Between traveling to Los Angeles for the NAMM Show, covering countless press events in New York and San Francisco, and even flying internationally for trade shows like MWC in Barcelona, I've spent a lot of time this year on planes. Certainly more than I ever have in past years, and throughout all of this travel I've picked up little tricks and rules of thumb that make my life easier.
Get TSA Pre Check. Never check a bag when it can be avoided. Paying for lounge access can be well worth it for the dedicated Wi-Fi and free food and drinks (you can also get a credit card like the Amex Platinum that includes complimentary lounge access). But possibly the most important thing I've learned is to get a travel charger.
I use a 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro for all of my writing and video editing, which comes with an 87W USB-C power brick. The wall plug is removable and can be replaced with an extension cable, but I prefer not to bring that cable when I'm traveling because it's thick and awkward to pack, and the wall plug works just fine on most power outlets. The problem arises when I try to plug it into the outlet in front of my seat on a plane — the brick is far too heavy, and the plug far too loose. I've contributed plenty to the swear jar struggling with this, and it was time to do something about it.
Right before attending my first MWC this year, I bought Satechi's 75W Dual Type-C PD Travel Charger on Amazon. With two USB-C ports and a matching pair of USB-A ports, it seemed like the perfect solution to my travel ones. Unlike the MacBook's charging brick, Satechi makes use of the same standard power cable found on thousands of consumer electronics — even my old PlayStation 2 takes the same cord.
This is great because that cord is extremely slim and lightweight, making it easy to pack and taking all the weight off of the power outlet itself. Finally, I can confidently board every flight knowing I'll be able to top up my laptop.
Both USB-C ports offer Power Delivery charging, but only the top port will properly power a laptop, with a maximum output of 60W. That's less power than Apple's charging brick provides, but it's never struggled to keep up with my MacBook Pro. Even while I'm editing layered 4K video in Final Cut Pro X, the Satechi charger is able to bring my battery percentage up — albeit a bit more slowly than the intended charger.
The second USB-C port outputs 18W, which is good for charging phones or tablets, while the USB-A ports max out at a combined 12W. With my typical travel setup, I use the 60W USB-C port to charge my laptop, and the 18W port to charge my phone, whether I'm on a plane or a coffee shop. Once I get back to my hotel, I use the remaining USB-A ports to power my noise-canceling headphones and my dual-battery charging dock for the Canon batteries to my portable slider.
I can power my laptop, phone, headphones, and even my camera all at once with this travel charger.
Satechi doesn't include any USB cables with the travel charger, so you'll need to supply your own. I use a six-foot Belkin USB C-to-C cable that I've had for years, along with a few short C-to-C and C-to-A cables that came with my Samsung T5 SSD. This keeps everything fairly compact and easy to pack, but of course, you can use whatever cables you like.
As far as the design and build quality, the Satechi travel charger is just shy of an inch longer than Apple's 87W MacBook charger, and roughly the same thickness. It's substantially lighter, but not so much as to feel cheaply made. Satechi says it's made of heat-resistant materials for safety — despite the aluminum appearance, this definitely feels like plastic, and mine's picked up quite a few scratches over time. I really like the dark gray finish with black accenting around the USB ports, which roughly matches the looks of my space gray laptop.
If you're making use of the 60W port, the charger runs pretty hot, and I typically try to unplug it a few minutes before I plan on leaving to give it time to cool before tossing it into my bag. It's never felt dangerous, but you're definitely not going to want to leave it sitting on your lap.
That said, a bit of extra heat is a tradeoff I'm more than willing to make for all of the conveniences this charger offers me. What started off as a way to just charge my laptop during flights ended up replacing almost every charger in my bag, as more and more devices move to USB charging. In fact, even my new camera charges over USB-C (albeit very slowly — it's really only good for an overnight charge), which means I can finally ditch my last non-USB charger. This is genuinely the only device I need for power anymore.
The only thing that could make this travel charger better for me is if Satechi implemented gallium nitride technology to shrink its footprint. Or maybe keep the same form factor but use the extra space for an internal battery so I can charge my phone on the go? Maybe in a future iteration. In the meantime, I can't recommend this charger enough. It's truly made my travel life easier, and I'd say that's well worth its price tag.
All the power
This charger features two USB-C ports and two Type-A ports, and is capable of powering a laptop, tablet, phone, and headphones simultaneously. It runs hot, but it's a nearly perfect travel solution.
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