Not all Micro USB cables are equal: if you have a tablet, watch out for 28/28 AWG vs. 28/24 AWG

Photo: Daniil Vasiliev, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: Daniil Vasiliev, CC BY-SA 2.0

I somehow misplaced the Micro USB cable that came bundled with my Nexus 7. Earlier today, I plugged it in to charge using a different cable– and to ensure it would charge as quickly as possible, I even shut it down before plugging it in. After four hours, I came back to discover that the battery had only crept up from 4% to 32% in those four hours. My Nexus 7 was charging incredibly slowly.

It turns out that the Nexus 7 comes bundled with a Micro USB cable with wire gauges of 28/24 AWG. That means normal-size data wires (28) and large-size power wires (24).

Normal Micro USB cables are 28/28 AWG, meaning that their power wires are significantly smaller than the special 28/24 AWG charging cable. (Unintuitively, “28” is a smaller size than “24.”)

It’s not just tablets that require 28/24 AWG cables. Newer, larger smartphones benefit significantly well from 28/24 cables as well due to their increasing battery capacities and power demands.

If you’re in a hurry and need Prime shipping, Amazon sells some decent 28/24 AWG wires (three feet, six feet).

Update, June 2014: These are the cables I’ve been happily using since I posted this entry about a year ago. Amazon has turned many cables into “add-on items” instead of normal Prime items, but you still get Prime-speed shipping if the cable is part of a large enough order.

(If you cannot see the USB cables displayed above, you may be using an ad blocker that blocks Amazon links. Try disabling your ad blocker and reloading the page.)

If you’d like to buy cables in bulk and don’t mind waiting a few extra days for delivery, Monoprice has lower prices, though you do have to pay for shipping. Just be sure the description specifies 28/24 AWG before buying your USB cables!

Addendum, June 2014: I also picked up this awesome charger a couple months ago:

It works excellently with my high-capacity 28/24 AWG micro USB cables. The charger can put out up to 2.4 amps per port for any kind of device, whether Apple or Android, and can intelligently shift around that amperage and switch between your devices’ preferred charging methods depending on what you plug into it. It’s given worlds better performance than the crappy AC adapter wall plugs that come with most devices, and it’s been great for travel, too. Just one power outlet at the airport or a hotel room is sufficient to power five devices at a time, and the charger can handle input from 100 to 240 volts, making it ideal for international use. I don’t usually “push” a device this hard, but I’m seriously in love with this charger. If you’re investing in good 28/24 AWG USB cables, you owe it to yourself to get a flexible, powerful charger that will last for years to come, too.

Update, 7/22/14: Ironically, the Anker charger listed above actually failed me recently! Three of the five USB ports died. However, upon closely examining the (still excellent) Amazon reviews, I saw that a few customers had the same issue, and that it seems to be tied to a specific manufacturing batch. I contacted Anker to let them know about the problem with my unit, and they immediately arranged to ship me a free replacement. They didn’t even ask me to return the defective unit, only requesting that I tell them its serial number:

Dear Bill Price,

Thank you for getting back to us with the serial number, which can help us to identify the batch number so we can calculate the defective rate to better control the quality.

Kindly please be advised we have arranged the replacement charger to you for retry. It will be shipped out next business day. Hope you can get it soon.

Any other concerns we can address, please feel free to contact us.

Reference [ticket number redacted] if contacting a CSR by phone.

AnkerDirect Customer Support
Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm(pst)

I thought the customer service was good enough to highlight! Turns out they have an 18-month warranty, so even if the replacement somehow fails, I’m not too worried.

September 7, 2013Permalink 9 Comments

9 thoughts on “Not all Micro USB cables are equal: if you have a tablet, watch out for 28/28 AWG vs. 28/24 AWG

  1. I have a Kindle Fire HD and you have to use 28/24 AWG micro usb cables with it. Most regular cables won’t charge it at all. Now finding a micro USB cable that won’t break within a couple of months is a really big issue….

    • The cables I bought from Monoprice (the 6 ft model, I think) have been pretty darn resilient so far! But I suppose I’ve only had them for about five months, so we’ll see if they can continue to go the distance.

      Apple dock cables were always my big aggravation in the past. Big, thin, irregularly-shaped connectors get beaten up so easily!

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