Teardown of cheap USB charger

One day I bough a very cheap quite nice looking (if you like Apple style) very cheap (2 USD) USB charger from dx.com. I was curious to see if anything useful could be built this cheaply. The product USB Power Charger Adapter – White (EU Plug / 100~240V) carried SKU 176662 code, but there does not seem to be any product with that code for sale anymore.

usbch1

View of the other side:

usbch2

Here the device promises 5V 1A out and says to take 100-240V 50/60 Hz. This is very small and looks good. There does not seem to be CE marking here, but there is US safety approval mark (UL).

I also did a quick insulation testing, no problem in withstanding 1000V DC insulation testing (=no immediate electrocution danger). On initial tests seemed to give out 5V at around 1A without problems for some time.

The device worked well to charge devices that took 200 mA or less current. But the device failed when taken into real use: I tried charging a Samsung smart phone (takes around 800-900 mA maximum current), but the device failed after around 15-20 minutes of continuous use. It stopped giving power out. I smelled slight burned electronics aroma. The charger was broken. It did not full-fill the promise.

So next task was to check what went wrong in the device. The case opened easily (too easily?) with small screwdriver and not much force. The electronics was easy to pull out. Looks a bit tightly packed here:

usbch3

Here is a better look at the electronics inside:

usbch4

What you can see is that electronics is very simple. On the high voltage side there are 2 diodes, 2 electrolytic capacitors (2.2uF2400V and 22uF25V), transformer, 2 resistor, 2 ceramic capacitors, 3 resistors and 1 transistor (MJE 13001 = NPN 600V/400V 0.2A). There is no control ICs anywhere!

On the low voltage side there are 1 diode, electrolytic capacitor (470uF10V), 1 zener diode, 1 optoisolator (817C), 1 resistor and USB connector.

usbch6

Here are some findings on the circuit: The power supply is built using very simple circuit (simpler than expected). There is half-wave rectifier on the mains input. The switching ransformer seems to have 1 secondary coil (2 pins) and 2 primary side coils (4 pins). Looks like self-oscillating transformer-transistor circuit that is turned off by optoisolator when output voltage reaches the limit (slightly over 5V).

There are two worrying safety issues here: The insulation distances on the circuit board are very small (less than 1 mm on several places between mains side and output). Too small to be safe! There does not seem to be any fuse in this circuit! Mains power goes directly from input rectifier diode to mains storage capacitor (2.2uF400V). The question is what happens when this device is overloaded or some component fails.

usbch7

The end result is that this was again another cheap unsafe power supply. I think there are good reasons for the product to be not anymore available.

11 Comments

  1. Electricians Auckland says:

    Always handy to know whats on the inside and how it all works….cheers!

    Reply
  2. Taiwan Products says:

    Cheap USB charger really unsafe

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This looks quite similar to my power supply…

    EEVblog #388 – Fake Apple USB Charger Teardown
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi-b9k-0KfE

    Reply
  4. Robert.SK says:

    Hello, is this Samsung portable charger real or fake ? purchased in store…
    http://rodi.sk/blog/samsung-eta-u90ewe-001.html

    thanks

    Reply
    • Tomi Engdahl says:

      Thank you for your feedback.
      I can’t say for sure because i have not looked what is inside original Samsung charger….

      Based on your teardown pics the build quality looks OK.

      Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A look inside a (crap) double gang socket with USB outlets.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoZ1_aEDPos

    analysis when it failed to charge the original users devices. I think it’s probably a good idea the original owner got rid of it, since it has a rather unique earthing arrangement.

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    99% of fake Apple chargers fail a basic safety test, new study says
    http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-fake-chargers-study-2016-12?r=US&IR=T&IR=T

    It should go without saying, but if you buy a spare charger for an Apple device, you should absolutely make sure it’s from a known, reputable company.

    Your latest reminder of this comes from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, a UK consumer protection organization that teamed up with Illinois-based safety testers UL to examine 400 “counterfeit Apple chargers” from various suppliers.

    According to the study, all but three of the 400 counterfeit chargers failed a “basic” safety test, in which high voltages were applied to the chargers to see if they had enough isolation to protect against electric shocks.

    The study comes just a few weeks after Apple reportedly conducted its own study on third-party power accessories, and found that roughly 90% of Apple chargers and cables sold through Amazon were unsafe.

    Whatever the case, fake chargers are still more common than they should be today.

    Getting chargers and cables directly from Apple is the easiest thing to do. Especially on the cable side, if you don’t want to pay the premium Apple often slaps on, look for accessories with Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod) certification on its packaging.

    COUNTERFEIT IPHONE ADAPTERS
    A UL TECHNICAL INVESTIGATION SHOWS A 99 PERCENT FAILURE RATE
    http://library.ul.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2016/09/10314-CounterfeitiPhone-WP-HighRes_FINAL.pdf

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Similar looking USB charger also analyzed here:

    USB Power Supply/charger Test
    http://www.lygte-info.dk/info/usbPowerSupplyTest%20UK.html

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A dozen USB chargers in the lab: Apple is very good, but not quite the best
    http://www.righto.com/2012/10/a-dozen-usb-chargers-in-lab-apple-is.html

    Conclusions
    So what charger should you spend your hard-earned money on? First, make sure the charger will work with your phone – for instance, newer iPhones only work with certain chargers. Second, don’t buy a counterfeit charger; the price is great, but it’s not worth risking your expensive device or your safety. Beyond that, it’s your decision on how much quality is worth versus price, and I hope the data here helps you make a decision

    Reply

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