Gear We Love: Anker Quad-Port Wall Charger handles four devices and fits in your pocket
At a Glance
There’s a lot of gear out there for your Apple devices, but how do you know which are worth your time and what’s not worth your money? In our Gear We Love column, Macworld’s editors tell you about the products we’re personally using—and loving.
I spent the past week on vacation with the family, and, like many families these days, we faced the challenge of keeping multiple electronic devices charged. But instead of packing a slew of individual power accessories, we brought just one: Anker’s 36W Quad-Port USB Wall Charger, a four-port power adapter that costs only $20 from Amazon—just a buck more than Apple’s single-port 12W USB Power Adapter.
The 36W Quad-Port USB Wall Charger (which I’ll call the Quad-Port Charger from here on out) provides up to 7.2A of total power (at 5V) through four USB ports; to juice up, you use the USB cable that came with each of your devices. The charger is ready for international travel, supporting 100V to 240V input.
Interestingly, instead of four identical USB ports, the Quad-Port Charger has two labeled Apple and two labeled Android. According to Anker:
The Apple ports are especially designed to accommodate the circuit design of Apple products while the Android ports are especially designed to accommodate the circuit design of Android phones…USB-charged devices look for a USB pin signal before they accept a full-speed charge. Most devices use a standard USB pin signal; Apple devices and a few others, like the Galaxy tab, require specialized pin signals. Our Android and Apple ports are hard-wired to accommodate these two types of charging authentications. However, an Apple device can (usually) still charge from an Android port and vice versa, sometimes at a slower speed, but oddly, often also at full speed.
What this means from a power standpoint is that each Apple-labeled port provides a maximum output of 2.1A, while each Android-labeled port provides a maximum output of 1.5A. For my Apple-centric family, it means that we can charge two iPads at the fastest speed using the two Apple-labeled ports, and two iPhones at 1.0A—the maximum draw for an iPhone—using the two Android-labeled ports.
(Note that you can connect any combination of devices to the Quad-Port Charger. For example, it can charge four iPads simultaneously, though only two of them will charge at the fastest rate. Specifically, if you connect an iPad to either of the Android-labeled ports, it gets a maximum of 1.5A of juice. On the other hand, if you connect an Android device to one of the Apple-labeled ports, that device will draw a maximum of 0.5A, due to the different circuitry. An iPhone or iPod touch will draw a maximum of 1.0A, regardless of which port you connect it to.)
Of course, you can also charge things other than iOS and Android devices, provided those devices don’t attempt to draw more power than the Quad-Port Charger’s ports are designed to provide. For example, during our trip, I also charged a Logitech UE Boom speaker, a Plantronics Bluetooth headset, a Mophie Juice Pack Plus, and two different portable batteries.
Anker says that if the charger detects excessive power demand—say, if one or more connected devices attempts to draw more power than it should—the charger will automatically shut down to prevent damage to the charger (and, presumably, to any connected devices). I didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature, as my devices were apparently well behaved. But I can say that even when charging four devices (two iPads and two iPhones), the Quad-Port Charger never felt exceptionally hot.
Perhaps just as impressive as the Quad-Port Charger’s capabilities is its size. While many multi-device chargers are meant for the desktop, combining power ports with some sort of stand (such as with Xtreme Mac’s InCharge X5 and Kanex’s Sydnee), the Anker charger is just 2.5 by 2.5 by 1 inches in size (3.2 by 2.5 by 1 inches counting the plug prongs) and weighs just 4.6 ounces. It’s easy to slip into a suitcase, laptop bag, or even a pocket, making it a great travel companion. It also feels rock-solid and has no moving parts, which suggests that it should hold up well to the rigors of frequent travel. Unlike with Apple’s iPad charger, the Quad-Port Charger’s plug prongs don’t fold up, but I suspect that such a feature would make the charger less reliable over time.
Of course, if you don’t mind a bit of cable clutter, the Quad-Port Charger is also handy at home—it does as much as many “desktop” multi-device chargers at a fraction of the cost. But it’s as a travel accessory that the Quad-Port Charger truly shines: It’s powerful and versatile, but it’s also small, sturdy, and inexpensive. That’s a rare combination.