Thursday, January 14, 2016

ChargeDr USB, Is It Really Quick Charge 2.0? A ChargeDr Review & BENCHMARKS!

The ChargeDr USB is a small flash drive-sized USB device that supposedly allows "Quick Charge" speeds through a desktop or laptop PC. I recently purchased the item as I thought it was pretty ingenius, and often find myself scrounging for my phone charger while working on the computer. I tried to find some formal reviews or articles on the product, but found none. So I decided it best to create one for those who are curious if the product works

.ChargeDr vs. ChargeDr Pro
There are two versions of the ChargeDr USB. The differences are about a dollar (as of the time of this writing) and that the Pro version allows for the syncing of data while plugged in.

The regular ChargeDr does not allow syncing of data while charging. While the Pro would seem the better choice, it too disallows syncing of data while charging. It instead has a switch that can be flipped to change from a charging mode to a data sync mode.

I had no idea about the Pro version until after I purchased the regular version. However, to enable syncing I just need to unplug my cable from the ChargeDr and plug it directly into the USB port. So, in essence, you can spend the extra dollar and save a couple seconds of work...

The Setup
I wanted a fair comparison, so I performed a variety of tests. These involved charging with a Quick Charge adapter through an outlet, using a USB 2.0 port from my laptop, using the ChargeDr through a USB 2.0 port, using a USB 3.0 port, using the ChargeDr through a USB 3.0 port.

I was going to also charge from an outlet with an adapter that does not support Quick Charge technology, although the only adapter I had available has a quirk where it makes my phone think it is being continuously unplugged and re-plugged.

The only difference that may come from my findings and others (if others share theirs), is that my ChargeDr accidentally went through the washer and dryer. It seemed to function with no problems afterward, so I assume my experiments will still be valid.

I expect the device either works or it does not after a situation like this. However, it is possible that it works at a lesser capacity (but I am doubtful) and my findings could therefore be skewed as a result.

I did several tests in different variations just to see what results I could get and what provided the best results. Initially my tests began with my battery mostly charged. But because it should take longer to charge when the battery is closer to full, I eventually changed to running my tests from 9%.

The one thing that should be noted going into this is that I am using a LG G3, and therefore may have a different battery capacity than what others may have. It should also be said that because of this, gaining a single battery percentage will depend upon how big your battery is. Meaning, if I have a battery that is 2300 mAh, and another battery that is 4000 mAh, the percent scale is the same, 100%. But it also means that charging 1% on the 2300 mAh would be faster than charging 1% on the 4000 mAh (if charging draw is equal).

The good thing about this is because I have to find results by recording the time, it will give (somewhat) valid results. Please keep in mind that it is extremely hard to get accurate results because how can someone know they just reached a certain percentage? Interpreted easier, how do I know at what time the percentage was obtained and how long a new percentage will be procured? Put easiest, if it were to take a minute for each percentage of my battery, how do I know on what second I am currently on when recording the result? If I record at the 30 second mark, and the time changed during the 29 second mark, the findings I record will have a slight margin of error. So, remember that there is a margin of error to take into consideration in the following findings.

High-End Charging
I did not want to waste these results so I am first including the higher-ended percentage results that I did make. For a frame of reference, there is an article that shows that it took 96 minutes for a LG G4 to charge from 80% to 100% (the longest periods when Quick Charge is being used). This equates to 4.8 minutes per battery percentage.

PC USB 2.0

90% - 100% = 10% @ 41min.
1% = 4.1min.

PC USB 2.0 (ChargeDr)

94% - 100% = 6% @ 21min.
1% = 3.5min.

Quick Charge 2.0

88% - 100% = 12% @ 25min.
1% = 2.08min.

The first Quick Charge 2.0 result seemed to good to be true, so I did another...

Quick Charge 2.0

87% - 100% = 13% @37min
1 = 2.85min.

From these results, using the PC USB 2.0 as a base we can tell that each method is a little more than about half-a-minute apart in terms of a single percent. That may not seem like much, but if we look at the amount of time it took to charge each to 100%, it tells a different story.

For only 10%, PC USB 2.0 took 41 minutes to charge to the full 100%! It took the ChargeDr 21 minutes to replenish 6%. A definite advantage over PC USB 2.0, but still time-consuming. And Quick Charge 2.0 took 37 minutes to gain 13% and reach 100%.

If we take the amount it took for the ChargeDr and multiply it by 2 for 12%, that would take 42 minutes. Subtract the Quick Charge's 37 minutes from that and we get 5 minutes, not forgetting 37 minutes is actually 13%, not 12%. 5 minutes does not seem like a substantial amount of time, but over a much larger percentage that number would grow to something much more impressive.

Unfortunately, this also means that the ChargeDr was not able to match Quick Charge 2.0 capabilities. Even by using the second result I took with Quick Charge, the ChargeDr was still .65 minutes, or 39 seconds, longer for each percentage. This stands outside the margin of error, which means when needing a top-off, the ChargeDr is still far better than regular charging methods, but cannot match Quick Charge 2.0 speeds.  

Another reason I did not want to rely on these results is I find that from 99% to 100%, the time takes a lot longer than normal to gain that single percent...

Low-End Charging
This is the sweet spot for Quick Charge 2.0. It is where it should excel and get the best performance when needing a "quick charge".

As stated earlier, I did almost all these tests at 9%. Most results I recorded were from 9% until 14%, but there was one where I missed that marker. At this point I also decided to not do any tests using PC USB 2.0 (unless it was in conjunction with the ChargeDr) because it was already obvious that USB 2.0 would not be able to get results close to that of the ChargeDr. Instead, I performed some PC USB 3.0 tests.

The reason for this is that USB 3.0 (sometimes to referred to as USB 3.1 Rev. 1) can output more watts than USB 2.0, and therefore should provide better results when charging through said port.

PC USB 3.0 (Native)

9% - 14% = 5% @ 14min.
1% = 2.8min. 

PC USB 3.0 (ExpressCard)

9% - 14% = 5% @ 11min.
1% = 2.2min.

PC USB 3.0 (ChargeDr)

5% - 14% = 9% @ 12min.
1% = 1.3min.

PC USB 2.0 (ChargeDr)

9% - 14% = 5% @ 11min.
1% = 2.2min.

*9% - 14% = 5% @ 7min.

1% = 1.4min.

Quick Charge 2.0

9% - 67% = 58% @ 48min.
1% = .83min.

9% - 14% = 5% @ 4min.

1% = .8min.

These numbers may be a bit confusing, so I will interpret them one at a time starting with PC USB 3.0. I did three different tests. The "Native" test is with USB 3.0 built-in to the motherboard. The "ExpressCard" was with USB 3.0 that is through an ExpressCard. The "ChargeDr" was done with USB 3.0 through the ExpressCard. Oddly enough, the slowest result was with the native USB 3.0, followed by the ExpressCard, and then the ChargeDr. The jumps are quite different between the three, with 48 seconds and 54 seconds respectively. The ExpressCard without the ChargeDr actually matches the first result I obtained with PC USB 2.0 using ChargeDr. Impressive, if that were the only result I had made for PC USB 2.0. By far, the ChargeDr was the best way to charge the LG G3.

PC USB 2.0 actually had three results. However, two of the findings were the same, thus the asterisks (*). I had created more than one because one of my laptops has multiple USB 2.0 ports on both sides, and I wanted to see if it had any effect on the charging. The last two results were almost the same as the fastest charging speed using the ChargeDr speed on USB 3.0. Enough to be in the margin of error and can thus be considered the same finding.

The Quick Charge 2.0 yielded amazing results, as expected. It took less than 1 minute to gain a single percent on both tries. In comparison to the best ChargeDr speeds I encountered, the ChargeDr findings were close to twice as long (12 seconds short) compared to Quick Charge.

Yet again, the ChargeDr lagged behind Quick Charge. Not only that, this shows us that the ChargeDr actually gets an average of 9 seconds slower when compared to Quick Charge at higher battery percentages. What this means is that the ChargeDr's performance decreases at higher battery percentages, which is expected, but at even a slower pace than what would be expected. In essence, it should be able to maintain its "slower" speed when compared to Quick Charge, but testing shows that it gets even slower!

Better Findings?
It would have been better to make more passes for each test, but given the time it takes to set everything up and record results, my impatience got the best of me.

Again, I had an incident with ChargeDr that could have skewed results, but I honestly doubt it had any effect because I would think it would not have dipped in performance, but had no advantage at all (broken). I also was not able to properly use a regular charger without Quick Charge for testing, but I do not think that would have changed much of anything.

One great test that I was unable to perform was using MSI's Super Charge. On certain MSI motherboards they have a red USB connector called JUSB1. Setting this up properly will (supposedly) allow you to have Quick Charge speeds with a USB 3.0 port. Maybe one day...

Interpreting the Results
The obvious conclusion is that while the ChargeDr is a lot better than just a USB port, it does not live up to Quick Charge 2.0 expectations. Quick Charge through an outlet simply outperforms anything available as an alternative

During times of low battery life, the ChargeDr will be more than 2x as fast using a USB port. This is nothing to snuff at. And while diminished, at higher-end charging the ChargeDr will be slightly more than 1/4 faster than a USB port.

Should I Buy the ChargeDr?
This depends. If you are near an outlet most of the time, then it may be best to save your money. But if you are at a computer all the time and rarely get up, then it is a great buy. For myself, I have found it very useful, and have used it multiple times. I would normally just plug in my phone to my laptop if I needed a charge, even if I was close to an outlet. But now I can plug in my phone to my laptop and know that it will charge much faster.

But consider this, while you can buy Quick Chargers for the car, that Quick Charger normally only works for the car. It can be cheap, but has a solitary use. Maybe if you get lucky you can find a car charger that has an adapter for a wall outlet, but that will cost more, and you probably still have the manufacturer's Quick Charger that came with your phone or tablet. Even if not, it would still mean you have multiple adapters to look after. Or what about an airport? Sure they have charging bays for the most part, but what if only the USB ports are open and you need to make sure that your phone is fully charged when you step off your flight? Or in a similar fashion, what if you have no outlets available for the moment and you need your phone charged? Maybe even your USB ports are taken up with whatever peripherals? But you do have a USB hub that provides power output, that could be your saving grace!

The ChargeDr is a small simple unit, with a flush-sitting cap, and can be used in your car or anything else that has a USB connector. It will work on your laptop when you are on the go. It even makes for a great backup in case your Quick Charger goes faulty or missing. Not to mention it can survive a wash and still operate!

So while it is not necessary to get the ChargeDr, and it will not charge as fast as a Quick Charger, it could be a very (small and) useful tool that could end up saving you some headache when no other resolution is available.

Power Off
The ChargeDr is a neat device. I never really needed it, but it was a splurge item that has come in quite handy on occasion. I was upset when it got washed, but it seemed to make no difference, which also conveys how sturdy the device actually is. I did test before it got into the wash, and it did seem just as fast. I have washed a USB flash drive--by accident--before, and it did not fare as well. It eventually did work, but for how long afterwards I do not know as I had already moved on.

It is disappointing that it does not give true Quick Charge 2.0 performance as advertised, but I presently know of no other solution that does what it does.

One final mention, I did want to test this with an iOS device that has rapid charging, but unfortunately I do not have any iOS device that does. It would be interesting to see if the ChargeDr does have any affect since really it just acts like a mini power inverter to provide more power to devices.

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