Big advances in small travel chargers

There have been huge improvements to travel chargers in recent years. They’re smaller, lighter and more powerful. You no longer need to carry one of those large white charging blocks for your MacBook, a huge power block for your PC notebook, or a a large multi-port charger for simultaneous charging of your computer, phone, tablet, and other devices The improvements are a result of new technology and some very innovative designs that pack more capabilities into a much smaller package.

I’ve been using the new GaNPrime 65W #735 Charger from Anker, one of the leaders in this category. Surprisingly, the newest technology is coming from an accessory company and not Apple; in fact Apple’s chargers are still generations behind.

This new line of GaNPrime chargers are quite amazing, considering some are only twice the size of the tiny 5 watt chargers Apple used to provide with their iPhones and about one-third the size of the standard white MacBook charger.

Chargers are rated by the maximum power capacity they can produce for charging one or more devices. Anker has three models, 65 watts, 120 watts, and 150 watts that cover most needs. Notebooks require 30 to 80 watts for charging, depending on the make and model. (A MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro require 30 watts.) When you want to charge multiple devices at once, you’ll want another 20 to 40 watts to support a phone and tablet or even a second computer.

I’ve been using the 65 watt model 735 on recent travels and it works well with my MacBook Pro 14-inch and iPhone. It has 3 ports: two USB-C and one USB-A, for simultaneous charging of up to three devices at once, and it has built in intelligence to stermine the amount of energy it delivers to each port to minimize charging time.

Many of today’s devices that use Type C connectors will charge faster when there is more power available, so the more powerful adapters mean faster charging. The 65 watt Model 735 sells for $59.99, but is currenty on sale at 20% off on its website. Its big brother, the 120 watt Anker 737 GaN Prime, costs $95 before a 20% discount.

While we’ve made a lot of progress in reducing the number of chargers we carry, we’ve regressed when it comes to cables. Many of our newer devices use a USB-C connector for charging (a tiny oval shaped plug), while older devices use the larger USB-A. Many products, such as most Kindles, still use the older USB-mini. So depending on what you travel with, you’ll need multiple cable types: a USB-C to Lightening cablefor an iPhone, iPad and Airpods; a USB-C to USB-C cable for a computer, headphone, and Android phone; and a a USB-mini to USB-C cable for powering some older devices.

Be aware of cables available with configurable ends that turn them into any one of these combinations, such as this one or this one. My experience has been that many of them aren’t reliable, particularly those with swappable ends. I prefer single function cables from a anme brand such as Apple, Anker, or Amazon own brand. Also note that many Lightening cables are not “MFi Approved, ” meaning they are using unauthorized Apple suppliers for the cable connectors.

Lastly, when traveling internationally, we need plug converters to accommodate the different outlet plugs. I usually bring just one or two travel plug adapters, but also take a portable power strip such as this to charge multiple devices at the same time.

We’ve come a long way from requiring a different power adapter for each of our devices, but we still need a variety of cords. But that might improve if the EU has their way. They’re trying to force Apple to replace its unique Lightening connector with a USB-C port for all its phones.

by Phil Baker