While I wait for the adapter that will turn my DeWalt power tool batteries into a powerful laptop charger, I thought I might introduce you to another intriguing USB-C trend. You can now buy $20 USB-C cables that come complete with their own wattage meter so you can see how fast they charge your devices.
I bought mine a month ago – it took a long time to get here – but so far I am impressed! For the past few days I’ve plugged it into everything to see how much it draws: 18W for my V2 Nintendo Switch, 30-31W for my DJI Mini 2 drone, 2.5-3W for one of my PS5’s DualSense controllers, 54- 65W for my XPS 15, all the way to 99W for a 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro or a Skydio 2 drone. Or up to 0.5W while the Wyze Buds Pro is charged drop by drop.
On Amazon, the cables are largely sold by an alphabet soup collection from brands like “WOTOBEU,” “URVNS,” and “CHIPOFY,” but the one I bought feels surprisingly high-quality despite that. The small teal screen and glossy reversible connectors are housed in a metal header, connected by a decent quality braided cable with what feels like a fair amount of strain relief – although I haven’t tested the “35,000+ bend life” yet.
What I did test is its ability to measure power and plug it into literally every USB-C device my family owns, including a range of chargers. Using a Kill-A-Watt and a separate, detachable USB-C power meter as a baseline, I checked both its accuracy and whether it could properly charge my devices compared to other cables.
In most cases it was good for the money, with a few important caveats:
- It only shows watts, not volts and amps. It’s a handy shortcut, but you can learn more from standalone USB-C testers that now cost just $11 or $17.
- You have to connect the screen end to the thing you’re charging if you want a reading. It still charges the other way, but the meter is not bi-directional.
- For some reason, a couple of cable and charger combinations had crazy results: The 14-inch MacBook Pro wouldn’t charge not at all from my 100W HyperJuice USB-C battery pack when using this cable, even though it charged fine if I swapped the battery for an adapter or this cable for a different cable.
- The DJI Mini 2 also didn’t charge at full speed with this cable and one of my four USB-C adapters, although it worked fine with the other three adapters and my 100W battery.
- My cheap USB-C to Lightning adapter didn’t work with this cable, so I couldn’t test it with an iPhone. But with one of the standalone USB-C testers and an official Apple USB-C to Lightning charging cable, I didn’t have that problem.
The biggest caveat, however, is that this is NOT a fast data cable; it is only suitable for fast charging. The transfer rate exceeds the old USB 2.0 speed of 480 Mbps, far from the 5 Gbps or 10 Gbps you can get with USB 3.1. With a good short SuperSpeed cable, I was able to transfer a 5GB file from an external SSD to my PC in just 17 seconds. This charging cable took two full minutes longer (2:17) to complete the same task, bottlenecking to just 40MB/second.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a limitation of these early cables, as they all advertise that slow speed – even this new bi-directional j5create which adds some other useful on-screen features. Meanwhile, the standalone USB-C power meter I bought a few years ago allows me to transfer data at full speed without any problems.
None of that is enough to annoy me with this cable, as I didn’t have a nice, long charging cable to start with that can charge both USB 3 data rates and 100W, and I appreciate that I don’t have to add a meter dongle. hold no more. I’m fine with just using it for charging and pairing another cable with my SSD. But if you’re really a USB-C PD connoisseur, I’d probably recommend going with a standalone meter instead.