Tag Archives: charge

Nintendo’s Gone USB? Now, There’s a Switch!

A confession: I almost didn’t get this blog post out in time, because I’ve been immersed in the massive world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, on my new Nintendo Switch. I’m not going to go into detail about how I had to wait in line for a few hours on launch night to get mine–those who pre-ordered would admonish me for poor planning, and those who didn’t get theirs when they wanted feel bad enough as it is.

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One of the many launch-night lines. Mario’s got to be wondering why none of the cameras are pointing at him. Source: GoNintendo.com

This week’s post is about the surprising move to the increasingly mainstream USB-C connection standard for the Switch’s charger. Faithful readers may remember my discussion of the new USB-C connector when Apple incorporated it—and nothing else—into their latest MacBook Pro at the end of 2016. Does this mean the days of having to pack multiple chargers and cables are at an end? Well, maybe.

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The USB-C charging port at the bottom of the Switch. Source: CNet.com, click photo for their article, “Zelda at 30,000 feet: Playing the Nintendo Switch on a plane.”

It’s true that the Switch does get its power from a USB-C AC adapter. When placed in its included dock, the power cord fits in a compartment in the back, hidden by a discreet plastic panel. The other end is a beefy transformer brick, so make sure you have room on your power strip or wall outlet for it. To be safe, I invested in APC’s P11VT3 SurgeArrest Surge Protector, with its six widely-spaced outlets.

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So much room for activities! Source: APC.com, click photo for more info.

But what if I didn’t want to use Nintendo’s included power brick?

It’s not an entirely absurd question. The charm of the Switch is that it is entirely portable, as much a successor to Nintendo’s Game Boy and DS handhelds, as it is to their Wii and Wii U set-top consoles. When out of the tabletop dock, the Switch charges off a USB-C port on its bottom. Nintendo’s thinking, I’d wager, is that gamers who plan on traveling with their Switch in “handheld” mode will leave their dock plugged in to the home power outlet; and that those gamers will invest in a second Nintendo Switch charging brick to keep in their officially-licensed Switch Carrying Case while on-the-go.

And that is indeed a solution, if a bit clunky.

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The official Switch charging brick. Note that the cable is not removable. Source: SlashGear.com, click photo for their “Switch Buyer’s Guide.”

The dream of USB charging is only to have to carry one power brick, and only one charging cable. The cable is a separate piece in this dream, because you may need to use it to sync data between devices while not charging. USB is a multi-faceted standard, after all. The problem as I see it comes from the power needs of the various devices that employ USB-C chargers.

Let’s start with that MacBook Pro from last year. The 13-inch model uses a 61 Watt power adapter, and the 15-inch model uses an 87 Watt adapter. Their little sibling, the 12-inch MacBook from 2015 and 2016, uses a 29 Watt USB-C adapter. Apple’s official line is that the higher-wattage adapter will work just fine on devices with smaller power demands, but not vice versa. That is to say, go ahead and charge the 12- or 13-inch laptops with that 87 Watt 15-inch adapter, but don’t try to juice up your 15-inch laptop with only 29 or 61 Watts.

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Apple’s 87W USB-C Power Adapter, cable sold separately (of course it is). Source: notebookcheck.com

Okay, great, so I can use that charger on my Switch?

To determine the Switch’s power needs, a little electrical engineering math is required. The official Switch AC adapter outputs between 5 and 15 Volts at 2.6 Amps (most likely depending on whether the Switch is docked or not). Multiplying 15 by 2.6 gets 39 Watts, so the MacBook Pro adapters—be they 61 or 87 Watts—should make short work of delivering power to anything that needs less than that.

One mustn’t ignore those pesky Amps, though. The power supply you want to use must match or exceed your device’s needs, both in power (Wattage) and electric current (Amperage). My 29W MacBook adapter, for example, outputs either 14.5V at 2.0A if the attached device supports the USB Power Delivery (USB PD) standard; or 5.2V at 2.4A if it doesn’t.

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The “West Virginia” Formulas. Source: twoicefloes.com.

The Switch, as discussed in this Reddit thread, does indeed support USB PD. Since the Switch charges best at 2.6A or higher, my MacBook charger just falls short of the current needs; but it’s also about 10W shy on the power front, so it’s a non-starter either way.

That 87W MacBook Pro charger, on the other hand, delivers a maximum of 20V at 4.3A. Unless something goes horribly wrong, the Switch’s circuitry is smart enough to pull only as much power as it needs, at the highest current it can handle. The 87W charger can deliver all 15V and 2.6A without breaking a sweat. So that will work for your USB-C-equipped MacBook (or Pro), as well as your Switch.

But what if you want to use a multi-port charger?

This is where it gets tricky. In my living room, I have an Anker PowerPort Speed 5 USB Charger in a convenient spot next to my couch. This lets me juice up my phone, plus any other four USB-charged devices I can think of. For reference, my iPhone 7 comes with a 5W charger: 5V at 1A, so I’m in good shape as long as the PowerPort delivers at least that much per port.

From Anker’s website: “The Speed Series was created for one single purpose: To deliver the fastest charge possible to any and all USB devices.”

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Anker’s PowerPort Speed 5 USB Charger. Source: Anker.com.

Utilizing Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 power delivery standard, the PowerPort outputs between 3.6 and 6.5V at 3A (19.5W); between 6.5 and 9V at 2A (18W); or between 9 and 12V at 1.5A (again, 18W). Insufficient to juice up my Switch (which, for the record, does not support Quick Charge or Dash Charge, according to this write-up.)

The PowerPort is split up, with two QC3.0 ports (the blue ports in the photo above), and three “PowerIQ™” ports. The PowerIQ™ ports output 5V at 4.8A, with a limit of 2.4A per port. Again, not enough Voltage, not enough Amperage. I mean, it’s fine for my iPhone, just not for my Switch.

That’s fine. I expect to have to upgrade some of my charging accessories when I get a new gadget (remember that new surge strip I bought?). So I went back to Anker’s website to see what they could do for me and my Switch.

I started with their PowerPort 5 USB-C (below).

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Anker’s PowerPort 5 USB-C. Source: Anker.com.

 

 

From their spec list: “1 USB-C Port: 5V 3A max” This may actually do the trick, and here’s why: if you’ll recall, the Switch charger outputs between 5V and 15V. If I’m looking for a handy side-table solution for recharging the Switch when it’s out of its set-top dock, I may only need 5V; and since 2.6A is the current requirement, the PowerPort’s 3A spec meets that requirement, as well.

I was feeling adventurous, so I perused the rest of Anker’s selection, to see if they offered any USB charging solutions with higher Voltage. Their PowerPort+ 5 USB-C with USB Power Delivery outputs between 5V and 15V at 3A, or 20V at 2.25A, a maximum of 45W in any scenario.

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Anker’s PowerPort+ 5 USB-C with USB Power Delivery. Source: Anker.com.

I feel more confident ordering the PowerPort+, since it boasts USB PD support (just like the Switch, and even my MacBook charger). My rule of thumb is to match as many of the “manufacturer’s accessory” specs as possible, and this does just that.

Interestingly, Anker currently doesn’t sell any chargers with more than one USB-C port. I kind of get it. It’s still a new technology, and they’d certainly want to avoid any further problems with the spec, like they had last August.

But some of us also want to recharge our Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (sold separately, of course), which also uses a USB-C port!

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The Switch Pro Controller, shown with its USB-C cable attached on top. Source: CNet.com.

I imagine in most scenarios, the Pro Controller will charge on the side table (off that PowerPort+, for example); while the Switch sits docked across the room, by the TV. When it’s time to leave the house, the Switch comes out of its dock and the Pro Controller stays home. The Switch can then travel with its own one-port charger—be it from Nintendo, or another reliable supplier (as long as that charger meets the specs); or a multi-port charger, again, like the PowerPort+.

Anker’s chief rival in the USB charging space, Aukey, does offer a charging station with two USB-C ports, the Amp USB-C 6-Port Charging Station with Quick Charge 3.0.

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Aukey’s 2-USB-C Charging Station. Aukey colors their QC ports green, as opposed to Anker’s blue ports. Source: AliExpress.com.

But look at the specs from Aukey’s site:

(Quick Charge 3.0): 3.6V-6.5V 3A   |   6.5V-9V 2A   |   9V-12V 1.5A

Remembering that the Switch (and by extension, its Pro Controller) does not support QC3.0, you’re probably not going to get that 6.5V/3A charge from either port.

For now, if you want a multiple-port solution that can charge a Switch OR its Pro Controller (but not both at the same time), I’m recommending the Anker PowerPort+ 5 USB-C with USB Power Delivery. If you only need one port, you might as well stick with Nintendo’s own charger.

One final word of warning: since USB-C is still so new; and since it’s always tempting to get the least-expensive cable you can; make sure you get a trustworthy USB-C cable to plug into your new charger, whatever you plan on powering. A good place to start is http://bensonapproved.com. From their website:

All USB Type-C (USB-C) Cables and Accessories are not created equal. Some will charge most efficiently, others might just fry your battery. Google Chromebook engineer and Caped Cable Crusader Benson Leung has been testing USB Type-C (USB-C) cables off Amazon, and it’s not just the no-brand products that have been failing. Benson’s campaign mostly consists of ordering USB Type-C (USB-C) cables off Amazon, testing them to see if they meet the minimum standards or if they’re just knock-offs, and then leaving Amazon reviews. Cables and chargers fail in all sorts of different ways, although incorrect resistors seem to be a common problem that Benson’s been finding. bensonapproved.com lists all USB Type-C (USB-C) Cables and Accessories approved by Benson. For more info follow us on Twitter @bensonapproved or contact us at bensonapproved@gmail.com.

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Benson Leung, Standards Upholder. Not a bad example to set. Source: ComputerWorld.com.

For the record, here are Benson’s recommended USB-C to USB-C cables.

So that’s this week’s post. If you’ve already gotten your Switch (or it’s on the way), I hope this post proves useful, and you can enjoy your new Nintendo system worry-free. After all, from one Zelda fan to another, “It’s dangerous to go alone.”

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Now, more than ever. Source: SecretToEverybody.com.

 

Oh, and if you refuse to get a new console when it first comes out, then this video is for you:

 

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Mophie’s new Magnetic Case is Attractive… Maybe TOO Attractive!

Last October, I complained about iPhone case maker Mophie’s lackluster iPhone 7 support. I wanted to follow up; in the interim, Mophie has added iPhone 7 support to its Juice Pack line of battery-equipped cases. Specifically, they have launched the Juice Pack Air for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. According to Mophie, “The protective juice pack air battery case has the power to extend the life of your iPhone 7 to a total of 27 hours,” and “the life of your iPhone 7 Plus to a total of 33 hours.” Please note that this is not an additional 27 or 33 hours; it simply adds backup battery life to the iPhone’s built-in battery.

The iPhone 7 case includes a battery with 2,525 milliampere hours (mAh) of charge, and the iPhone 7 Plus case has a surprisingly smaller 2,420 mAh battery. According to bgr.com, the internal battery of the iPhone 7 holds 1,960 mAh of charge; and the 7 Plus has a 2,900 mAh battery.

These numbers, while a bit arcane, can be more useful than promises of however many hours of life. Nobody uses their smartphones for just one thing, so promising a certain number of hours to do just that one thing doesn’t make sense. Howtogeek.com discusses battery health, and an iPhone app that can check it. They explain:

Finally, there’s an option to see how long your battery will last in an array of the phone’s states, whether its 3G talk time or 3G browsing, Wi-Fi, LTE, video, and more. Being able to check how much time you can expect the phone to go between charges can help you better gauge how you can use your iPhone if you find yourself far removed from a power outlet.

I’m always happy for extra battery life (road warrior that I am), but I do wish Mophie offered as many battery case options for the iPhone 7 as they do for the 6S: from the 1,560 mAh Juice Pack Wireless; to the 1,840 mAh Juice Pack Reserve; to the 2,750 mAh Juice Pack Air and waterproof Juice Pack H2PRO; to the 3,300 mAh Juice Pack Plus and storage-equipped Space Pack; all the way to the 3,950 mAh Juice Pack Ultra. Maybe they’ll add these larger-battery models for the iPhone 7 in the future, but given how Apple keeps redesigning their phones every other year (if not every year!), they seem doomed forever to play catch-up. DOOMED!

Ahem.

In the meantime, I’m very happy with the newest feature of the Mophie Juice Pack: wireless charging. Now, this isn’t quite the “charging over the air” technology dreamt up  by Nikola Tesla (and demonstrated in this 2009 TED Talk from “Wireless electrician” Eric Giler):

In order to recharge the new Juice Pack, you place it on a suitable charging mat. What’s exciting is that Mophie has adopted the Qi wireless charging standard, so it works with ANY manufacturer’s Qi-enabled charging mat. In my own home, I use Mophie’s Charge Force Desk Mount in my office; but in my living room, I have a Qi™ Wireless Charging Pad from Belkin; and in my bedroom, I have Anker’s PowerPort Qi 10. And they all work with the Juice Pack, as long as they get enough power from the wall. Mophie recommends at least a 1.8-amp output. For reference, the standard iPhone wall charger puts out only 1.0 amps: enough to charge an iPhone directly, but not enough to deliver the necessary power to the iPhone in a Juice Pack case, and certainly not wirelessly. To be sure the phone will get enough steady power, I plug my Qi mats into USB ports at least powerful enough to charge an iPad (2.1 amps).

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Anker’s PowerPort Qi 10 Wireless Charging Pad. Some day, you may not even have to put the phone down on it to recharge. (Source: Anker.com)

 

The Belkin and Anker Qi mats just sit on the table passively, lighting up when I place my Juice-Packed iPhone 7 on them. Sometimes it’s not a bullseye, and the mat won’t charge the phone. It can be a little frustrating, trying to line up the case with the charging mat, but I’m optimistic that the technology will continue to improve. There’s one promising technology out there: WiPAT (Wireless Power Charger Position Alignment Technology) from South Korean developers SNPowercom.

The alignment problem does NOT occur, I’m happy to say, with Mophie’s own Charge Force mounts. This is because they auto-align the Juice Pack with magnets. These are sufficiently strong magnets in both case and dock, so that the phone can be held up entirely upright (and even lean forward!) without risk of falling or losing the necessary alignment. But the strong magnets do have a downside.

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Mophie’s Charge Force Desk Mount. It’s all done with magnets. (Source: Mophie.com)

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I didn’t put out a post last week. That’s because I was celebrating my birthday in Las Vegas. But without fail, inspiration hits, even when I’m on vacation. You see, I always keep my iPhone in its magnetically-enhanced Juice Pack case, and that combination is always in my pocket when I’m on the go. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for any magnetically-sensitive items I may also have in my pockets from time to time: namely, hotel room keycards.

While exploring Las Vegas, I kept my keycard and iPhone in the same pocket, only to discover upon returning to the hotel that the Juice Pack’s magnetic case had erased the strip on the back of the keycard. After getting a replacement keycard, I made sure to keep it in a different pocket from the iPhone.

So this is my warning to hotel travelers who have, or are thinking of getting Mophie’s Charge Force-enabled battery cases, such as the new Juice Pack for iPhone 7. Bear in mind the age-old question posed by the Insane Clown Posse:

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They work well. Very well. Perhaps a bit TOO well. ◼︎