Recently I decided to have a little bit of a spend up as there were a few bits and pieces that I wanted from Aliexpress. I thought I’d showcase what I bought and my reasons for it. Some of this I bought for the blog, other bits I bought to make my life easier. I’ll list what I’ve bought here and my reasoning for it. Some of the links are affiliate, so the blog will benefit if you use them to make a purchase, it won’t cost you a penny though.
Minix 66w GaN Wall Charger
First on the list, a laptop charger. I travel a lot, and I usually carry a small Samsonite rucksack for my 12.9” iPad Pro and my Lenovo X1 Carbon. Space and weight are at a premium, so anything I can do to cut down on either, interests me. I had started to research GaN (Gallium Nitride) chargers and quickly realised these would suit. For those of you not familiar with GaN chargers, they’re basically the next generation of power brick. They use GaN as opposed to Silicon and emit way less heat through energy loss, meaning they can output at higher voltage without the need for larger heat sinks. What does this mean to us? They’re more efficient, smaller and lighter. Perfect. Now time to pick one out. I considered several variants and manufacturers before settling on this unit from Minix. It’s got 2* USB-C outputs as well as a legacy USB-A. My iPad and Beats Studio 3s are USB-A, my One Plus 9 Pro and the Lenovo are USB-C so I thought this was the best mix. It saves a ton of room in my bag and it comes in significantly lighter than my existing set up. I can potentially buy a second USB-C cable if needed and still end up much lighter and smaller.
65w Lenovo Power Brick = 392g
60w One Plus Charger = 173g
1m One Plus USB-C cable = 43g
Total = 608g
Minix Neo p1 65w Charger = 135g
2m Baseus USB-C Cable = 53g
Total = 188g
That’s a saving of 420g and it’s about a quarter of the size. Your shoulders will be thanking you!
To put that in perspective, you’re saving the same amount of weight as a FIFA regulated football or a jar of nutella!
Note, I looked at the following chargers also, but settled on the Minix because it came with adaptors, and whilst it has slightly less ports than the others, I wanted the unit to be light and perfectly suited for travelling. If I was looking at a desktop variant, then I’d probably go for a larger charger with more ports such as this on Ali.
The charger splits its output, depending on what’s plugged in, I.e. Just my laptop will get me 65w from Port 1 or 2. If I plug in a phone and a laptop, I’ll get 30+30w. Add the USB-A into the mix and it drops further, to 30w/18w/18w. Just 1 USB-C and a single USB-A, you’re looking at 45w/18w. That’s more than enough to charge my laptop, headphones, and iPad whilst away.
The only thing I am slightly disappointed about is that my One Plus 9 Pro uses Warp Charge which is a proprietary charging protocol. It’s fantastic, but as it’s proprietary, this charger will not have access to the same speeds. Despite this charger being PD3.0/QC3.0, it’s not compatible, so my phone will charge at a slower rate, but this isn’t a deal breaker for me. It saves me carrying around the One Plus charger which is a brick in itself.
If you don’t need USB-A at all, then check here for Ugreen’s 66W 2x USB-C charger (Aliexpress)
2m USB-C to USB-C cables
As I already alluded to previously, I needed to order these to make up the distance from the plug to the laptop. I ordered a pair of these cables, in 2m lengths. It states they’re capable of up to 100w PD, so should be more than sufficient for the charger. On arrival, they’re neatly packaged. Despite being somewhat thinner than I would have expected, they feel quality and are fully braided. I tested both cables with my laptop and they charge at the full speed of the brick.
Ugreen USB-C to Ethernet Jack
The second item on the list was this USB-C to RJ45 gigabit converter. I bought this for the blog. Am currently waiting to receive a new mini pc from one of the manufacturers I work with, and I thought about using the machine as a router so I can test out Untangled, OpnSense and pfSense. The machine comes with a single RJ45 port but it does come with a USB-C port, so I figured this could plug in and be my second network port (you need two for WAN and LAN). Now whilst I don’t have the machine in my hands at the moment, I tested this adaptor on my Lenovo X1 Carbon. I plugged it into the laptop’s charging port and connected it to a network switch. Within a few short moments, we were up and running. No drivers needed on Windows 10, although I did need to manually set up the network connection (DHCP failed me). I don’t know if this is due to the hardware or whether I have a funky network, am not sure. Once configured (Gateway, Netmask, IP address, etc.) it was up and running with full gigabit speeds (verified under status).
Gigabit POE Adaptor
Another item I recently purchased was a pair of gigabit POE adaptors. These adaptors essentially plug into my Netgear POE switch and split out the power delivery and the network connection. I wanted these to help tidy up my wiring. I have an 8 port Netgear POE switch where I am only using 4 ports (3* reolink cameras and a Unifi WAP). This means I have 4 ports free capable of delivering power to various devices. I bought these two adaptors (12v2A Dc) to power my 6th Gen Celeron Intel Nuc and my Beelink GK Mini. This will free up two plug sockets and remove excess cabling from the “stack”. I did consider getting a third adaptor (POE to USB-C) to power a future Raspberry Pi4, but for now, I thought I would test these out.
This also means that I can essentially remote mount my little Beelink server now.
Once I received these, I shut down the servers and tried to hook them up with the adaptor. The Beelink Mini worked perfectly, and fired back up into proxmox immediately. Unfortunately, the adapter I bought didn’t quite fit the NUC. There’s a slight difference in barrel size on the power connector, so I’ll look into finding a converter or replacing the connection.
Velcro Cable Ties
Last but not least, I recently upgraded my PC’s CPU and motherboard and needed to cut away what felt like metres and metres of cable ties, only to then have to try and find more. I wanted to try and take control of my cable management, so I ordered 100 pcs of these velcro ties to help neaten things up. These were dirt cheap and in turn should help with airflow and dust as well as helping to hide the nest of wires that seem to continually build up around and under my workstation.
Ok so from what I’ve picked up, I am really happy with the Minix charger. In fact I am already thinking to get a larger more powerful one for desk bound duties as it’s just so much smaller than everything else. I will be picking up variants of this for gifts at Christmas I can see. The USB to RJ45 isn’t the sexiest product in the world by a long shot, but having the abiltiy to utilise a USB-C port (creating a second network port) on some ligher more modern hardware will allow me to swap out my pfSense box and use that for something more demanding. I am keen to have a play with the other Router/Firewall Softwares without taking my own internet down in the process, so this will come in handy. It’s also incredibly small and can be useful to have when on site or at a friends place fault finding their internet issues.
I was disappointed that the gigabit POE splitter didn’t work with my celeron NUC. I was looking forward to getting another power supply out of the way. I need to check further to see if there’s an adaptor or if I literally need to cut and solder a connector on. Obviously, that’s not the ideal solution, but we’ll see. The celeron NUC is potentially being retired soon anyway to make way for another more powerful SFF computer. Watch this space! If I was running a raspberry Pi full time, I’d definitely pick up one of these though (with the appropriate power connector). Makes cabling so much easier and will allow you to put it somewhere right out of the way.
If there’s anything else out there that people are looking at or you think I should be looking at, let me know in the comments or come and chat over in our facebook group!
If you’re considering a renovation and looking at the structured wiring side of things, or maybe you just want to support the blog, have a look below at my smarthome book, it’s available in all the usual places (including paperback)!