How to Select the Right USB Charging Station
Searching for the right charging station can get overwhelming pretty quickly, as there are hundreds of them on the market in every possible configuration and at a wide range of price points. To help you decide between particular models, we’ve outlined key features to look for when shopping, but if you’re in a hurry and just want to buy one right this second, you can always jump down to the section with our recommendations.
USB charging stations come in three forms factors: wall chargers, corded hubs, and organizers. Which form factor you select is generally a matter of personal preference, combined with consideration for where you will be using it.
Wall chargers (shown to the left in the image below) are all-in-one models that plug directly into the wall like a giant transformer and have no extension cord of any sort. The box, if you will, goes right against the outlet and all the USB cords for your devices are inserted directly into the outlet-attached box.
Number of Ports
You may think this step is simple: you need enough ports to charge all your devices. But don’t think “Alright, I have one smartphone, one tablet, and one ebook reader, therefore I need three ports.” The cost difference between models is trivial when priced on per-port basis; give yourself room to expand. If the goal is to cut down on clutter and only use one outlet, then you need to buy with an eye on future use. So buy a charger with a few more ports than you currently need.
Just like external battery packs, the USB ports on your charging station will have different amperage outputs, which can make a significant difference in how fast your devices charge.
Standard USB amperage outputs are 1A, 2.1A, and 2.4A. All USB devices will charge on the lower amperage ports, but devices with large batteries–like newer tablets and smartphones–will take a long time to fully recharge on lower amperage ports. So for those devices, it’s better to have some higher amperage ports to charge them.
You don’t necessarily need to buy a USB charging station that has all high-amperage ports, but you definitely shouldn’t buy a charger with only 1A ports. When comparing two chargers, if all other features are equal and the prices are more or less comparable, always go with the charger with the higher number of 2.1A and/or 2.4A ports. Devices are getting more power hungry over time, and there is little sense in not spending a few bucks to extend the lifespan of your charger.
Specialty Charging Features
The above features are far more important than any specialty features a charger may come with. But, in some cases, extra features are still worth noting. Some chargers, for example, have ports with specialty circuits to take advantage of various “fast charge” technology, like Qualcomm’s “Quick Charge” system for Android devices. Others may include wireless charging alongside its regular bank of USB ports, so you can set your wireless-charging enabled device right on top.
For more users there is no point in picking up a charging station with device-specific features like propriety fast charging, but if you have a device that supports it you may consider the premium worth it.