Home Home Automation Best USB-C hack ever!

Best USB-C hack ever!

Leave your bricks behind and join the charging revolution

If you one of these lucky people who’s gadgets come with USB-C PD, I envy you. Two years ago I made a wrong choice and picked a laptop that came with a standard charging brick instead of going for a £150 more expensive, USB-C equipped option. Ever since I’m overly sensitive in my reviews about gadgets that don’t come with USB-C port.

USB-C is a blessed standard which caters to legacy USB ports and introduces much faster data transfer (10Gbps) and 100W power delivery rail at the same time. The best part from the consumer standpoint (other than being completely reversible) is that the same port can be found on phones, data sticks, monitors, chargers, graphics cards and probably some toasters too.

I’m not the part of that club, I’m stuck with Lenovo Yoga 700-14ISK and a proprietary charger. All that extra cash spent on a slick and portable design was wasted as I always have to carry a proprietary charging brick just for that damned laptop. The world is heading in the right direction, I’m stuck with the Yoga.

USB-C PD is awesome

PD stands for Power Delivery. It’s a special subset of features that can be present on USB-C port. Not every port supports it. Typical USB-C interface delivers 5V at 3A max. USB-C PD allows power to be delivered at 20V and 5A (100W total) via compatible cables. On top of that, the direction of power is reversible and power requirements are negotiated before the charging happens. Voltages (and the current supplied) are standardised. USB-C PD can provide 5V, 9V and 15V at 3A max and 20V at 5A max.

Voltages are fixed at 5V, 9V, 15V, and 20V to increase compatibility, end devices are responsible for stepping down the voltage if needed. Why the lesson on USB-C PD? I’m about to add one to my Lenovo Yoga 700. Why? You know why? Because I can!

Buy USB-C PD decoy module

Buy it using these links to support NotEnoughTech.

Lenovo charger

Looks like I’m in luck. The charger’s label specified the output at 20V and 2.25A with the total power rating of 45W. It’s not only within USB-C specification, but the voltage also matches the USB-C specs. If you are planning a similar modification but you are less lucky with the voltage levels, you will need to step down/up the voltage as needed with an additional module. After short research online, I discovered that you can fool the USB-C chargers into delivering the right voltage with a simple £2 USB-C module. It’s small enough to fit inside the computer, as long as I can extract the old port without damaging anything.

I ordered 2 of them (just in case). It was time to open my laptop and validate my plan. Turns out that buying the cheapest spec comes with advantages too. All that extra hardware listed on the top tier SKUs of my model simply isn’t present inside my chassis. It leaves more than enough space to put other mods (fingerprint reader next?).

Conveniently, the charging port alone is not only hooked to the motherboard with a cable, but it’s also mounted in a special bracket. A bracket, that I can reuse to hold up my USB-C PD decoy port. After 20 min of careful Dremel action (don’t be me, use a plastic bag and tape to protect the motherboard from metal shavings that can cause shorts later), I was able to carve out an almost perfect slot for the USB-C port and shave off enough plastic inside to place the module flush with the bracket. That’s the point of no return!

I used a little bit of electrical tape to isolate the module and exert extra pressure on the port so it would not slip back out from the bracket when the USB-C cable is inserted.

There is one more thing I should have mentioned earlier about, the Xiaomi Charger with Quick Charge 3.0 (review) that I really praised earlier on, it’s brilliant for phones, but it is not strong enough to power the laptop. I need a charger that uses USB-C PD, is capable of delivering at least 45W and can be used for more than just laptop charging.

Not all chargers are made equal

There are many chargers out there, but if you want to buy something decent, you have to read the spec sheets carefully. There are a couple of “gotcha ya” that you have to be aware when buying a decent charger, especially that resellers are poised on advertising the highest numbers even if these couldn’t be further from the truth.

Buy LVSUN USB-C PD charger

Buy it using these links to support NotEnoughTech.

Power Rating

More often than not, the charger will come with a total power rating figure. A 60W charger can be capable of only delivering 15W per socket and still be advertised as “60W charger”. Pay close attention to port power ratings.

Power split

Now, that you found the charger with a single port capable of xW, check how the power is distributed between ports. If the charger comes with a single port (and you are happy with the choice) that’s your homework done, but a lot of chargers will lower the power rating of a single port if multiple ports are in use.

The charger I can power up my Lenovo (45W) and still deliver Quick Charge 4.0 to my other devices is this one: LVSUN 96W (review soon). I also added a couple of 2m USB-C cables with a 90-degree bend for a perfect fit.

Why?

  • comes with 2 USB-C PD ports
  • Quick Charge 4.0 support (despite 3.0 on pictures)
  • rated at 96W
  • delivers high power over USB-C PD while charging other devices

Final words

In theory, I can use my phone to transfer power over to my laptop. It won’t “run” it, but it will slowly top up the battery inside the laptop. Unless you are also stuck with Lenovo Yoga 700, your path to USB-C PD charging may be different. I was lucky with how Lenovo Yoga is put together inside. It took me about an hour to change the charging port. Your conversion may require a voltage regulator and more creative port mount point. Don’t get discouraged. With a little work, you can drop the brick behind and enjoy USB-C interface on other devices. If you have any questions or know who would like to buy a 20V 2.25A charger with Lenovo DC jack let me know in this Reddit thread.

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