You’d never believe we’re excited for a new type of charger for your tablet and computer, yet here we are. What is GaN, and what’s so special about the Belkin GaN Boost Charge packs?
What is the Belkin GaN Boost Charger?
Take a quick glance at the charge pack used for your laptop, and the first thing you might notice is its size: laptop chargers aren’t exactly small, though depending on the laptop you use, the sizes can really vary.
The last major MacBook Air revision from October 2018 saw a change in charge pack, adopting the Type C charge port and a slightly smaller brick to charge from, and since then, it’s stayed with one of Apple’s more popular laptop lines. That’s an example of a laptop charging brick that is hardly huge, but at 30 watts (30W), we wouldn’t want it to be.
And yet it might be larger than it needs to be.
Earlier in the year, we saw an example of what charge packs could end up looking like, as a handful of companies jumped on the GaN train. This isn’t a special mode of transport. Rather, it’s our friendly way of talking about a new movement in charging technology called “Gallium Nitride”, but shortened to GaN.
New to the world of tech, you can expect Gallium Nitride in more devices over the coming years, but charging packs for phones, tablets, and computers appears to be where it is right now.
GaN is a different type of material being used inside the typical charge packs you’re used to fueling your phone, tablet, and computer with. It’s a material that runs without quite as much heat as silicon, and so manufacturers can use Gallium Nitride to push the parts closer together, running without as much of a temperature, and allowing a charging brick to be smaller overall.
What does GaN do differently?
The pitch for GaN chargers is really simple: same power, smaller size.
That’s it. You won’t necessarily find more power or faster charging, rather a smaller size that runs cooler and makes for an easy carry, at least for now.
GaN charge packs mean carrying around the charger for your laptop could be a little easier in the future, because rather than carry a larger brick that weighs down your luggage, you should instead be able to carry something much, much smaller that does the exact same thing.
It’s a technology we’ve seen other manufacturers get into, with Oppo and Realme both building GaN charge packs wielding whopping wattages for upcoming phones, while Belkin and Griffin build GaN in charge packs for everyone else.
Out of the two, Belkin appears ready first, with the Belkin GaN Boost Charge 30W and Belkin GaN Boost Charge 68W dual-charge pack released now.
So what do they do? You’ve probably guessed it: they charge laptops, but they do so without the size and weight.
Does Belkin’s GaN charger do the job?
And shock horror, they do the job almost identically from the original charge pack your laptop comes with, just in a smaller size. That is largely the point of these things, coming back to the pitch: same power, smaller size.
Testing the Belkin GaN Boost Charge 30W against the charger arriving with the MacBook Air, Belkin’s GaN charger is indeed smaller, appearing more like the 10W iPad charger from last year and previous years, but also still managing to be smaller again.
Plug it in and it performs the exact same way, providing 30W of charge over a USB Type C cable which is, perhaps rather unfortunately, not included in the package.
Belkin’s 68W GaN charge pack is a similar premise and is larger, making it ideal for the 13 inch MacBook Pro and its 61W adaptor, but still manages to feel smaller than some of the 65W charge packs we’ve seen previously. It doesn’t quite have enough juice for the power hungry MacBook Pro 16 and its 96W charge pack, but we’re sure something that large is coming, given you can find a 100W GaN charger from a competing start-up on Kickstarter. Get to it, Belkin.
What does it need?
Bizarrely, the one thing Belkin’s GaN charge packs need is the one thing it doesn’t include in the box, yet should: the Type C cable.
Simply put, these GaN chargers are made to work solely with USB Type C, which is totally fine, but we’d love it if Belkin offered the Type C cable in box to help you out.
Some laptops come with the Type C cable plugged into the charging brick in a way that can’t be removed — Dell and Lenovo, we’re looking at you — and means if you buy Belkin’s GaN charging bricks, you’ll also need to find or buy a Type C cable to get power from the GaN bricks to your laptop, phone, or tablet. If you own a recent iPad Pro, you’ll have one in that box, and if you have a recent Google Pixel phone, you’ll have a Type C to Type C cable in that box, too. It’s highly possible you have a spare Type C to Type C cable that these chargers require, but if you don’t, you definitely need one for Belkin’s GaN Boost Charge blocks.
You also can’t remove the Australian plug port from the charging brick, meaning taking this thing overseas in the eventual future won’t just be as easy as snapping a different international plug port in. That’s probably minor, but still worth noting.
Is the Belkin GaN charging brick worth your money?
But even without the cable and international plugs, Belkin’s charging bricks are a decent value given what you get: same power, smaller size.
It might feel like we’re saying the same words over and over again — we are — but they’re also priced to match what’s on offer from the computer brands.
Over at Apple, the 30W adaptor for the MacBook Air is $69, and doesn’t use GaN. It’s a perfectly fine charging brick, especially if you want it as a spare, though it also doesn’t come with the Type C cable, which adds an extra $29 to the cost. Belkin’s doesn’t come with the cable, either, but the 30W Belkin GaN Boost Charge undercuts Apple’s charging brick by five bucks to $64.95, giving you some sense of value before even mentioning the smaller size.
Over at the 13 inch MacBook Pro’s 61W adaptor, Apple charges $99 compared with Belkin’s 68W GaN for $89.95, a good ten bucks lower.
It’s not the same approach everywhere, mind you: Dell’s 65W Type C adaptor undercuts Belkin’s at $74.80, but may not offer the same versatility, while Lenovo’s 45W Type C adaptor is $39 and its 65W Type C comes in $58 and $99 options. Clearly, Belkin is looking at Apple in its pricing, though manufacturers aren’t necessarily competing on size.
Yay or nay?
That said, we can’t say with a degree of certainty which laptop charger is better overall. The Apple charger with the MacBook Air charges the laptop well, as does Belkin’s GaN charger. Apple doesn’t state that third party chargers can’t be used, only that you should make sure to use either Apple’s or 30W adaptor that is compatible and compliant:
Charge MacBook Air only with the included 30W USB-C Power Adapter and USB-C Charge Cable, or with a 30W third-party power adapter and cable that are compatible with USB-C and compliant with applicable international and regional regulations and safety standards, including IEC 60950-1.
We’d say Belkin’s GaN charge pack qualifies, but we do know it’s not MFi certified, meaning it will charge an iPhone, though isn’t certified by Apple’s program to do so, which costs money for companies to get that stamp of approval.
However if you’re looking for an extra charge pack for your recent Type C-compatible laptop, Belkin’s GaN Boost Charge packs are a pretty intriguing addition that brings exactly what you want for a smaller size. It might not be a hugely smaller size, but when we get back to bringing our laptop everywhere, a slightly different size might make a world of difference.