Category Archives: Accessories

USB Charging Cubes and Cables: Bill’s tests prove that not all are created equal

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who shares the following guest post:


Power Cubes and USB Cables Multiply Like Rabbits

by Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD)

If your house is like mine, you have a box or drawer somewhere that has a tangle of 5V power cubes and cables.  This is what one of my drawers looks like:

And yes I do have two full drawers.

Every new toy I receive comes with another cable and a power cube.  With Christmas coming, we can all look forward to even more of them.

But I have learned  that not all power cubes or cables are created equally.  Earlier this year I realized that sometimes my tablets would take forever to charge and other times they seemed to re-charge a lot faster.  That got me wondering what was causing the difference. I found that switching power cubes or switching cables could make a difference.

I decided to try some experiments.  First I acquired a couple of Drok USB testers.  These are small, inline, digital USB voltage and amp testers.  They clearly show the amp draw and the voltage being furnished to the device being charged.

Second step was to gather up my power cubes and test them against a device that would load the cube close to it rated capacity.  I quickly found that ANY power cube I owned that was rated at less than 1 amp at 5 volt was not capable of providing anywhere near their rated capacity.  Some would drop all the way down to 4.11V at 0.47A. So I made the decision to throw away ANY power cube that was rated at less than 1 amp at 5 volts. That trimmed down the total number.

I proceeded to label each of the remaining power cubes from 1 to 10.  Following is list of the cubes with their power rating:

Note:  Power cubes 8, 9 & 10 have two USB ports.  I had purchased these so that I could charge two devices at once.  I had also thought of using them to power two Raspberry PI computers.

The following tablets were discharged down to less than 15% capacity:

  • Amazon Fire 10” HD Android Tablet
  • Amazon Fire 8” HD Android Tablet
  • Winbook 8” Windows 10 Tablet

Typically the Fire 10” and the Winbook will draw about 1.8 amps when charging.  The Fire 8” draws slightly less than one amp. So they would make great test subjects to exercise the capability of the power cubes and cables.

I tested several of my cables with the Winbook to make sure that the cable used for testing would provide the amps and voltage.  I then tested each of the power cubes using that cable with each of the tablets and got the following results:

Notes:

  1. All the cubes performed very well within their rated capacity.
  2. It’s interesting to see how the 1 amp rated cubes did with a higher draw.
  3. It’s clear that the cubes do NOT have limiting to their rated capacity.  I would have thought that the 1 amp cubes would have been limited to providing up to but not over that amount.
  4. Likewise, I would have thought that the tablets would limit amp draw when the voltage drops below 5 volts.

Next test was to see if the selection of cable makes a difference.  I randomly selected some cables and labeled them. I used one of the Anker power cubes since they perform the best.  The results were very interesting:

Notes:

  1. The cables were of various lengths from 12” to 36”.  Some of the short cables performed poorly and some of the long cables performed very well.  So cable length is not necessary an indication of how it will perform. You have to test it.
  2. All the cables performed well at 0.95 amps.  But some of them could not adequately handle higher loads.
  3. I had accidentally left the Winbook charging, so it was not at maximum charge during the cable tests.
  4. The cables in Red have been thrown away.

I have two special cables that I had purchased.  These were power splitter cables, single USB to two mini USB.  I had used these for a while running two Raspberry PI’s off of one power cube.  But they would reset every so often, so I thought that the splitter cable might not be providing power evenly between the two PI’s.  Time to test my theory.

Notes:

  1. The a & b denotes each of the legs of the spitters.
  2. It’s pretty obvious that the two legs do NOT provide the same capacity at the higher loads.
  3. These cables will also be tossed away.

Now for some fun testing.  I thought I would try to load the Anker Dual Port power cubes to see if they will provide their rated power on each port.

Very impressive.

And last, I have two Anker large capacity 5V battery packs:

Battery one – Anker Astro E7, Model A1210.  Capacity: 26800mAh. Rated: 4A@5V – 2A max per port.

Battery two – Anker Powercore Model A1277.  Capacity: 26800 mAh. Rated: 4A@5V – 2A max per port.

Conclusions:

  1. Don’t just select a random power cube from that drawer.  Be sure to select one that will provide both the required amp draw at a minimum of 5 volts.
  2. Likewise, don’t just select a random usb cable from that drawer.  Make sure the cable will carry the required current and voltage.
  3. The Anker products that I have (power cubes and batteries) produce the rated current and voltage.  I would highly recommend them.
  4. Where before  I had two drawers full of power cubes and cables; after throwing away about half of them, it has been consolidated into a single drawer.
  5. I may buy some more of the Anker power cubes.

Wow…thank you, Bill!

Your timing is impeccable. I’ve also been weeding out a number of USB power cubes from my own “drawer-o-plenty!” I had been simply looking at the rated amount on each cube and deciding which ones to keep–tossing all of the lower amperage ones. I think I may actually save a little time and simply invest in a few Anker Elite Dual-Port chargers (note this Amazon affiliate link supports the SWLing Post). At present, the white ones are $8.99 each. I especially like the fact that the plug folds and that it automatically switches between voltage standards (100-240 VAC) while travelling between countries.

Side note: I have also been very pleased with Anker’s customer support. I purchased some Soundcore Anker bluetooth earbuds in January–by November they started having issues maintaining a Bluetooth connection. I contacted Anker customer service and after a little troubleshooting, they dispatched a new replacement pair.

Although I know well that not all USB cables are created equally, I would have never guessed there would be much difference in terms of charging ability. Your tests certainly prove otherwise. I suppose I should not be surprised because most “free” USB cables that accompany consumer electronics are of the cheapest quality. I imagine many of the conductors/wires inside those cables are as thin as a hair, hence can’t handle the demands of devices like tablets and larger smart phones.

Again, Bill, thanks so much for sharing this excellent guest post!


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New Product: Tecsun AN-48x (now available)

Anon-Co just announced that Tecsun has released their new portable, active loop antenna – the AN-48x (27.99 plus shipping) – and it is available for purchase.  Copied below is their announcement:

Tecsun has launched its latest antenna which is now available at Anon-Co! This active loop antenna has a portable design and aims to enhance AM (LW, MW, SW) frequencies. The antenna comes with three types of connector cable and a ferrite coupler for connecting to different types of radios.

Personally, I like my TG34 (DE31MS equivalent).  Though I have *no* experience with this model – as it is new – this is the type of antenna users either love or hate.  My TG34 and the equivalents will amplify everything, including noise, but it has helped me make inaudible or barely audible signals audible.  It’s inexpensive, portable, easy to deploy and store (great for travel) – but it’s really geared towards the SWL hobbyist who can’t invest in, or erect, something bigger and/or more expensive.

The biggest advantage that I can see with this new model: the antenna has three types of connections including BNC & RCA sockets.

Click here for more information: Tecsun AN-48x

Guest post by Troy Riedel

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Guest Post: ZIPWALL10 poles as antenna supports

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


ZIPWALL10 poles

Recently we had a remodeling job performed at the home QTH and the workers used telescoping poles to form a dust barrier.  When the job ended, they said I could have the telescoping poles, a product called ZIPWALL10, which when collapsed are four feet long but extend to ten feet.  This got me pondering about how handy these could be in the radio shack, especially for indoor impromptu antennas.

Close up of the ZIPWALL telescopic pole.

Indoor antennas, especially wire antennas usually have to be secured to a wall somehow, and should be as high as possible in the room.  That requires using adhesive tape to attach the wire and a ladder (most ceilings are eight feet), but using the ZIPWALL10 poles it’s easier and safer.  Below is a temporary random wire antenna in my shack using 26 gauge insulated wire strung between the two poles.

Random wire in shack room is a bit hard to see but it is strung between the two poles.

What’s nice about these poles is they have rubber feet to grip the floor and plastic pads on top to avoid damage to the ceiling. The top section is spring loaded to assure a tight fit.  The ZIPWALL10 model extends to ten feet in three telescopic sections. No tools are needed to set these up, and they conveniently collapse for storage.

ZIPWALL10 pair along with roll of 26 gauge wire for temporary indoor antenna installation.

These poles just happened my way due to a remodeling job, but surely other types are available on the market for those wanting to experiment with indoor antennas.  The price for a ZIPWALL10 pair on Amazon is around eighty dollars. Thanks for reading.


What a great use for ZipWall poles, Mario! I’ve spent the past few days at an ocean front condo and could have used two of those supports to suspend a small, lightweight passive loop antenna safely on the balcony. That’s fantastic your contractors simply gave you those poles! 

Thanks for the tip!

As you mention, Amazon sells a full line of ZipWall options (links below support the SWLing Post) but these can also be found at most home improvement stores. 

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Adid finds affordable AA to D cell adapters

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Adid, who writes:

I just ran across this adapter

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000202530136.html

I don’t know if D type is still available everywhere, but not here in Israel.

So this can be very handy if one needs to revive a D type device occasionally.

Thanks for the tip, Adid! This could be a very helpful product for radio enthusiasts who have some of the classic solid state receivers of the 1970s and 80s, like the Panny RF-2200.

It’s not difficult in the States to find D cells but rechargeables are not as commonplace and are quite pricey, often requiring their own dedicated D cell chargers. Since I almost exclusively use rechargeable batteries, I have two of these Eneloop “power packs” (affiliate link) that have AA to D cell adapters inside. Of course, your option is much less expensive and should yield better overall capacity when using standard alkaline cells.

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Jack’s Mediumwave Lazy Susan Mag Loop System

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jack Blanke (WB5LVP), who writes:

I stole this idea from another SWLing Post contributor and I hope he won’t mind.

However, placing the Ferrite Antenna near the center of the loop does enhance its performance and the Lazy Susan was something I had been using long ago to quickly re-orient the radio azmuth to accommodate the signal source. But, like my mentor, minor improvements like this can really enhance performance of smaller portables on medium wave. He used cardboard and I used scrap wood from the work shop. Either way, not much money was involved in this minor enhancement.

These inexpensive additions to the listening post really make the PL380 and the AN200 combo provide hours of enjoyment from medium wave DXing. Now,if only I can find the gent’s name who came up with this little gizmo, I’d love to thank him!!

73’s!

Thanks for sharing your setup, Jack! I can assure you that Rich Stahl (WR3V) will be happy you “stole” his idea. That’s what it’s all about–helping each other! I love the little table/stand you built for the portable and how it perfectly accommodates the loop. Great job!


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An inexpensive portable radio pack with excellent features

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Fields, who writes:

Something I always appreciate on the SWLing Post are articles and comments suggesting bags and cases. A while back I wound up with an account on wish.com – a site that sells “stuff from China” for lack of a better description. Some things are junk, some are not quite what is advertised, but one area where I’ve had remarkably good luck is bags and pouches of varying sizes.

If you search wish.com for “tactical waist bag” you should see a bunch of entries for a smallish canvas bag. The prices will range from $1 to $3, with shipping varying from free to about $3. These are canvas bags with some snaps and fasteners and compartments, and they are a near perfect fit for various travel portables.

The Skywave (and Skywave SSB). Tecsun PL-310ET and PL-380, and Digitech AR-1780 all fit well in this bag. The XHData D808 would be tight as it’s slightly wider than the AR-1780 but it might go. There is plenty of room for spare batteries and a wire antenna. The bags are padded nicely.

If you want to see one of these without visiting the wish.com site, there are some Amazon resellers that have them, usually around $10 (which is not bad with free Prime shipping).

Click here for one example on Amazon.com (affiliate link).

I have several of these bags in various colors – they’re very convenient for travel, and for me they work better than hard-shell cases.

Thank you for the suggestion, James! I love the fact this pack has Molle attachments on the back. That’s huge for those of us with tactical packs!

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Ed’s ultra low-cost “upcycled” radio case for the Realistic DX-440

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who writes:

I have seen some very good radio cases for carrying your radio with you with a price tag.

I needed one for my DX-440 but did not want to shell out a hundred bux for it, so I made a home brew version out of packing foam, bubble wrap, Velcro patches, hot melt glue and lots of imagination. this is what I came up with:

Thanks for sharing, Ed! I’m sure your upcycled case will serve the DX-440 quite well. Bubble and foam wrap are durable materials and it’s always get to give them a second life!

Post readers: Have you made your own radio protective cases? Please comment!

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