Charging the HP Chromebook 11 Without the Factory Micro-USB Charger.

Hint: Its all about the cables!

The HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11

The HP Chromebook 11 broke new ground by using a fast 3 Amp Micro-USB charger. It also generated a lot of bad publicity early on when the US chargers had to be recalled due to overheating. The USB charging is effective because the computer has a relatively small battery, and thus achieves a fairly rapid charge. To get reasonable battery life despite a very bright 300 nit screen, it uses a relatively low powered processor, limiting it’s performance. At a weight less than a Mac Book Air, it is a joy to carry, and on short business trips, the ability for the single, light charger to charge every device I carry is seductive.

But there are reports that the chargers are difficult to replace if they fail. Any Micro USB charger can charge the Chromebook overnight, but they lack the power to charge the machine while it is running. A 1 Amp phone charger will raise an alert that it is a low powered charger, and the running device will still bleed down slowly.

My experience with a variety of chargers and cables shows that while many chargers will deliver the required 3 Amps, the Cable used is the big leveler. The original HP charger is rated at 3 amps and works fast. I have not dismantled it, but I am sure it uses heavy gauge wire.

Most USB cables use thin #28 or #24 AWG wire. Non-intuitively, lower numbers are thicker and therefore better conductors of current. The USB charger supplies 5 V (volts) and the thicker the wires the better. Thin wires provide resistance, and power coming from the charger is lost as heat in the cable. So as a rule of thumb, shorter is better, and thicker is better. Over the last 12 months I have tested about 30 different cables. Some were quite expensive, many were not. The shortest ones worked best, but at 200 mm (8 inch) cable is not very convenient.

PortaPow fast charging cable
PortaPow fast charging cable

The single best charging cable I have found comes from PortaPow in England. It is the PortaPow Fast Charge Micro USB Cable (Length: 100cm (3.3ft)) Most cables of this length would only deliver 0.6 – 0.7 A. That translates to about 3.5 W, not enough to charge and run a Chromebook. The PortaPow cable delivers 1.75 A or about 8.75 W. from the same power supply. I believe my cable is #22 AWG, but they have since increased the size of the conductors to #20 AWG and I have two more on order.

Lets look at three chargers that work well with this cable. In each case the Chromebook is running with multiple tabs open, multiple docs, Gmail, Drive and some web pages. WiFi is on, and I am using a Bluetooth mouse. Brightness is at about 80%. In all cases they are reported as low power chargers.

Anker 4 Port Charger
Anker 4 Port Charger

My favourite charger is the Anker 40 watt, 5 port IQ+ charger. It has been superseded by a 60 watt version, but mine is working fine and does not need an upgrade. With the PortaPow cable, it delivers 1.75 A and the Chromebook is working and charging steadily. If I close the lid and hibernate for 30 minutes, it will charge up by 12%. Basic arithmetic suggests about 4 hours to go from 20% to 100%. With the computer working, of course, it will be MUCH longer, but will get there.

Kensington 2 amp Charger
Kensington 2 amp Charger

I also have a Kensington 2 amp, 4 port charger that can be plugged into the power socket or be used with a figure 8 cable instead of the adapter. It charges the Chromebook at 1.45 A and has enough power in reserve to also charge my smartphone without reducing power to the Chromebook.

Finally, the ASUS 2 A wall-mount charger that came with my Nexus 7. This small charger is rated at 2 A and pushed about 1.35 A through the PortaPow cable. This is enough to run the Chromebook with a little left in reserve for charging. With my current settings it is charging at about 3% per hour. I would suggest playing video at full brightness will cause the battery to drop.

There is an endless parade of USB Chargers, and the cheaper ones are not worth the time. Ask yourself if you really want a $5 charger between mains voltage and your expensive device, and then move on to a name brand charger.

My summary of the best options:

If you already have a 2 amp charger lying around ( I am sure you do) simply buy the PortaPow fast charging cable, and you are in business. The Nexus 7 charger weighs 62 grams (2.2 oz) with an Australian plug.

If you want flexibility and low weight, the Kensington 2 amp charger (112 grams ( 4 oz)) comes with a range of international plugs, and can be used with a figure 8 cable if the power outlet is inaccessible and can charge four devices (up to 2 amps) simultaneously.

For speed and power, there is no substitute for the Anker 5 port IQ+ charger. It weighs in at a hefty 250 grams (8.8 oz) with a cable but I have been on vacation with four people, a chromebook, three tablets, four smartphones, a USB powered WiFi hotspot and assorted keyboards mice and Bluetooth headsets and the Anker handled the lot perfectly.

My Review of the Anker Charger is here, you might enjoy it.

I also reviewed the HP Chromebook 11, and decided It is my favorite Chromebook despite it’s limitations!

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19 Replies to “Charging the HP Chromebook 11 Without the Factory Micro-USB Charger.”

  1. I recently traveled to San Francisco from Milwaukee and got a portable charging unit. It was 22400 mAh. While it was quite large I was very happy with the fact that it basically served as a wall socket using a standard micro usb cable. I plugged in for my flight and while the drain on the portable charger was almost half it never even switched over to the actual chromebook battery. On my return flight home I did the same. I have also used rapid chargers to do the work of the charging cable that came with the chromebook and that sufficed. It would be nice if all standard cables could charge it easily. In the end I love this chromebook and have been more than satisfied since day one, yes I got it on it’s release day. The sales people at Best Buy had yet to even see one in real life so we opened mine right there in the store.

  2. I was just about to give up on my HP 11 when I read your excellent piece and immediately ordered the PortaPow fastcharge cable and the Anker 40 watt 4 port charger. But I’m disappointed that the setup only produces a trickle my unit complains is “low-power charger” and doesn’t really charge at all. I’ve had a few chargers, and I know how “context-sensitive” this whole operation is. Can you think of any tips that might work?

  3. Hi Kathy. I am sorry you are having problems, but it appears you are not alone. I am in Australia, and the release of the HP Chromebook 11 came later than the rest of the world, and the local chargers seem more reliable than those sold elsewhere.

    It has taken me a while to reply because I needed to be in the office for a few hours to do this properly.

    last night I ran my HP 11 flat. I plugged the charger into my basically dead Chromebook four hours ago, with the battery at 9%. The results, with the computer asleep and only being checked every hour where:
    Hour 1 – 33% up 24%
    Hour 2 – 56% up 23%
    Hour 3 – 78% up 22% (with fast, power only cable)
    Hour 4 – 84% up 6% Using the computer with WiFi, Bluetooth and 80% screen brightness

    smoothing out the results, this is about 24% / Hr or four hours to pretty much full charge. The original HP charger does this in a whisker under three hours. not a bad comparison.

    The HP Chromebook 11 and “Low-power charger”
    I have no real knowledge here, but I see devices described by my HP 11 as “Low-power chargers” charging at a pretty good rate. My feeling is that the HP charger uses a customized “hardware handshake” or unique resistors between the signal and power lines. I am sure no matter how powerful the charger, and good the cable nothing but a genuine HP charger will be considered the full powered option. It does not mean the the charger is not doing a good job.

    The charging rate rivals (within 20%) the charger for my $1800 ASUS Zenbook under similar conditions.

    I have posted a much longer reply as a new post. please,look here:
    http://philstephens.com.au/hp-chromebook-11-charging-revisited/

  4. i have a hp chromebook 11 and i use a playstation 4 charger to charge my laptop. It stilll charges but its always on low charging power. do anyone know off charges that work good that might be lying around a house if so reply back..

  5. I love my chromebook 11, but the charging is such a pain. It has broke 3 chargers. The original, a manufacturer replacement, plus another I bought once out of guarantee. I seem to be having some success with my samsung charger for my tablet. It’s slower but it hasn’t broke yet. Funnily enough it has a nice thick cable.

    Will I end up breaking it by charging my chromebook with it?

    Tempted to buy a new chromebook, but I don’t know if the newer HP ones still use the micro usb and have the same problem!

    1. The HP Chromebook 11 cannot “Break” a USB charger if it is properly made. I have used multiple chargers, from the one for my Samsung Galaxy SIII Phone (very slow) to the Anker charger I describe in this article

      When I am working at home, I have a 2 Amp Kensington 4 port charger (described in this article) that I have had for some time. I use it to keep the HP 11, charging while I work. I also use it to charge my phone and power external speakers. It will allow the Chromebook to bleed down a little during the day. After hours of work the Chromebook may be down to 60/70%. Then I just close the lid, and within a couple of hours it is charged back up again.

      I will NOT trust any expensive USB powered device with a cheap no-name charger. Many of them will, fail, or even damage the device they are charging. USB Handshake must be done properly.

  6. I bought my daughters each one of these Chromebooks but the chargers were a problem from Day 1. They won’t engage – it can take up to 30 times plugging it in before a light comes on. We use cell phone chargers but have the same issues as discussed above. Based on your suggestions I just placed an order on Amazon and hope this will help. The devices are great for school where all they use in Google apps – I just need to fix this charging issue once and for all! Thanks for your article

    1. Thanks for the comment. The Poor old HP 11 is a bit of a hot topic. I now have two, and my son and I love them. He has written much of his last novel on it.

      I am in Australia, and I bought mine after the US Charger recall. Is it possible yours were purchased before that? If so, it should be a warranty issue.

      As I have stated before, cables are an issue if you are using other than the supplied charger. I keep my original charger for travelling, and use whatever is on my desk, and have no problem charging them up overnight. The one drawback with Micro-USB is that it usually takes me three tries to plug the cable in because I am worried about damaging the connector by pushing the plug in the wrong way.

      I have now purchased some cables with right angled Micro-USB connectors. After using them for the first time you always know which way to plug them in. They are not as fast as some, but the peace of mind is worth it!

      I am going to write about them soon. I have been a little slack with my posting lately.

  7. Hey Phil,

    Great article, this is a lot of help for many users.

    Would like to point out, from my experience, that the original charger has a lot of issues. I’m now onto my fourth one but it seems I may be able repair two of the original ones. Some break down internally but most commonly, they only seem to have a broken cable from (very slight) bending at the tip. May be what other people are seeing when the device doesn’t charge.

    For replacement chargers, the official Raspberry Pi charger P/N T5875DV seems like one of the best parts to use. As it is slightly over 5v and has 2.5A, so should provide enough power – unsure if it needs the resistor in the micro USB slot, as I’ve got mine to pull 2A from a cable with proper AWG rating.
    For the device to charge while in use, you need somewhere on the region of 11 watts, otherwise the constant charging cycles will reduce your battery’s usable life quite fast.

    I have tested using an original charger’s cable on ATX PSU’s 5v (red) and it works ok, though charging while in use is quite slow (input ~4.7v @ ~2.6A). To check this, you need to use the command “ectool powerinfo”, available only in developer mode.

    I personally strongly advise against people buying an Anker product or a “compatible” charger from no name brands, as neither of this have proper electrical certifications and may be a safety hazard. For context on this, please see: http://www.righto.com/2014/05/a-look-inside-ipad-chargers-pricey.html

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      You are right, cheap and no-name chargers are dangerous and even lethal. A woman was electrocuted and died while using an iPhone connected to a cheap charger here in Australia last year.

      I would disagree in one area only. Anker are not exactly a no-name brand, and CERTAINLY do not cut corners is design or manufacturing.I own two Anker chargers, and have reviewed them on this site. The have all necessary approvals, and are intelligent chargers, enumerating their capabilities to any device smart enough to ask.

      Please note, I have no relationship with Anker, I buy everything I use and review with my own money, the reason I do not do a lot of reviews.

      The newer Anker IQ chargers look good, but my old chargers are working perfectly, so I have no cause to buy and test them.

      I find cheap or bad cables tend to be the biggest culprits when there are problems. NEVER cut corners with cable, people!

      Every charger I have tried (except the HP factory charger, that worked perfectly here in Australia, and was not subject to the recall) is labeled as a “low power charger” but still manage to charge the HP 11 at a rate comparable with the USB standard for a charger.

      I have never found out the secret sauce the HP charger has, so I assume a proprietary signal, either a special resistor value, or a custom enumeration to the device.

      I personally prefer to use the lower power chargers over a longer period to ensure battery life is not reduced by overheating. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 problems highlight the dangers of fast charging.

      Thanks again for your comment, I am reading through your link now.

    2. Hi Tiago.

      You say you have tested the original charger’s cable on a different power supply. That would be difficult, given that the HP 11 cgarger and cable are a single unit, unless you cut it off, in which case I would suggest it is

  8. As for the Anker charger, my mentioning of that was because I crossed this on the web a few days back.

    https://www.amazon.com/review/R2LEVDBCZ5BTI3/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00GTGETFG&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=2335752011&store=wireless

    Before I’d assume they were good devices but, looking deeper, they really have no kind of industry standard safety certification, so it’s no surprise people are finding the chargers can melt or set something on fire. Same for another pervasive brand on Amazon, AUKEY, which seem of decent quality but have no safety certifications to show for their devices.

    When you’re buying this stuff you have to assume they follow EU safety guidelines when they stamp a CE on it, which is often anything but the case.

    Best regards

    1. I appreciate your concern, but a quick look shows that they have sold 500,000 of this charger alone. 10 million total. The do have certification, including US Underwriters Lab (UL).

      It is inevitable that there will be problem units. Had it been dropped? Gotten wet? Was it covered with something and overheated?

      Even Apple, one of the companies with the highest manufacturing standards in the world have had to recall chargers, iPhones, iPads and MacBook Pros, and are currently coping with iPhone 7 meltdowns and fires.

      In each case it is sad, but hardly a sign that the company is lying about certifications. With millions of portable devices in the field, failures are inevitable. How the company responds is the key. Following your link, Anker replaced the charger, and payed for damage.

      If you check the Amazon product page for the comments you linked to, you will see the devices have TUV, PSE, CE RoHS, & FCC certification as well as UL.

      1. Hi Tiago.

        You say you have tested the original charger’s cable on a different power supply.

        That would be difficult, given that the HP 11 charger and cable are a single unit, unless you cut it off, in which case I would suggest it is not a typical HP Chromebook 11 Charger !!!

        I now realise, after having swapped comments with you that you do not really have an HP Chromebook 11 or a charger for the same device.

        I have fallen victim to an “Astro-turfer” shilling for another company!

        Sorry to anyone looking on, my mistake for not checking the history of my commentators.

        My advice remains the same. A good USB charger and cable are just that. Don’t but cheap junk, buy good cables, and ENJOY!

  9. Hi Phil,

    I have the device. Please see the picture:

    http://imgur.com/a/uWWGy

    Notice “hi phil!” in the Google search.

    Oh, I didn’t realize Anker had certification. I had looked at maybe an older version and didn’t see any. It’s great if they’re doing it right. Being UL listed is great! Sorry about the confusion.

    I have removed a cable from the replacement Chromebook charger I was sent after the first broke. No need to cut it, it is not soldered to the PCB but has a connector (this charger also failed, only charges for a while before it shuts down). This was sent to me by local HP and was also used for some HP tablet – it is 5.25v @ 3A. If you contact me by e-mail, I can send you pictures of these.

    It’s like this one but has a socket that can connect different wall outlet pins: https://www.androidcentral.com/sites/androidcentral.com/files/styles/xlarge/public/postimages/444537/hp-replacement-charger-05.jpg

    With the cable from this one being in good condition, I tested it connected to a PSU, hence why you see me mentioning what power is required for the device not to discharge in use – which avoids wear on the battery.

    (Editors Note: The Charger above appears to be USB Type C. Type C is incompatible with the HP Chromebook 11 – 1101 (original model) because it can deliver quite high voltages. The HP 11-1101 uses a Micro-USB port and only 5 volts)

    I’m buying the Raspberry Pi 2.5A adapter to see if it replaces the original charger well and will let you know. I love this device but the chargers have been nothing good. Unfortunately, the bigger one (not the one I posted above) seems to have only issues with the cable tip but is hard to pry open to do a replacement.

    1. Hi Tiago, my apologies.

      I am concerned that you appear to believe the USB charging is simply applying voltage to pins. USB smart devices talk to each other. They connect at low power, communicate there specifications either by serial “enumeration” passing technical information through the data pins, or by having specific resistances wired across pins by designers who know how the spec works. When I plug a fast intelligent USB Charger into my HP 11, It always begins charging at less than 500 Ma, A few minutes later it jumps, and jumps again. It is often 10 minutes before it gets up to a high charging rate. Other than the factory charger, nothing has ever charged it at above 2 Amps (actually about 1850 Ma, I think). It is the charger and device negotiating higher and higher charging rates.

      Please do not try to “roll your own” charger unless you are an engineer.

      I would recommend you read the following articles:

      UDB Standard for power: http://www.usb.org/developers/powerdelivery/

      Wikipedia on USB power https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB#Power-use_topology

      USB Charging VERY detailed information by a chip manufacturer: https://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/4803

      And a rather simplistic article by Extreme Tech: https://www.extremetech.com/computing/115251-how-usb-charging-works-or-how-to-avoid-blowing-up-your-smartphone

      Enjoy!

  10. Hey Phil,

    You are correct to some extent. In the case of the HP, it doesn’t support USB PD though. The official charger has a resistor on the tip, which the laptop reads and then tries to increase the charge current up to 3A. As you say, it takes some time, but this is only Chromebook related. It only tries to increase current in steps to be sure it doesn’t trip the charger and that voltage is within the minimum requirements, if not it will drop the current it draws, regardless of of what the charger “says” it supports – which is where quality wire makes a difference. This can be monitored with ‘ectool’.

    The Chromebook EC has code for the following types of chargers:

    – Official charger, 3.0A.
    – Apple charger, up to 2.4A, depending on the model.
    – USB CDP and DCP, 1.5A.
    – Slimport adapter, 2.0A.
    – Unspecified chargers, 0.5A.

    This is maximum limit, then the EC tries to keep voltage on acceptable levels (above 4.5V). So if you have a 12W Apple charger with a not so good cable, it will not reach 2.4A. Same for the Slimport adapter.
    I have a generic 1A charger that gets capped at 1.5A with a good cable but after a while it overheats. With a worse cable, voltage drops and the Chromebook doesn’t pull more than 1A, so it works fine for charging while turned off.
    Plenty of phone 0.7A chargers get tagged at 1.5A and then keep hitting overcurrent limits and you can see the current cycle between 0 and 0.7A. Most of these chargers should announce themselves as a DCP device (AC mode on phones), so nothing wrong here, just the result of how the ecosystem has been for a while. It is actually very common for these chargers to be specified at 1.0A, though specification calls for up to 1.5A, so that is a usual cause of failure on these – overheating being the most common.

    This can be found here, for those interested:

    https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromiumos/platform/ec/+/factory-spring-4262.B/common/extpower_usb.c

    The easiest way to go then, for someone who wants a good charger, seems to be to get an actual Apple charger (non-counterfeit) or a good one that supports Apple 2.4A charging mode. Don’t really recommend the Google official one, as the cables break easily and it also tends to shutdown from overheating all the time.
    I have previously mentioned the Raspberry Pi 2.5A charger but hold of on that one since it will stay at 1.5A only, as per EC code specification (and assuming it announces as a DCP, which it should).

    1. Thank you for the information, and research. You have answered the question of why even a good charger could never get near the charging rate of the offical charger.

      Both my HP 11s have the original chargers, but I usually just trickle charged them with whatever was handy.

      I have just switched to a pair of ASUS R11 (C738T) convertable Chromebooks, so my original HP 11s are for sale. They are heavier, and have an external charger, but the performance, touch screen and Android App store make up for the extra weight.

      My Next Chromebook will surely have USB 3.1 Type-C charging, and these issues will become a thing of the past.

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