Google is working on a Chrome OS update that’ll make Chromebooks with touch screens easier to use.
The OS wasn’t exactly designed with touch controls in mind, but the Mountain View company seems to be changing plans with a new touch-friendly launcher.
Chrome OS Update To Bring Touch Controls To The Table
From the look of things, the new launcher is placed below the screen. When it’s pulled up, it’ll show a Google search bar and a couple of suggested apps. Now when it’s open in full by swiping up, it’ll give access to all the apps available.
Interestingly enough, it seems that when the voice search command is used, it’ll open up a new window in the Chrome browser with the user’s query keyed in.
The person behind the reveal is none other than Chromium evangelist François Beaufort, spreading the word via a Google+ post.
“The Chrome OS team is experimenting with a Touch-Friendly version of the launcher in Canary channel. Enable the chrome://flags/#enable-fullscreen-app-list flag, restart Chrome, and press the Search key to see it in action,” he says.
Chrome OS Touch-Friendly Controls Potential Release Date
For the uninitiated, Chrome has four release channels: Canary, Dev, Beta, and Stable. New features go through each one in that order.
With that cleared up, the new launcher is still in the Canary channel. That means Chromebook users won’t see a stable version just yet, but given Google’s track record, it’s a pretty safe bet to expect it to go live in about three to four months.
It should be mentioned that Canary is the channel with the latest features that undergo rigorous testing. In other words, bugs and crashes are common there.
Also, those interested in the code behind the new launcher can head on over to the Chromium Code Review page.
To boil things down, Chrome OS is getting a new launcher that’ll allow Chromebook users to use touch controls better.
Devices that come to mind here are from Acer, Asus, Samsung, and, of course, Google, particularly those that are set to get Android app support in the foreseeable future.
Before wrapping things up, don’t forget to check out our tips and tricks to make the most out of your Chromebook.
Are you excited to finally get better touch controls on your Chromebook? If so, feel free to drop by our comments section below and let us know.
A new web-based software platform is swiftly bringing the visualization of 3-D data to every device, optimizing the use of, for example, virtual reality and augmented reality in industry. In this way, Fraunhofer researchers have brought the ideal of “any data on any device” a good deal closer.
If you want to be sure that the person you are sending documents and pictures to will be able to open them on their computer, then you send them in PDF and JPG format. But what do you do with 3-D content? “A standardized option hasn’t existed before now,” says Dr. Johannes Behr, head of the Visual Computing System Technologies department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD. In particular, industry lacks a means of taking the very large, increasingly complex volumes of 3-D data that arise and rendering them useful – and of being able to use the data on every device, from smartphones to VR goggles. “The data volume is growing faster than the means of visualizing it,” reports Behr. Fraunhofer IGD is presenting a solution to this problem in the form of its “instant3DHub” software, which allows engineers, technicians and assemblers to use spatial design and assembly plans without any difficulty on their own devices. “This will enable them to inspect industrial plants or digital buildings, etc. in real time and find out what’s going on there,” explains Behr.
Software calculates only visible components
On account of the gigantic volumes of data that have to be processed, such an undertaking has thus far been either impossible or possible only with a tremendous amount of effort. After all, users had to manually choose in advance which data should be processed for the visualization, a task then executed by expensive special software. Not exactly a cost-effective method, and a time-consuming one as well. With the web-based Fraunhofer solution, every company can adapt the visualization tool to its requirements. The software autonomously selects the data to be prepared, by intelligently calculating, for example, that only views of visible parts are transmitted to the user’s device. Citing the example of a power plant, Behr explains: “Out of some 3.5 million components, only the approximately 3,000 visible parts are calculated on the server and transmitted to the device.”
Such visibility calculations are especially useful for VR and AR applications, as the objects being viewed at any given moment appear in the display in real time. At CeBIT, researchers will be showing how well this works, using the example of car maintenance. In a VR application, it is necessary to load up to 120 images per second onto data goggles. In this way, several thousand points of 3-D data can be transmitted from a central database for a vehicle model to a device in just one second. The process is so fast because the complete data does not have to be loaded to the device, as used to be the case, but is streamed over the web. A huge variety of 3-D web applications are delivered on the fly, without permanent storage, so that even mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones can make optimal use of them. One key feature of this process is that for every access to instant3DHub, the data is assigned to, prepared and visualized for the specific applications. “As a result, the system fulfills user- and device-specific requirements, and above all is secure,” says Behr. BMW, Daimler and Porsche already use instant3DHub at over 1,000 workstations. Even medium-sized companies such as SimScale and thinkproject have successfully implemented “instantreality” and instant3Dhub and are developing their own individual software solutions on that basis.
Augmented reality is a key technology for Industrie 4.0
Technologies that create a link between CAD data and the real production environment are also relevant for the domain of augmented reality. “Augmented reality is a key technology for Industrie 4.0, because it constantly compares the digital target situation in real time against the actual situation as captured by cameras and sensors,” adds Dr. Ulrich Bockholt, head of the Virtual and Augmented Reality department at Fraunhofer IGD. Ultimately, however, the solution is of interest to many sectors, he explains, even in the construction and architecture field, where it can be used to help visualize building information models on smartphones, tablet computers or data goggles.
We received a tip earlier today that Minecraft Pocket Edition will no longer be supported on Windows mobile devices.
Since receiving the tip, we have confirmed with sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans that Minecraft Pocket Edition will no longer receive updates for Windows Phone 8.1 or 10 Mobile, but it will still be available in the store.
This will come as a considerable blow for Windows mobile fans of the game, but the amount of users spending time in Minecraft PE for Windows 8.1 and 10 Mobile is reportedly very low, making the development hours needed to keep it up to date is simply no longer economically viable.
At this point, I’d say it’s pretty clear that the future of Windows on mobile devices lies with full Windows 10 on ARM, recently announced for future handsets powered by the Snapdragon 835 processor. Microsoft demonstrated World of Tank Blitz running on a Snapdragon 820 with full Windows 10, which implies that the newer 835 would make short work of Minecraft for Windows 10, which already supports touch. I suspect this is where the bulk of Minecraft development will be spent moving forward.
You can still download and play Minecraft Pocket Edition on Windows Phone devices, at least for the time being, using the link below.
For many Mac owners, the built-in Disk Utility is all they’ll ever need. After all, Apple’s software handles the basic task of formatting HFS+, FAT32, and exFAT volumes and partitions, along with the occasional need for one-click verification and repair of native OS X disks. (And with macOS Sierra, the RAID tools make a return.)
However, there are plenty of valid reasons for wanting to do more with your drives, and not all are exclusive to technically inclined users. A few examples would be optimizing OS X, Windows, and Linux file systems, performing a secure wipe, or backing up data in a more effective manner than Time Machine.
If there’s anyone who knows what makes these file systems tick, it’s Paragon Software. Founded over two decades ago, the company makes it easy to format, read, and write NTFS or ExtFS volumes on a Mac with the simplicity and performance of native media. Now they’ve gone one step beyond those drivers with an all-in-one storage utility that makes Apple’s Disk Utility look positively feeble by comparison.
At your service
Making its debut on the Mac after years of services as a suite of Windows tools,Paragon Hard Disk Manager is an impressively solid OS X debut for a first version. Functionality is divided across two tabs: Disks and Partitions, where the majority of storage management tools reside, or Backup and Restore, used to create snapshot-based archives.
Hard Disk Manager is compatible with OS X Mavericks 10.9 and later, including support for the latest macOS Sierra courtesy of a free update. At first launch, HDM installs a few required under-the-hood “auxiliary components,” then displays a warning if System Integrity Protection (SIP) is enabled.
Introduced with OS X El Capitan 10.11, SIP prevents Mac software from gaining root privileges—great for combating potential malware, but a hindrance in the case of a utility like HDM. Senior contributor Glenn Fleishman explained how to manually disable SIP in a post last year, but HDM provides a one-click, Terminal-free method using bootable media that doubles as an OS X Recovery disk.
As a safeguard, HDM doesn’t immediately run most tasks, instead queuing them up awaiting further confirmation from the Apply Operations button before proceeding; there’s also an option to undo tasks from the queue. It’s great for preventing potential mistakes, but the extra clicks do tend to slow things down a bit.
Disks and partitions
Like Disk Utility, Hard Disk Manager’s Disks and Partitions tab displays a list of all mounted volumes. But unlike Apple’s dumbed-down approach, HDM provides more detailed disk maps, which represent partitions and logical disks as color-coded bars based on the file system in use: Purple for HFS+, light/dark blue for FAT16/32, aqua blue for NTFS, teal for exFAT, green for ExtFS, or orange for free space.
Needless to say, this approach is vastly superior to Disk Utility, which displays information by content type, like an iOS device. There are two ways to use the utility—you can wipe or copy an entire disk and edit sectors by clicking the gear in the upper right corner, or act upon individual partitions from their respective settings below.
Hard Disk Manager also displays partition information as a list at the bottom of the window, with available options only a contextual menu away. Oddly, this method doesn’t work from the graphical drive map, one of my few quibbles with an otherwise excellent utility.
Although HDM can format, partition, and otherwise work with non-native NTFS or ExFS volumes, you’ll still need Paragon’s replacement drivers installed to access files. Also, despite the name, HDM works equally well with solid-state storage (SSD), USB flash drives, and Apple’s hybrid Fusion Drives as it does with traditional platter-based disks.
Backup and restore
One of Paragon’s pride and joys is its Snapshot technology, which allows users to create an exact sector-level copy of the operating system and all user data. Compared to Time Machine and other Mac-native backup solutions, Snapshot offers improved performance, with system recovery times in minutes rather than hours.
The Backup and Restore options are laid out in a straightforward manner, and the Create New Archive wizard detects mounted OS X or Windows operating systems automatically, or you can manually select one or more partitions from the disk map. There’s currently no way to schedule backups as part of a regular routine, but Paragon plans to introduce this functionality in a future update.
HDM saves archives as Paragon Virtual Hard Drive (PVHD) images by default, which supports incremental imaging. This approach minimizes the time and storage space required for subsequent backups of the same volume(s). The installation also includes a VMDK mounter utility for those who prefer this format.
Paragon maintains a nice balance between ease of use and more advanced features, although novices will want to spend a little time getting accustomed to the unique UI before they start tinkering with existing volumes.
If you’re longing for the more robust features of earlier Disk Utility versions or want complete command over connected storage devices, Paragon Hard Disk Manager is the way to go.
The Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update is expected to release over the coming weeks, but for many Lumia owners out there, they won’t be receiving the update, at least not officially from Microsoft. This is a result of increased minimum requirements for the operating system to run at Microsoft’s performance standards, to ensure users aren’t left with slow devices.
For those people who wish to ignore Microsoft’s advice and get the Anniversary Update on to their older Windows 10 Mobile or Windows Phone devices, it is now possible. Thanks to a team over at XDA, Dormant Hackers Team, they’ve managed to create an app that will fool the system into thinking that the device is a Lumia 950 XL single or dual-SIM variant, bypassing the device integrity checks for the upgrade.
Effectively, the process is this:
Install the app
Select whether the device is a single or dual-SIM variant
Tap ‘Allow Update’, this will now change the device targeting info to a Lumia 950 XL
Select the Windows Insider ring to install
The update will then be available and commence.
There are a few caveats with this process:
It will not work on 512MB RAM devices, this is being looked into
It will not currently upgrade a Windows Phone 8.1 device to Windows 10 Mobile, the developers are looking for Windows Phone 8.1 users to help test this and bring the functionality to the app
It is important to remember that these types of workarounds are not endorsed by WinBeta or Microsoft and could result in the device becoming bricked or damaged. Always take backups where possible and don’t run it on a daily driver unless you’re certain.
Disk Utility hadn’t changed much over the years. The hoary app used for creating logical divisions in disks, applying first aid to ones with data damage, and repairing permissions seemed a thing from a previous age. With El Capitan, Apple has done more than slap on a fresh coat of paint. It has most of the same features, but the interaction and display is entirely different.
Expert users may be frustrated and resort to learning the ins and outs of diskutil, the command-line utility available via Terminal that’s always had more switches and controls than the graphical Disk Utility.
But for many users who need to make quick and rare trips to this software, it could be an improvement: less frightening, easy to use, and harder to make mistakes.
One bit of terminology calibration before we proceed for those who don’t typically deal with disk settings. It’s typical to call a physical drive—whether a USB thumb drive, an SSD, or a hard drive—a drive. You format a drive to make its raw storage compatible with one or more operating systems. A physical drive has logicaldivisions, called partitions, that allow different formatting parameters on the same physical drive. Each mountable partition can appear as a separate disk icon in the Finder; these are often called volumes and, via Terminal, can be found in /Volumesdirectory.
Before digging into how to use the new setup, it’s important to note a key omission: Verify Permissions and Repair Permissions are gone. The sworn-by advice for years by experienced OS X users and Apple alike was to run Disk Utility and click Repair Permissions as the first step in troubleshooting something gone wrong: a printer driver failing, an app’s strange behavior, a weird interface glitch? Repair permissions!
In OS X (and in all Unix and related OSes), a file or directory’s permissions associate which kind of user can perform what kind of action: read, write, execute (run, like a program), and other attributes. It made sense that repairing permissions on files for which OS X knew precisely what settings should be in place could fix random faults. A printer driver with the wrong switches flipped might not be available to the system; or the driver might be unable to access the printer settings file or temporary print queue directories. Even so, from all reports, permissions repairs had little real effect for years—it just made us feel better.
But in El Capitan, any system file for which Repair Permissions would have restored these settings can no longer be modified during normal operating. System Integrity Protection (SIP), also known as rootless mode, prevents modification to these files.
During El Capitan’s beta testing, one round of release notes from Apple explained the permissions removal from Disk Utility by noting that during software updates, any permission issues would be resolved by an installer, but that otherwise, there was no need. (If you disable SIP to use certain third-party software or unsigned kernel extensions, you’re on you own now.)
All colors of the rainbow
This new version of Disk Utility shows a prettier display when launched. As in the older versions, the boot partition is selected—the partition on a drive that holds the currently running OS X system. The list is divvied up into Internal, External, and Disk Images. However, instead of selecting the First Aid tab, Disk Utility now shows a variety of basic information about the partition.
This view may seem familiar if you’ve taken a trip recently to ? > About This Mac and clicked Storage. For volumes “blessed” as capable of being used as a startup drive, you’ll see a color-coded division—similar to that in iTunes for iOS devices—of how much storage is used and for what. For other regular volumes, just a yellow Other bar shows occupied space. Disk Utility only shows the division for the current booted volume, however.
The area beneath the drive icon and its summary offers a bit of technical detail, but not an overwhelming amount: the Unix mount point, like / with a boot drive; its type and connection; capacity, available, and used; and the logical name used by OS X (like disk3s2), which can be helpful if you need to plug it into diskutil or get remote help for your problem.
Where did all the other tools go? They’re still there, but as buttons instead of tabs. Across the tab, you see First Aid (disk repair), Partition, Erase, Mount, and Info. Mount toggles to Unmount for volumes that are available in the Finder. (You can also click the eject button now next to any mounted volume in the list.)
Select a drive or a partition and click First Aid, and a seemingly much-changed repair operation proceeds. Unlike in its predecessor, Disk Utility can no longer verify a disk, making sure it’s OK without unmounting it or performing other operations. First Aid must be able to unmount a drive, or you’ll get an error. Click Show Details and you’ll see a bit more of what’s happening under the hood, as with the earlier release.
You can erase either a partition or an entire drive. Drives have both a format and a scheme: the scheme controls how the drive is prepared to be used to boot with different operating systems. Intel-based Macs need a GUID Partition Map; PowerPC ones, Apple Partition Map; and Windows (and DOS!), Master Boot Record. OS X can mount all three kinds, but only boot from the GUID flavor.
The several types under Format, whether for a drive or a partition, control filesystem-related issues. Here, you’ll almost always pick OS X Extended (Journaled) for best results. (To make a USB thumb drive or other disk to use with Windows, you may have to pick Master Boot Record as the scheme and ExFAT for cross-platform compatibility.)
The GUID Partition Map lets you resize partitions after they’ve been created and make new partitions, a boon compared to the olden days, when you had to back up an entire disk, reformat it, repartition it, and restore to change those formats. In the new Disk Utility, you drag a handle around a circle and click the + button to add new partitions.
Is a circle of pie slices a better representation of disk storage than the stacked rectangles used in earlier releases? Hard to say: both refer to a linear range of locations on a physical disk and yet appear in two dimensions!
Finally, with any item select at left, click Info and receive a cavalcade of lower-level system detail useful for troubleshooting without diving into Terminal.
Disk image management
As in previous versions, Disk Utility has several options for disk images, such as verifying, creating a checksum (which allows verification by others), resizing, and converting the type. You can create a disk image from any folder (File > New Image > Image from Folder) or any selected mounted volume (File > New Image > Image from [Name]). The Blank Image option remains unchanged from recent releases.
Copying has become more obscure than the previous version. Technically, a copy happens via restore. You select a mounted volume or a disk image you’ve added to Disk Utility and then select Edit > Restore. You then choose the source that you want to overwrite the selected item, whether another mounted volume or a disk image. Restore is often used with backups, hence the name, but it’s just a backwards-described copy.
You used to be able to drag disk images from the Finder into Disk Utilities drive and volume view, but that no longer works. You have to choose File > Open Disk Imageand select the file to bring it under management.
Disk Utility’s latest incarnation should be less daunting to the less experienced even as it’s less needed with Apple’s latest changes.
USB Type-C (or USB-C) had its coming-out party quite late—at this year’s CES in early January, even though the connection type made its broad debut with Apple’s 12-inch MacBook in April 2015. Since then, more devices have adopted the format, such as the Chrome Pixel C and Nexus 6P. (The new Apple TV has a USB-C port but only as a connection option for debugging and making screen captures with a Mac.) An ocean of USB-C devices is coming that will include more Macs as part of the Thunderbolt 3 update—which relies on that connector style—and possibly some iOS hardware.
I’ve been waiting to test USB portable batteries equipped with USB-C since theMacBook shipped. But as long as Apple relied on the MagSafe connector, you couldn’t get a licensed and certified adapter that would work with a Mac laptop. USB-C changes that altogether. It has bi-drectional power support, allowing energy to flow from a laptop or other controller’s USB-C to charge or power external devices and via USB-C to charge a MacBook or similar device’s internalbattery.
In general, USB battery packs used to have limited capacity, offer slow charging of devices and recharge slowly, and cost and weigh a lot relative to the benefit they offer. But they’ve matured very rapidly over the last few years. With the very large-scale manufacture of standard-sized rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells, electronics makers have created affordable, high-capacity USB packs that range from recharging your iPhone 6s by about 50 percent up to the equivalent of a week’s worth of multiple full recharges of a set of iPads and iPhones.
Laptops have typically been in a different category, because they not only have large batteries, but when in use, they draw power faster than previous USB packs typically provide it because of limitation in the previous generation of USB connector and cable standards. In such a case, a Mac laptop pulls juice from the USB-connected battery, but also gradually runs down its internal one.
The iPad Pro suffers from this problem. It ships with a 12-watt power adapter that can’t always keep up with power consumed while you’re using the iPad Pro. While its battery could safely be charged at a much higher wattage (at least twice as “fast” in terms of power flow), the Lightning standard appears to limit its maximum rate.
USB-C breaks through that limit by allowing higher-amperage charging even though USB has a set limit on voltage. (Wattage is the product of amps times volts, representing the total energy transferred.) This higher amperage can allow a USB battery pack to recharge a 12-inch MacBook relatively speedy when put to sleep, although the units I tested still can’t keep up with its power consumption.
OS X requires changes to better recognize the kind of external device providing charge, rather than treating them as a “power adapter” as the MacBook did for all the batteries tested.
USB-C’s higher rate of power flow lets some of the batteries I tested recharge rapidly, although you need to find a high-wattage USB adapter to make that work as well—none ship with such an adapter. (One pack can use Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology, which boosts voltage for faster charger when used with a USB power adapter with the same tech.)
Being able to bring a relatively lightweight battery (half a pound to a pound) that carries a partial or full additional MacBook charge or could partly recharge aMacBook and handle an iPhone and iPad (some charging three devices simultaneously) can make extended travel away from electricity very practical. This can especially include long-haul flights where onboard power isn’t available or that power isn’t enough to charge devices fully. You would no longer have to camp at an outlet or leave hardware in a vulnerable place to charge via AC.
In this roundup, I look at four USB packs that feature a USB-C port for charging; some can also recharge through the port. These models appeared on the market starting in fourth quarter 2015, and three are from companies with good track records on electronics, cables, or batteries. (The fourth is less known, but itsbattery tested very well.) I tasked them to discharge and recharge on their own, and replenish a USB-C MacBook.
Juice it up
Unlike the fancy design-to-purpose batteries you’ll find inside Apple products, every USB battery pack I’m aware of uses cells purchased from a battery-making firm. Apple and other companies mold or terrace lithium-ion (Li-ion) polymer batteries to fit every nook and cranny. Mass-produced cells, however, are typically round, like normal alkaline and rechargeable consumer batteries, although they are often much larger.
While some small packs use flat arrangement to stay compact—such as Amazon’s super-cheap $6 Micro-USB Portable Power Bank—larger USB packs like the ones I tested rely on standard cylindrical cells and package them with the circuitry, heat dissipation, and connectors needed to move power in and out.
If you’re not familiar with power basics, here are just a few. The simplest way to discuss electrical power is in units of volts (V), amperes or amps (A), and watts (W). These can be compared to water pipes and water flow. Voltage is pressure, or the amount of water in a given space; amperage is pipe diameter, which has an impact on pressure. Low-amperage (a small diameter pipe) requires high voltage (lots of pressure) to move the same amount of power as a high-amperage (big diameter pipe) with low pressure (low voltage). Wattage is the product of amps and volts, describing the power (the “work”) passing through the system.
Now, with batteries and battery packs, we want to describe how much capacitythey have—how much power they can store and then provide to other hardware. That’s measured in milliampere-hours, abbreviated mAh, which you’ve probably seen repeatedly and wondered precisely what it meant. That number can be confusing because it also requires a voltage, something you rarely see listed. The batteries used in power packs typically discharge at about 3.6V or 3.7V and charge at 4.2V. (Lithium-ion cells, used for all the packs I tested, charge best at about that rate.)
So when you see that a battery pack has 10,000 mAh, that’s 10,000 mAh available at 3.6V. USB, however, is 5V, while smartphone batteries used in iOS devices discharge at about 3.8V (and charge around 4.3V or 4.4V). This requires converting voltage to figure out the idealized capacity. Because these voltages are so similar, you can mostly ignore that; it mostly matters with higher-voltage device batteries. (A similar measure, watt-hours (Wh), avoids this conversion, but because it’s not consistently used, it’s harder to find it for comparison.)
As an example, the iPhone 6s battery has 1,715 mAh of capacity. That should mean that a 10,000 mAh USB battery can recharge it about 5.5 times. (For comparison, the iPad Air has a 7,340 mAh and the iPad Pro a 10,307 mAh one.) The single-port MacBook is a trickier case, because its internal battery is 5,263 mAh but at 7.55V. If you do the math, 3.6 divided by 7.55 gets you the factor to multiply against the battery pack’s pack—roughly 50 percent or about 5,000 mAh. So you should be able to charge a MacBook from 0 to 100 percent almost twice with such a pack, right?
But that omits three other factors! Bear with me, as these are easier to explain:
Because power has to be converted among voltages to work over USB, both in the source battery and in the destination device, there’s always some loss. This is why you feel heat when batteries charge or discharge, as heat is wasted energy. (Some of the devices I tested seem to get noticeably hotter than others.)
Lithium-ion batteries can’t be taken down entirely to zero percent. As a spokesperson at Anker, the maker of many batteries and one best one we tested, conveyed from its engineers, “If the battery power is discharged to zero it will adversely affect the durability of the battery cell.” So even when seemingly exhausting a USB battery pack, its circuitry prevents it from tapping out.
Li-ion batteries also degrade over time and have a risk of expansion or even fires if they’re overcharged or charged too close to full too fast. (For reference, see all the Hoverboard fire videos from this last fall.) USB packs can charge rapidly at first, but as batteries approach full, they slow down, and stop short of 100 percent—sometimes far short in my testing.
To sum up? Batteries can’t give up their last ergs of juice, can’t be charged to 100 percent (and you never know quite how close), and lose power in converting over USB and back. This adds up.
In my testing, the best of the two highest-capacity batteries (both over 20,000 mAh) delivered 55 percent of its rated capacity to a MacBook. That was still enough to completely recharge a MacBook battery with some left over, which is magnificent both for performance and by price and weight. But it’s not as much as you’d reckon by using rated numbers alone. I’ll get into this more with individual reviews.
Another factor with power is “speed”—in this case, that’s directly related to amperage. Because USB’s voltage is fixed at around 5V, you have to up the amps to move more power, which equates to moving power “faster.” Devices with larger batteries, like tablets or these large USB battery packs, need high-amperage chargers to refill them in any reasonable amount of time. You also need high amperage to charge a device faster than it’s depleting power if it’s in use while charging.
Originally, most USB packs maxed out with ports that could each pass power at about 1A, fast enough to charge a smartphone at full speed. But an iPad Air 2and iPad Pro can charge at 2.4A (and the Pro even faster with a higher-amperage adapter), and iPhones for years charge fine at 1A, but can bump up to as fast as 2.1A with an iPad charger.
Modern packs typically have ports that can be rated at 2.0A, 2.1A, or 2.4A; all the packs tested have at least one Type-A 2.4A port, and one USB-C 3A port. Modern packs also use USB and other signaling to provide as much power as a device can accept but no more, while mobiles and computers won’t accept more power than they can safely use. (USB packs’ ports default to 1A or lower if they can’t sort this out with an attached device.)
Faster only works to a point: For keeping their lives long, batteries should only be charged between about a 0.50 and 1.00 ratio of amperage to capacity, which is called its C rating. An iPhone with a 1,715 mAh battery charging at 1A has a 0.58C rating, considered “gentle” and which maximizes cycles. Charge it at 2.1A, and you’re well above 1C, but Apple appears to have factored in, as it allows charging at that high a rate. The USB power packs I tested charge at about 0.15C to 0.30C; future packs might work with higher-wattage cables and adapters for faster recharge rates.
Only the Talentcell provided guidance as to the number of cycles it expects for the pack to perform as expected: 500. As with all lithium-ion charging cycles, that typically refers to complete cycles, so depleting to 50 percent and charging to full counts as a half cycle.
Finally (whew!) each battery pack has a maximum combined output across all ports. The internal electrical circuitry divvies up charge by port, but also can’t exceed that total when charging through multiple ports at once, like multiple iPads and iPhones. For example, the Anker PowerCore+ 20100 can output 2.4A on its two Type-A ports and 3A on its USB-C ports. With all three ports in use, however, it maxes out at 6A, with no more than 2.4A to any port.