Back To Compact
After our first look at compact adapters in the Apple 5W Adapter Knock-offs: The Colorful A1265 Tear-Down, it's time to test something a little more reputable and hopefully see how much safety can be crammed into a compact form factor designed correctly.
Stepping in as the first ~$10 entry is Aukey’s PA-U32, with its foldable prong design to reduce travel volume and poking hazard, two USB ports to plug devices into, and a claimed output of up to 2.4A.
The first thing that struck me when I picked up the PA-U32 was how much heavier it seemed than our previous contender, which I promptly confirmed with a digital scale. At 33g (versus 16g), there is clearly more meat inside. We'd expect that from an adapter offering more than twice the nominal current output rating.
Body-to-body, the PA-U32 is also about 80% bigger than the fake A1265, including the space taken by the folded prongs. Subtracting their width from the U32’s height (giving us an approximate size without the folding mechanism) reduces the volume difference to 40%.
The PA-U32’s packaging consists of one large cardboard sheet folded into a generic box with a label slapped on top to seal its contents. Since the box is about twice the size of the adapter, an additional piece of folded cardboard is used to cradle the adapter and prevent it from rattling around. There are no accessories, manuals, or other bundled items included.
On the outlet-facing side, we find two prongs recessed flush with the adapter (apart from a ridge on the edge to facilitate flipping them to their working position). The folding mechanism provides a decent amount of holding force in both positions, so accidental flips should be uncommon. What does that random AQH31 stand for? Online searching failed to yield clues. My best guess would be an internal part number for the NA-style plug end.
As with any glossy black surface, keeping it free from dust and fingerprints proves impossible.
Much of the time, I tear through units without looking at their online product pages. But when I checked the one for Aukey’s PA-U32, I found some obvious copy/pasting issues. While the specs correctly state 12W, its 2.4A/5V output gets listed as the input. Moreover, the output gets listed at twice what the adapter is supposed to be rated for. There is no way a 12W adapter can output 4.8A at 5V.
I’m scratching my head about how these silly mistakes got through uncorrected and remained live for so long. Because I notified Aukey, they may have been corrected by the time you read this.
It’s Going To Be One Of Those Days
Looking at the only seam on the whole unit, and judging by the lack of movement when squeezing/pulling in various directions, this must be another one of those welded-shut affairs requiring the careful application of crushing force to crack open without destroying its internals.
Along the whole perimeter, this is the most promising area where the side wall bows out the most from the bottom cap.
The label area contains identifying information, along with electrical specifications and applicable certifications. We get an ETL mark for compliance with CSA 22.2 and UL 60950-1, which are baseline safety against electric shock, heat injury, mechanical integrity, and fire hazard.
One thing that bothers me about ETL marks is that the “ETL-Listed” directory does not appear to be searchable by file number. At least searching for the model does return a sensible result telling us that this adapter is manufactured by Dongguan Oriental Hero Electrical Factory and distributed under the Aukey, BC Master, H, OPPC, PPC, and "blank" brands.
Also of interest is the Level-VI logo that promises modern-day efficiency.
The adapter’s face features two “AiO” USB ports capable of providing a combined maximum of 2.4A, Aukey’s brand, and a small white power indicator LED to the left of those ports (though it's hard to see under the plastic film).
Upon removing the plastic film, I noticed hairline cracks radiating from the tiny LED hole. I’ll hazard a guess that fast, uneven cooling of the thin plastic shell caused these. The area still feels solid, which means these are only surface cracks. For now.
Goodbye Surface Finish
It's time to break out the mini-vise, work that seam until one side pops apart, stuff it with shims, and pry until the rest breaks off.
Many minutes of squeezing and prying later, the plug-bearing cap came off with no wires attached. This adapter definitely won’t fall apart from normal use or minor accidents.
Instead of wires going to the pokey bits, the two prongs have a perpendicular pin slightly protruding from their respective sides making contact with fingers extending from the adapter’s AC board. To assist with assembly, two plastic posts near the top help support and locate the rest of the adapter’s guts on top of the cap.