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My new toy is a USB-C cable with built-in power meter

While waiting for the adapter that will turn my DeWalt batteries into power tools into a powerful portable charger, I thought maybe I could introduce you to another exciting USB-C trend. You can now buy USB-C cables for $ 20, which come complete with their own wattmeter, so you can see how fast they charge your devices.

I bought mine a month ago - it took its sweet time to get here - but so far I'm impressed! In the last few days I have put it all in to see how much it draws: 18W for my V2 Nintendo Switch, 30-31W for my DJI Mini 2 drone, 2.5-3W for one of my PS5's DualSense controllers, 54-65W for my XPS 15, up to 99W for a 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro or a Skydio 2 drone. Or down to 0.5 W while maintaining the Wyze Buds Pro.

Why a magazine? It was there, it looked beautiful.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

On Amazon, the cables are largely sold by an alphabet soup collection of brands like "WOTOBEUS", "URVNS" and "CHIPOFY", but the one I bought feels despite the surprisingly high quality. The small blue-green screen and the shiny reversible connectors are plugged into a metal head, connected to a decent quality braided cable with what feels like a fair amount of strain relief - though I haven't tested its "35,000+ bending life" quite yet.

What I did test is its ability to measure power by connecting it to literally all USB-C devices my family owns, including a number of chargers. Using a Kill-A-Watt and a separate, detachable USB-C power meter as the baseline, I checked both its accuracy and whether it could charge my devices properly compared to other cables.

My old detachable USB-C power meter is a bit more ... brick-like than even the new self-contained ones you can buy today.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

In most cases, it was for the money, with a few important caveats:

  • That only shows watts, not volts and amperes. It's a handy shortcut, but you can learn more from standalone USB-C testers that cost as little as $ 11 or $ 17 now.
  • You need to put the screen end in the thing you are charging if you want a measurement. It is still charging the other way, but the meter is not two-way.
  • For some reason, a few combinations of cable and charger had crazy results: the 14-inch MacBook Pro would not charge at all from my 100W HyperJuice USB-C battery pack when I use this cable, although it charged fine if I replaced the battery with an adapter or this cable with another cable.
  • The DJI Mini 2 would also not charge at full speed with this cable and one of my four USB-C adapters, although it worked fine with the other three adapters and my 100W battery.
  • My cheap USB-C to Lightning adapter did not work with this cable, so I was not able to test it with an iPhone. But I did not have such problems with one of the standalone USB-C testers and an official Apple USB-C for Lightning charging cable.

The biggest warning, though, is that this is DOES NOT a high speed data cable; it is only suitable for high speed charging. The transfer speed peaks with the old USB 2.0 speed of 480 Mbps, far from the 5Gbps or 10Gbps you can get with USB 3.1. With a good short SuperSpeed ​​cable, I was able to transfer a 5GB file to my PC from an external SSD in just 17 seconds. This charging cable took a full two minutes longer (2:17) to complete the same task, with a bottleneck of only 40 MB / sec.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a limitation of these early cables, as they all advertise the low speed - even this new two-way j5create that adds some other handy features to the screen. Meanwhile, the standalone USB-C power meter I purchased several years ago lets me transfer data at full speed without any hassle.

None of that is quite enough to make me angry at this cable, because I did not have a nice, long charging cable that could both USB 3 data speeds and 100W charging to begin with, and I appreciate not having to keep track on a meter dongle longer. I'm fine just using it to charge and pair another cable with my SSD. But if you really are a USB-C PD connoisseur, I would probably suggest that you opt for a standalone meter instead.

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