Power-hungry devices: Keeping stuff juiced

As the number of devices in and around people’s homes and on their persons continues to spiral out-of-control, there’s a corollary problem that arises: how to keep everything juiced-up. On my home office desk, I can look around me and see two MacBooks, a Nintendo Switch, two iPhones, an iPad Pro (with an Apple Pencil nearby). While the Macs have their own power sources, everything else I listed requires a USB-based charging source of some kind. So, how have I solved that particular problem?

Initially, I used a combination of a Plugable USB 3.0 hub and an installed Leviton Decora USB receptacle (like this, purchased from Home Depot). Larger format smartphones, like the iPhone Plus, seem to have higher-than-average power demands to optimally charge (though they ship with 5 watt power adapters), and the iPad Pro is pretty power hungry as well, shipping with a 12 watt adapter. The Nintendo Switch, however, sucks power like a small laptop; it ships with a 40 watt power adapter/cable; keep in-mind an Apple MacBook Air comes with a 45 watt adapter.

One of the frustrations with this setup is that the iPad Pro never seemed to get to a 100% charge level — at least not easily — when plugged in the USB receptacle, although they work great for routine charging tasks, and I’ve put-in several around the house. That could be due to any number of factors, but among them is not quite getting enough juice from the power source due to the way it’s configured. (More on that below.)

I know from experience that my Nintendo Switch will charge just fine on a 12 watt adapter; I borrow an iPad Pro brick with a USB-C cable to do just that while I travel. But to keep the unit topped while actively playing does require significantly more power. And since I’ve been known to play a quick game of Splatoon 2 during boring conference calls (please don’t tell anyone; I’m still listening — I promise!), I don’t like running down the battery when I do.

So what was my answer? The Sabrent AX-QCS5. Its full description: “Quick Charge 3.0 [UL Certified] 54W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Rapid Charger /  Smart USB Charger with Auto Detect Technology.” Um, OK…

I chose the Sabrent for a couple of reasons. First, it promises that 54 watts of power, and I knew my Switch would need a lot of it. Second, the reviews were pretty decent.

Double-sided-sticky-taping the unit to the side of a desktop bookshelf, mounting the unit allowed me to declutter my desk area a bit, swap-out various cables for shorter versions, and terminate all the various charging “stuff” in one spot. That was a win.

While it was hardly surprising that the device would keep my iPhones and Apple Pencil topped-off, connecting the iPad Pro to it appears to have resolved the issue of frequently not getting to a 100% battery level. Not surprisingly, charging the iPad Pro with the display on (device unlocked) slows charging considerably, but it does get to its full level.

As for the Nintendo Switch, the proof of that pudding is indeed in the eating, since I can play with the cable connected to the Sabrent and the battery level never drops below 100%. Clearly, the Sabrent is capable of delivering the amps it claims.

Sabrent says that the device has “smart charging” capabilities, tailoring power delivery to the device. While I’ve read some articles about the issues of battery charging optimization, I have to confess that the topic is too esoteric to really try to grok the minutia involved, but assuming it’s well-implemented, there is some merit and truth to the concept. (One of the comments here by user “florisla,” about halfway down the page, seems to provide the clearest explanation I’ve found.)

The only issue I’ve found with the Sabrent is that its one Qualcomm Quick Charge port — which provides extra capabilities only with devices that implement the technology — doesn’t play nicely with the Nintendo Switch for some reason. I’ve had multiple occurrences of connecting the Switch to that port resulting in a cold reboot, either immediately or after a period of time. While nothing has been damaged as a result, it’s obviously not the sort of thing you really want to experience. The solution to that is simply connecting the Switch to a different port. With other devices, that port seems to work fine, although I have no devices here that support the Qualcomm protocol, so charging simply behaves normally.

In any case, having a non-cluttery solution that keeps everything I need juiced, juiced, is a win. Well, a win-win-win-win-win — one for each charging port on the Sabrent.

You can find them on Amazon, as well as other sources.