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HawaiianPi
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Best Micro USB cables

Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:50 pm

While power supplies get a lot of attention, the Micro USB cable supplying the power is just as important, so I thought I'd take the time to share my impressions and the specifications of some of the best Micro USB cables I have used. I have mentioned previously that my favorite is the Monoprice Premium Micro USB cable, but there are some other nice ones I have tested.

Note, in this post I use AWG (American Wire Gauge) and "gauge" interchangeably. The AWG (gauge) of a wire is a measurement of its diameter or thickness. The lower the gauge number, the larger the diameter of the wire. Lower gauge, larger diameter wires have less resistance and will pass more voltage and current through due to lower losses. Resistance also increases with distance, so longer wires will have more resistance and more power lost than comparable shorter wires. Ideally, you want the shortest, fattest wires you can get for power delivery. Realistically, it would be difficult to connect 2 gauge jumper cables to a Raspberry Pi, so we need to be a bit more practical in our quest to power our little computers.

Typically, Micro-USB cables have 28 gauge wires for both data and power. Really cheap ones might even go as low as 32 gauge. While thin wires don't have much impact on data delivery (data wires can be thin because they don't require much power), they severely limit power delivery to something like a Raspberry Pi3, which needs a lot more power than the older models. Better USB cables will have 24 gauge power wires, and that should be enough for most people, but if you want even more power, here are the Micro USB cables I would recommend.


1. Monoprice Premium USB to Micro USB Charge & Sync Cable
Available lengths: 6 inch (0.5 ft), 18 inch (1.5 ft), 36 inch (3 ft), 72 inch (6 ft)
Wire gauge: 23 AWG power, 32 AWG data, OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) wire

100% compliant with USB 2.0 specifications
Gold plated connectors ensure a smooth, corrosion-free connection
Ultra-thin polycarbonate connector heads fit through most phone/tablet cases
Shielded to protect against external signal interference

I prefer the Monoprice Premium cables because they have very small connector heads that fit into tight spaces better than most other cables. They also have a thin, flexible jacket. They are the most flexible cables on this list (except for the dCables Bendy mentioned at the end), and in spite of their larger 23 gauge power wires, they are more flexible than most cheap cables with thinner wires. They are also the only ones made with premium OFC wire, which has lower resistance than normal copper wire.

The Micro-USB connector clicks firmly into the port on most devices and stays in place, but is still easy to remove when needed. I can hang my large Samsung Galaxy Note 4 "Phablet" phone from the Monoprice Premium Micro USB cable and it will not disconnect, even with a gentle shake.


2. iSeeker Micro USB Cable, USB 2.0 Nylon Braided Cords with Aluminum Connector
Available lenghts: 1 ft, 3.3 ft (1M), 6 ft, 10 ft (in bundled kits)
Wire gauge: 21 AWG power, 28 AWG data

iSeeker's cables are designed with ultra-thick 28/21 AWG diameter tinned copper wires. The description says they have gold plated connectors, but the cables I received did not. Regardless, in my experience they are high quality, durable cables.

The connector heads on the iSeeker cables are slightly larger than the Monoprice Premium cables, but they are still smaller than most. The large gauge wires and thick, nylon braided jacket makes for a relatively stiff cable compared to the Monoprice Premium cables, but when you compare them to typical off-the-shelf USB cables, they are no worse than many others. One of the key differences in the iSeeker cables are the aluminum connector heads, which, combined with the nylon braided wire cover, give them a very premium look and feel. These are the nicest looking cables in the list, with performance to match their good looks.

The Micro-USB connector clicks into place with a firmness comparable to the Monoprice cables, but they are slightly harder to remove. The Micro-USB connector is also slightly longer than the Monoprice connector, so if you have a device that seems to need a bit more reach in the Micro-USB socket (like my Western Digital Passport portable hard drive), these cables should help.


3. Tronsmart 20AWG Micro USB Charging Cable
Available lenghts: 1 ft, 3.3 ft (1M), 6 ft (in kits)
Wire gauge: 20 AWG power, 28 AWG data

Tronsmart cables have an unassuming appearance, much like any off-the-shelf USB cable you'd find at your local big box retail store. In spite of their appearance, they feature large 20 AWG power wires and gold plated connectors. The connector heads are pretty compact, similar in size to the iSeeker cables above. They are also comparable to the iSeeker cables in flexibility.

The Micro-USB connector clicks firmly into the port on most devices and stays in place, but is still easy to remove when needed (comparable to the Monoprice cable, but the larger head is a bit easier to grip). Like the iSeeker cable above, the Micro-USB connector is also slightly longer than the Monoprice connector, so if you have a device that seems to need a bit more reach in the Micro-USB socket, these cables should help.


4. Volutz Equilibrium Series Micro-USB to USB Cable
Available lenghts: 3.3 ft (1M), 6.5 ft (2M), 10 ft (3M)
Wire gauge: 19 AWG power, 24 AWG data

The Volutz cables have the largest wire gauge I have ever seen in a power+data micro USB cable.
Image

Volutz cables also have the largest, easiest to grip connector heads, but due to their unique design, they can still fit into tight spaces (sometimes even better than the tiny Monoprice connector heads). You should have no trouble plugging this cable into a device with a thick case. Note that the connector heads are much longer (almost twice as long as the Monoprice connector head), so if you need a tight bend in the wire near the port, this would not be the cable to choose. In spite of their thick wires and nylon braided jacket, they are remarkably thin and flexible. Not as thin and flexible as the Monoprice cables, but better than iSeeker or Tronsmart.

The Volutz cable also works on my WD Passport HDD, which has an extra deep Micro USB socket.

Now you might be thinking the Volutz cable is the one to buy, but not so fast ... they have the tightest Micro-USB connectors by far. They require a lot of force to insert the plug (excessive, in my opinion), and once plugged in, they can be difficult to remove. If you want a cable for something you will connect and disconnect frequently, I don't know if I would recommend the extremely tight connections of the Volutz cable. However, for something that you will leave plugged in most of the time, this might be the way to go.


Length:
Comparing the actual length of the 3 foot/1 meter cables I found the following.
Monoprice 3 foot measured 37.5 inches (tip to tip).
iSeeker 1 meter measured 39 inches (tip to tip).
Tronsmart 1 meter measured 40 inches (tip to tip).
Volutz 1 meter measured 40.5 inches (tip to tip).

Note that the actual connected length will be slightly shorter than the above measurements.


Performance:
I very much doubt there would be a measurable performance difference in any of the cables mentioned above. In terms of durability, I have only had long-term experience with the Monoprice and iSeeker cables, so only time will tell with the other two. That being said, they all seem very well made, so I don't expect any problems and feel comfortable recommending any of them.

EDIT: I have since done some voltage loss measurements with the following results.

The power supply used for the tests was a RAVPower RP-PC002W with an output of 5.3V from its iSmart port, and it's rated for up to 2.4A. All measurements below are taken from the output of the Pi3 USB ports, so this doesn't represent the voltage loss through the cables themselves, but the loss of the cable + Pi3 system combined.

Monoprice (3ft)=5.15V (-0.15V)
iSeeker (1M)=5.15V (-0.15V)
Tronsmart (1M)=5.15V (-0.15V)
Volutz (1M)=5.15V (-0.15V)

Some additional results:
Monoprice 1.5ft (18 inch)=5.17V (-0.13V)
Monoprice 0.5ft (6 inch)=5.20V (-0.1V)

Monoprice (6ft)=5.12V (-0.18V)
iSeeker (6ft)=5.13V (-0.17V)
iSeeker (10ft)=5.09V (-0.21V)

dCables Bendy (7 inch)=5.07V (-0.23V)
Hapurs cable with switch (5ft)=5.08V (-0.22V)

As I suspected, there was no real difference in the cables above. All of the 3ft/1M cables had the same results, which was less than a 3% voltage loss through the system (remember, this is the loss across both the power input cable and the Pi3 computer itself). The shorter 1.5ft and 6in Monoprice cables reduced the voltage drop to 0.13 and 0.10 volts respectively, so shorter cables are better if you can manage it, but the difference was so small that it's negligible.

The dCables Beny, while short, has narrower wires which offer more resistance to the flow of power, and it shows in the results above. The Bendy was second shortest cable tested, but it had the highest voltage drop at 0.23 volts. That illustrates just how important larger wires are when you need maximum power delivery. That being said, this is a USB 2.0 cable we're talking about, and those are designed to deliver only up to 0.5A (500mA), not the up to 2.5A (2500mA) the Pi3 might need. I have used the Bendy cable with my WD Passport portable hard drive and it works fine. So while it may not be a good choice for a Pi3, it still is a good USB 2.0 cable.

The Hapurs cable with switch suffered more voltage loss than I would have expected, considering even the 10 foot iSeeker cable outperformed it. It would seem that the length alone is not entirely at fault. The switch might be introducing some additional resistance. Whatever the reason, the performance was disappointing. I will probably keep the cable anyway, for use with my Pi-Zero.


Pricing:
My Monoprice Premium Micro USB cables were purchased directly from Monoprice (http://www.monoprice.com), and at the time of this post they were $2.78 for the 3 foot length. They are also available in 6 colors (black, white, blue, green, orange and pink).

My iSeeker Micro USB cables were purchased from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) in a package of three with one of each length (10ft/6ft/3.3ft) for $9.59, and they are available in silver, black and gold colors in various bundle packages (the 3x1M kit is $8.99).

My Tronsmart Micro USB cables were also purchased from Amazon in a three pack of 1 meter length cables for $6.99, making them the bang-for-the-buck bargain winner in this group ($2.33 each). They are available in black or white in various multi-packs.

My Volutz Micro USB cables were purchased from Amazon as well, and were in a three pack of 1 meter length cables for $8.98. The cables are mostly black with colored accents on the plug ends. The 3x1M kit has one each of red, orange and yellow accented cables. There are several packages for Volutz cables on Amazon (even lightning cables for you Apple fans).

Image

In case anyone is wondering about sample size, I own dozens of Monoprice cables, 6 of the iSeeker cables, and 3 each of the Tronsmart and Volutz cables. I have used both the Monorice and iSeeker cables in the harsh environment of my cars and they have held up well.


Honorable Mention:
There is one other cable I'd like to include as a sort of honorable mention, and that is the dCables Bendy & Durable Short Micro USB Charging Cable, which is 7 inches long (tip to tip). It is a super flexible cable with a soft silicone jacket that is a single molded cover from plug to plug. It is available in a variety of colors from Amazon (click on the picture below to view the product on Amazon).
Image

It is certainly not the best value at $7.99 for a single cable, and it is not the best specs with (as far as I have been able to determine) 26 AWG wire. It's just a cool little cable that looks good in all the fun colors, and feels good in the hand. And due to its short length, it should perform okay even with the thinner gauge wire. Mine has seen a good amount of use in the 2+ years I have owned it, and it has always worked for me. Probably not the best choice to power a Pi3, but for normal USB 2.0 duties it should be fine. I have used it with my Western Digital Passport portable hard drive, and it has worked well.
Last edited by HawaiianPi on Wed Aug 29, 2018 4:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Sun Nov 20, 2016 9:48 am

I have recently tested another USB-A to Micro-USB 2.0 cable that looked promising, but fell a little short on delivery.

What I'm referring to is a 5 foot Micro USB power only cable with a built-in power switch. This product is available from a variety of vendors under different brand names, but they are all pretty much the same. The particular cable I tested came from a 3rd party vendor on Amazon named, Hapurs, and the cable was $4.99 when I bought it (with free Prime shipping). The cable has a push button on/off switch, and the specs say it has 22 AWG power wires, which is good. However the 5 foot length and power switch introduce some resistance, but is it too much?

Initial testing with my Raspberry Pi3 looked good. The system booted up fine and the digital multi-meter I have attached to the Pi3's USB port indicated over 5V. I ran the system through its paces with my usual assortment connected to the Pi3 USB, a Logitech Unifying wireless keyboard/mouse dongle, a 16GB Lexar Echo flash drive, my MagicForce 68 key wired, backlit mechanical keyboard, and my multi-meter. Everything was fine, and the power switch was a really helpful convenience.

Then I decided to push the system harder. I hooked up a 2TB USB 3.0 portable HDD to try and play some HD media, but the drive struggled to spin up, and when I did finally get it mounted I saw numerous low voltage warnings while playing media. In addition, some media would not play. I have used this drive with this Pi3 and the same power supply with a different Micro USB cable in the past, and it worked.

Then I tried a less power hungry drive. A USB 2.0 Western Digital Passport 320GB. While that drive didn't seem to have any trouble spinning up and mounting, I still was seeing low voltage warnings while playing more demanding media, and again, some media would not play. That same media plays fine from my NAS file server or flash storage.

So it seems clear the this power cable is not delivering the power needed by the Raspberry Pi3. To be fair, the description on Amazon says, "Can be used as power supply for the Pi up to 2 Amp." So it seems this cable was never designed to work up to the 2.5A limit of the Pi3. That's really a shame, because it is so nice to have a power switch on the cable.

This USB 2.0 Micro-USB power cable with switch would certainly be suitable for the Raspberry Pi models, A, A+, B, B+, PiZero, and probably even the Pi2. It's just not enough for the Pi3.

As above, the power supply used for this test was a 5.3V/2.4A by RAVPower.
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Sun Nov 20, 2016 11:21 am

I like the Tronsmart cable, they seem the best value for money, I bought a 5 pack 1x1ft 3x3ft 1x6ft and they seem well made, I bought a second pack.

The Pi3B recommends using an 2.5amp adaptor, I bought a Belkin 2.4amp as i wanted to use my own usb cables, even though under 2.4amp of load, I was getting 5.09 volts at the PSU at the microusb connector end it was down to 4.50 volts due to the resistance of the 3ft cable that a 0.6volt drop using a Tronsmart cable.

I wonder how the official Pi3B 2.5amp PSU with it`s captive cable handle the voltage drop at the microusb connector end, is the PSU putting out 5.5volts or something to compensate for the loss in the cable, or is it 4.5volts at the microusb.

I dont have an official 2.5amp PSU to try, But i might buy one just to see the voltage drop out of interest.

A bit of reading below for other Pi owners.

http://goughlui.com/2014/10/01/usb-cabl ... ging-slow/

http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-micro-usb-cable/

John.
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:26 pm

FWIW, Some measurements of the nominal resistance of various USB cables I've acquired (often supplied with other equipment) can be found here: http://www.cpmspectrepi.uk/raspberry_pi ... esChk.html
(There is probably an old link to the original website, no longer provided by my ISP, elsewhere in the forum :( )
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:37 pm

I have thought about getting one of those switched microusb cables, but i have seen them advertised as 2.0amp and 2.5amp from different seller when they look like the same cable, so i though the 2.5amp was a lie, as i have an Pi3B 2.0amp is a bit low so i decided against buying one.

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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:53 am

Tinderbox (UK) wrote:I have thought about getting one of those switched microusb cables, but i have seen them advertised as 2.0amp and 2.5amp from different seller when they look like the same cable, so i though the 2.5amp was a lie, as i have an Pi3B 2.0amp is a bit low so i decided against buying one.

John.
Good call, considering what my own initial tests indicated. I have been doing some voltage loss testing and was planning on updating my post above when I get the results.

Tinderbox (UK) wrote:I like the Tronsmart cable, they seem the best value for money, I bought a 5 pack 1x1ft 3x3ft 1x6ft and they seem well made, I bought a second pack.

The Pi3B recommends using an 2.5amp adaptor, I bought a Belkin 2.4amp as i wanted to use my own usb cables, even though under 2.4amp of load, I was getting 5.09 volts at the PSU at the microusb connector end it was down to 4.50 volts due to the resistance of the 3ft cable that a 0.6volt drop using a Tronsmart cable.

I wonder how the official Pi3B 2.5amp PSU with it`s captive cable handle the voltage drop at the microusb connector end, is the PSU putting out 5.5volts or something to compensate for the loss in the cable, or is it 4.5volts at the microusb.

I dont have an official 2.5amp PSU to try, But i might buy one just to see the voltage drop out of interest.

A bit of reading below for other Pi owners.

http://goughlui.com/2014/10/01/usb-cabl ... ging-slow/

http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-micro-usb-cable/

John.
I'm surprised at the results you got with the Tronsmart cables. 0.6V is a lot of loss, and way more than I was seeing.

Here are some results from my initial voltage loss tests with one USB digital multi-meter at the output of the PSU and another a the output of the Pi3 USB port. So keep in mind that these results don't represent the loss through just the cables themselves, but the total loss through the cable and the Pi3 computer. The power supply used for the tests was a RAVPower RP-PC002W with an output of 5.3V from its iSmart port, and it's rated for up to 2.4A.

Monoprice (3ft)=5.15V (-0.15V)
iSeeker (1M)=5.15V (-0.15V)
Tronsmart (1M)=5.15V (-0.15V)
Volutz (1M)=5.15V (-0.15V)

Some additional results:
Monoprice 1.5ft (18 inch)=5.17V (-0.13V)
Monoprice 0.5ft (6 inch)=5.20V (-0.1V)

Monoprice (6ft)=5.12V (-0.18V)
iSeeker (6ft)=5.13V (-0.17V)
iSeeker (10ft)=5.09V (-0.21V)

dCables Bendy (7 inch)=5.07V (-0.23V)
Hapurs cable with switch (5ft)=5.08V (-0.22V)

So you can see that even my worst result is significantly better than yours, and remember this is the voltage loss through the cable and Pi3 computer together, which makes your results even more surprising. With the 3ft/1M and under cables, I could even connect a portable hard drive and still stay above 5V (most of the time, it would occasionally dip below 5V briefly). I even tried the hard drive with the 10 foot iSeeker cable powering the Pi3, and although it did drop below 5V, I did not get any low voltage warnings, and I was able to play HD media from the drive.
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Mon Nov 21, 2016 9:35 am

I did not use my Pi3 to get my results.

I was using an Belkin 2.4amp usb psu adaptor, then i connected my tronsmart usb cable, then i connected an microusb to usb 2.0 adaptor and then i connected an usb power meter to the cable, then i connected a 4 port usb hub and then i connected 2x2amp resistor load.

Before i connected the load the usb power meter showed 5.16volts

Then i connected a 4amp resistor load, but with loss in the usb hub and cable the usb power meter is only showing a drain of 2.67amp at 4.58 volts.

I don't know how much is lost in the microusb to usb 2.0 adaptor.

EDIT: I though later that asking in 2.4amp adaptor to provide a good 5volt voltage at 2.67 amp was a bit much so i did another mesument at.

1.62 amp = 4.85 volts
2.22 amp = 4.75 volts

EDIT 2: At the PSU end unloaded i get 5.16v and loaded to 2.66 amp i get 5.10 volts

Image

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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Mon Nov 21, 2016 8:44 pm

Oh! When you said,
Tinderbox (UK) wrote:even though under 2.4amp of load, I was getting 5.09 volts at the PSU at the microusb connector end it was down to 4.50 volts
I thought that "even though under 2.4A of load" meant you were getting that voltage drop even though you had less-than (under) 2.4A of load. Now I understand what you were saying.

Still, in your setup above you have a lot of connections going on, and each connector will cause additional losses, so it's not surprising you are seeing significant voltage drop under high loads. I think most of that is due to all the interconnects, rather than the Tronsmart cable. But this kind of thing is hard to measure precisely without customised equipment.
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:20 pm

Just saw this 5v 3a PSU on Amazon UK with a built in power switch, I wonder if it`s any good.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N9QZKD6/ ... MFQQPGZQN2

John.
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Re: Best Micro USB cables

Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:52 pm

Hi all,

I'm just looking at the cable with no connectors. Where to buy this ? Or what are the correct terms to use when google it.

Thanks in advance

--
Fromzy

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