USB-C charger plugged in on countertop, charging an iPad

With USB-C finally more-or-less standard across phones, tablets and laptops, and fewer and fewer manufacturers including chargers in the box with their products, a myriad of charging blocks have become available that promise to get your batteries topped up as quickly as possible.

To find the best USB-C charger for your devices, we tested 15 devices from respected manufacturers to find the best for your needs, whether you need to charge a phone, a laptop, or a bagful of accessories.

Best all-around charger

With 45 watts of power, support for all the major fast-charging standards, cool-running GaN circuitry and a slim design that makes it easy to plug in anywhere, the PowerPort Atom III was the most versatile single-port charger we tested.

Best basic phone charger

If you’re looking for a compact charger with modern fast-charging support to go with a new phone that ships without one, the PowerPort Nano Pro 511 does a great job at an affordable price.

Best higher-wattage charger for laptops and multiple devices

Supplying 100 watts of power across two USB-C and two USB-A ports, the PowerPort Atom PD 4 distributed power the most intelligently of the multi-device chargers we tested it, making it a great choice if you need to keep several devices ready to go.

Best all-around USB-C charger: Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim ($23.98, originally $35.99; amazon.com)

The Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim USB-C charger

Like the rest of the company’s recent chargers, the Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim is based on GaN (Gallium Nitride) rather than silicon, which conducts electricity more efficiently, stays cooler, and thus allows for smaller, lighter electronics.

The PowerPort Atom III Slim has a single USB-C port, and is rated at 45W (there are older versions still on the market that are rated at 30W, so make sure you are getting the higher capacity unit). We liked the smaller footprint slim design, which combines a slimer unit (5/8” thick) with a folding power prong. These make fitting it behind furniture (or carrying in your travel bag) easier.

The Atom III Slim supports multiple quick-charging standards, including IQ v.3, QC and PD, so it can deliver more power and do it faster than the stock charger if your phone or laptop has support for most of the many flavors of USB-C fast charging. It took 70 minutes to charge either our Samsung S21 or our iPhone 12 from 25% to a full charge and 75 minutes to go from 10% to a full charge. For our HP laptop, it took three and a half hours to bring it from 10% to a full charge, which is on par with the HP-supplied 40W charging block.

The Atom III Slim makes a good replacement charger if you’re looking to replace an older, slower, more cumbersome charging block. If your phone vendor doesn’t include a charger then this is a great charger if you also need to share it with your laptop when traveling. It is also useful if you need to do ”crisis charging,” where you forget to charge your device and need as much power as quickly as possible.

Best basic USB-C phone charger: Anker PowerPort Nano Pro 511 ($15.99, originally $19.99; amazon.com)

The Anker PowerPort Nano Pro 511 USB-C charger

If you just bought a new high-end phone from Apple or Samsung and you want a modern charging block that supports fast charging, the 20 watt Anker PowerPort Nano Pro 511 is a great choice. It’s affordable, small enough to use for travel (and cheap enough you won’t miss it if you lose it) and capable enough to power the latest gear. The Anker 511 is as small as the original USB-A Apple charging cubes and is one of the least expensive units in their product line.

The Power Port Nano Pro 511 supports the IQ standard and brought our Samsung S21 (set at fastest charging mode) to 50% charge within 20 minutes, and a full charge within 80 minutes. For the iPhone 12 mini, it also took 80 minutes to go from 50% to full charge.

Best higher-wattage USB-C charger for laptops and multiple devices: Anker PowerPort Atom PD 4 ($129.99, amazon.com)

The Anker PowerPort Atom PD 4 USB-C charger

If you’re looking for a single device that can simultaneously charge your laptop or tablet and a phone, (and even a smartwatch or headphones as well), we recommend the Anker Atom PD4. It is rated at 100W and comes with four ports, two each for USB-A and USB-C. It has a separate AC power cord that attaches to the unit.

The Atom PD4 supports PD v2 and uses GaN circuitry. Using a single USB-C port, you get the full 100W of power, if you use multiple ports, the power delivered is split between them, though regardless of how you slice up the power supplied the USB-A ports can only deliver 12W of power.

While this may seem like a limitation, in practice, this was enough to charge a typical group of devices. It charged our two test phones and HP laptop as quickly as the Slim 45W unit.

How to choose a USB-C Charger

The world of USB-C is full of complexities and requires some explanation (and you’ll have to be a little cautious about what you buy, since it still isn’t quite universal).

This is because the latest crop of mobile devices has very sophisticated power usage circuitry that enables very fast charging when the battery is almost out of juice: On most current flagship phones, you can charge a near-empty battery to half its full charge within 30 or 40 minutes. Another benefit is that most of the chargers that support one of the fast charging standards will top off the last 20% or just as quickly (for the Samsung phone, it was typically 30 minutes).

Basically, if you upgrade from an older charger, you could save yourself a lot of time, especially if you’re the type of person who often lets your phone run down to empty and you need to charge it in a hurry, so long as your device can support any of the USB-C fast charging modes.

You probably don’t need to be too picky, either. The important thing to remember is that if your device supports fast charging, it doesn’t make that much difference which charger you use so long as it supports the appropriate standard: only a few minutes separated our field as they charged our test devices from 25% to a full charge. Just make sure you select a charger that supplies the appropriate amount of power for your device or devices and you’ll have a good experience.

You’ll notice that all of our recommendations are for Anker products, which we found delivered the best charging performance regardless of capacity. Most are based on gallium nitride (GaN), which has begun taking the place of silicon in many products, as it conducts electricity more efficiently, offers better heat dissipation, and allows for smaller, lighter circuitry and devices that stay cooler in operation.

Be aware that major power supply brands such as Anker, IOGear and Nektek have dozens of charger models, often with very similar names, and they tend to update specs on their models often, sometimes keeping those same product names — so double check the specs and product numbers (Anker, for instance, typically gives each specific iteration of a product a number (“511”) along with a product name (“Nano Pro”) before you buy to ensure that you are getting what you want.

Also, make sure you use high-quality USB-C cables, Lightning cables and adapters​​. Cheaply made cables may not be able to carry the higher currents and wattages, and may not power your devices or even be a fire hazard, especially if you’re using a 100W charger. Some of the chargers come with appropriate USB-C-to-C or USB-C-to-lightning cables just to ensure that you are getting the best experience possible with your power delivery. And be careful if you are using the 60W or 100W models on older equipment: we blew out one of our laptop’s USB-C ports when doing the tests.

Next, while it is great that there are all of these fast charging standards, the downside is that distinguishing them isn’t easy, especially when it comes to mapping to a particular charger/device pairing. Devices with USB-C connectors may look alike from the physical plug, but the electronics and software supporting how power is delivered are a confusing array of “open” standards that each vendor has interpreted them somewhat differently.

For phones, tablets, and other devices that need less than 50W of power (such as most phones and smaller tablets), you’re probably OK, since many chargers support multiple standards. If you want optimal charging speeds for a device that draws more power, such as a laptop, 2-in-1 device, or pro tablet, you are probably better off sticking with the charger that came with your device, or a charger from the manufacturer.

Today’s standards include:

  • USB Power Delivery v3.1 was announced in May 2021 and supports up to 240W
  • PowerIQ v3.0 supports up to 100W and will work on USB-C-to-Lightning cables, (limited to 12W on USB-A ports)
  • Power Delivery Programmable Power Supply (PPS), which is unique to Samsung devices so far
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge v4.0 and above, which is compatible with PD (QCv2 gets you to 18W on USB-A, v4 can deliver 100W)

Apple’s MacBook Pro 16 supports 96W charging, but takes advantage of the Apple charger’s fast mode. Speaking of which, fast charging has been available on all iPhones since the iPhone 8: if you are using older chargers and you’re dissatisfied with charging speed, you might want to update to something newer and use a USB-C to Lightning cable.

Samsung has a confusing array of charging modes, including fast, super fast, and fast wireless modes (and then there’s Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra,  currently the only phone that supports a 45W fast charging mode). These are enabled on the Battery Settings screen. For our Samsung S21, none of our chargers gained any benefit from the ordinary fast setting and still operated at 5V: once we turned on the super fast mode, all of the chargers bumped up to deliver 9V.

How we tested

We focused our testing on two different elements of these chargers: design aspects and performance.

Design elements

  • Overall dimensions and charging capacity. The chargers come packaged in four rough groups. The most basic chargers typically come in small one-inch cubes that have fixed prongs on one end and one USB port on the opposite end. They typically promise 18W but usually operate at half that for the average phone. The next group comes in slightly larger packages that measure 2x2x2 inches and have one or more ports and are rated at 30-45W. The third group is more for laptops and larger tablet computers and are rated at 60W. Finally, there are the most expensive and largest chargers that can deliver 100W and usually come with multiple USB ports.
  • Number of USB ports. Most of the products have a single USB-C port, but there were several that came with multiple port configurations. Some of the chargers mix USB-A and USB-C ports so you can power older accessories, some mix different power level USB-C ports, meaning you have to be careful about what you plug in where. We found the extra ports to really limit the use cases, because you have to share the overall power across multiple devices, which somewhat negates having a fast charger.
  • Build quality, color(s) available. Anker sells its chargers in a variety of colors in addition to basic white and black. Some of the others sell both black and white models, which is useful if you are sticking these in your kitchen and want to maintain a certain design ethos. All of the units we tested showed no build defects.
  • Type of power connector: The chargers we examined were supplied with either fixed or foldable prongs (the latter is useful for travel) or a separate AC power cord (such as that used by Satechi and Anker’s Atom PD4 100w chargers). Another variation is the Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim, which uses prongs that are at right angles to the charger body, so it can fit behind your furniture without taking up a lot of space. Some chargers come with a set of travel adapters for non-US power outlets (all of the units that do can operate at a range of 110 to 220v depending on which adapter is used).
  • Charging circuitry. For years, chargers used the same silicon-based circuits that were used in the portable devices they connected to. Many recent devices are base on gallium nitride or GaN instead. This material has two big advantages: first, it conducts electricity more efficiently than silicon; second, it dissipates heat better. That means chargers can be much smaller while delivering the same amount of power and they can run a lot cooler, particularly important for those that supply a lot of power. If you have a choice and can afford to spend a little more, we think the GaN chargers are definitely worth it. Anker claims they are now on their third generation GaN design.
  • Warranty period. All Anker chargers come with 18-month warranties. Most of the others only come with 12-month warranties.

Performance testing

As a baseline, we tested the voltage output of each port on each device, both at initial charge and with a nearly full charge, and compared delivered power vs. promised or rated power, then we conducted charging speed tests as follows:

  • Time to get to a 50% charge from less than 10%. (Most of the newer devices manage power draw and boost it when batteries are low. Apple phones slow things down after 75% and Samsung after 90% so as to not damage batteries.)
  • Time to reach a 100% charge from a battery depleted to less than 10% full

We used the following devices for testing:

  • Klein tools ET920 USB analyzer, which we used to measure current and voltage drawn by and supplied by each charger.
  • HP Elitebook 850-G2 laptop (With USB-C ports, rated at 20v and 3.3A)
  • iPhone 12 mini (2.227 Ah battery)
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 (4 Ah battery, supports25W PPS super fast charging standard)

Other USB-C chargers we tested

Apple 20W USB-C adapter ($17.98, originally $19.00, amazon.com

We never got anywhere near 20W from this unit, and similar units from Anker with a single USB-C port charged our devices faster. (For the Samsung S21, it delivered 14.3W and for the iPhone 12, it delivered 13.5W initially.) Apple’s USB-C charger is also larger than the similarly spec’d and more capable Anker units.

Google PixelBook 45W USB Type-C charger ($60, amazon.com)

We were able to get 41W from this unit’s single USB-C port, but despite its support for PD v3, other chargers delivered more power at lower cost. (For the Samsung S21, it delivered 14.5W initially.) Google also places the power prong at a 90 degree position from the USB port, making it somewhat inconvenient to arrange on your wall or fit behind your furniture. It comes with a double-sided USB-C cable.

IOGear GearPower 60W USB-C GaN charger GPAWC60W ($34.95, amazon.com)   

We were able to get 55W from this unit’s single USB-C. It has GaN circuitry and supports both PD v2 and QC v4. It uses a retractable power prong at the opposite end of the USB port and measures a boxy 1.5”x1.5”x2.5”, which could be hard to fit in more cramped situations.

Anker PowerPort III 2-port 60W USB-C charger($49.99, amazon.com)

This travel-oriented charger from Anker comes with interchangeable prongs for US, UK and EU outlets. The prongs fit in the opposite side where its two USB-C ports are connected. It is adequate for powering two phones simultaneously, although not the fastest of other Anker chargers. It delivers a range of voltages from 5 to 20V.

Anker Nano II 30W ($33.99, amazon.com)

Rated at 30W, the Anker Nano II provides more power than you need for most phones. What was impressive was it could deliver 22W to fast charge our Samsung S21 starting from a 10% battery level. This is better than many of Anker’s more expensive chargers. However, it initially only delivered 13W to the iPhone 12. It is based on GaN electronics and comes with a USB-C-to-Lightning cable.

Spigen PowerArc Arc Station 40W ($22.94, originally $35.99, amazon.com)

While it initially seems attractive for two USB-C ports, GaN electronics, and 40W rating, it will only supply a maximum of 30W power over a single port, and you can only get up to 20W per port if you use both, so the rating is somewhat misleading, and you may be better off using two chargers if you have one device that requires more power than another to charge. The charger measures 2”x2”x1” with a retractable power prong.

Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim 63W wall charger ($79.99, amazon.com)

The PowerPort Atom III has four ports: two USB-A and two USB-C (one rated at 18W, one rated at 45W). This isn’t capable of supplying 63W to a single device, so if your laptop requires more than 45W of power you will be better off buying a single-port 60W charger.

Nekteck 60W USB-C charger ($21.59, originally $26.99, amazon.com)

Based on GaN circuitry, this has a single USB-C port that we measured at 55W output. It comes with a USB-C-to-USB-C cable and has a foldable power prong.

Nekteck 100W PD 3.0 ($31.44, originally $36.99, amazon.com)

A sIngle USB-C port means this GaN unit is mostly useful as a charger for 15”-17” laptops. It comes with a USB-C-to-USB-C cable and has a folding power prong like the 60W version.

Satechi 100W USB-C PD ($79.99, amazon.com)

Satechi’s 100w charger has two USB-C and one USB-A ports. It uses GaN technology and has a separate AC power cord that attaches to the unit. It supports PD PPS for fast-charging Samsung devices that support that standard. If you use either USB-C port alone you can get the full 100W but if you charge two USB-C devices concurrently you’ll get 60W in the top one and 30W in the bottom one, though both are labeled as “100W” ports). The Anker Atom PD4 did a better job distributing power to its four ports.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing