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The first 240W USB-C power meters are here

The first 240W USB-C power meters are here


Plugable’s third-gen USBC-VAMETER is PD 3.1-ready

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Don’t look now, but the USB-C connector is evolving under your nose — soon, it’ll carry 240W of electricity, more than double its previous limit and enough to power all but the beefiest laptops. The PD 3.1 specification is finished, the cables are here, and now we’re just waiting for the first computers and chargers that’ll actually reach for that 240W peak. But there’s another brand-new 240W gadget you could nab in anticipation of that historic day: a 240W power meter.

ChargerLab introduced this $100 one earlier this year (though I missed it in my original search), and there’s also the new $30 Plugable USBC-VAMETER3.

It’s the third generation of Plugable’s handy power meter, and it does pretty much exactly what you’d think. Stick it between your USB-C gadget and its source of USB-C power, and you can see how much power (volts, amps, and watts) is being transferred between them. Only now, it supports up to 240W, 50V, or 6.5A at a time instead of the previous 100W limit.

You can see volts, amps, screen orientation, and the direction of the current flow. Example: 4.76 volts, 1.28 amps, 6.09 watts.
What you see on the meter.
Image: Plugable

Plugable was one of the first companies to sell such a gadget, and I’ve been using my first-gen model for years — it may not look as cool as a USB-C cable with a built-in power meter, but it’s definitely a more versatile tool. It’s great if you’re not sure whether a particular cable or charger is functioning properly, and it doesn’t mess with data; this one will pass through up to USB 3.1 Gen 2 data while it’s testing power, though it doesn’t work with Intel Thunderbolt 3 stuff.

What’s the point in buying a 240W meter right now when other 240W gadgets don’t yet exist? Well, technically, Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro already comes with a USB-C PD 3.1 charging brick that stretches past 100W when you use its MagSafe cable. (It goes up to 140W, not 240W.) So I suppose you could test to see if your MagSafe cable still works properly, or something. Then again, you could already do that with this $16 MakerHawk meter, which tops out at 30V, but also keeps track of time, temperature, and even estimates how much charge (in mAh and mWh) you’ve transferred. That’s enough if all you need is 140W testing.

Plugable is charging a teensy bit more for the 240W futureproofing, but you won’t have to pay that premium today. For now, it’s on sale for $29.95 with a $4-off coupon, just under the $26.95 the company’s been asking for its second-gen meter since February of this year.

By the way, 240W USB-C cables now appear to be widely available, not just a curiosity anymore. Here’s one from Anker, one from UGREEN, one from VCOM, and even a right-angle one from (say it with me) “AINOPE”.

Correction, 11:30PM ET: As a couple readers have pointed out, our original headline was inaccurate since the Plugable isn’t the first. There’s at least one other in this ChargerLab Power-Z meter.