USB chargers aren’t sexy, but they’re critically important to iOS users — so vital that every iPhone and iPad arrives with a basic one-port charger in the box. Without USB recharging assistance, these devices would literally be dead after one day of active use. And the more Apple devices you (or your family) use every day, the more valuable a multi-device charging hub becomes. When I travel with my wife and kids, I can’t leave the house without a charging solution for everyone’s iPads and iPhones.

Up until two or three years ago, few families had five or six Apple devices. Moreover, early multi-device chargers were expensive: Griffin charged $100 for an early five-port charging station, and Bluelounge charged $100 for a four-port version. But that’s changing. iPads are cheaper than ever, iPhones are more ubiquitous than ever, and Apple Watches are about to add “one more thing” to the list of Apple devices requiring a daily charge. Thankfully, great multi-device chargers have become affordable; RAVPower’s Bolt 6-Port USB Wall Charger impressed me last year for $27, and a slightly less powerful version now sells for $25. Over the past week, I’ve been testing something even better: the most powerful home and travel charging hub I’ve ever seen.

Correctly billed as “family-sized,” Anker’s 60W 6-Port Desktop USB Charger ($36) features an intelligent power management system that lets any of its ports recharge any iPad, iPhone, iPod, or other USB accessory at its top possible speed, sharing 60 watts of power across them. You can recharge six iPad Airs or iPad minis at peak 10W speeds, or five older, power-hungrier third- and fourth-generation iPads at their peak 12W speeds. There’s no need to confirm that you’re using the right type of port for your device, as all of Anker’s ports self-regulate power up to 12W as appropriate. Read on for more details…

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Key Details:

  • Six USB ports
  • Each port can output at 12W/2.4A max
  • Total output is 60W, supporting 6 iPads/iPhones/iPods up to 10W, or 5 12W iPads at once
  • Clean design in white or black
  • You supply the device cables

 

 

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By power accessory standards, the 6-Port Desktop USB Charger’s design is really clean. It measures around 3.9″ long by 2.7″ wide by 1″ thick, with a bag-friendly total volume roughly equivalent to three of Apple’s iPad-class USB Power Adapters. Most of the body uses nice-looking glossy plastics, except for a small matte plastic portion on the back surrounding the detachable wall blade cable.

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Two Velcro cable managers are included in the package — one for the wall cable, one for your other cables — and a single soft blue light lets you know that the unit’s powered on. As is the case with all USB chargers these days, you have to supply your own Apple device cables; thankfully, inexpensive bundles of certified Lightning cables are finally beginning to become available.

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Given the positive experiences I’ve had with other Anker accessories, it wasn’t a surprise that the 6-Port Desktop USB Charger worked exactly as expected. iPads, iPhones, iPods, and accessories charged properly and quickly through any of the ports. There were no unusual heat or obvious power regulation issues, even when I tested the unit with six devices at the same time; it didn’t become hot to the touch or difficult to handle. Also unlike some past multi-device chargers I’ve tested, adding or removing one device didn’t activate the screens of the rest, or otherwise disable them from working.

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Just as was the case with RAVPower’s Bolt, Anker’s 6-Port Desktop USB Charger is very easy to recommend, particularly when you consider that it costs less for these six USB ports than two one-port Apple 12W USB Power Adapters. Whether you’re at home with a single wall outlet (rather than six) to spare, or in need of a travel charger that requires much less space than carrying multiple wall adapters around, a multi-device power solution like this just makes sense. Your personal devices and budget will help you decide whether to go with Anker’s more powerful and somewhat nicer-looking solution over Bolt, but if you have a lot of iPads (or newer iPhones) to manage, the 6-Port Desktop USB Charger is probably the better pick.

Manufacturer: Anker MSRP / Sale Prices: $50 / $36 (Amazon) Compatibility: All iPad, iPhones, USB iPods