If you have a laptop, you know that feeling you get when that notification comes up and stares at you like an impending beacon of death. You know that the next thing you need to do is plug in your charger because your laptop is going to shut off in the next few minutes if you don’t. But wait! All you can find is your husband’s laptop charger. You wonder for a moment if it would work to charge your laptop, so you grab it and have hopes that your laptop won’t die before you plug it in. You don’t even realize that it dies because you’re still searching for your charger and you swear up and down that you left it in the living room. That’s when you realize you weren’t the last one to use it – it was the kids, but by then it’s too late. In the end, you’re left wondering why your husband’s charger didn’t work. You ask yourself and then possibly Google, are laptop chargers universal?
What Are Laptop Chargers?
Your laptop charger is essentially a battery charger, meant to provide power to your computer in addition to charging your onboard battery. Chargers are usually specified by their manufacturer and their charging speed. The charging speed is mainly dependent on the battery that is accepting the charge. Most batteries these days are lithium-ion batteries, or Li-ion batteries, and these particular types of batteries operate on what is called a constant current or constant voltage. You might see it abbreviated CC/CV. The charge current stays constant and limited to a set voltage. Once that voltage is capped, the current decreases until the battery is full or until the battery can’t accept a low-current charge any longer. Knowing which battery type you have is critical to searching for a laptop charger. As you search, you’ll find that there are a few different types of chargers, too – the overnight charger, the rapid charger, and the fast charger. Most laptop chargers are the rapid chargers that will complete a charge in about 3-6 hours.
With all of this information, you may still be wondering if chargers can be universal if the most common batteries are Li-ion batteries. Logic says that if the batteries are the same, then the chargers should also be the same. There is some truth to that, but there are also a lot of untruths.
Is There a Need for Universal Laptop Chargers?
The short answer is yes, having a universal laptop charger would entirely be useful, but the truth of the matter is that it probably won’t happen successfully any time soon. Having the right charger matters. Even if the plug fits into your laptop, that doesn’t mean that it’s the right one. It’s a good start, though, but you need to check out the technical details to know for sure. Each battery, or power brick as some people call them, should have the accepted amperage and voltage labeled somewhere. What you’ll want to do is compare the voltage and amperage on the battery with what is reported on the charger to see if they’re compatible.
If the voltage is higher than it should be, you risk causing a short on your laptop. Most people know that too much electricity to your system can fry your insides. If that happens, then you’re potentially looking at a much costlier replacement for the entire system than you would be if you took the time to get the right laptop charger. Amperage, or amps, are important because that’s reflective of the current that is traveling through your charger and going to your device. Remember how you’ve got different chargers – overnight, rapid, and fast? Each of them has a different amperage flow causing the power to reach your system. If you were to flood your system with an amperage that is too low, then your device won’t charge because it can’t when amps are minimal. Amps need to either meet or be higher than what the device says it requires. To keep from damaging your laptop or your battery, be sure to check for voltage and amperage. Your wallet will thank you.
Where to Find Laptop Chargers
You are already well aware of where you can find most electronics, but you’ll want to know what you have before actively searching. Let’s say you go out to Best Buy’s website and search for laptop chargers. When you do that, you’re going to come back with a lot of different options. Sure enough, you’ll see options that have a 90W power adapter and others that are closer to 45W in power, but without inspecting them a little more closely, you could end up purchasing one that wouldn’t be good for your laptop. The same can be said of pretty much anywhere from Batteries Plus to Staples and even Amazon. Thanks to modern conveniences, you can order one online and have it shipped directly to you in a matter of days. As great as that is, if you’re not sure and you order the wrong laptop charger, you’ll find out in a much less preferable way that your laptop was not compatible. If you’re not sure about what you’re looking at, Google your laptop or your charger specs. If you need to, try to directly contact the manufacturer to get the information. Companies like Dell and HP are usually willing to at least give you the information you need to get the replacement laptop charger that you need. You can even ask them, “are laptop chargers universal?” Have a discussion with an educated individual inside the industry, and they’re going to tell you the same thing. Yes, conditionally, some chargers are universal, but there’s more to it than a blanket reply.
Something else you may want to consider is whether or not you’ve got a warranty that comes with the charger you purchase. Electronics can be quirky, and that is still true for chargers. As an example, Amazon has a universal charger they call their AmazonBasics Universal Laptop Charger. They offer a warranty for up to 30 days in addition to a full refund if you decide to return it as long as it hasn’t been opened or if it is dead on arrival. Other companies might have better warranties or return policies, so you’ll want to check that out, too. Walmart is a great example of a company having excellent customer policies. You have the option of adding a Product Care Plan that will cover your charger for an additional two years. If you have to return it, it’s easy peasy to return it to the store you bought it from. If you purchased your charger from Walmart’s online website, you can also just as easily return it to a store near you instead of dealing with the hassle of shipping it back to them.
Why You Need the Right Charger
You may see that the right charger is going to run you upwards of anywhere between $20 – $50 or more to replace. You may even be tempted for the charger that is less expensive. It’s the one that claims to be universal. It sounds like a game changer, right? You think that you might even be able to use it in multiple places, not just your laptop. It seems to answer your “are laptop chargers universal” question to the tune of a lower price tag and more significant benefit. Remember, when it seems too good to be true, it usually is, and the same applies to chargers. Even when a charger says its universal, you still need to compare the voltage and amperage to ensure compatibility. When packaging says the charger is universal, it is usually referring to the plug as they can be interchangeable to fit multiple models.
Do your homework, verify the technical details for your laptop and your charger. If you do, you can rest assured that your computer won’t die because it was fried accidentally by too much power. Instead, you can plug it in, turn it on, and keep on going.