My search for the ultimate travel charger may soon be coming to an end. With the new GaN technology chargers hitting the market, chargers are finally starting to get smaller. Even without GaN, manufacturers have found ways to improve the output vs. size ratio.
[December 2019 Update: Please note that with the release of the RAVPower 61w GaN USB-C charger, I now recommend the RAVPower over the thinkplus charger]
When travelling, size and weight are the most important factors in any decisions made on what to bring on a trip. For travel chargers, this is especially important as the higher output chargers can be pretty darn big.
For most of my travels, I take a 2018 MacBook Pro 13 (USB-C), iPad Pro 11 (USB-C), iPhone X (Lightning), and 1-2 cameras (the Nitecore chargers I use require MicroUSB). When you add in all the different connectors and power requirements, it becomes quite difficult to find the perfect charger.
The MacBook Pro requires some decent power to charge while using it (45w+), while the other apple devices can make do with 15-30w. The Nitecore chargers need 9V and 2A for 18w of power if you wan to engage Quick Charge mode. My ideal charger would be 100w with multiple connectors, small size, low heat, and the ability to distribute power smartly.
I don’t believe such a charger exists at this time, so we have to make do with what’s on the market. However, the recent advancements mean that we can get pretty close to that ideal charging state. The chargers that I really wanted to test were the Anker GaN 29w charger and the RavPower 45w charger, which are available from Amazon. Unfortunately, they’re not yet available in Asia where I’m based.
While searching for something similar, I came across the thinkplus charger from computer giant Lenovo. At this time, it doesn’t appear that it’s available in North America, but you may be able to buy it from Aliexpress, which is the same platform as the online giant Taobao, which we use to buy goods in Asia. I purchased two from a Taobao competitor JD.com, one black and one white for CNY249 each (USD$35).
The packaging is sleek and robust, and I was surprised to find a very well made and long USB-C cable inside. I was also surprised at how small the charger is. It’s about the same length and width as the Apple 61w charger, but half the height. Compared side by side, you can almost fit two of the thinkplus 65w chargers in the same space as one Apple 61w charger.
The only downside to the thinkplus is that the prongs are not retractable so they do take up some space in your carry-on or luggage. I do however find this better than if they made the charger longer, just to allow the prongs to retract. The little charger feels dense and well built, and clearly has some metal inside, likely for heat management.
Upon plugging the charger in and connecting a fully depleted MacBook Pro, going to the Apple System Report showed the charger putting out the full 65w as advertised. The MacBook Pro battery climbed quickly and I was pleased to find the charger did not get too warm to the touch. Lenovo seems to have done a great job with the heat dissapation.
I’ve now used the two chargers on several trips and have found them to be reliable and very useful. I’m so happy to have ditched the huge Apple 61w charger in my travel pack and replace it with these. The thinkplus is still not the perfect charger since it only has one port; I need to bring a universal adapter that has four USB-A ports built in for times when a rapid charge is not required. For all other times, I have the two chargers ready to boost a battery in no time.
If you’re able to get the thinkplus charger in your country or delivered to your country, I’d highly recommend it; until such time that we can get high power GaN chargers in a smaller package, this little charger will definitely serve you well. As always, I appreciate any feedback or comments you may have; you don’t need to sign up to write a comment below.