USB-C is about to go from 100W to 240W, enough to power beefier laptops

Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

Soon, the majority of portable PCs won’t need to be equipped with an ugly barrel jack and a proprietary power brick to charge. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has just announced (via CNET) that it’s more than doubling the amount of power you can send over a USB-C cable to 240 watts, which means you’ll eventually be able to plug in the same kind of multipurpose USB-C cable you currently use on lightweight laptops, tablets, and phones to charge all but the beefiest gaming laptops.

Previously, the USB-C Power Delivery spec tops out at 100 watts, and it’s definitely held the industry back a tad — for example, while my own Dell XPS 15 can technically charge over USB-C, it needs 130W of power to charge and run at full bore simultaneously. Some manufacturers have sold off-spec USB-C adapters (I have a Dell dock that outputs 130W), but they don’t always come bundled with machines and generally have a fixed, non-detachable cable to prevent against misuse.

But with 240W of power — something that the USB-IF is calling “Extended Power Range” or EPR for short — you could theoretically charge an full-fat Alienware m17 gaming laptop over USB-C.

You’ll need new USB-C chargers and cables to take advantage of the new spec, of course, though you should hopefully be able to tell which is which: “All EPR cables shall be visibly identified with EPR cable identification items,” reads part of the USB-IF’s requirements for the new spec. A cable will need to support up to 5A and 50V to be compliant.

Judging by the photos below, it looks like manufacturers may need to tweak their charger designs as well:

There will still be exceptionally beefy laptops that demand more than 240W of power, of course. 330W power supplies still come standard with some machines, and there are always exotic notebooks that require more than one power supply to function. Gaming desktops generally require far more power, with a 650W PSU or higher PSU required for the latest desktop graphics cards, and 240W may not be quite enough for the latest game consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

On the other hand, some computers are getting more efficient as the years go by. Case in point: the colorful new iMac comes with a 143W power adapter. In a year or two, it’d be a viable candidate for USB-C power.

Comments

Hell yeah! A much welcome upgrade.

Yea, i cannot wait for X brand to release a Type-C device using USB2.0. I love it!!

With M1 being a milestone in energy efficiency, I’m not sure how 240W will help make portables better.

The 13" M1 MacBook Pro uses a similar wattage charger as my i7 14" Thinkpad. The M1 iMac uses a 143W brick. The M1 isn’t a magic bullet.

The M1 laptops released thus far might ship with a 60w brick, but they are only using about 30-45w at full load.

It’s hard to imagine future M series MacBook Pros using more than 100w … I think Apple will want to stay well under that figure so they can advertise massive battery life gains compared to the current 16" Intel model, which is definitely throttled by 100w USB-C. If the rumoured Mini LED screens arrive, power usage will drop even further.

The M1 iMac isn’t a portable device, but even so, it’s not using much more processing power than the other M1 devices. The only reason it needs such a big brick is the 24" display, and dual 30w speaker amplifiers(!). It seems unlikely we will find those specs on a laptop any time soon.

So yeah, as far as Apple (and maybe even ARM laptops in general) are concerned, I’m not sure this 240w upgrade will mean much, but who knows? This will be a big win for computers like the XPS 15 that ship with a 130w brick, as well as serious "portable" gaming PCs and workstations.

This is obviously about laptops with dedicated graphics. The M1 is nice but doesn’t cater to everyone.

Decent. Wish they could have added some type of magsafe connector or a power light to the plug as part of the standard too.

There are already magsafe adapters for USB-C, you would just need to be sure that they are the newer standard.

Hah. "DECENT!" … Thanks for reminding me of Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys.

What AWG and length requirements for EPR cables?

I’ll check later on AWG, but the nominal lengths quoted seem to be the same as previously — based on USB version rather than EPR. Up to 4m for USB 2.0, 2m for USB 3.2 and USB 4.

Key info here, I have some really long USB-C cables for fast charging but they are noticeably thicker than your standard length. That’s great news about the lengths though, was worried they may all be too short to be useful.

The real question now is: will it power a Tesla?

Technically it could but you’d have to go through a lot of effort for what would be less than a trickle charge.

It won’t, but in all seriousness it could result in USB-C becoming the default socket for anything that needs a ton of DC power. For most e-bikes and e-scooters, 240W is probably overkill if anything.

Those gaming laptops requiring 240W+ power are more portable desktops/portable AIO than true laptops, not very realistic to place it on you lap, etc. consider a MBA can be crunching tasks & charge the battery at the same time with a 30W mini-brick, and can do one or the other with a 18W one. All in all, let’s hope for the day electric outlets in the world can be unified on a usb spec. rendering different plugs and bricks obsolete.

yes please

I’m not powering my fridge and AC off a USB cable.

240W are definitely more than enough to power an European fridge

Modern Electrolux fridge annual energy: 642 kWh
642 kWh / 365 / 24 = average of 73 watt hour per day. Mind you, the compressor is not running consistently; it’s more stops and starts. But even if it were running for a third of the day, that would still average 220 watt hours when it’s running, which is feasible. Am I doing the math correctly?

Your math is fine, your assumptions aren’t. A fridge will run at 10-20% duty cycle, and importantly, that duty cycle isn’t a constant power draw – unless you have a soft start compressor, initial amperage will be 7-10 amps in 220v. You can run that amperage through usb PD size wires (2×20awg) but not for very long – 20awg is only rated for 1 5a continuous using AC.

I mean, are you guys nuts? There’s a reason why extremely high current appliances have such heavy gauge, the current draw is high enough to warrant it. I’m not blasting 10-15A down it.

The Verge readership has a strange affection for certain things, USB C for everything is one of them.

I mean, I think a lot of us have a box full of different types of cables and adapters that we’d rather not have to touch anymore. USB-C unifying the tech charging and powering world is something worth having affection for.

I just can’t believe there are people that think this ever can or will (or should) happen. The best thing about USB-C so far compared to other forms of USB is that nobody has yet proposed a "USB-D" to replace it, because by now I think everybody knows that every time a new USB standard comes out, all it does is add another standard – it never replaces anything. In fact, eventually you’re going to end up just having various USB-C cables that are capable of different wattages, and good luck when that happens. Hopefully your devices are smart enough to figure out when you’ve got the wrong cable plugged in and don’t just set your wire on fire. But you know there are going to be some devices and/or cables that will do exactly that, because that’s what happens when manufacturers set out to make things as cheaply as possible.

Let’s face it – until wireless charging is really real (as in, somehow our devices can just pick electricity out of the air) and not just yet another charging device with a wire of its own, everything needs a cable somewhere for charging. What does it really matter if they’re all the same cable or not? Is it even really a good idea to have multiples of the same type of power cable, with different power ratings? Or to charge everything, regardless of requirements, with the same specific cable? I think it’s safer if they’re all unique to the device they’re powering, so you don’t mix things up.

For certain applications, sure, but you know what I have more affection for? Not starting an electrical fire via using under-sized wires powering high-current appliances.

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