Gigabyte launches on/off charge for Apple products

Allows you to quick charge your iPad and iPhone from your motherboard

ONE PROBLEM THAT many owners of Apple’s iPad have found – if they don’t own a recent Apple computer that is – is that it only charges from a USB port when it’s switched off. Even so, it only trickle charges, just like Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch. Well, a solution is at hand from Gigabyte, as the company has just announced its new on/off charge feature and we got an early look at it.

Gigabyte offers a couple of solutions, although the prerequisite is that you have one of Gigabyte’s 3x USB power motherboards if you want to be able to charge your iPad, as it requires 2.1A at 5V, or 10.5W. It will still charge if it gets slightly less and in the case of the currently available Gigabyte motherboards, the iPad is limited to about 1.5A or 7.5W. This is still enough to charge the iPad while it’s powered on and it allows it to charge quicker than via trickle charge in off mode.

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The left iPod is being charged by a P35 motherboard without on/off charge supoort while the right iPod is being charged by an AMD 890FX board with on/off charge support.

However, the big news with today’s announcement is that Gigabyte has created a special USB header on its motherboards that can either be connected to the front USB ports on your case, or to a rear expansion bracket. This solution allows the iPad to draw up to 2A or 10W which means it can be quick charged even when switched on. But there’s one more trick left, as the new hardware solution allows Apple’s products to charge even when the PC is switched off.

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Same scenario as above, but both systems are switched off, note that the left iPad isn’t charging at all, as the USB port doesn’t deliver any power.

Being able to charge a USB device from your PC while it’s switched off is not a new trick, but Apple’s products tend to stop charging once you power off your system. The on/off charge software solution allows for this to work as long as you have your device plugged in and then switched your computer off. However, the new USB header allows for Apple’s products to be charged no matter if you plug them in with the PC on or off in the first place. You might wonder what the problem is and it’s actually an Apple specific issue.

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An iPad charging from the AMD 890FX system while it’s powered off. Note that it’s not getting full power, but it’s still getting enough power to actually charge.

It goes something like this. Apple has built IC’s into its devices that tell the charger how much power the device requires to start charging. If the Apple device doesn’t receive the correct power, then it won’t charge from the USB port in question. As you can see from the picture below, where the iPad is connected to an older system, it gets power, but what isn’t clear from the picture is the fact that the iPad is displaying that it’s not charging. This is because the controller IC has determined that the USB port can’t deliver enough power and as such it prevents the iPad from charging.

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Here the iPad is connected to the P35 system (which is switched on), but as the system doesn’t deliver enough power, the iPad won’t charge.

Gigabyte has gotten around this problem by sending the correct power signature back to the IC inside Apple’s devices. The peculiar thing here is that from what we were told is that the same type of device might require different amounts of power. It seems like Apple is fine tuning its products during the life cycle and this is apparently making the whole USB charging process a little bit more complex than it should have to be.

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And finally we have the iPad plugged back into the 890FX system while it’s powered on and you can see that it’s getting more power here. Please note that Apple devices draw less power as the battery reaches full charge and this iPad was about 80 percent charged.

To get this going you can simply download the on/off charger utility from Gigabyte’s website and it’ll detect that you have an Apple product installed and allow you to charge it. As for products with support for the new hardware based on/off charge, you can find a full list here. However, these are mostly boards with the software feature and as far as the hardware version of on/off charge goes, we only know for certain that Gigabyte’s AMD 800-series boards will have this new feature, although more models are set to follow soon according to Gigabyte.S|A

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