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This $20 USB-C cable includes a surprisingly awesome feature

ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 USB-C cable with power meter on a blue background

ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 USB-C cable with power meter.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

If you’re a professional repair technician, then having one or more USB power meters in your toolkit is essential. These devices are invaluable as they provide a quick and efficient means of diagnosing issues. 

A USB power meter can instantly read voltage and amperage, what power protocols are being used, and much more, helping technicians pinpoint power-related problems with various devices. This capability makes them an indispensable, time-saving tool in the fast-paced environment of electronic repairs.

Also: My favorite USB-C accessory of all time has a magnetic superpower

But if you’re a hobbyist, investing over $100 in a high-end, feature-packed USB power meter might not make sense. For most enthusiasts, a simpler power meter that covers the basics is more than sufficient. 

Such a device can provide essential readings like voltage and current, which are typically all that’s needed to carry out routine checks and minor repairs. This way, hobbyists can enjoy the practical benefits of a USB power meter without the steep cost associated with more advanced models.

And this is what the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 offers, and it comes with a very reasonable price tag of $20. 

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ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 tech specs

  • Length: 1.5 m/5 ft.
  • Connectors: USB-C.
  • Power rating: up to 240W.
  • E-Marker chip: Yes.
  • Display: 0.96-inch/2.4-cm color display.
  • Information: Voltage, current, power, temperature, current flow direction, energy, timer, and more.
  • Accuracy: 0.002V, 0.002A.

Despite having a collection of USB power meters brimming with features, I’ve found that the simplicity of the Power-Z AK001 stands out as a highlight. Its user-friendly design is perfect for those who appreciate straightforward functionality. You simply plug it in, and the display instantly lights up, providing all the crucial statistics about the power flowing through the cable. 

Also: Repairing electronics with the wrong tools can be dangerous. How to stay safe

This immediate access to vital information, without the need to navigate through complex menus or settings, makes the Power-Z AK001 exceptionally appealing for both seasoned technicians and hobbyists alike.

ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 display showing voltage, amperage, and power.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

There’s even a handy arrow on the display that shows the direction in which the power is flowing. This is a great touch because it has caught me out using power meters where I’ve become confused as to what’s charging what — especially where power banks are concerned. 

Closeup of little arrow on the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 display shows which direction the power is flowing in

A little arrow on the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 display shows which direction the power is flowing in.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I also like the simplicity of the inputs. In fact, it’s about as simple as it can get.

Push button on the rear of the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 power meter display

There’s just one button on the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 power meter.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

There’s a single button on the back of the display that controls both switching screens (a single press cycles through the power meter screen, protocol detection, a blank screen, and title screen) and rotating the display (this is done by pressing the button for three seconds).

Protocol detection screen on the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001 power meter

Protocol detection screen.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I’ve tested the accuracy of the power meter against a calibrated meter, and it easily achieves the rated accuracy — more than accurate enough for these types of measurements.

Also: The perfect $16 USB-C tester for your repair kit (and how to use it)

It’s hard to find fault with the ChargerLAB Power-Z AK001. For $20, it’s an amazingly cheap and versatile power meter that doubles day-to-day as a 240W USB-C cable.

If you want a USB-C power meter with more functionality, I recommend taking a step up and going for the Power-Z C240 for an extra $10. If you want to see everything then the Power-Z KM003C is the meter for you, but you’ll pay a lot more, to the tune of $110.

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