It’s been about two years since the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google stopped including a free wall charger with new smartphones. And if you’re still missing that free brick in your box, it’s time to consider upgrading your next charger to GaN — a compact, powerful, energy-efficient charging technology that can be used with any mobile device.
Gallium nitride (GaN) is not a new material in electronics. In fact, it was used to make LEDs back in the 1990s. However, as this semiconductor material has become less expensive, many well-known brands like Anker and Belkin have begun producing GaN chargers in place of the existing silicon charging technology currently found in most phones, laptops and tablets. Many of the best USB-C chargers we’ve tested use this new standard.
Feeling curious about these smaller, more portable, more powerful, environmentally friendly chargers? Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering making the switch to the buzzy, up-and-coming GaN technology.
High energy, little footprint
The biggest benefit of GaN is the amount of power you can pack into such a small device. Because GaN technology produces less heat, the components can be placed closer together, giving you faster charging in a smaller size. For anyone tired of lugging around a huge power brick to charge your laptop, and another to charge your tablet and phone, you can now replace them all with one smaller, more efficient charger. This is great news for business travel as well as those schlepping into the office a few days a week.
GaN chargers range in capacity from 20W all the way up to 200W. And as you might expect, the higher you go the more expensive the device will be. You can also choose from different configurations, ranging from one USB-C port to two or even three, and some even include a USB-A charging port for those with older cables.
GaN chargers that are 20W can fast charge a smartphone, but you generally need about 65W to charge your laptop. This varies, so you should check with the device manufacturer for your specific model. For instance, a MacBook Air needs 30W to charge, but the power-hungry 15-inch MacBook Pro needs 87W to charge at high speed.
USB-C Power Delivery (PD) 3.0 and PPS charging technologies
These new GaN chargers use USB-C PD and the latest charging technologies, which support up to 240W of power and enable the devices and chargers to talk to each other to determine an optimal charging power. So, when you plug in a laptop that needs 65W of power, the charger will identify it and automatically adjust the power to other ports.
Many GaN chargers will help you figure out how to get the optimum power by including the information right on the package.
Ready to purchase one for yourself? Here are some of the latest GaN chargers that will quickly charge your iPhone or Android phone as well as your tablet and laptop, and even your wireless headphones. One caveat is you’ll get a faster charge using the USB-C port on the charger, so while some include USB-A ports, they will charge at a slower speed. You may also consider getting a new USB-C to USB-C or Lightning cable to make sure you’re upgrading to the fastest speed. And if you want to make sure you’re getting the very best, make sure to check out our tested picks for the best USB-C chargers available now.
$49.99 at Belkin
With Belkin’s 65W Boost Charge Pro Dual USB-C GaN Wall Charger you can charge a laptop and fast charge a smartphone at the same time. You’ll get 65W of power from just using the top port and 45W if you combine it with the bottom 20W port.
At a powerful 2 inches long, it can charge an iPhone 13 from 0% to 50% in 28 minutes and a Samsung S21 to 50% in 27 minutes. When done, you can fold the prongs in for easy storage.
Belkin also makes a $35.99 two-port 45W charger.
From $34.95 at OtterBox
OtterBox is out with a new line of GaN wall chargers in three fast charging sizes: 72W, 60W and 30W.
The star of the Premium Pro product line is the 72W triple-port model, which supports laptop charging. Use the single port for 60W of power or charge two devices at 30W each. There’s also a 12W USB-A port for charging a third device like a headphone or mobile device at a slower speed.
OtterBox also has a Premium Pro line of fast car chargers that range from 30W to 72W. Personally, my phone battery is usually in need of a charge by midday, so having a 72W car charger that can juice my phone back up to 71% in 30 minutes is ideal. Like its durable phone cases, wrapped in a tough exterior, OtterBox says the chargers have been drop tested, and each comes in white or black.
$22.99 at Amazon
In addition to the recently announced line of GaNPrime chargers ranging from 65W to 150W, all with varying combinations of USB-C ports as well as USB-A, Anker also offers this tiny 30W wall plug.
I took the Anker 511 (which is our current best basic phone charger pick) with me on a recent business trip and it was all I needed to charge all my devices. Yup, iPhone, iPad and laptop. Normally, I would bring a charger with at least two ports, but I wanted to see if this one compact device with just one port could do it all, and it did. Beautifully.
Of course, there was a lot of plugging and unplugging, and I needed both a USB-C to Lightning as well as a USB-C to USB-C cable, but cables are a lot lighter to carry than chargers. And smaller too — Anker says the device is 70% smaller than Apple’s 30W charger. The $23 Anker 511 Nano 3 charger has foldable prongs and comes in purple, Misty Blue, green, white and black.
From $24.95 at Zagg
Mophie’s Speedport GaN wall chargers are available in several capacities and port counts, ranging from 20W to 120W. Mophie is also upping its environmental cred by using 50% postconsumer recycled plastics.
If you need to charge a lot of devices at once and aren’t on the road, the $99.95 120W model is designed for desktop use as opposed to wall charging so it doesn’t hog all the outlets on your power strip. It has three USB-C ports and a USB-A port for charging four devices at one time or delivers 100W of power for charging a laptop when using only the top port. It ships with a power cable that gets plugged into an outlet as well as a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box.
$69.95 at Nomad Goods
Nomad’s $69.95 dual-port 65W GaN Power Adapter is its most powerful charger (the brand also has 20W and 30W models), with the ability to charge a laptop at the full 65W or split the power between the two ports. There is no USB-A port included. The compact charger is no space hog, taking up just one outlet with collapsible prongs for easy travel and storage.
$79.99 at Amazon
With GaN chargers ranging from 45W to 200W in both wall socket and desktop models, Ugreen’s 100W charger ($67.99) seems the perfect size to throw in your bag for all your mobile devices. The four-port GaN charger has three USB-C ports that support charging at 100W when used alone, and a USB-A port with 22.5W, perfect for your phone or earbuds. If your laptop requires less than 65W you can charge multiple devices at once, though you may want to consider using a power strip, as the charger can get weighed down and pull out of the wall outlet when too many cables are plugged in.