Almost every gadget today is charged over USB. It seems like a good idea since everyone has a computer with USB, but fumbling behind a computer and making sure that computer is on and does not sleep for the duration of the charge is a pain, not to mention you need to unmount drives and stop syncs as soon as your devices are plugged in.

USB wall chargers to the rescue! However, having gone through half a dozen different ones that all seem the same based on the back of the box, I have not found one that works with all my devices.

I have the following devices that I would like to be able to charge:

  • iPhone
  • XBox 360 controller
  • PS3 controller
  • Sony Reader PRS 350

These are all "normal" devices in that they (1) can be charged by being plugged into a computer without any additional software/drivers installed and (2) can even be charged by plugging them into some other device such as a network router, a printer, an AppleTV etc.

But I've had endless pains trying to find a USB wall charger that works with everything. The Apple wall chargers don't seem to work with any other devices and vice versa (unless you get one specifically marked as compatible with iPod/iPhone). The PS3 controller seems to reject almost all wall chargers, and worst of all is the Sony Reader which I have to date had 0 success with.

But all these devices work when you plug it into a computer or even a network router.



Does there exist a wall charger that (1) has enough circuitry to act as a USB host allowing all my devices to be charged and (2) is just a simple wall charger, not a big honking device that serves some other purpose and needs a big honking adapter?

Addendum: It's about how, not how much

Plugging the devices into my computer one at a time and profiling the USB, I see each draws this much power from the host:

  • XBox 360 controller - 500mA
  • PS3 controller - 500mA
  • Sony Reader - 500mA
  • iPhone - 1000mA

The iPhone uses more because there's some proprietary stuff going on between the Mac and iThings, but they charge fine with 500mA as well, just not as quickly.

All the wall adapters I've tried were rated to be at least 2A so should easily have covered any one of these devices individually from a pure power standpoint.

From my testing, it seems like the devices simply are not accepting any amount of power when only given it over the 2 power pins of USB. You need to either (1) short some pins in order to fool the device into thinking you're a wall charger made by the original manufacturer or (2) be an actual USB host.

(1) is the solution that most wall chargers provide since it's cheapest. The problem is the pin shortings required seems to be different for each manufacturer and it's impossible for any particular charger to cater to all of them.

(2) is what I'm looking for. It seems like there's some kind of handshaking that happens between a real USB host (like a computer or network router) that tells the device: you can safely charge. The problem is that based on what's written on the back of the box, there's no way to tell if a charger is (1) or (2), if a charger that provides (2) exists at all.

  • @Psycogeek: I think you should make your comment an answer. Moreover, Asus Transformer tablet uses USB but their charger supplies 18V instead of 5V (if USB 3.0 cable is used). So I agree that a truly universal charger is not possible.
    – haimg
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:50
  • Yes the problem is trying to define the 90% that work somewhat similar, missing covering the last 10% that are very device specific.
    – Psycogeek
    Jan 5, 2012 at 20:11
  • @Psycogeek... this reminds me of xkcd.com/927 Jan 5, 2012 at 20:44
  • 1
    @kLy A little bit off-topic, but are you able to charge your PS3 controller while the PS3 is off/standby? My controllers only seem to charge when the PS3 is on...
    – iglvzx
    Jan 6, 2012 at 0:10
  • 1
    @iglvzx No. And that's why I want to find a wall charger that "works". Because charging via a computer or console annoyingly requires it to be on and not sleeping for the duration of the charge.
    – kLy
    Jan 6, 2012 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


Sony PS3 AC adaptor

I have found it! The amazing PS3 adaptor does the job. It is a full USB host and will charge any USB standards compliant device under the sun!


After spending weeks going through dozens of generic and not so generic wall to USB power adapters, some of which work with some devices, and some that work with others, the PS3 adaptor worked with everything. I literally threw a dozen different USB devices at it and it charged them all flawlessly. Victory!

Even though it says it is only compatible with PS3 accessories, it appears to be an actual USB host, which intelligently does a USB handshake with the slave device before charging. The slave device can specify how much load it needs in this handshake, up to 500mA as per the USB standard, the host provides the power, and when the slave device is fully charged, it asks the host to stop and no more power is exchanged.

As opposed to the USB Charging Port, which is simply a "dumb" power port with data pins shorted, this adaptor does a full handshake, and therefore anything you can charge with a PC without special drivers, you should be able to charge with this adaptor. This also won't overcharge your device since power isn't just constantly supplied like in a dumb port. Other users have attested to the same.

Testing with the Sony Reader

In my own experience, this clearly shows when charging the Sony Reader. I have previously charged this device using a UCS standard mobile charger. The charging light immediately goes on and there is otherwise no other reaction from the device (the device does correctly charge).

When using the PS3 charger on the other hand, connecting the charger does not result in the charging light to go on. Instead the Reader turns on, boots up, shows on screen: "USB connected", then "USB charging". At this point, after the handshake, the charging light goes on. When fully powered, the screen displays: "USB charging complete". This behaviour is identical to when you plug the device into any other full USB host such as a PC.

Notes & Conclusion

Because the PS3 adaptor is a standard USB 2.0 host, it only gives up to 500mA as per the spec. There are 2 USB sockets in the adaptor and each is rated at 500mA, however those cannot be combined to output 1000mA, unlike the dedicated charging stations.

Therefore charging speed for your devices will be comparable to plugging them into a computer rather than a wall charger, and devices outside of the USB spec that require >500mA (eg. the iPad) will not be charged.

This however is not an issue for me. As noted in the original question, my concern is only with maximum compatibility, not maximum power or charging speed. And to that end, the PS3 adaptor works perfectly :)

  • I wouldn't say "perfectly" since Apple stuff doesn't work, which was specifically mentioned as an example in the question.
    – jiggunjer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 2:45
  • You sir are an absolute legend. Just bought one of these to power a Scartlet 2i4 USB audio interface. It works perfectly and I no longer have to plug the damn thing into my laptop. \o/
    – HaggleLad
    Jan 17, 2018 at 18:04

Computer ports can be Fried if a device uses more than 500mA , chargers range from ~500mA to some higher than 2A. The devices itself use a 5V input, but the amount of current they can need to run (even) or get a charge going, or a fast charge going, is more than the normal computer port can handle usually.

Take a device that is designed to power or charge with USB connect, or USB wire, someone is going to shove it into a computer. Be it mini, or micro, or just came with a USB adaption wire. Even if they can find an adaption method, someone will shove it into a computer :-)

At first , things were easy, small MP3 players, charge a phone overnight, small devices with small processors, all able to be "functional" with a simple USB within the computers 500mA specs. Stick them in a computer, or a AC 5V USB port adapter, car adapter, or small wired charger and wait.

All this changes, as portability becomes people lives. They want more power, more speed, more time, and , power hungry devices, larger batteries , fast charge circuits. devices that can barely operate with the 500mA of current, that is spec for the computer port so the computer is not damaged.

If these devices are all charging properly via the computer, then just get a good quality, fair amperage charging things, don't buy more $4 knock off junk that is weak and low powered, and has poor switching circuits in them.

------------------ Proprietary Special Chargers ----------------------------------------------

Enter the "special" charger. The device Itself (not the charger usually) has 2 methods of charging/running:

1) Within the 500mA specs (save that computer), and Via other methods, minimum car chargers, or simple wall chargers.

2) Outside of the 500mA specs: Via special chargers , special car chargers, and special wall adapters with more power. Everything still needs to connect up the 2 Power wires + & - But it doesn't necessarily need the 2 data lines.

This is where the special comes in, via the proprietary chargers.

Trick A) The 2 data lines are not needed when there is no data. Using the data lines in the special chargers, they tell the device that it is On the Special charger, so the device can use more power. Many devices use a few resistors in there, that tie the data lines in different ways. One method just connects the 2 data lines together. one puts in some resistance tying the data lines to the power lines (slightly).

Trick B) I don't know trick B, But they could do about anything, increase the voltage, send simple pulses that indicate , someday they will send an ID out, and status data and it will BSOD :-) , whatever they dream up that can tell the device what it can do , usually it isnt that hard for a electronics geek , to discover it.

Trick C) Add the device having to Also know it is hooked to a computer, to even do computer charging. http://forums.ilounge.com/ipod-nano/209497-why-dont-generic-usb-chargers-work.html

The manufactures point IS many times to purposefully make it proprietary, so you don't use cheap junk on it , so they can control what occurs, so it works when you buy it, so it can cope with what they are trying to do. So it doesn't burn out the computer or other USB things. because there are so many "standards" and so much cheap junk. And of course to Sell-U-Chit.

Software Setting Some of the portable computer devices now can also be set internally to fast charge or not. I have not seen this change the compatibility Or be about special chargers, although if your having power problems with a cheap car adapter that can not output enough power , it might help.

The new 3.0 USB ports are made to handle ~1000mA and they tell you to use max 900mA , so they don't get fried like the old ones did .

What to DO? when it uses a Special charger

Many of the electronic methods for Specific devices are posted on the web, they can have the exact specs, or can indicate what works close enough to have it work ok, even DIY changes you can make yourself with some soldering skill.

Most (not all) of the methods are backwards compatible, they will not destroy another device, they will usually charge another device, at least when the device is off, they just might not charge quickly.

Before mixing things up I Check the Voltage, is it the same , I check the amperage of the charger (it is usually on them), is it very similar. Is it using a standard plug on the device that is sure to be jammed into a computer. Does the manual indicate anything about the specs.

After having a good idea of what is going on I just test things on the devices. I cant tell you to be mixing them up though. You have to make smart careful choices on your own.

In most (not All) regulated 5V input devices, having a higher amperage charger does not hurt them, the voltage sets the "drive" the "Potential" the "force" as long as it is not too far off voltage, the regulation (or lack of) will keep the device from being damaged. If I had a 3A (3000mA) 5V regulated charger, most devices would not draw 3 amps off of it.

In Most , Putting a much higher voltage into the input that is designed for 5V, will destroy the regulation circuit. even if the current is lower (charger cant output enough), when the current consumption slows down the voltage will raise damaging the regulation circuits. It is more critical to have the proper voltage.

What will this do to my batteries? Your Li-ion batteries will die in a few years Just like they did before :-) nothing will change there. The regulation circuit on the device, and the protection circuit on the battery control the current and voltage going to the battery. When screwing this up, it is more likely that you will kill a circuit than a battery. When you dont have the right special charge going, it is more likely that you wont charge the battery, not that IT is damaging the battery.

Why do cheap junk chargers fail to charge. They are overrated, look at the label, see any regulatory requirements to sell that :-) If the charger cannot keep up with the power needs of the device, they charge for a bit , over heat, charge a bit, overheat. The amount of power the device is needing, changes how they act. Normally a magnetic transformer style charger would just do what it could , then its voltage drops, a switching without current control will keep trying to hold the voltage, even if the chip can not handle the draw. A cheap junk charger that is rated for more power can help, assuming its overrated specs are any better.

  • 4
    There is a USB Charging Standard for delivering up to 1.5A on USB 2.0. Also of note is that USB 3.0's high-power standard is 900mA, up from 2.0's 500mA. Many modern USB devices and chargers should use this, with a few notable exceptions. * coughApplecough *
    – afrazier
    Jan 5, 2012 at 20:21
  • Thank you for your very detailed answer, however I think it's answering a slightly different question. I'm not quite as concerned about tricking the device into letting you charge it with max amperage possible as just getting it to work. An iPad will charge quickly on its custom 10A adaptor but will also charge fine (but slowly) on standard 500mA USB. All I need is that standard 500mA USB that every computer can provide (or 1.5A with 2 additional increments of 500 as per USB 2.0 spec), but in the friendly package of something you can just plug into a wall.
    – kLy
    Jan 5, 2012 at 22:30
  • Your right. I dont know what happend, 10 years of charging psycosis and 50 pieces of junk from china and , this happens :-) I dont recommend products, but Enercell makes a good mid power wall unit. I would want to get a 3A for 3-4 ports. I would want it to be reviewed on amazon and have 4.2 stars . Look for devices that have at least one 2Amp ports. I would like it to be a big fat old school magnetic transformer type, but that isnt likly.
    – Psycogeek
    Jan 5, 2012 at 22:39
  • Just to re-iterate, all the devices on my list charge just fine using any computer or other USB host, so they're perfectly happy with the ordinary 500mA/1.5A USB standard. It's just that they don't charge when plugged into a non-intelligent host thats only got the USB power pins. Anything with unique/non-standard power requirements above 1.5A is outside the scope of what I'd need from the charger.
    – kLy
    Jan 5, 2012 at 22:45
  • So your saying that the devices are charging better in the computer, because the computer is talking to them?
    – Psycogeek
    Jan 5, 2012 at 22:52

In my experience, it's primarily an issue with Sony devices. Most USB devices are technically non-compliant with the USB standard, relaxing parts of it for practical reasons such as for simpler charging. The key issue is that a USB device is technically not supposed to pull more than 100 mA (or 150 mA for USB 3.0) until it negotiates with the host for more power. However, most of the devices I've used will simply pull as much power as they can or need, and most USB hosts and chargers have no problem with this.

On the other hand, I've noticed that Sony has a tendency to go to great lengths to ensure their products comply with the USB standard word-for-word, even if this means they won't charge when plugged into a USB AC adapter. Consequently, the PSP is one of the very few devices I have that bear the Certified USB logo on the box.

Even a USB battery like the Sony CP-ELS will try to communicate when plugged in for charging, going so far as to present itself to a computer as a human interface device. It will charge if plugged into a "dumb" charger, but only after it confirms that the charger is truly incapable of USB communication (it will not charge through a USB hub connected to a USB wall charger, for example). The PS3 controller and PSP refuse to charge from USB unless they can communicate with a host and specifically negotiate for power.

In short, I just don't think it's necessary for Sony to do this. Consumers don't actively look for the Certified USB logo, they simply expect their devices to charge when plugged in.

To answer the question, what you need is a USB charger that can act as a full host capable of communicating with devices, such as the one you described in your own answer.

  • 1
    I wonder why did they pick the HID profile to negotiate for power. It's kind of scary to know that a battery can change my password or download malware from the Internet. PS: a battery disguised as a keyboard reminds me of the toaster driver. Jan 29, 2016 at 14:12

There will not be one USB charger to rule them all because so many devices have gone their own way in how to get the most out of a USB port.

One problem is the port. There's USB-A and USB-C on the host computer or charger. So, it sounds like you want a charger with both ports. That's easily done, there's plenty out there.

When it comes to finding the speed at which USB devices will charge there's a number of standards out there. Primary among them are what USB developed themselves, USB-BC and USB-PD. I don't know where this comment on Apple came from...

The iPhone uses more because there's some proprietary stuff going on between the Mac and iThings, but they charge fine with 500mA as well, just not as quickly.

Apple hasn't used anything proprietary on USB charging since they got rid of the 30-pin iPod connector. They've been following the USB-BC and USB-PD specs ever since. Apple iDevices charging faster on Apple computers is from Apple implementing the USB-PD on their computers while few others did the same. It's not proprietary, it's optional, and Apple is one of the few to take that option. Since it's part hardware it can't be added to Windows with just an OS patch or driver.

Along with USB-BC and USB-PD, there's something like a dozen different means to get more power through USB. This was getting dangerous a few years ago because of how some of these higher power charging protocols were violating the USB standard that the people making these devices, mostly cell phones, claimed they were following. This lead to companies like the USB quality control group, Google, Amazon, and Apple all getting together to find the people making dangerous chargers and cables and told them something like, "You don't have to fo home but you can't stay here." Amazon, Google, and Apple were not going to sell non-compliant devices any more. The people behind USB was going to crack down on those claiming USB compliance but didn't.

This still left a half dozen or so USB chargers that wanted to claim superiority over USB-BC and USB-PD. I tried to find a list of them but it is quite long and it sounds like many of the names describe the same thing. The two that caught my attention were PowerIQ and Quick Charge in it various versions.

What it comes down to is most any device will happily charge at 12 watts. Which is available from most any USB-BC charger. Most any laptop will need more power than 12 watts. USB-PD deliverers 15 volt @ at 60 to 45 watts. and 60 to 100 watts at 20V. This left the noncompliant fighting for something marginally better in a war to, I guess, keep the USB-A port relevant when most people moved on to USB-C and USB-PD.

Most anything will charge from USB-PD and any USB-PD charger will charge any USB-PD device to the maximum ability common to both. If you have something that is not USB-PD, and uses PowerIQ as an example, then there are chargers that will support both. Buy one of those. If you have two devices that use different non-USB standard charging systems then finding one charger to rule them all is unlikely. 3 out of 4 isn't bad.

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