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Circuit Breaker

RavPower’s tiny 45W gallium nitride charger almost sits flush with your wall

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Here come the GaN chargers

I did not expect wall chargers to be a hot tech topic as we close out 2018, but here we are. Gallium nitride (GaN) is a term you’re going to start hearing a lot more of; it’s spoken of by some as a replacement for silicon, although so far that is mostly manifesting itself in extremely small USB-C Power Delivery (PD) chargers. Which, well, are cool in their own way.

Anker was the first to get much attention in this field with its regular iPhone brick-sized 27W “Atom” GaN charger, with a larger two-port 60W charger set to come down the line. Now RavPower, a similar company to Anker in that it makes a wide range of affordable, well-regarded charging products, has entered the GaN arena with a 45W charger.

RavPower’s design takes a totally different approach to Anker’s. It’s a single-port charger that focuses on thinness above all else — it only protrudes about half an inch from the wall, and the USB-C port is on the edge, meaning you can easily run the cable behind furniture or tuck it out of the way. When the prongs are folded away, you’re left with a tiny brick that’s about the size of a tin of mints and no less pocketable.

ravpower
RavPower’s 45W GaN USB-C PD charger (top) alongside Apple’s 29W USB-C MacBook charger.

With 45 watts of power and USB-C PD, this is enough to charge a new MacBook Air or Nintendo Switch with ease, as well as fast-charging iPad Pros and newer iPhones. RavPower claims that it’ll charge a 12-inch MacBook in 2 hours, which I put to the test myself. I didn’t think the charger was going to make it at first, as the MacBook was only 18 percent full after half an hour, but speed picked up dramatically after that and the MacBook battery reached 60 percent after an hour then 100 percent in under 115 minutes. The macOS system report only stated that the charger was pulling 30W from the wall, however, in accordance with Apple’s guidance that higher-wattage power adapters don’t offer faster charging.

Overall, this is a great alternative to Apple’s own 29 or 30W MacBook chargers, which together with a USB-C-to-Lightning cable are also the only official iPhone fast-charging solution you can buy. The Ravpower’s footprint is a little bigger, but the design makes it easier to carry and less intrusive in actual use than Apple’s — and it delivers significantly more power to devices that need it.

Right now the RavPower 45W charger is selling for $51.99 at Amazon, $2 more than Apple’s 30W model. Meanwhile, Anker’s PowerPort Atom PD 1 is only $29.99 and will probably be the better option if you don’t need a slimline design or more than 27 watts. Unfortunately, it isn’t available just yet — it was supposed to go on sale in late November, but that doesn’t seem to have transpired.

In any case, the bottom line is this: gallium nitride technology is a game changer for wall chargers, and you can expect to see it become widespread over the next year or two. The days of chunky wall warts could soon be at an end.