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Smart, flush-mounted, multiple: where USB ports on sockets make sense USB devices occupy a complete socket with a power supply unit. But that is often not necessary. Sockets with integrated USB ports can help. 8:00 p.m. tech stage

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USB devices, along with a power adapter, occupy an entire outlet. But in many cases this is not necessary. Sockets with integrated USB ports can help.

More and more devices such as surveillance cameras (theme world) , smart home centers (best list) and powerful motion detectors (guide) are supplied with power via USB cables. Other tools such as smartphones (theme world) , tablets (theme world) , power banks (guide) and electric air pumps (guide) usually require a USB power supply unit for charging. Free sockets are therefore becoming a rarity in a modern household.

However, this problem can be addressed in a number of ways. To charge USB devices, users can use power adapters (advisers) that offer multiple USB ports. However, some devices such as the Xiaomi 12 Pro (test report) charge up to 120 watts using proprietary techniques that are not supported by standard power supplies. So in the case of the Xiaomi, if you want to charge the smartphone in 20 minutes, you have to use the power adapter provided for this and occupy a socket with it.

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If it is not about speed when charging, but only about supplying a USB device with power, then flush-mounted sockets, socket strips and adapter plugs with integrated USB ports are also a way of countering the lack of sockets. Because this saves one USB power supply per device, which would otherwise occupy a socket so that it is no longer available for consumers with high performance requirements.

Whether flush-mounted models, socket strips or adapter plugs: sockets with integrated USB ports allow users to use sockets previously used for USB devices for consumers with high performance requirements. 

Flush sockets with integrated USB ports ensure that users can operate multiple devices from a single socket. Inexpensive variants with two USB-A ports are already available for less than 10 euros. Flush-mounted sockets with USB-A and USB-C ports are available from around 12 euros including PD with up to 18 watts and dual versions from around 30 euros. Brand models from Busch-Jaeger, Jung and Merten are slightly more expensive and available from around 40 euros.

Unfortunately, there are still no smart models with WLAN, Zigbee or Z-Wave among the flush-mounted sockets with USB ports.

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The smart adapter plug Aeotec Smart Switch supplies the Annke Crater surveillance camera with power via a USB-A port. 

Users can also use adapter plugs to supply power to USB devices. Such models are already available with two integrated USB ports for less than 10 euros. With four USB ports, they cost about 14 euros .

Some models of smart adapters (guides) , which are used in a smart home via radio such as WLAN, Zigbee or Z-Wave, can also take over the power supply for USB devices. However, they usually only offer one USB port and, at at least 15 euros, are also a bit more expensive than the standard models without wireless technology.

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Socket strips are also often equipped with one or more USB ports. This includes, for example, smart models that have a WLAN connection and can be operated remotely. Such models are available from around 20 euros. Without WLAN, USB connector strips are available from around 10 euros.

In general, users have to accept limitations in charging power for the product groups mentioned. If you want to use the quick charge function of your smartphone, for example, you usually need the power adapter supplied by the manufacturer or a compatible model ( comparative test: USB-C power adapters from 10 euros ). Most of the products featured in this post have USB ports that deliver 5 volts by 2.1, 2.4, or 3.4 amps (10.5, 12, and 17 watts). In addition, they do not master fast charging standards such as Quick Charge (QC) or USB Power Delivery (PD). As always, exceptions confirm the rule: Logilink, for example, has a flush-mounted socket that offers up to 18 watts at least on the USB-C port PD and for around 22 eurosis available. And the Mc Power model also masters PD with up to 18 watts. At just under 17 euros including shipping, it is even cheaper than the Logilink version. But even that is still a compromise. After all, current smartphones offer a charging capacity of more than 100 watts ( test report ).

Equipped for both USB plugs: flush-mounted socket with USB-A and USB-C port.  

Until a few years ago, USB power supplies featured the well-known, square USB-A socket, but the new C standard is becoming increasingly popular. The sockets are easy to spot: they’re smaller and round on the sides instead of square. USB-C has many advantages, but they hardly play a role in connection with sockets. You don’t want to transfer data or image information, and there are currently practically no standards for fast charging or even Power Delivery for operating notebooks via the USB port for sockets. However, you have the choice of whether you want USB-A, -C or a mixture of both.

USB-C will certainly prevail in the medium term, so it makes sense to look for a socket with this connection when buying. On the other hand, many devices such as surveillance cameras, smart home centers and others use a USB-A port for power supply. After all, the majority of power supplies support this standard. And on the device side, a micro-USB socket is usually used. And so the majority of electronic devices are currently powered by either a USB-A to Micro-USB or a USB-A to USB-C cable. A power supply via a USB-C to USB-C cable is currently rather the exception. Accordingly, sockets with USB-C ports only make sense if when they are actually supposed to act as a charging port and not as a regular power supply for a USB device with only a few watts of power consumption. Then they should also support at least PD.

Your own smartphone has a USB-C connection; that of the partner Lightning, and the headphones still want to be charged with micro-USB. For reasons of convenience or, more precisely, reasons of laziness, in many households a battery is attached to different charging cables, always in the socket and under juice, so that the right charging plug is always at hand. More efficient are multi-charging cables that have a USB-A or USB-C plug on one side and a breakout cable with the usual suspects on the other side, currently mostly USB-C, Micro-USB and Lightning. One cable is sufficient for all devices, most of them even charge at the same time.

Magnetic charging cables for just a few euros are compatible with all devices with a USB charging port.  

The price for the comfort: As a rule, only the power lines are interconnected. Data transmission is just as impossible with such cables as fast charging or switching to higher voltages, for example in notebooks with a USB-C charging port. More information is available in our USB-C cable guide . Magnetic charging cables offer even more convenience, but they also have their disadvantages .

The fact that flush-mounted sockets, socket strips and adapter plugs with integrated USB ports usually do not offer quick-charging technology is a compromise that you can safely accept. After all, you can still charge the smartphone via the supplied power adapter. But the increasing number of USB devices such as surveillance cameras, hubs and gateways in the smart home sector and other devices that are suitable for continuous operation on conventional USB ports can be countered with the solutions presented here. Thanks to the USB ports, the sockets previously used for these devices are again available to consumers with high performance requirements and are not occupied by a USB power supply unit.

But it is also clear that sockets with USB ports, even if they are not in use, consume some power in standby. Therefore, they should only be used if the USB ports are actually required for consumers.

More information on USB devices and their charging power is available in the article Measuring USB charging power: Display in cables & adapters from 10 euros Our thematic world of the same name offers further reports on the subject of USB .

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