Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro’s 140-watt USB-C charger is its most powerful yet

Apple's 2021 MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro

Illustration by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple boasted about how efficient its new MacBook Pro laptops are during their debut Monday, but it takes Apple’s most power-hungry laptop charger, a beefy 140-watt brick, to top up the biggest of the new laptops.

Apple’s previous 16-inch MacBook Pros, which use the Intel processors Apple is kicking out of its Mac family, came with a 96-watt charger. The 140-watt charger, which ships only with the 16-inch MacBook Pro, can deliver power into either the laptop’s USB-C ports or its resurrected MagSafe charging port depending on which cable you attach to the charger’s USB-C port.

“MagSafe 3 has a new design that supports more power into the system,” said Mac product line manager Shruti Haldea during the launch event. The high-power charging works also with the laptop’s USB-C ports, too, thanks to a new standard this year that boosts USB charging power as high as 240 watts.

Supporting the new USB-C standard is important for anyone who wants to use Apple’s charger on other devices or third-party chargers on Apple’s new MacBook Pros.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has the same 100-watt-hour battery size as its predecessor, but it includes fast-charge technology so customers can inject more power with a quick trip to the charger. The 14-inch MacBook Pro, available in configurations with smaller 67-watt and 96-watt chargers, has a 70-watt-hout battery that’s about 20% larger than the Intel-based model it replaces.

The high-power charger didn’t surprise Benson Leung, a Google engineer who’s worked on USB-C technology, including tracking down early problems. “Apple was instrumental at proposing the…new voltages levels to USB’s working groups, so it would make sense that they were planning on releasing the first implementation,” he said in a Reddit post Monday.

The rapid support for the new high-power USB is parallel to the early adoption of USB-C in 2016 by Apple and Google, he added. Both companies were able to support the new technology rapidly because they helped set the standards, Leung added.

Apple’s new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops are powered by its own M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. At its MacBook Pro launch event, Apple also announced its AirPods 3 and more colorful HomePod Mini smart speakers.

USB has amplified its clout in the tech industry by expanding from data transfer duties to charging, first with phones and other small devices, and more recently with laptops. That’s been a boon for consumers, who can use the same charging equipment to top up batteries in laptops, headphones, tablets, phones, game consoles and other products.

One area that’s been out of reach for USB has been higher-end laptops for gaming, which need more than the 100-watt maximum USB has been able to supply. To address this, the USB Implementers Forum standards group expanded USB charging with several new levels up to 240-watt charging levels this year.

The USB-IF’s Power Delivery standard governs power levels so a high-power charger won’t damage a low-power device.

Apple sells its 140W charger separately for $99 but includes no charging cables with it.

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