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100W wired vs 100W wireless charging: Which is faster and why

Which will win this charging showdown?

Published onMarch 7, 2023

HONOR 100W wireless charging on the screen
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Wired and wireless charging power hit new highs in 2022 and has continued beyond. Power approaching and even exceeding 100W is increasingly common in smartphones, particularly from Chinese handset vendors.

2022’s HONOR Magic 4 Pro, for instance, offers both 100W wired and wireless charging capabilities. This presents us with a unique opportunity to see whether it’s faster to transmit power through cables or over the air.

Despite the identical power levels, physics dictates that 100W wired charging will be faster than 100W wireless. The reason is that wireless charging incurs power transmission loss to heat in the coils and over the air. Furthermore, it depends on where brands and testers measure these power levels. For wireless power, in particular, numbers are often given for power at the pad rather than at the phone’s battery. So while the charging pad may see 100W, the phone may receive 80W or less. Let’s see whether this theory holds true in reality.

For this test, we’re using the HONOR Magic 4 Pro smartphone and HONOR’s 100W wireless charging pad that’s powered by a 135W plug, along with HONOR’s 100W SuperCharge wired plug that ships with the handset. Let’s dive right into the results.

100W wired vs 100W wireless charging test

The first thing to note about our wired vs wireless charging test is that neither solution sustains 100W power for long. We’re talking less than a minute at peak power levels, with the vast majority of charging power hovering below 50W for the wireless solution. In fact, we couldn’t quite hit exactly 100W over a wire, peaking at 92W. Short peak power is a trend we’ve seen from many high-power boasting solutions, as brands push power levels to extremes in pursuit of quick marketing wins. The reality is that these charging solutions aren’t much more powerful on average, or all that much faster, than previous fast charging solutions.

Regarding minutes to key charging milestones, 100W wired charging powers up the HONOR Magic 4 Pro’s 4,600mAh battery to full in 29.5 minutes, while 100W wireless charging takes 33 minutes. Wired charging hits 25% and 50% battery capacities in five and 12 minutes, respectively, while 100W wireless charging hits the same milestones in 6.5 and 14.5 minutes. There’s not a huge difference here, but wired charging is a minute or two faster.

100W of power isn't sustained for very long with either wired or wireless charging.

As we mentioned, neither HONOR’s wired nor wireless charging technologies sustain power levels close to 100W for any substantial length of time. We’re talking less than 30 seconds out of a charge cycle that takes around half an hour to complete. However, wired charging can sustain around 60W of power for a couple more minutes, giving the handset a boost in the early charging cycle. The phone also ran much hotter while charging wirelessly. Battery temperatures peaked at 42.2°C versus 36.0°C with wired charging.

How does wired beat wireless charging?

USB C cable port charging
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

So wired charging wins, as expected, even though it’s a slim margin. However, our data shows that wired still wins even though less power is transmitted over the cable. Wired charging peaked at about 92W while wireless charging reached as high as 110W, despite similar starting temperatures. Likewise, wired charging spent most of its time hovering at around 41W, while wireless charging was closer to 44W, yet was still slower to charge overall. How can this be?

This is all expected behavior, as it comes down to where you’re testing the power draw. We test the power passing through the charging cable, which will be slightly less than the power drawn from the wall, and, in the case of wireless charging, slightly higher than the power that reaches the phone. Charging bricks aren’t 100% efficient — there’s some loss as voltage and current are converted from the mains. In this case, HONOR’s plug may pull over 100W from the wall but only 92W reaches the cable.

There's power loss with wireless charging, while wired transfers virtually all the energy to the phone.

When it comes to wireless charging, HONOR’s setup requires a 135W power brick, allowing over 100W to reach the wireless charging stand. However, the power level reaching the phone will be quite a bit lower. There’s further loss when transmitting power wirelessly due to coupling between the induction rings, heat, and transmission loss over the air. Anywhere around 20% wireless power loss would be quite normal.

To prove this, we’ve also crunched some approximate numbers for the power level received by the battery while charging. This data isn’t as high resolution as our charging data, so use it as a rough ballpark rather than an absolute. For wireless charging, power levels reported at the battery were approximately 24% lower on average than those recorded at the pad. That means that although the pad might pull 110W, the battery only sees 85W at its peak. Likewise, typical pad power levels around 44W would result in roughly just 33W making it to the battery.

At 100W+ power levels, there's very little difference between wired and wireless charging times.

By comparison, we calculated just a 4% average loss between the USB-C charging port and the phone’s battery. So 88W of that 92W peak wired power made it to the battery and the cell received about 39W for the bulk of its charging time, slightly higher than the power levels the battery saw while wireless charging. This helps to explain why wireless charging is slightly slower than its wired equivalent.

HONOR 100W wireless charging
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Although classic cables won our wired vs wireless charging race, we recorded only a minute or two between key milestones and even a full charge. Fast wireless charging is virtually every bit as good as the best wired wall chargers, especially at these high power levels. The real trade-off isn’t speed but heat, which, as we know, isn’t great for the longevity of internal smartphone components. Hence the inclusion of cooling fans in high-power wireless charging stands like HONOR’s 100W model.

Would you be willing to ditch wires for super-fast wireless charging? Vote in our poll below.

What are your thoughts on super-fast wireless charging?

315 votes

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