Update: Separate tests by software engineer Dan Loewenherz show that a 10w charger is the sweet-spot if you’re looking to balance charging time against cost and portability. 

The iPhone 8 and the upcoming iPhone X both support fast charging via Apple’s 29W USB-C adapter and USB-C to Lightning Cable. Apple says that by using fast charging, your iPhone can charge up to 50% in as little as 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, the official first party charging accessories — its 29W USB-C Power Adapter ($49), and its 1-meter USB-C to Lightning Cable ($25) — cost nearly $75 combined. That’s a lot of money to spend on a fast charging solution, especially for one that isn’t exceedingly faster than Apple’s own 12W adapter + a regular USB to Lightning cable.

The good news is that earlier this week Apple noted that third-party power adapters that meet the proper USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) spec would work as well. That means that acceptable third-party power adapters, like Anker’s 30W PowerPort or Aukey’s 29W Amp Duo USB Wall Charger can save you money. In fact, you can buy two of these adapters for less than the price of a single Apple 29W USB-C Power Adapter.

But how do these third-party chargers really stack up to Apple’s own solution? Is it worth going-third party to save $25 or so? The answer, after many hours of testing, is yes. Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for more details.

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USB-C to Lightning Cable

For all solutions mentioned here, Apple recommends that you use its own USB-C to Lightning Cable. I’ve seen third-party USB-C to Lightning cables available on the web, but I don’t know how well they work, if at all, and Apple explicitly says to use its own cable. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to stick to the official USB-C to Lightning cable for all of your needs.

Apple 29W USB-C Adapter

To start with a good point of reference, I tested Apple’s own 29W USB-C Adapter with my iPhone 8 before doing any tests with third-party chargers. I wanted to see if Apple’s own charger lived up to its fast-charging claims.

Apple notes that you can use its 29W, 61W, or 87W USB-C Power Adapter — as all will properly regulate the amount of power delivered to your iPhone — but you should expect similar performance no matter which charger you choose. The good news is if you own a recent MacBook or MacBook Pro that ships with one of these chargers, you possess an iPhone 8 or iPhone X fast charger.

If you’re looking for the “safest” option, and price isn’t an issue, then it’s hard to go wrong with Apple’s charger. Since Apple makes this charger, it’s backed directly by Apple, and if you ever have a problem with it you can just walk into any Apple store to get it taken care of.

Apple’s 29W USB-C charger also looks like you’d expect an Apple product to look, with its white shell matching the color of the USB-C to Lightning Cable. If looks and color-coordination mean a lot to you, then you’ll want to take that into consideration.

When comparing all three chargers, Apple’s features the most polish. It also features a retractable, removable plug that allows it to be used with plugs designated for different regions.

Video walkthrough

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Anker 30W PowerPort

Anker’s fast-charging solution is most like Apple’s charger in form and function. It features a rounded rectangular design, comes with a non-removable, but retractable plug, and features a single USB-C port to accommodate Apple’s USB-C to Lightning Cable.

The biggest difference between Anker’s charger, and Apple’s charger, besides being about half the price, is the unit’s color and texture. Anker’s PowerPort is a black charger with a smooth, but slightly textured surface. There’s a small embossed Anker logo discretely placed on the side that can only be seen when it’s reflecting light. If Apple made a black USB-C to Lightning cable, then Anker’s charger would be a better looking overall setup than Apple’s.

One thing about Anker’s charger that some may find annoying is the presence of a little blue LED light on the front of the unit. This light is present whenever the unit is plugged into the wall, even if it’s not currently being used for charging. The light appears to have no other purpose other than to note that it’s receiving power from the wall outlet.

If you’re going to place an LED light on the front of a charger, it should at least be useful — such as providing you with a visual indicator when a connected product is actually being charged. As it is, it’s just a dumb LED light. Thankfully, the light is small, and for most users, it probably isn’t bright enough to serve as a distraction in a dark room.

Aukey 29W Amp Duo USB Wall Charger

Of the three fast chargers mentioned in this post, Aukey’s is the most unique. It features a rectangular design, with sharper corners than the Apple charger, while sharing a similar black, matte surface as Anker’s offering.

Aukey’s charger also features a very inconspicuous small embossed Aukey logo that’s similar to Anker’s. Like the other two chargers, it features a retractable power plug, but the plug is non-removable.

The thing that really sets Aukey’s charger apart when compared to the other two units is the presence of a detachable front plate that houses a pair of USB Type-A ports. The front plate connects to the main charger via a USB-C connection, which make it easy to attach since it’s completely symmetrical. Removing the front panel exposes the USB-C port for facilitating fast charging with Apple’s USB-C to Lightning Cable.

The great thing about Aukey’s charger is that its traditional USB Type-A ports can be used with normal “old school” USB cables, such as the USB to Lightning cable that Apple ships with its iPhone 8. Even better is the fact that the dual USB Type-A ports support 5V USB devices with up to 2.4A available per port. In effect, this gives you dual 12W adapters, the same type of power adapters that Apple ships with its iPad lineup, in the same package.

All considered, this makes Aukey’s Amp Duo USB Wall Charger a more flexible and versatile charger than either Apple’s or Anker’s offerings. It also lacks the presence of any annoying LED lights that may potentially serve as a distraction in dark environments.

Comparing the results

But none of the superlatives matter if the performance isn’t there, which is why I spent hours testing the fast-charging performance of all three adapters.

I performed two types of tests during my trial of these chargers: a 15 minute test, and a 30 minute test. Apple only documents the performance of a 30 minute test, but I also wanted to see how each charger performed in a 15 minute fast charging test.

All tests were performed with a 64GB iPhone 8. In each test Airplane mode was enabled, all apps, outside of the Clock app for the Timer (which remained on-screen throughout the test), were closed, and screen brightness was set to 50%. Here is a chart showcasing the results.

The results, as you can see, match up to Apple’s claims quite well. I was able to regularly add about 55% battery life via a single 30 minute charge. I did test the iPhone 8 Plus once as well with Apple’s 29W USB-C Power Adapter, and results were similar: 28% charged in 15 minutes, and 51% charged in 30 minutes.

All three chargers performed almost identical across multiple charging tests. It is my estimate that you would be set for fast-charging using any of these USB-C-enabled power adapters that properly support the USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) spec.

Are fast chargers even worth it?

When compared to the dinky 5W USB Power Adapter that Apple includes with all of its iPhones, the answer is an unequivocal yes. The 5W adapter has long been the worst option for charging your iPhone’s battery since the iPad’s 10W and subsequent 12W adapters arrived on the scene.

However, as you can see from the results, the 12W USB Power Adapter works quite well as a “fast-er” charger. It’s also a much more price-conscious solution, since it sells for only $19 and is compatible with the USB to Lightning Cable that Apple includes with every iPhone.

Of course, the decision about whether or not a fast charger is worth it is up to you, but I personally think that any charging advantage that I can garner is worth it, seeing as I use my iPhone so frequently on a day-to-day basis.

Something else that should be considered is that the 29W USB Power Adapter + USB-C to Lightning Cable will charge either a 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch iPad Pro model much faster as well. If you own either of these iPad Pro models, then a 29W+ fast charger is a no-brainer investment in my opinion.

Lastly, it’s a matter of future proofing. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities that Apple may open up even faster charging for iPhone models in the future via software and/or hardware updates.

Which fast charger is best?

If you’re looking for a first-party solution that is sold and supported in Apple stores, then Apple’s 29W (or 61W/87W) USB-C Power Adapter is the right choice. It’s also possible that you might already own one if you’ve purchased a recent MacBook or MacBook Pro.

If you’re looking for a charger that looks most similar to Apple’s own charger at a cheaper price, then Anker’s charger is a good solution. Other than the color and LED, it’s very similar in its design when compared to Apple’s charger.

All of that said, if I had a choice of which charger to choose among the three, it would be Aukey’s Amp Duo USB Wall Charger. Not only do you get fast charging in a sensible package, but you get the addition of two 12W charging ports that can work simultaneously. That instantly makes the Aukey charger the most flexible and most practical charging solution of the three. If I had to stock up on a few chargers for iPhone 8 and iPhone X fast-charging, the Aukey Amp Duo USB Wall Charger would be the one I’d buy.

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