What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

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What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby mnichols » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:05 am

I have acquired a plethora of USB chargers overs the years. Not through buying them directly or through conscious choice, but because they are included with various devices such as phones, tablets, bike computers, eReaders, etc.

When I go travelling I grab one at random from the drawer, pair it with my Poundshop 4Way USB cable (1 USB end with 4 connectors at the other end - micro, mini, Nokia and iPod) and off I go.

They seem to have varying abilities (or speeds) at which they charge the devices and I'm not sure why. I'm off cycle touring in Europe in a couple of weeks, and would like to know:

1: Are all USB adaptors the same - Am I imagining different charging speeds, or is the variance due to another factor such as the number of devices that I am charging?
2: If there is a difference, can someone recommend a small, light USB charger for cycle touring? Ideally I would like to swap the plug bit based on the country that I am visiting, rather than take one heavier device that will work for all countries.
3: Is there a disadvantage to my Poundshop cable? I also have a plug with 4 USB connections and could take separate cables, but it's bigger, heavier and is more hassle with the extra cables.

I should add that I tend to stay in hotels and B&B's so access to power won't be a problem, so I am not looking for an on-bike solution such as a dynamo or solar powered device (at least not this time). I also have a small power stick, which is like an extra battery that I can use to charge/power a device in an emergency

The devices that I will be powering are:
Every night: My Garmin 800 and my Samsung s4 mini phone

Occasionally: My iPod. I rarely use this, but I take it in case I need a bit of a distraction on a tough section

Only in an emergency: My Powerbank stick is for an emergency. It will charge my devices, if my overnight charge fails. I would then need to recharge this as well. I charge it before I leave home and I've never needed to use it yet, but as these are now only about the size of a pen I take it just in case.

In the future: I currently use my phone to take photos, but am considering taking a compact camera as I see that the batteries can now be powered via USB

Thanks
Martin
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby RonK » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:28 am

An Anker 40w 5 port charger will charge all your USB devices.
Last edited by RonK on Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby mike_dowler » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:34 am

mnichols wrote:1: Are all USB adaptors the same

No - some are more powerful than others. Tablets, for example, typically draw more current than smartphones. A more powerful charger will also charge a phone more quickly.

Each charger should me marked with the current they are able to supply.
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby mjr » Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:21 am

mnichols wrote:1: Are all USB adaptors the same - Am I imagining different charging speeds, or is the variance due to another factor such as the number of devices that I am charging?
2: If there is a difference, can someone recommend a small, light USB charger for cycle touring?
3: Is there a disadvantage to my Poundshop cable?.

1: No. USB is roughly 5V 0.85A but some chargers are up to 5A, which will charge some things quickly but prematurely destroy others that aren't designed to cope with it. If you charge two devices through a hub (aka USB splitter), they'll charge more slowly, but if the charger has two outputs, they shouldn't.
2: I just use the best of my mobile device chargers.
3. Yes but it's probably not significant.

I'll probably write this up on my website soon, but recently I bought another second-hand second phone for travelling. I have two phones so I can keep my usual SIM in my main phone and put local or international SIMs in this - it's cheaper than a good dual SIM phone. This phone's a Samsung Galaxy Ace i with a 1350mAh battery, so these comments may be semi-relevant to another Samsung phone. I flashed the JellyBread CM7 firmware onto it for various reasons (hate TouchWiz, not wild on Gingerbread either, the Ice Cream Sandwich CM9 firmware is a beta that's missing one feature I'd like, ...), I installed a minimal collection of apps and now Battery Bot is currently predicting that a full charge will last about 40 days on standby. That'll fall if I do pretty much anything (leave it on while travelling, switch it off and on much, actually use it and definitely if I use the GPS on it) but I think it shows just how much power is used by the usual junk apps that the networks preinstall or that people install without much thought. Ideally, it's worth rooting and upgrading the firmware. At least, you probably want to look at Settings: Apps: Running and seeing if there are any battery vampires that you don't need and could uninstall or disable.
MJR, mostly pedalling a Revolution Streetfinder with 28mm DC front, 37mm M+ rear. Webmaster for hire, part of software.coop, so keen on practical sustainable transport. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby BeeKeeper » Mon Jun 09, 2014 12:06 pm

My Nexus tablet came with a 2A charger which is more than the ones you get for the average phone. If I charge my Sony Xperia phone from it the battery on the phone becomes noticeably warm. Conversely, if I try to charge my Nexus tablet from the Sony's little charger it takes ages.

For touring I take a small charger and accept longer charging times for the tablet.
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby mnichols » Mon Jun 09, 2014 12:37 pm

So, if I use my Poundland cable to charge up to 4 devices, what rating would be a good compromise? i.e., safe but quick

The one that I tend to use is 0.85A, the one with 4 usb outputs is 2A - presumably spread across the 4 ports, but I would need to take 4 cables

If I buy a 5A would this be safe for my Garmin 800 and Galaxy s4 mini?

I'm happy to buy another one - they are cheap enough
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby mjr » Mon Jun 09, 2014 12:56 pm

Check the manuals and/or ask Garmin and Samsung. I don't have either of those devices, but I suspect 5A won't be good for them unless their usual chargers are 5A.

The charger could be 0.5A on each port (which would be right at the bottom of what the USB specification allows, so as slow as using a computer's port) or it could be 2A on each port - it really ought to say.

I think the USB specification allows up to 0.9A so you can probably charge most devices at 1A without problem (1.5A if the device is 2011 or later) but it's not sure and you won't know until you break it ;-) http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB describes the full mess under "Version history"

Like BeeKeeper, I play it safe and use the best phone charger when travelling.
MJR, mostly pedalling a Revolution Streetfinder with 28mm DC front, 37mm M+ rear. Webmaster for hire, part of software.coop, so keen on practical sustainable transport. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby cotswolds » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:34 pm

For any device from a well-known brand, plugging a device that wants 1A into a 4A charger will not cause any problems. The device decides how much current it will take, and the charger can't force through more. The other way round may cause the charger to overheat.

I'd be very wary of buying a random cheap charger. While I'm happy to use cheap generic stuff in lots of situations, there are a lot of rubbish chargers out there. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27390466 gives some examples. Modern electronic chargers rely on electronics and good design to keep 240V separate from 5V. Cheap products use cheap components and have poor design. A fire or 240V getting into your devices are very real possibilities.

I'd also keep an eye on your Poundshop 4-way cable. If you end up plugging in 4 x 1A devices, that's 4A going through the plug, which is a lot for USB, and I'd be surprised if the plug was of good enough quality. I have had several USB extension cables from Poundshop (it makes it much easier to use a phone, etc, while it's charging). Only one now works, the others have all failed, and something as simple as an extension lead shouldn't really fail.

I'd suggest what you need is a branded charger of a power equal to the sum current of the devices you want to charge simultaneously (which may be non-trivial to find out). If this looks expensive - which it may do if you limit yourself to non-dodgy sources - consider charging sequentially. Be aware that Apple have their own alternative to the USB charging rules, so your iPod may charge slowly on an non-Apple charger.

Final thought. If you're buying a charger specifically for use in Europe, I'd buy one with a continental-style 2-pin plug, and avoid the clunkiness of the UK 13A socket and an adapter. I bought one in a French supermarket (after leaving my adapter behind at a campsite) and it makes for a very neat solution.
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby simonineaston » Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:09 pm

ttfn, Simon in Easton
(currently enjoying Moulton F frames & a Brompton...)
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby skicat » Fri Jun 13, 2014 9:35 pm

I agree with the advice to buy only branded chargers. I bought a cheap one off t'internet for my Sony smartphone. Although it hasn't done anything so spectacular as bursting into flames, the phone behaves very strangely when charging from it. Any touch on the screen results in 4 or 5 repeats of that character being registered by Android :shock: . The phone is effectively unusable while being charged. :(
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby mjr » Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:57 pm

Branding is not necessarily sufficient: I can plug a Samsung Galaxy Ace i into a branded Amazon charger and it all goes strange.
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Re: What is the best mains USB Charger for touring?

Postby Cunobelin » Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:03 am

I use a PortaPow Crystal, 4 ports, with one upgraded to charge iPads and tabets.

Compact as well
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