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What is Fast Charging for your Laptop?
When your laptop or smartphone battery runs low and you’re in a pinch, fast charging can make or break your workflow. New standards have led to dramatically faster charging speeds.
But what is fast charging and how does it work? Not all devices and manufacturers handle quick charge systems in the same way. In this article, we’ll review the current generation of high-speed chargers and fast-charging cables with a look toward the future.
What is fast charging?
Fast charging refers to any type of high-speed battery-charging system. One of the most common targets for fast-charging standards is near full charge in about half an hour. Most HP laptops set this baseline, which offers long battery life and a 50% recharge or more in only 30 minutes.
Many smart phone and laptop fast-charging standards are proprietary, which means the speed and the technology may vary. The underlying mechanisms may be similar, but compatibility remains a major issue between manufacturers. Make sure to check your device against any new charging products to confirm compatibility.
Improved carrying capacity
Fast charging exists mostly thanks to improvements in carrying capacity. Older connections simply don’t support enough wattage to charge quickly, which is why laptop power supplies often require the iconic “power brick.” You never know what the next breakthrough in charging may look like, but expect to continue to see better performance and increasing standardization.
How does fast charging work?
Fast charging works by delivering an increased wattage to your device, which is possible through substantial increases in carrying capacity. Older laptop power connections can’t compete with newer standards. Capacity constraints are why previous-generation power cords are bulkier with larger power bricks.
New technology always leads to compatibility concerns, especially with different device generations, but fast charging’s boost in performance is clear.
Lightning cables, USB-C, and the USB PD Standard
The lightning connector is an early example of a fast charging cable. However, this technology is exclusive to Apple’s mobile devices, making it controversial in some circles. It’s an example of how regulators view proprietary formats as wasteful, especially when manufacturers ultimately use more common formats.
The most widespread and compatible format is USB-C. It’s compatible with a growing range of next-generation devices, including both Windows and Apple laptops, and Android phones.
The biggest obstacle to fast charging is older devices that may not be compatible with the latest USB-C delivery standards. Be sure to check product descriptions and reviews when purchasing a replacement power cord. For more about the latest standards and specifications, we suggest visiting the USB Implementers Forum.
Major advantages of fast-charging devices
We’ve talked about the technology but what about its advantages? There are several key benefits to consider when you start to use fast charging.
1. Less down time between work or entertainment sessions
One of the biggest advantages of fast charging is reduced downtime. A laptop with fast-charging support is much easier to keep close to a full charge. While this may seem most beneficial for those with busy routines, it’s actually useful for every user.
It helps you get back to work quickly after the battery is fully drained, like after a long vacation or work trip. You can also stay on top of your battery’s charge by quickly topping it off when necessary. Just set an alarm for 30 minutes so you know when you can get back to it.
2. Better overall portability
When you can quickly and confidently charge a device, you can also enjoy greater portability. This is particularly ideal for commuting and traveling, because it reduces the risk of your worst case scenario – a drained battery.
With most fast-charging benchmarks averaging around 30 minutes, even just a few minutes worth of charge can make a difference when you’re in trouble.
3. Reduce outlet clutter
Fast-charging plugs are typically more compact that standard chargers, with designs that reduce your overall physical footprint. This means you can enjoy less clutter in your workspace, especially around the electrical outlets.
If your device has a USB-C port, you can charge compatible external devices from your laptop, too. USB-C is reversible, which means you can charge more of your devices with a single cord. This also means no more hunting down another cable just to bring your phone back to life.
4. Helps overcome low-capacity batteries
While compatibility may be an issue, you’ll see some benefits if you upgrade your power cord. For some, this is a great way to deal with batteries that aren’t holding a charge or keeping up with your routine. Just make sure your device supports your preferred connection.
Remember, a high-speed charger won’t help a substantially older device. If you need to use an adapter or there’s more than a 3-year age difference, you may experience issues. In either instance, you may have to replace your battery or upgrade your device.
Are there any drawbacks to fast charging?
The main disadvantage to fast charging is determining compatibility. Even widespread standards like USB-C have disadvantages because of the long implementation period. USB-C was developed over time, so some early versions may work differently than the latest standard, which means charging times may vary.
Other laptops and devices may not use USB-C for both power delivery and data transfer. You may be able to transfer files, for example, but you may not be able to charge an older device.
What laptops support fast-charging features?
How each manufacturer handles fast-charging will vary, but it’s widely available across a variety of HP laptops. To see battery and charging options, visit the Specs tab on the product page of any device.
The HP ENVY x360 convertible laptop is a popular example. It features an AMD Ryzen Series processor with Radeon graphics, speedy solid-state drive (SSD) storage, and fast charging that supports up to a 50% charge in 30 minutes.
How to tell if your laptop supports fast charging
You can manage your battery hands-on with the Windows PowerShell app. But for a simpler method, you can find your laptop’s exact charging capabilities in your product information. If you no longer have the documentation, you can usually find it online.
Here’s how Windows users can learn more about their device’s battery specifications:
- Click the Windows icon at the lower left of your desktop
- Click the gear-shaped Settings icon at the left side of the menu
- Click the System tab from the Settings menu
- Scroll down on the left sidebar and select the About tab
- In the same window, you should now see a comprehensive index of product information including model name/number, product ID, and information for components like your process and RAM chips
- Use your model number or product ID to search for product specs. Prioritize official specs from manufacturers and trusted sellers
What is adaptive charging?
Adaptive charging is technology that uses your device settings to reduce charging speeds when you aren’t using it. How does that help? Many batteries slowly lose capacity over time when kept at full capacity, which impacts performance over time.
An adaptive charging system will charge your device up to a certain level, then slow down until you start to use it. This helps maintain your device’s original battery capacity and extend its lifespan.
What is wireless charging?
Wireless charging, also known as cordless or inductive charging, wireless charging uses induction coils to generate power between a device and charging unit. It’s not always as fast as wired charging, but the speeds are increasing as the technology improves. One comparison suggests that the gap is closing quickly.
Like adaptive charging, wireless charging has seen its early introduction for other devices, from smartphones and tablets to electric cars. This feature is being implemented in laptops, too, so we can expect to see more wireless charging notebook options soon.
The future of fast-charging technology
Fast-charging is here to stay, which means improving battery performance for devices of all kinds. There are several key benefits to enjoy through this technology, particularly reduced downtime and improved portability. While the future of fast-charging should offer more simplicity, it’s important to learn more about your current setup to know which new products are compatible with your existing devices.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.