battery with a pile of 18650s10w soldering iron and no bms
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    20927821 said:
    All the saftey features we would require if it were made here are left out and millions of these must be all around the world... where are the deaths? where are the fires that were not caught in time?
    If the adapter is the only thing nearby, it'll burn out, leave a scorched wall outlet and dry-wall, probably go unreported. If there are tons of things nearby and many of them are possible causes, then the fire will burn all of them beyond recognition and the exact cause may be left undetermined.

    For deaths by electrocution to occur, the user needs to provide a relatively low impedance to ground, which usually isn't the case when people are on dry ground and their phone is the only thing they are touching. Even a shock from 240Vac while wet and grounded isn't a guaranteed death, it'll definitely be painful well beyond anything that could be considered acceptable exposure. If you look for non-lethal shock reports, those are plentiful. Any of those could turn lethal under more unfortunate circumstances.

    When all it takes to make things significantly safer is a tiny bit more care in the board layout, sufficiently wide insulation tape between transformer layers and some sleeving at least on the secondary, there really is no excuse for these death-trap grade adapters to exist. These things are accidents waiting to happen, only a matter of when and what the circumstances will be when they do.
  • jdog2pt0
    Could spend your whole life tearing apart this cheap crap, and if you like electronics tear downs (especially unsafe ones) check out Bigclive on youtube. Otherwise, my rule of thumb when buying chargers and the like is Anker and be done with it.
  • gasaraki
    Why don't you tear apart a name brand non-apple charger for once? Like an Anker Quick-charger or something. Or show us a name brand Samsung or LG charger. Tearing apart no name chargers are well and good but no one is going to buy those crap.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    20930057 said:
    Why don't you tear apart a name brand non-apple charger for once?
    I've had at least three of those: SilverStone UC01, Aukey PA-U32, Philips SPS8038, four if you count the PrimeCabkes/iKits charging station / device organizer which is also miles ahead of generic adapters.

    As for "nobody would buy those", I'm pretty much certain millions of these dangerous adapters are bought by unwary people every year, hence the importance of promoting awareness of how unsafe they can be. Both of my sisters have a couple "dollar store specials" which I'm planning to trade them for as I find adapters that meet my grade.

    At the moment, Aukey's PA-U32 is at the top of my list, as does another device from a new name in this category, albeit after modding to fix what looks like an unfortunate design flaw in what otherwise appears to be a top-notch adapter. You'll see that last one in late-May.

    As for seeing more Aukey or some Anker, Roger got me a pair of each. The first one's tear-down will likely be out in June. I meant to start working on it while dog-sitting at my sister's home but forgot to bring my other adapters, so that's on hold until the next time I drop by my apartment later this week.
  • tproveau
    I have a two usb out 2.4A each outlet 4.8A total power adapter made by Ubiolabs that is a very big seller since it retails at Costco in the US. It is UL listed I.T.E. power supply, FCC and RoHS compliant. Model # is CHG1003 B/N 110116HJT. Input 100-240 volt~50/60Hz 0.7A. My question is it looks to be a safe unit considering the label but is it? The package comes with two five foot long USB to micro USB cables and sells for eight bucks. Why buy the unknown stuff from China when you can get this package locally so inexpensive? Also being so inexpensive is it up to what it appears to be?