Saturday, 27 May 2017 12:31

The dawn of USB-C and some Belkin charging options (review)

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It seems every portable device is abandoning micro-USB connectivity for USB-C and why not? With a reversible plug and 12 pairs of “cables/lines” available, USB-C is the new data/power superhighway.

USB-C at present has three different “generations”. First is USB-C 1.0, next is USB-C 3.1 (Gen 1) and last is the USB-C 3.1 (Gen 2) that supports Thunderbolt/3 and USB Power Delivery from 5-20V and 10-100W. These generally use a cable rated for the speed – a Gen 1 or 2 cable rating (best to buy) is backwards compatible but a 1.0 cable may not be forward compatible, a bit like HDMI cables.

The term “12 pairs” relate to the plug's reversible nature. There are 24 wires in the cable and for example, one pair (top and opposite bottom) handle Ground, then the there are two transmit/receive pairs, four pairs for data, one pair for bus power, etc. You can find a technical overview here. These also support DisplayPort 1.3, super MHL 1.0, Thunderbolt (20Gbps) and Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) and HDMI 1.4b, Ethernet, and PCIe.

Belkin has been at the forefront of USB-C cables, adapters and accessories and has USB-C resource centre web page that explains more. It also has a good primer on Thunderbolt. Its online catalogue now has 200 USB-C “things”. Read on for the reviews.

All tests were conducted with a mix of smartphones including current model Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, Google Pixel XL, Moto Z, ZTE Axon 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.

Belkin USB-C to USB-C Home Charger

Belkin USB C chargerThis 240V wall charger outputs 5V/3A in via one USB-C socket. There are many wall chargers offering both USB-A and USB-C – some up to four socket outputs. You may ask why settle for one socket only. The answer is simple – read the fine print on these multi-sockets and you will see that the rated total output is usually 2, 3 or maximum 3.4A – not per socket.

Note that this is not a Qualcomm style quick charger that uses three voltages/amperages – just a good honest 3A charger that works with all USB-C devices. Price: $59.95.

Belkin provides a 1.5-metre USB-C to USB-C and it’s $2500 connected equipment warranty. If your device is damaged by an electrical charge while properly connected to the charger, Belkin will repair or replace it up to a value of $2500. This provides peace of mind when a few years ago a power surge — probably caused by lightning — damaged my PC, printer, and monitors. Belkin’s processing of the claim was fast and hassle-free – send back the unit (in this case a power board), verify the damage (courtesy of the local computer repair shop) and within a few days the money was in my account.

Belkin USB-C and USB-A car charger with second USB-A port

Belkin USB C car chargerThis 12V “cigarette lighter” socket charger is advertised as 15W of total power over two sockets. Yet printed on the device is 20W and Socket one (1.2m USB-C cable is hardwired). It is rated as 5V/3A and Socket 2 (USB-A – no cable provided) but is 5V/1A total 20W – I trust the CE markings over website information.

Again, it is not Qualcomm quick charge, but in tests it did output the rated amperage and was able to keep pace with the power needs of a Samsung Galaxy S8+ being used as a GPS and recharge a micro-USB device.

It also includes the $2500 protected equipment warranty. Price: $49.95

Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad

Belkin USB C wireless chargerThis is a genuine 15W Qi-certified wireless charging pad – standard pads are 5W. It is designed for modern USB-C and high-draw devices like the Samsung S8/+, LG G series, Motorola, Google Pixel/Nexus – any Qi-compatible device.

The trick to Qi is that it uses intelligent inductive charging, delivering only the power the device needs. You cannot wirelessly overcharge a Qi device. Being 15W it will work through the thicker (3mm) protection cases, especially those more indestructible ones.

Note again it is not a quick charger like varieties used with Qualcomm, Samsung, OPPO, Motorola etc. – it provides good, clean, solid power and is best used for topping up or slower overnight charging. It also has foreign object detection so it won’t try to charge your car keys. It also has a solid green LED to indicate charging.

iTWire readers will understand the convenience of wireless charging – I have pads in the lounge, office, beside the bed, and in the car.

It also includes the $2500 protected equipment warranty. Price: $109.95.

Belkin Mixit USB-C Power Rockstar 6600mAh

Belkin USB C BatteryThis is a 6600mAh battery back-up power bank providing two output sockets – one rated 2.4A and one at 1A. It uses the term shared 3.4A and the USB-C standard calls for 3A so if you use it for one device it appears to meet that – certainly I had no issues charging a range of USB-C devices in similar times to a 5V/3A wall charger but I would like to see a dedicated 3A output in future iterations.

It comes with both a 10cm USB-A to USB-C cable and a micro-USB to USB-A cable used for charging the bank. The only issue is that there is only one magnetic cable storage slot.

It also includes the $2500 protected equipment warranty. Price: $89.95.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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