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Thursday, December 7, 2023

New 240W USB Type-C spec means every laptop charger could soon be universal

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Say goodbye to those bulky old power bricks, with myriad weird plugs, for your next gaming laptop. USB Type-C is soon going to be able to deliver the goods all the way up to 240W. In short, more than enough juice to get even the most thirsty gaming laptop running at full power.

The new Type-C 2.1 specs revision has dropped and, though there are also a few tasty details about how to put a stop to electrical arcs when unplugging your suddenly superpowered juice pipeline, the biggest change is the switch in maximum power delivery. The previous version of Type-C connectors could only deliver 20V at 5A, which meant they topped out at 100W.

That was fine for a standard ultrabook, such as an XPS 13, and is even enough to keep a Razer Blade Stealth 13, with its discrete GTX 1650 Ti, powered up, but that’s not enough to keep a modern gaming laptop running at full speed. Some gaming laptops do support charging via USB Type-C, however, such as the Asus Zephyrus G14 and Razer’s Blade 14 and 15, but won’t keep the battery topped up if you’re trying to use it at the same time.

The switch to supporting up to 48V at 5A gives you a peak wattage of 240W, which means all your laptop needs can be provided by that near-universal cable. Well, kinda universal. This new optional power upgrade requires newer Extended Power Range (EPR) cables rather than the Standard Power Range (SPR) ones we have today.

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And though the SPR cables are expected to be entirely deprecated in favour of the newer EPR versions, Ars Technica’s report suggests that smaller chargers that don’t need the higher power limit will still use SPR cables, at least in the short term. And that means we still won’t quite be at the stage where you can just slam any laptop charger into any other laptop and be confident it’ll work.

But it sure feels like we’re on the road to that.

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