Phone charge standardisation could come to notebooks

New USB power standard to deliver up to 100W

The USB promoter group has announced (pdf) the development of a new USB 3.0 power delivery specification which will see chargers able to deliver up to 100W of power.

Unlike the present USB charging standard, the new Power Delivery specification is not only expected to be able to deliver more current but also higher voltages than the standard 5V system voltage of USB.

This is potentially a device destroying change so there wont be the same sort of cheap short cuts that chategorises USB charging at present. Devices will have to negotiate the power requirements over the data connection before the power supply increases the supply voltage.

"Conceivably, a notebook PC could rely solely on a USB connection for its source of power," said USB 3.0 promoter group boss Brad Saunders.

While universal chargers exist today they come with a number of power connectors for a range of brands and generally need the voltage set manually. Placing the power adaptor around the wrong way or selecting the wrong voltage can lead to catastrophic damage to a laptop.

The USB Power Delivery specification is set to be ironed out by the end of the year and will then enter industry consultation. Then in 2012 the standard will move to the USB Implementers Forum which will then be able to offer compliance testing.

Given the high stakes on correct implementation of the standard, compliance testing will be a vital component of USB power delivery devices.

It’s not known at this point if there will be a universal standard that will allow for loads of up to 100W within a given range of voltage, or if USB Power Delivery devices will be marked for output capacity.

Given the added complexity it seems likely laptop manufacturers would ship a custom dedicated low cost power supply but integrate the capability to be powered off a USB Power Delivery charger.

At any rate, the mobile phone standardisation on USB charging looks set to expand into larger devices and will likely be greeted by consumers with similar enthusiasm.

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