As many of our readers know, USB-C connectors have massively increased in popularity for use as a charging and data transfer method. As it has become more standardized and present on almost all modern laptops and devices, this greatly increases the convenience of using one connection method for all of your devices, which raises the question: Why aren't gaming laptops charged over USB-C?
Understanding USB-C Power Delivery
To understand why most gaming laptops are not charged this way, we need to first talk about USB-C itself. USB Type-C is a versatile and reversible connector which allows high speed data transfer (commonly up to 10Gbps), and optionally USB-C Alt Mode (for video passthrough), and USB-C Power Delivery.
The USB Power Delivery (PD) 3.0 standard allows for up to 100W charging via the same USB-C cable you use to connect your laptop to docking stations or other devices. This USB standard is commonly supported on modern consumer laptops, and is more than enough power for the typical user. It works via an intelligent negotiation process between your laptop and the connected USB-C device to determine which device will provide power. For more information, we have both a blog post and YouTube video covering this topic.
Power Requirements of Gaming Laptops
As it stands, USB-C devices using the PD 3.0 standard are limited to 20 Volts, which is commonly running between 3 to 5 amps. This leads to the limit of up to 100 Watts of power delivery (20Vx5A=100W) with this standard. Since gaming laptops require much more power, this can cause issues when using traditional docks to power a gaming laptop.
Why? Gaming laptops have higher power demands compared to consumer laptops or other USB-C devices. Since these laptops can have high-end CPUs and GPUs, these components consume several times more power. For example, a mobile Intel i3 processor only consumes an average of 15W, but a higher performance processor such as an AMD Ryzen 5 can consume up to 54W, which is nearly 4 times more power. When you combine that with high-performance GPUs as well as heavy use-cases, this results in power requirements well over 100W.
Since these laptops are so power hungry, laptop manufacturers commonly stick to using traditional barrel jacks or other proprietary ports (such as Lenovo’s “Slim-Tip” chargers) to allow for much higher charging than 100W USB-C Power Delivery can traditionally support.
Industry Trends and Future PossibilitiesHowever, there looks to be hope for the future! The newest USB-C standard includes what is known as Extended Power Range (EPR) that allow for devices to be charged at up to 240W using higher voltages (28-48V). At this time these devices have yet to become commonplace, but a few examples such as the new MSI Prestige 16 and upcoming Framework 16” laptop do exist. As support for EPR expands, we will likely see widespread support for USB-C EPR devices, but this may take time as there are engineering hurdles to overcome. There are currently some laptops that support over 100W charging (such as the newer macOS devices), but these devices do not provide up to 240W at this time. However, it may be the case that not all gaming laptops will end up using USB-C charging, as there are already gaming hosts that require 330W input, and these laptops could still increase their power requirements in the future. While potential future revisions of the USB-C specifications could increase beyond 240W, this is limited by the diameter and length of the USB-C connector and cables themselves.
ConclusionCurrent USB-C Power Delivery devices typically support up to 100W charging, while 240W charging is still being implemented. Unfortunately this can be less than what is required for gaming laptops, which often use up to 330W. This leads to gaming laptops either charging slowly or not at all over USB-C, or simply not supporting USB-C Power Delivery and sticking to charging over a traditional power plug instead. While this may change in the future, USB Power Delivery could still lag behind power requirements for gaming laptops, but will be more than enough for the typical consumer.
What do our readers think? Will everything be USB-C in the future?
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