New charging cables include status screen

Charging cable with screen

Charging cables used to be simple: buy one with a Lightning connector and plug it into your iPad. But since the early days of tablets, things have become much more complicated. Now there are multiple options for the plug on both sides of the cable: USB-A or USB-C? And that’s just the connectors. Different iPad and iPhone models can accept different amounts of charing power: how many watts can the cable support?

Charging cable with screen

The built-in screen is an easy way to make sure your device is getting enough power.

We’ve recently been flying with some new cables that finally solve this problem, and add some helpful features as well. Here are four things we really like.

1. Built-in screen. This might seem like a luxury, but having used cables with a screen right at the plug now we can’t imaging using one without this feature. It’s a great way to confirm the plug is working and that your device is getting enough juice. For example, our iPhone often shows 7 watts, while our iPad Pro typically shows 15 watts. If you looked down and saw 1 watt on an iPad, you might check your charging plug to make sure you’re using a high amp plug. The screen is also helpful for knowing when to unplug: once the number drops to zero, you know your device is topped off.

2. High power charging. As the screens suggest, these cables can handle some serious power if you’re connected to a high amp charging plug. This is what you need to charge your devices quickly, and it’s one area where cheap cables often fall short.

For new iPhones and iPads, these cables can take advantage of fast charging technology to quickly boost up your battery. The USB-C to USB-C cable, which can handle 100 watts, is even powerful enough to charge up a MacBook Pro. Here are the full specs:

  • USB-A to Lightning – 12 watts
  • USB-A to USB-C – 66 watts
  • USB-C to Lightning – 20 watts + Power Delivery (PD)
  • USB-C to USB-C – 100 watts + PD
Charging cable rolled up

The braided cables stand up to abuse.

3. Braided cables. This is almost a given these days, but a braided cable will simply last longer. If you’re like us, you’re constantly rolling up a cable and shoving it in your flight bag. That can cause cheap cables to crack and fail, but these Smart Charging Cables have strain relief around the plugs and a rugged sleeve around the cables themselves. They have help up quite well after a month of testing.

4. Multiple plug options. Our current in-flight setup includes an iPad Pro (USB-C cable), an iPhone 13 Pro (Lightning cable), and a Sentry Plus (USB-C cable). That means we need a variety of plug types to keep everything charged. The Smart Charging Cables are offered in all the different varieties to fit our gear. This includes: USB-A to Lightning, USB-C to Lightning, USB-C to USB-C, and USB-A to USB-C.

The Smart Charging Cables are available in the four versions listed above; each one is $19.95.

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