This has become essential.

Now that almost everything offering USB-C input or output these days it can be hard to remember or keep track of the limitations of different devices and cables. With USB-C, things were meant to get a little more simple by having one cable and connection to rule them all. But, the USB-IF doesn't make things easy, especially with renaming of standards. Additionally, some companies choose to ignore the spec or not adhere to the standards. While others will have a USB-C port but not support USB Power Delivery and only charge via a USB-C to USB-A cable. (I've gone into this more here and here.)

USB-C brought with it Power Delivery or USB-PD.  While this was a game changer, allow devices up to 100W(20V/5A) to be powered over USB-C cables it also complicated things a bit as not all cables were created equally or not fully PD compliant. Some are limited to 45W or 60W. Some offer 100W but only offer USB 2.0spec for data transfer. Things were further complicated by other companies like Qualcomm who made they own protocols that utilized USB-C to have quick charging for phones before PD was fully finalized. You can learn more about Qualcomm Quick Charge here.

Things would be slightly easier if all companies used the proper logos and labeling on cables and devices as outlined buy USB-IF here. But, we all know that's not going to happen, especially a company like Apple.

Being that things have gotten a bit more complicated I've now found it essential to have a USB-C multimeter around to help troubleshoot and and check devices. I mentioned this briefly in a past post. Just like the USB-C cable with built in LCD display, a USB multimeter can show you the wattage and much more information on what's going on with power delivery between your charger or power bank and device. The multimeter can show if your cable is limited to 60W PD when you'd prefer it to support 100W. You can use it to determine if you have significant power drop along a tether cable. Having 5V or more means you should be able to have a stable connection. If your voltage drops below 5V you will most likely be having connection issues. 

One other feature of a multimeter is the ability to test the capacity of a power bank. Some models log the mAh (mili-amp hours) and you can use this to confirm a 27,000mAh power bank is as stated. Additionally, they can inform about which protocols are supported as there are some protocols developed by other companies like Qualcomm, Samsung and others that can determine usage/limitations of a particular charger or power bank.

USB Multimeters come in various size and shapes that offer a range of features. Some are USB-A only while others offer both A and C. Some (like this one) offer more features, like the ability to pair with a phone via Bluetooth and log data in graphs on the multimeter itself. 

Recently, the USB-IF released the spec for the new USB-PD 3.1 EPR (extended power range that offers up to 240W and 48V) which has huge potential for many devices. There's a new multimeter that supports this standard ChargerLAB Power-Z KM003C that I'm adding to the arsenal. I also have a POWER-Z MFi Cable Tester MF001 on the way to help test my existing cables.

Just remember that just because a device has a USB-C port that it doesn't mean it's full spec. It can be greatly limited and manufacturers can be a little vague on specs at times.

If you would like to support the efforts of the blog you can donate here or here.