Now officially listed as compatible with every iPad, iPhone, and USB-charging iPod, Apple’s new 12W USB Power Adapter ($19) is the sequel to the $29 iPad 10W USB Power Adapter we reviewed and loved in early 2010. This one maintains the exact same size, shape, and look. As is generally the case when Apple takes the rare step of dropping an accessory’s price, there’s a reason: unlike the prior version, which came in a box with a Dock Connector to USB Cable and a long extension cord, this version is merely a cube with wall blades, so you’ll have to self-supply the extra cables you need. The Adapter can be purchased on its own, and also comes packed-in with the fourth-generation iPad.
Notably shipped in a box that doesn’t mention the wattage on the front, it can be distinguished from its predecessor by the “12W” reference on the package’s back, and by the box’s significantly smaller size. The only way to tell the two generations apart without packaging is by looking at the markings on the underside. The 10W Adapter is marked as such, as is the 12W charger alongside darker, slightly condensed text and regulatory information. We also noticed a very small difference in the thickness of the frame around the USB port, and noticed the components inside look slightly different—very subtle changes that most users won’t even notice and don’t make any difference in performance.
The only benefit of this version is the increase from 10-Watt to 12-Watt charging, a feature that enables third- and fourth-generation iPads to refuel at a faster 2.5-Amp speed rather than the prior 2.1-Amp maximum, cutting down recharge times in the process. In our testing, the 12W Adapter brought the charging time of a third-generation iPad down to 5 hours and 28 minutes—a reduction of roughly one hour or 15%—while the fourth-generation model saw a smaller drop from 5 hours and 41 minutes to 5 hours and 6 minutes. This is still significantly longer than it takes to charge an iPad 2 with the 10W Adapter, but it’s an appreciated improvement that addresses one of our primary concerns with the later generation tablets.
In some ways, the 12W Adapter is yet another instance of Apple taking away features from a product without appropriately altering the price. The iPad 10W USB Power Adapter came with a Dock Connector cable and extension cord, however adding the former—or a Lightning cable—to the 12W version already brings the price up above the prior $29 rate, and an extension cord for extra length isn’t available as a separate purchase at all.