Have you bought one of Targus/Sanho/Hyper/HyperJuice’s handy 100W or 65W USB-C chargers with stackable pass-through AC outlets that theoretically allow you to scale up to plenty of powerful ports? I did – and today I’m thinking twice about whether it belongs in my bedroom.
Yesterday tipster Marc-Antoine Courteau informed us that some of these devices are failing and not always in a friendly “gates stop working” manner. Numerous Kickstarter supporters say their units overheat so much that they can melt their plastic housings. “I’m lucky I sat there, smelled the melting plastic and took immediate action,” wrote a lender named Scott.
So we asked Hyper’s PR team about it and were surprised by the company’s response. Hyper social media manager Ian Revling not only told us that Hyper’s chargers have an overheating problem – a problem the company has known about for months! — but that Hyper quietly decided to pull the product from sale rather than launch a recall or even tell customers about it.
Here’s the statement Revling sent us:
Unfortunately, we found a handful of HyperJuice 65W and 100W stackable GaN chargers malfunctioning around early spring.
After extensive testing and assessment of the defective units, our product team discovered that the overheating failures were mainly due to the AC feed-through.
We took immediate action and prevented further purchases for both units through our website. They have not been for sale in recent months.
Our product team is currently working on a replacement that we will hopefully launch in the fall to winter.
We have encouraged all customers who have issues and are under warranty to contact us and we will replace the device with the most suitable alternative in our current lineup, which is the 100W GaN USB-C charger.
Problematic, right? If all this is true, why didn’t the company tell me months ago? I supported the charger and I never received an email. And should I seriously keep using my 65W charger until it melts? Why isn’t Targus, the company that bought Hyper last May, issuing a formal recall?
But when I asked the company those questions, I got a call back from Hyper CEO Daniel Chin, who now says that practically everything in the company’s original statement was wrong?† He claims that there is no overheating problem and that Hyper never took the product off the shelves to fix the defect, but rather due to a shortage of parts. (He admits they are redesigning the charger, but only to use a different part that is no longer available.)
Chin says there used to be an issue with some early chargers where components were compressed too much during assembly and could cause short circuits when you plugged them in – but he says it only affected the Kickstarter batch, only the 65W version of the charger, and you would be pretty know quickly if your charger is broken.
“If you have this problem, your charger will break the first few times you use it,” says Chin. “If you’ve been using this charger for all this time without any problems, you’re in good hands.”
Chin says that the defect can indeed cause smoke when the short-circuit protector burns out, and that some forms of short-circuits can also deform some of the plastic housing near the burned-out components. But he insists the company uses a fireproof enclosure and that it does no further damage. “It’s not like the charger explodes or catches fire,” Chin says. “The charger is designed to handle this kind of interference.”
What about the fact that many of those who complain on Kickstarter say they have the 100W charger, not the 65W charger, and their chargers melted after months or a whole year of use instead of right away? “It’s just part of the normal defect rate with any product. If you sell thousands or tens of thousands of products, there will undoubtedly be lemons.”
Chin tells me they have had no reports of house fires and that the failure rate for these chargers is only 2 percent. “We’re not issuing a full recall because we don’t see any systemic outage,” he says.
It’s true that chargers from every company fail from time to time, so it’s likely that the folks on Kickstarter are all in trouble. I certainly haven’t had any overheating problems with my charger yet, and neither has my colleague Dan Seifert, who bought the 100W model.
But I can’t help but believe that the company’s PR sent us a statement that clearly stated this was not a fluke, the chargers goods overheating, and that the company express pulled them from sale to fix the problem. How does that happen when statements like this often go through layers of approval?
“No one has approved this statement,” Chin says when I ask. “I think the PR person was just too enthusiastic about talking to” The edge†
I’m still trying to decide if I’m comfortable keeping the charger in my bedroom, where it’s been powering my phone (and Steam Deck) for months. However, if I decide not to, Chin says the company has my back: “If for some reason you’re not happy with the charger, we can exchange it for something else.” You can swap the new 65W model when it’s available, or a more expensive model if you pay the difference, he says.
Chin also says that Hyper will always exchange a faulty device, even if it was purchased through Kickstarter without a warranty and even if it’s been more than a year.