While my Kickstarter fetish is bordering on a disorder (the word “hoarding” comes to mind), there are projects in there that actually get everything right and make the world a better place to live in.
The QooPow QualMeter X is a very capable USB cable/charger tester – and one that’s extremely useful in our modern, gadget-riddled lives.
There are two models to choose from, the cheaper option being almost half the price. While I have the ‘X’ version, I’ll start with the QualMeter Basic (QMB) to describe what these two units do in general.
The QMB allows you to test the quality of the four common types of USB charging cables: Mini/Micro USB, and 30/8-Pin Apple connectors. There’s a colored LED meter that shows you the “quality” of your cable – as well as an indicator if it’s shielded or not. 1 Honestly, I’ve yet to see a real-world practical difference between the two, but I’m assuming we can all agree that shielded is better Ideally you’d want your cables to fall on yellow at the very least.
Testing cables is very straightforward: you plug the cables you want to test onto the Type-AF and respective ports, then you plug in it’s Type-A into your USB charger’s Type-AF port. The only thing you have to remember to avoid damaging the unit is to plug in the test cables to the QMX before plugging the QMX into your charger.
It also allows you to test your USB charger or power-bank’s capability to provide 1A of current reliably – as most products have this minimum specification. This is as simple as plugging in the QMX to the charger and checking the 1A light. If it’s not not lighting up, then you’re getting less than 1A at most. There’s an option to extend its current measuring capabilities up to 3A with a MiniLoad expansion unit.
Having a charger that puts out less than 1A is still safe – safer, in fact 2 Which is why they don’t bother testing it – it’s just that it’s going charge much slower at best; or worst, the possibility of it not being able to charge the battery faster than it’s being drained. Like if the device is in use while being charged, or if it’s draw more power even on idle (like a phone that’s got cellular data enabled)
The QualMeter X (QMX) is the basically the all-in-one unit. It has all the features the QMB and MiniLoad have – and then some. You can think of the Basic as a detuned, and uglier (it’s true!) version of the X 😛
The items in bold are exclusive to the QMX
- Input: DC 4.5~5.5v
- USB Type AF
- 30-Pin 3 Legacy Apple connector
- 8-Pin 4 Apple Lightning connector
- USB Type C (2x)
- Advanced Cable Test Mode, @1A/2A
- Advanced Charger Test Mode, Full range 1~3.1A (100mA step)
- Adjustable Electronic Load
- Output Compensation Indicator
- 32-bit 48MHz MCU
- Flash memory
- Extension slot 5 For future expandability
Reading Test Results
You still read the cable quality similarly to the QMB, so in the picture above, it’s as good as it can get. It also detected the shielding, and the new info is it shows what current the cable can handle – in this case it’s 2A – which means it’s a cable that’s safe to use with a fast charger.
Now just like the difference between shielded and non-shielded, MFi vs non MFi certified, or OEM vs 3rd party cables, USB technology can be pretty forgiving. So it’s possible a 1A rated cable (which I have yet to come across) or one measured in the red would still charge. But if your device starts acting up one day – and you find out its charging circuit was the cause of the damage – it’s not a stretch to assume the crappy cable you insisted on using was the culprit.
The QualMeters merely tell you of the quality of the cable in the strictest sense – sorta like specs on paper. This info can be useful for finding out if manufacturers are falsely advertising their cable specifications, or a definitive way to know if that generic USB cable you’re considering is safe to use.
Testing chargers is a bit confusing at first because you have to pay attention to two groups of indicators (vertical and horizontal) on the QMX. Using the picture above as an example, you take the base measured current on the horizontal (2.5A) and add the numeric value 6 Yes, the “wort-fair-best” are irrelevant when on charger test mode on the vertical range (400mA or 0.4A). So my Anker PoweCore 13000mAh powerbank can crank up to 2.9A (pretty close to Anker’s 3A rating) of current reliably. Incidentally, my desktop case’s front USB ports can do up to 1.7A (motherboard rear ports can go up to 2.5A), and my 2nd gen MacBook Air’s ports can do up to 2.6A
Now as stated in the specs, the QMX can only measure up to 3.1A, so as such, my Xiaomi 16000mAh power-bank and Bolse AC USB charging hubs result in the max 3.1A measurable output. This doesn’t mean that they cannot output more than that. Xiaomi claims 3.6A, and The Bolse technically has a whopping 12A that they claim could be intelligently distributed to any of its ports. But as of this posting, the common requirement for rapid charging is usually 2A – so all these chargers I’ve just tested are more than capable of good quality rapid charging current for most modern devices.
It goes without saying that in the advent of modern USB-based electronics, the QMX has proven to be invaluable. In fact, I was able to find out that some of the “genuine” cables that came with some products (like my Cardo ScalaRider PacTalk were of even less quality 7 Not in the red though, so still perfectly fine to use than the generic [unshielded] cables from CDR-King and Cable Monster I had laying around. But that doesn’t mean those generic cables didn’t have their share of duds – which made the QMX even more indispensable now that the risk is now quantifiable 😛
- Solid build
- Simple operation
- Could save your devices from damage from faulty charging cables/chargers
- Save money by knowing for sure if cheaper cables/chargers are of acceptable quality or not
- USB-C support (QMX only)
- Expandability (QMX only)
- 3.1A upper limit (you know it’s just a matter of time before device power requirements increase)
- Impossible to test very short/stiff cables
You can purchase the QualMeter(s) at the QooPow website
|⇡1||Honestly, I’ve yet to see a real-world practical difference between the two, but I’m assuming we can all agree that shielded is better|
|⇡2||Which is why they don’t bother testing it|
|⇡3||Legacy Apple connector|
|⇡4||Apple Lightning connector|
|⇡5||For future expandability|
|⇡6||Yes, the “wort-fair-best” are irrelevant when on charger test mode|
|⇡7||Not in the red though, so still perfectly fine to use|