The fastest and slowest ways to charge your iPad

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ipad pro
Not all USB chargers are equal.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The slowest way you can charge your iPad is to hook it up to a USB port on your MacBook. The fastest? Let’s just say it’s not the charger that Apple puts in the iPad’s box.

Not all USB chargers are equal

In the case of USB, we love standards. That’s probably why why we have so many of them. Even if we forget about USB 1, 2 and 3, and the various flavors of Micro-USB, you’re still left with many different power specs.

In practical terms, chargers fall into two main types:

  • 1-amp chargers, like the one that comes in the box with the iPhone, which take forever to fill a battery
  • 2.1-amp chargers, which charge devices much more quickly

If you ever charged your iPhone with your iPad’s brick, you know how much of a difference this makes.

The ultimate fast charger is the MacBook’s USB-C charger, which Apple says can fast-charge the latest iPhones and iPads, although in practice it’s not much quicker than a standard iPad brick. Conversely, a good, high-powered standard USB charger can charge a MacBook in a reasonable amount of time.

But how do these chargers stack up in real terms?

The slowest way to charge an iPad Pro

Pretty much the worst possible way of charging an iPad is to hook it up to your Mac. Those USB ports might technically provide enough power to juice the iPad Pro’s giant battery. But in practice, it takes so long to charge that hanging out in the dentist’s waiting room will start to seem like a speedy endeavor.

Almost as bad is to try to charge an iPad Pro with the little 5-watt USB charger that Apple still includes with the iPhone, even though it takes over three hours just to charge an iPhone.

In fact, these methods prove so slow that they might not even shift the needle on the battery percentage if you use the iPad while “charging.”

The fastest way to charge an iPad Pro

charger
The MacBook’s USB-C charger won’t charge your iPhone much faster.
Photo: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr CC

If you really need to have that iPad fully charged right now, then you should go for Apple’s USB-C charger, the one that’s designed for the MacBook, but it doesn’t come cheap. You’ll have to buy it in two parts: Apple’s 29-watt USB‑C power adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable to hook it up.

Using a setup like this can fully charge a 13-inch iPad Pro in around 160 minutes. It juices the 10.5-inch iPad Pro in a little over two hours, according to tests done by MacRumors forum member Masotime. According to other reports, fast-charging cuts charging time in half.

Last year, MacStories‘ Federico Viticci tested Apple’s 29-watt USB-C charger and found that it charged the then-current 13-inch iPad Pro fully in 93 minutes. Compare that to the 213 minutes it took using the 12-watt brick that comes in the box.

And that’s with the big iPad Pro sleeping. With the screen on at 100 percent brightness, the 29-watt charger went from zero to 100 percent in 107 minutes. Compare that to the supplied charger, which took 732 minutes (more than 12 hours). This suggests that the iPad itself limits input from the fast USB-C charger when charging (to keep the battery cooler and prolong its life), but draws extra power to light the screen when needed, allowing the battery to keep charging at full speed.

Other iPad fast-chargers

Alternatives to Apple’s 29-watt charger exist. However, not all of them will fast-charge the iPad Pro. In the end, it might be less painful to just pony up for Apple’s. Or you could organize yourself better, and plug in your Apple tablet overnight.

Also, if you do opt to invest in fast-charging, make sure you get a proper Apple-certified MFi Lightning-to-USB-C cable. It doesn’t need to be the Apple-branded one, but if it’s not MFi-certified, it’s a knockoff, and could give you all kinds of trouble.

Bonus tip: You can fast-charge your iPhone, too

If “wireless” charging isn’t cutting it for you, you can safely fast-charge your iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X. Apple says fast-charging with its overpriced 29-watt, 61-watt or 87-watt USB-C adapters will get your battery from zero to 50 percent in 30 minutes. The catch? The 12-watt iPad charger can get your iPhone to 50 percent in just 37 minutes, so you get almost all the advantage of fast charging for much less (for free, if you already own an iPad charger).

To sum up, then, you should avoid low-powered USB at all costs. Even running overnight, the iPhone charger might not fill the battery of an iPad Pro. If you regularly need to charge your iPad from empty while actually using it, then the USB-C chargers seems like a good bet — nothing else comes close in terms of speed.

But if you charge the iPad when it’s sleeping, or while you’re sleeping, then stick with the charger that comes in the box. It’s fine.