GAN CHARGERS
Mac Life|March 2021
We compare the new breed of powerful and portable chargers for all your Apple devices
HOLLIN JONES

MANY PEOPLE NOW own several mobile devices, often some combination of laptop, smartphone, and tablet. So charging is more important than ever, but many of us are stuck with one higher powered charger that came with a MacBook, and other, lower–powered models for our phones.

GaN chargers are smaller and more power–efficient than traditional silicon–based models. Gallium nitride is able to conduct far higher voltages than silicon while generating much less heat. This means that GaN chargers can be smaller, since fewer components like heat sinks are required. They are also relatively inexpensive, especially compared to Apple’s own chargers.

As our devices move inexorably towards all–USB–C ports, a GaN charger can be a more portable and efficient way of powering all your gear. Many also feature the Power Delivery (PD) protocol, required for faster charging. It’s also worth noting that none of these chargers ship with a USB–C cable, so you need to add your own, preferably a PD–compatible one, for maximum power transfer.

How we tested

Using two devices, a 16–inch MacBook Pro and an iPhone 12, for each charger we measured the time charging from empty to full battery. Where a charger had more than one port we also tested charging both devices at the same time, using a USB–C–to– Lightning cable for the iPhone 12. As the phone would always recharge first, the laptop would speed up after the phone reached 100% when using chargers featuring dynamic power balancing, which reallocated power back to the laptop.

Things to consider…

>>> Number of ports

The more ports, the more devices you can charge at once but also usually less power is available to each port in use. Some chargers switch this automatically as you connect more devices.

>>> Type of ports

Recent Mac laptops use USB–C, as does iPad Pro. iPhones still use Lightning, so a charger with an extra USB–A port means you can use older iPhone cables.

>>> Maximum wattage

A higher max wattage means faster charging overall. With multiple devices connected, a higher total wattage means more power to each port.

>>> Is Power Switching supported?

All devices on test have more than one port but not all can dynamically allocate power based on what’s connected.

> RAVPower RP-PC136

$53.99 From RAVPower, ravpower.com

1 With a detachable wall cable this well–built model has more reach than most others so is a little easier to use on a desktop. With 65W of total power it has two USB–C PD and two USB–A ports so up to four devices are supported, with the available power allocated accordingly. Plug in one USB–C cable to get the full 65W and a second to send 45W to the first and 18W to the second. Other combinations of USB–C and USB–A affect power allocation differently.

It was able to charge the MacBook Pro in just over two hours and the iPhone 12 in 1h 38m. With both connected at once the phone charged slightly slower, but in a comparable time, and the laptop in 2h 53m.

This model is compact though the wall cable adds some bulk. If travelling you could always try borrowing a wall cable at your destination, for ultimate portability. Its form factor is unique among the chargers on test, and may be of particular appeal.

+ More physical range

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