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New Lenovo ThinkPads Won't Burn If You Use the Wrong Charger

Image: Lenovo
Image: Lenovo

Ahead of CES 2017 Lenovo has quietly refreshed its entire ThinkPad line with an update to the slightly faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel. Besides new version of laptops that have honest-to-god DVD players (ThinkPad L570) and VGA ports (ThinkPad L470) installed, Lenovo also saw all those beautiful gadgets that exploded this year and decided that it would maybe make sure its own laptops don’t go poof like so many Note 7s and Chromebooks. So for next year Lenovo has equipped its refreshed line of ThinkPads with a chip to keep them from exploding due to a bad USB-C connection.

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While it was ultimately the batteries that gave Samsung its big boom headache this fall, USB-C cables have also been the subject of scorn. As noted by Google engineer Benson Leung, not all USB-C cables are made equally and a bad cord could easily over charge or under charge a device, ruining the precarious balance that exist in the batteries of all consumer devices.

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The problem comes from how the cables and USB-C ports speak to one another. Ideally they should both be aware of precisely how much power the device needs and the cable should give it that amount, but if the device relies on the cable to tackle that math and the cable isn’t smart enough then destruction of your precious devices ensues.

Lenovo claims its getting around the problem by including a “new protection circuit to guard against incorrect power levels.” This means it’s including a circuit in the device, near the USB-C port itself, that manually adjusts power coming in from the cable. This sounds similar to the USB-PD standard Google has been pushing on any phone manufacturer making an Android device.

Obviously Lenovo’s actions won’t completely eradicate the potential for a lap full of fire bomb, but USB-C charging has been a major weak link for consumer electronics this year, and, if this works as Lenovo intends it to, this shows Lenovo’s own commitment to fixing that link, as well as its commitment to USB-C as a whole.

[Lenovo]

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Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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DISCUSSION

FujiS2500HD
FujiS2500HD

Okay. I’m tired after work and too brain dead to Bing this, so explain to me:

How the fuck does a cable over or under-charge a device? Like, shitty Chinese micro USB cables have thinner wires with higher resistance and charge slower than more expensive and quality cables. That’s fine and well.

But over-chagre, let alone explode? Like, what? You’re a cable. Your job is to carry electrons, not to set charge current - that’s set by the wall or USB output to which the C cable is connected, and by the device that draws the current. No?

For example, my Kyocera Icon draws an amp or so of charge current. I frequently charge it with tablet adapters that can put out much more than that. Could a C cable go, “Oh, you only accept up to an amp of current? Well here’s THREE amps, muahahaha!” How in the hell?