Last month I wrote an article about the PDTricker Fast Charge Deception Tool by MuseLab, and like many products I write about here I was tempted to get one. My presumptive use case is that while I have a power supply, it normally resides in my garage, and it would be quite convenient to be able to power the occasional load at either 5, 9, 12, 15, or 20VDC at my desk.
Sure, I could get another benchtop power supply, or intermittently move it to my office. However, having a limited selection of power options anywhere USB C resides (not quite true as explained below) at a cost of $7 (including alligator clips) + S&H in a negligible physical volume was too good of a deal to pass up.
So I went ahead and bought one, and it appears that I wasn’t the only one interested, as quite a few have been sold since then. It took 10 days for it to arrive from China to my location in Florida, and when I plugged it into a standard USB-C wall wart, it supplied 5V from the alligator clip cable. However, when I pressed the voltage change button, the output stayed at 5V, and the lights for the other selected voltages blinked to indicate that it was not outputting the selected value.
Not All USB-C Wall Warts Are the Same
The problem is that not all USB-C wall warts are created the same, even if they are high quality devices. The two that I had at my desk are made by Anker, a reputable manufacturer, but they were solely 5V devices. Another Anker model I tried supported 5, 9, 15, and 20V, but it skipped 12V. After a suggestion, I purchased an imuto device from Amazon, the listing for which explicitly states it can provide 5, 9, 12, 15, and 20 volt outputs.
— Jeremy Cook 🤖 (@JeremySCook) November 14, 2022
Finding this type of supply was surprisingly difficult, and while it’s not the Tindie blog’s custom to advertise products on other sites, linking there seems like a reasonable exception in this case. With this complimentary piece of hardware in hand, the PDTricker worked very well, supplying the requested voltages on command. For my intended testing purposes, I am quite pleased.
Bottom Line: Cool Device, Don’t Forget the Charger!
If there’s a moral or three to this story, it’s that:
- The PDTricker is an awesome little device. I would highly recommend it for testing purposes.
- It may list for $5 (+$2 for alligator clips + your shipping charges), but there’s a very good chance you’ll need to also purchase a capable USB-C supply.
- While not proven out yet, if it’s forcing certain voltages, I highly suspect there is a risk to certain devices if improperly used. To misquote Spider Man, with great voltage modification capabilities comes great responsibility.
While this potential charger expense might make it slightly less attractive price-wise when compared to a standard power supply, you might also consider how portable your setup can be. Throw (your new, highly capable) USB-C charger in your backpack, plus the PDTricker and alligator clips, and you’ve got a variety of voltages at your disposal. In theory you could even run it off of a rechargeable USB battery, if you have an appropriate device.