By Nick Guy
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If you need a new charger for your USB-C–powered MacBook or PC laptop, the safest bet is to get the same model that shipped with it. But if the stock charger is difficult to find or expensive, or if you want additional charging ports, we think Nekteck's 4-port 72W USB Wall Charger with Type-C 60W Power Delivery is the best option. We tested 19 USB-C chargers with seven computers and found that the Nekteck charger is powerful enough to charge almost every USB-C laptop at full speed, and it's USB-IF certified, which means it should be safe to use. It also has three USB-A ports for charging other devices at the same time, and it's affordable.
The Nekteck charger is one of the least expensive replacement chargers available, yet it works as well as more expensive competitors. It's the same height and thickness as Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro charger and only about 0.7 inch longer, but it includes three 12-watt USB-A charging ports alongside its USB-C charging port. It also comes with a USB-C charging cable and a long power cord to help you reach far-away outlets.
If you don't want the extra USB-A charging ports and would rather have the smallest possible charger for your computer, we recommend Anker's PowerPort Speed PD 60. This 60-watt charger is smaller than what Apple sells but just as powerful, and it's USB-IF certified. You have to provide your own USB-C cable—you can use the one that came with your charger, or buy a new one in whatever length you need.
The 15-inch MacBook Pro requires a higher-power—and more expensive—charger. The best replacement is Insignia's Type-C Wall Charger, a 90-watt model that's perfect for the job. It's just a bit larger than Apple's own charger, but it includes a built-in USB-C charge cable for half the price of what a full replacement set would cost from Apple. Like all of our recommendations, it's USB-IF certified. Plus, it's readily available in Best Buy stores across the country, making it an easy pick if you need to grab something today.
If you're okay with sacrificing some charging speed in exchange for saving some money, or if you need to charge one of Apple's 2018 iPad Pros (which maxes out at 45 watts), then the ZMI Turbo 45W Wall Charger is your best bet. It still charges at twice the speed of the 18-watt chargers Apple includes with its latest iPads, and it features a detachable (and replaceable) USB-C cable, which our cable testing equipment verified is safe.
Why you should trust me
Along with a dedicated core of Wirecutter writers and editors, I've been neck-deep in trying to make sense of the surprisingly confusing USB-C standard since early 2015. In addition to this guide to chargers, I wrote our comprehensive guide to USB-C adapters, cables, and hubs, as well as our guide to Thunderbolt 3 docks.
I also consulted with Nathan K., a volunteer with Google's Top Contributor Program. He's an independent tester who has worked with Benson Leung, a famed (in these circles) Google engineer who first brought to light potential issues with USB-C accessories. Nathan tests with professional hardware and software, reporting his findings for free. He didn't have final say on any of our picks but rather provided general guidance on the topic.
Who should get this
Every computer comes with a charger, but at times you might need or want an extra: Some people like to have one charger that they leave on their desk and another to toss in their bag; others like to have a charger in every place they work. And, of course, sometimes chargers get lost or broken, so you need a replacement.
Given the mess that is currently USB-C power, the safest option is to just buy a spare of the charger that came with your computer—you know that it works, and works safely. However, while some PC makers let you buy a replacement for the charger that came with your laptop, not all do, and, oddly, sometimes a spare stock charger isn't easy to find and purchase. These adapters are also often designed specifically for the computer they came with, so they might not work as well (if at all) with other computers if you ever upgrade or want to use the charger with multiple computers. If your laptop's stock charger is difficult to find or expensive, if you want a charger you know will work with other laptops down the road, or if you want something that can also charge your other mobile devices at the same time, consider the models we recommend here.
This guide covers chargers for laptops that get power via a USB-C connection and specifically use USB Power Delivery (USB PD), a technology that lets USB-C transmit the high power required to charge a laptop. Most laptops still use traditional power adapters, but USB PD is slowly becoming more common. Popular laptops that charge via USB PD include Apple's 12-inch MacBook and 2016 (and later) MacBook Pro models, Lenovo's X1 Carbon, HP's Spectre x360, recent Dell XPS 13 models, and the Asus Chromebook Flip C302SA.
You can also charge any USB-C tablet or smartphone with one of these chargers, though few will benefit from USB PD—if you aren't charging a laptop, you can save a good amount of money by getting a lower-powered USB-C charger made for phones and tablets.
How we picked
In the early days of USB-C, no single charger worked with every computer. PCWorld tested a pile of chargers in December 2015 and found plenty of issues when crossing brands. Thankfully, things are getting a little easier as the USB-C standard matures: In a March 2017 rematch, PCWorld found that with just a few exceptions, most current USB-C chargers will charge most current USB-C computers.
We focused our 2018 search on the list of chargers that have been certified by the USB Implementers Forum, which means they've passed the USB-IF Compliance Program. Being on this list isn't an absolute requirement (for example, none of Apple's chargers are on this list, but we're comfortable recommending them because of Apple's reputation), but it does provide a starting point since these chargers have at least been through testing. We tested every charger on the list that supported at least 45-watt charging. Most USB-C–based computers can draw at least that much power, and lower-powered chargers don't cost significantly less. For our laptop picks, we focused on 60-watt-and-above chargers that can charge the widest array of laptops at full speeds.
In December 2018, we did a search for 45-watt chargers that can fast charge the 2018 iPad Pros or smaller laptops. They're slightly cheaper, and a good choice if you don't need to charge a laptop. We used mostly the same criteria, but found some trusted brands making chargers that were worth considering even without certification from the USB-IF.
How we tested
We first plugged each charger into a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro and then opened the System Information app. The Power listing under the Hardware heading shows information about the computer's battery, the system's power settings, and the connected charger, including the charger's maximum wattage. In our tests, the wattage the computer was reading matched up with what each charger claimed (or, in the case of Apple's 61-watt adapter, which measured at 60 watts, came close enough that the difference could be due to measurement inefficiency).
We then double-checked the results using Satechi's USB-C Power Meter. This tool, which you insert between the charging cable and the computer's USB-C port, displays the voltage and amperage (which, multiplied together, give you the wattage) when charging. We performed this test in 2017 using the MacBook Pro, a fifth-generation Lenovo X1 Carbon, a fifth-generation Dell XPS 13, and an Asus Chromebook Flip C302SA; we repeated the test with new chargers in 2018 on 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, a Dell XPS 13, an HP Spectre 13, an Acer Swift 5, and a Lenovo Yoga 920. Though the chargers we tested provided the right amount of power with each of these computers, your mileage may vary with other laptops—some computers may not work with some chargers, and saying which combinations won't work without trying them all is impossible. We can say, however, that HP computers tend to work with only HP chargers.
We then compared the size, price, and extra features of all the chargers we tested. We favored smaller chargers, which are easier to pack and carry, but we also looked for thoughtful features such as included cables. Though some chargers had extra USB-A ports, we considered that a bonus feature, not a determining factor.
We focused on iPad Pro performance for the 45-watt chargers. We tested our finalists by plugging each charger into a fully depleted iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 3rd generation), using a Satechi power meter to measure the power draw, and recording the tablet's charge at 30 minutes and at one hour from the start. We also noted the maximum amperage and voltage.
We used a Total Phase Advanced Cable Tester to test any USB-C–to–USB-C cables included with the chargers to make sure the cable follows that official standard. Nonstandard cables have been known to cause problems, including destroying the devices they're meant to charge.
Our pick: Nekteck 4-port 72W USB Wall Charger with Type-C 60W Power Delivery
Right now, the safest option for replacing a USB-C laptop charger or adding a new one to your collection is to get another of your laptop's own charger. But if the stock charger is difficult to find or expensive, or if you want something that should work with multiple computers, Nekteck's 4-port 72W USB Wall Charger with Type-C 60W Power Delivery is the best choice (unless you have a 15-inch MacBook Pro). It's small, powerful, USB-IF certified, and inexpensive. The 60-watt charging capability means it will charge almost any current USB-C computer at full speed. And its three additional 2.4-amp USB-A ports mean that you can charge your phone, tablet, and other accessories at the same time without having to carry separate power bricks.
Like almost all of the chargers we tested, the Nekteck charger allowed for the proper power draw on all five of our test laptops: a 2016 MacBook Pro (the 13-inch, four-Thunderbolt-3-port version), a Dell XPS 13, an HP Spectre 13, an Acer Swift 5, and a Lenovo Yoga 920. We measured approximately 20 volts at 3 amps on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and 20 volts at 2.25 amps on the 45-watt machines. (These numbers aren't precise, because the charger and computer negotiate the current based on a number of factors, including the battery's current charge level.)
The Nekteck charger is the same width and height as Apple's 61-watt charger, but it's about 0.7 inch longer. That means it's still pretty small and plenty suitable for travel, despite its extra power. Instead of plugging directly into the wall with fold-down prongs, like Apple's model, the Nekteck comes bundled with a 4-foot power cord. The included USB-C cable is just over 3 feet long, so the combined length gives you some room to stretch out away from the wall.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Nekteck isn't a terribly well-known brand, and it doesn't have the established reputation of a bigger player like Apple or Google. Everything we've seen in our testing, combined with the USB-IF certification, customer reviews, and our experience with Nekteck's customer support makes us confident in this pick. But if you're an extremely cautious person, you might feel more comfortable choosing a first-party charger.
Some of the Nekteck units we tested have a faint buzzing sound when using the USB-C port, but it doesn't seem to be all or even most of the units. Among our writers and editors who've tested various ones, some could hear the noise from a foot away, while others had to be within a few inches. Additionally, Nekteck acknowledged a coil-whine issue with a small batch of its chargers—a different but similar issue—telling us that it's been remedied and that the company will exchange any units with this defect. It's still a great charger, especially for travel, but if you tend to be bothered by electronic noise it may not be the best option for your everyday desk charger.
The extra cable length is a good thing for flexibility, but it can also be a bit much to handle all the cords. A simple Velcro tie can help tame the Medusa.
Runner-up: Anker PowerPort Speed PD 60
Anker's PowerPort Speed PD 60 is the best alternative if you want the smallest certified charger available with full-speed charging for 13-inch computers, and if you don't mind giving up our top pick's USB-A ports. Measuring about 2.5 by 2.5 inches, the Anker charger is noticeably smaller than Apple's 61-watt charger, yet it performs just as well for a much lower price. It doesn't come with a USB-C cable, but you can use your own, or you can choose one of our picks and still save money.
We trust Anker's products and its customer service based on years of positive experiences across dozens of items, and the 18-month warranty provides confidence that the company will take care of it if anything goes wrong. Unlike with Apple's chargers, though, you can't replace the power prongs if they get damaged or if you want a longer cable.
If you have a 15-inch MacBook Pro: Insignia Type-C Wall Charger
Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro has the highest power draw of any USB-C–charging computer—87 watts—and we've found only one third-party charger that can provide that much power. If you need an extra or a replacement, you could buy Apple's 87W USB-C Power Adapter, but bundled with a USB-C charge cable, that costs $100. Insignia's Type-C Wall Charger offers the same power for half the price, and at the time of publication it's the only high-power draw charger on the USB-IF list that can actually be purchased. It's the one to get if you want to charge your 15-inch MacBook Pro at the fastest speed—or even to just keep the battery from being drained during processor- and GPU-intensive tasks. It's also a great option if you need to purchase something from a brick-and-mortar retail store, as many Best Buy stores have it in stock for pickup.
The square power brick looks similar to an Apple charger, and it's only slightly larger: Apple's charger is 3.14 inches square and just under an inch thick, while Insignia's is 3.3 inches square and about 1.2 inch thick. Both have fold-out prongs, but the Insignia charger's can't be removed and replaced with a longer cord. It also has a permanently attached USB-C cable, meaning that if the cable frays, the entire charger must be replaced.
If you have a 2018 iPad Pro: ZMI Turbo 45W Wall Charger
If you need to charge one of Apple's 2018 iPad Pros that max out at 45 watts, or you're willing to charge a laptop slower than our top picks in order to save some money, then get ZMI's Turbo 45W Wall Charger. It's more than twice as fast as the 18 watt chargers Apple includes with the latest iPads, plus it comes with a detachable (and replaceable) USB-C cable that's safe, as measured by our cable testing equipment.
The bundled 18W charger will charge a 12.9-inch iPad Pro to 18 percent after 30 minutes, and 35 percent in an hour. ZMI's charger (and all other 45W chargers we tested) almost doubles that, providing 33 percent charge in half an hour, and 65 percent in one hour. It should also work with 45-watt laptops, including the 12-inch MacBook, but we didn't test with those.
ZMI's charger isn't the smallest 45W charger we've tested, but it's smaller than a laptop charger and will easily fit in most bags. It is roughly 2.25 inches square and just over an inch thick; the glossy, white plastic body is similar to that of an Apple charger. One end has fold-up wall prongs, and the other has a single USB-C port, to be used with the included 5-foot cable or any other USB-C cable. The only other charger that was competitive in this category has a permanently attached cable, which means you'll need to replace the entire charger if the cable breaks.
The one downside to the charger is that it's not USB-IF certified. ZMI CEO Brian Pan told us this is because it was originally designed to work with Xiaomi Mi phones, which use a different charging standard (ZMI is a Xiaomi-affiliated brand). He said that USB-IF certified PD chargers will launch next year.
What to look forward to
Anker released the PowerPort Atom PD 1 power brick, which Anker says is more efficient within a smaller package. It's a 27-watt USB-C charger that's only slightly larger than the standard Apple 5-watt charging brick. Anker also said that even more powerful chargers will join the Atom line in the future: The company will launch the 60-watt, two–USB-C–port PowerPort Atom PD 2 charger and the 100-watt, four-port (two USB-C and two USB Type-A) PowerPort Atom PD 4 charger.
We'll be testing Satechi's 75W Dual Type-C PD Travel Charger Adapter, one of the first chargers we've found to feature two USB-C ports. One supports 60-watt output, and the other 18-watt, meaning it's better suited for a laptop and a tablet or phone than two laptops. There are also two USB-A ports, with a combined maximum output of 12 watts.
USB-C is a rapidly evolving technology. As more computers that charge via USB-C are released, more companies will offer chargers for those laptops—and prices should come down, as well.
Apple's 61W USB-C Power Adapter is available everywhere—including in many local stores if you need one today—so it's much easier to purchase than spares of most non-Mac laptop chargers. And if anything goes wrong, Apple offers top-notch support. But it's more expensive than pretty much anything out there, it doesn't come with a USB-C charging cable, and you need to buy Apple's Power Adapter Extension Cable if you need a longer cord.
Monoprice's 60W 4-Port USB Smart Charger with USB-C and USB-A Ports is exactly the same as our top pick but with different branding and no USB-C cable. It's less expensive, but only when it's in stock, which isn't a given. If it is in stock, you may want to consider it.
Kanex's GoPower 72W USB-C Wall Charger with Power Delivery is identical to our main pick from Nekteck and the runner-up from Monoprice, but it costs twice as much as the former and doesn't come with a cable.
Nekteck's USB-IF Certified 65W USB C PD Charger is nearly identical to an Apple 61-watt charger, but black instead of white. It comes with a USB-C cable, it works as promised, and it's USB-IF certified. Despite appearances, the power prongs aren't removable. It falls short of the 60-watt Anker charger because it's larger, and its warranty runs for a year instead of 18 months.
Nekteck's USB-IF Certified 65W USB C PD Charger costs much more than our main pick. Its USB-C port is rated for higher power draw, but on our Mac, it registered as only a 60-watt charger. It also lacks the extra USB-A ports. This charger isn't a bad pick if size is your main concern, but we think most people will be better off with the less expensive version we recommend.
Incipio's USB-C 65W Optimized, Quick Charging Wall Charger is the smallest USB-C power brick we tested, and it properly registers at 65 watts on the Mac. The price is much higher than the other chargers we tested, though, so we don't think it's worth it.
We really like the small size of Nekteck's USB-IF Certified USB Type C Wall Charger with Power Delivery PD 45W, but it isn't that much less expensive than our more powerful pick and doesn't have extra ports, and the cable is permanently attached. Consider it if you have a 45-watt computer or really value size over speed.
With the exception of the models listed below, we didn't test stock or replacement chargers from laptop vendors such as Dell and HP because either they weren't readily available or we couldn't find independent tests to confirm that they're safe to use with laptops other than the ones they came with. However, as we mentioned above, these are safe options if you own the specific laptop(s) each is designed for.
Apple's 30W USB-C Power Adapter is best suited only for the company's 12-inch MacBook, and like the 61-watt version, it's expensive and doesn't come with a USB-C charge cable.
NewerTech's NuPower 60W USB-C Power Adapter was our original top pick and is very appealing on paper. However, we subsequently learned that it fried a testing rig in Nathan K.'s testing; he also says that the unit he tested had design flaws that make this model risky to use. NewerTech confirmed the issues to us, saying it was an isolated incident. "[T]he individual unit he received was faulty. Since then our stock has been tested and confirmed not to have any issues." Our pick is more powerful and affordable though, making it a better choice.
Inateck's 45W Portable USB-C Wall Charger is small and affordable, but we couldn't find any independent tests that confirmed its safety or reliability.
Lenovo's 65W Standard AC Adapter (USB Type-C) has a big, ugly power brick but doesn't offer any of the benefits of the other 65-watt chargers we tested.
Asus's Type-C 45W Power Adapter is smaller than Inateck's but uses a permanently attached cable, so if the cord frays you have to swap out the whole unit. Like the Inateck, it has prongs that don't fold down.
Nekteck's USB-IF Certified USB Type C Wall Charger is a little bit smaller than ZMI's 45-watt charger, and is certified, but its USB-C cable isn't detachable, meaning if something happens to the cable, or you need to use a different one, you have to swap out the entire unit. We also prefer the ZMI charger's folding prongs to Nekteck's non-folding ones.
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