As the number of devices we own explodes, so too does our reliance on the humble USB port. More and more products are choosing to use USB connections for charging, a situation that has given birth to the rather one-dimensional multi-port USB charger.
The LEPOWER 40w 5-port USB Charger ($19.99) is one solution that allows you to charge up to five devices at once, or two tablets and three smartphones. We have two units to give away, with full details of how to enter at the end of this review.
Just For Charging
Let’s be clear – this is not a USB hub, it’s a USB charger. This product will not allow you to expand your computer’s range of available ports or connect devices together –rather it is solely designed to power your USB devices. If you want a way of connecting more things to your computer or iPad, try the HUB IT modular charger we reviewed a few weeks ago.
The unit comes with two “super” ports that provide a maximum throughput of 5V at 2.4 amps, and three “universal” ports with a maximum load of 5V at 1 amp.The “super” ports are required to charge larger tablets like the iPad Air and can alter the level of power delivered depending on the connected device – so even if you plug in a low powered device, the ports will deliver just enough power without damaging it.
Unfortunately the other three ports are as dumb as USB gets, and will deliver the standard 1000mA at 5v regardless of what you connect – not enough to charge a full-sized iPad Air or equivalent, but good enough for an iPad mini, iPhone, PlayStation 4 controller and a Mophie Powerstation.
It left me wondering why LEPOWER didn’t just make all five ports “smart”, as many other manufacturers have done. Users who see this as a deal breaker should future-proof themselves by choosing a (likely more expensive) charger or hub that uses only smart ports. These are likely to increase power loads even further as USB 3.1 removes its reigns:
USB 3.1, and the new Type-C connectors by extension, supports power scalability up to 100 watts, allowing for one cable that can charge at the lower-end smartphone level or higher-end desktop level. Imagine having the same charger for your computer, tablet, camera, and smartphone. Not bad.
Read more: What is USB Type-C?
The charger has a maximum power rating of 8A (40W).
Inside the box you will find a 5-port USB charger (these are available in black or white) and a two-pin US power connector. I received a black unit with five ports on the side of the device, and a power connector on the opposite side. On the top “face” of the device is the LEPOWER logo, descriptions of the ports and a subtle blue LED to indicate whether or not devices are charging.
At its largest the unit itself is 9.5cm wide by 7cm, sitting a little over 2cm off the desk. It’s small and compact, and has rounded corners and tapered edges for a smooth feel. A lightweight integrated circuit sits beneath the sturdy plastic outer shell, providing enough weight to the unit without being heavy.
Unfortunately there are no rubber grips on the bottom to stop the unit moving around on a desk, something that tends to happen when you’re charging several devices at once. That said, it’s a very discreet device that’ll sit on your desk, under the coffee table or on the nightstand without taking up very much space at all.
Should You Buy It?
The unit itself is something most modern households could make use of, and at $19.99 it’s not a bad investment. As an iPhone owner, if you were to replace Apple’s own 5w charger like-for-like it would cost you $19 – and that’s only for the plug that you stick in the wall. For your money you would get one measly port, though it would be “smart” enough to charge any current generation device. By comparison, the LEPOWER hub is clearly the better choice – providing more charging opportunities, even if three of the ports have limited use.
The unit is also small enough to drop in your bag, and light enough to barely notice in a carry-on. If you’re a traveller looking to cut down on your weight, investing in an all-in-one solution is bound to cut down on the alternative – so a USB charger could actually save you weight.
Being a power charger, the unit generates some heat in use. After about an hour of charging five devices simultaneously, I measured a temperature of 42º on the face of the device – warm to the touch, but it’s not going to brand your skin like a laptop power brick would.
If you’ve got too many USB devices and need something small, portable and fairly smart then LEPOWER’s offering is ideal, at just shy of $20. If you live in a household with multiple tablets and other high-powered devices, you might want to consider a charger with a higher throughput (with all smart ports), but for everyone else the charger is hard to fault.
How Do I Win The HUB IT?
The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.