January 7, 2016

Split vs. shared circuitry – An important charging feature you’ve never heard of

By [email protected] Topic: Chargers Tech Specs

Let’s face it – when it comes to mobile accessories, the charger is one area where fashion comes second to function. It’s all about power!

Without much knowledge of electrical design, you might assume an accessory that delivers more power is the obvious choice. A charger with a 2.1 amp output will charge a phone faster than a 1 amp output, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true. Like with Qualcomm Quick Charge, smart devices only pull their preset, programmed current (amperage) from a power source – so the iPhone 5, which charges at 1 amp, will only charge at 1 amp, even on a 2.1 amp charger.

To charge a device, you need both voltage and current. Volts deliver power from the electricity source, and current controls how much power flows from the source. These two work together in an electrical circuit to charge your phone or tablet.

Understanding this relationship is crucial to selecting a multi-port USB charger, because one feature you should really prioritize – especially if selecting a charger with more than two ports – is split circuitry.

Multi-port USB chargers are designed to charge several devices simultaneously, but their inner-workings take one of two designs: shared circuitry or split circuitry.

With shared circuitry, devices plugged into the same charger compete for their maximum charging rate. So if a 2.4 amp charger has two ports sharing one circuit, an iPad (charging at 1.8 amps) and an iPhone (charging at 1 amp) won’t be able to charge at their maximum rate. They’ll actually charge slower than if the device was pulling from its original in-box charger.

With split circuitry, each USB port – and therefore, device – has its own circuit, eliminating the competition for power and giving you the maximum charging rate / same charging experience every time. So if a multi-port charger has one designated 2.4 amp circuit and one designated 1.5 amp circuit, an iPad and an iPhone will each charge at the maximum rate. That means faster charging – as if you were charging your device on a solo charger in a separate power outlet.

While split circuitry provides optimum charging performance, it’s not a typical design standard, even for many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). You should shop for it depending on your needs for a multi-port charger. Personal preference might warrant buying a smaller charger with shared circuits that’s easy to use on-to-go. Maybe you’re looking for a multi-port desktop option that combines AC outlets and shared circuit USB ports to create a workstation. But if you’re planning to charge and use multiple devices at one time, your best bet is likely a split circuit option to send a steady stream of power to each device. Thinking about your use cases will help you decide whether split circuitry should be at the top of your charging wish list.

While many consumers may find comfort and familiarity buying mobile accessories from OEMs, these products may not deliver the best benefit for the cost. You will definitely pay more for the brand name, but you may not get more power in return. When you buy from a premium third-party manufacturer, the premium price represents performance rather than brand, including advanced features like split circuitry.

So now that you know the best way to power up, where do you begin? Start by learning the charging rates of your individual devices. Then research multi-port USB chargers with amperage numbers that match your requirements. Most importantly, when you find a multi-port unit that supports your amperage needs, check to see if the circuits are split. Paying attention to these specs will ensure your charger pays you back in power to your devices and time saved while charging at maximum speed.

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