The need for a standardized laptop charger

Have you ever noticed when you have multiple laptops that chargers from laptops that are not of the same model or from same manufacturer don’t work with other laptops?

To me, it is astonishing that laptops have become so prevalent in our society and there has been no standardization.  This can be very annoying for the end user. Laptop manufacturers could also stand to gain, as they would not need to include a charger with every laptop that they ship, reducing costs on their end.

Back in 2013, the International Electrotechnical Commission attempted to take the first steps to implement a single laptop charger standard for all laptops by publishing a proposed  standard. The goal was to reduce e-Waste. To the best of my knowledge, there has been little progress beyond that.

I think that due to the sheer number of laptops around, it would take time to implement a single standard, but that it could be done.

There would need to be multiple grades of standards. Different laptops have different power needs. Some laptops are essentially ultra-mobile, while desktop replacements will need much more and at times, 2 power supplies (this is done on the top end desktop replacement laptops).

  • 25 watt version for low power systems
  • 50 watt version
  • 100 watt version
  • 200 watt version
  • 300 watt version

Each would have their corresponding DC voltage and current standards.  This standard adapter would allow from 100V to 240V to be used to convert to DC. Top end laptops may need 2 300 watt chargers, which has been done in the past for the highest end laptops. For standardization, I would recommend that the terminus be the ATX standard IEC320C13 connector.

This is the standard power connector used in desktop PCs, the IEC320C13. It is used in ATX power supplies, the main standard used on desktops. For standardization, both laptops and desktops should use the same connector to feed their power supplies.

I suppose that manufacturers may prefer to sell to potential customers replacement chargers at huge markups. The problem is that there is now a large market of third party charges, so margins for relying on chargers is not as good as some manufacturers would like.  On top of that, if chargers were standardized, manufacturers would not have to ship chargers with new laptops, potentially saving costs there. So it is not clear that manufacturers would be as harmed as some people might suspect.

Any standards introduced of course would be going forward and would not affect previous generations of laptops, so past generations of laptops would need to be around for some years before the new standard took over.

Conclusions

Standardizing chargers would be good for the end user, reduce e-Waste, and may not even harm the end manufacturer.

I think that at this point, it is long overdue that laptops have a single standard.  Implementing it will take time and will need to be slowly adopted, but in the end, it should lead to a much better experience for the end user.

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