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Op-ed on USB-C

Power is better with GaN, Apple!

Apple Power Adapter ohne GaN
© Ute Häußler

At Christmas, I was one of the lucky ones who found a brand-new MacBook with Apple's self-developed M1 chip under the tree, despite long delivery times. The biggest surprise: the very large and very heavy power supply.

I write very regularly that the power supplies of our digital world are getting smaller and smaller - but: the new Apple power adapter is almost 30 % bigger and 35 % heavier than the 45 W cuboid from 2011. More specifically, at 224 grams, it is a whopping 60 grams heavier and at 7.4 centimeters a full centimeter longer, on each side.

In addition, the new MacBook Pro only has two USB-C ports. Two things in particular become apparent: First, Apple has forcibly given up its resistance to USB-C (thanks EU!) and second, USB-C has become the universal charging standard for mobile devices.

As a comparison, the 7.5 W of the good old Micro-USB would never ever be enough to quench the power thirst of an up-to-date notebook with acceptable charging times. The USB-C power supply of the 13-inch M1 MacBook still supplies 61 W and charges the 58 Wh battery in just over two hours.

USB-C allows variable supply voltages and up to 5 A of current via the USB Power Delivery Specification (USB PD). The USB-IF committee has defined five standard profiles for this, ranging from 5 V at 2 A up to 20 V at 5 A. Thus, power supplies can deliver a maximum power of 100 W via USB-C - and thus also quickly fill up the batteries of power-thirsty laptops. Apple promptly exhausts this limit with the 96 W charger of the 16" MacBook (still) running on Intel chips.

Why is the Apple power supply so big and heavy? In contrast to most charger manufacturers, who already rely on gallium nitride as a semiconductor, Apple still uses silicon. A comparable 60 W GaN power adapter would be about the same size as my old USB 2 power adapter 10 years ago.

As a die-hard Cupertino fan girl, I have to state:
Power is better with GaN, Apple!


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