FRAMEWORK 180 watt USB-C Power Adapter Review and Test

Vinod Pandey

The Framework 180-watt laptop adapter has some tricks that no other adapters on the market have. Join me as I go over those different features in this article and talk about why this adapter is a good thing for laptops and hopefully more companies adopt this technology. 

As usual, the efficiency, DC voltages, and thermal performance will be explored as well as the modes of operation, which makes this unique compared to other power adapters. Framework released some press about this adapter, so the good thing is we don't have to do a teardown, we already know what's in there. 

FRAMEWORK 180 watt USB-C Power Adapter Review and Test

Table of Contents

The device

In the last Framework article, the adapter was okay. It was safe and effective, but it was a 60-watt adapter, so it wasn't anything special regarding performance. This new 180-watt adapter is something else though. It has some very impressive claims, But as any electrical engineer will tell you, don't trust the banner specifications. And there's a little of that here. 

Its performance gets interesting in the middle wattage ranges. Okay, well, there's not much to this thing. It has one port. It comes with a 2-foot long 3-pin IEC-C5 removable AC power cord and a 2-meter long USB-C to C cable. I will check the earthing and leakage later on. 

Ok, I remember when Anker announced that 240-watt adapter and I thought they were going to be the first with a single port extra high-power USB device, but nope, still 140 watts max on one port. Well, this only has one port, so it has to be 180 watts on one port, and it does it differently than other manufacturers. 

The brick is not proprietary, it uses the USB power delivery standard. That means to get to 180 watts it has to increase the voltage as the current over a USB-C to C cable is limited to 5 amps. In this case, 36 volts to get that 180-watt output. The other modes of operation are in the image below. 

Frame Work Power Adapter 180 W

The USB standard technically allows for one higher voltage than this, and the framework laptops accept up to that 48-volt level, but I guess this adapter met the power requirements so it makes sense. From the basics perspective, it's a power supply. That part is not impressive. What is impressive is the size and performance at 180 watts. 

This thing is loaded up with marks and labels. One whole side of the adapter is covered. Some of these, I'm not actually sure what they are. For one, the six in a circle. This is indicative of compliance with the Department of Energy efficiency requirements. 

In this case, the power adapter had an idle power usage of less than 0.05 watts and an average DOE efficiency of 91%. This exceeds the requirements and is a good showing on both. The idle power consumption has some oddness. 

It must have a reasonable amount of storage because it basically turns the power supply off while the voltage falls back to 5 volts. During that time, the power consumption essentially falls to zero. It's the consumption of the input filtering, I think. 

On 230 volts, the idle VA is somewhat high at 7, but the real power consumption is still very good. When plugging in an Apple laptop charging cable, the power adapter reacts for a second, again, charging up that output. Then it goes back to the idle mode waiting. I didn't actually capture the peak data, but I did see an increase in the average. 

The good thing is it doesn't just hold the power supply on with a cable plugged in. You have to plug in the PD board to get that to happen. Also, the more volts you ask for on the output, the more the idle power increases. This seems normal as well. 

The product has a few safety listings on the back as well. This is listed under Underwriters Laboratory or UL for the United States and Canada. It also has many other countries listed. This is a very common thing for laptop power adapters being sold around the world. 

Also Read:

Teardown of Apple Thunderbolt 4 Pro USB-C Cable (1M)| Apple Cable

This basically means this power adapter passes some testing criteria related to isolation, fire safety, and dangerous conditions. It doesn't mean it will last longer or is better at being a power supply, as I've seen some non-listed power supplies that have performed very well. 

So this power adapter did have some more odd behavior while it was operating. The ripple increased on the output when the power factor correction circuit was disabled, which at low power levels and low voltages, it is. It isn't crazy out of line, but for the power level, the ripple is higher than other power supplies on the market. 


Comparision metric table of framework power adapter

The efficiency also has this behavior, and in this case, it isn't related to the PFC turning on at that point. So, some small differences, but this is a very advanced power supply. In terms of the overall performance at 120 volts, it looks great. 

When stepping this up to 230 volts, it also looks great. It really performs very similarly on the two, and the efficiency at 230 volts is, as expected, even better than claimed. If you need a lot of watts on one USB, port, this is the top dog. If you need 30 watts, then these are not the droids you are looking for. Star Wars reference, really? You're too old to be doing this. 

Next, it is time to talk about leakage current. This is the electricity that leaks from the unit and gives you that tingling feeling while working on your laptop. The isolation performance of this product is excellent. 

The data I could find for dry skin and perceptible current is 1 milliamp. Depending on the wetness of the skin, this can be much lower. I think this still needs to be updated desperately, but I can detect 250 microamps pretty easily, so that's my threshold of acceptable. 

The measured leakage current of this Framework 180-watt adapter was a mere 107 microamps at 270 volts RMS, which is very impressive. This means you should be tingle-free using this product anywhere in the world. Also, don't try this at home. 

Next, check the earth connection to the output. In this case, the power supply measures 1000 ohms between the input and the output. This is different from the previous framework adapter and I expect internally to use the same basic design but a much lower resistor value. Meh. 

This power adapter is surprisingly lightweight. The adapter itself is only around 300 grams and the total package with the power cable and USB cable is 484 grams. Not bad at all. Here are the weights and size comparisons to some other products. 

weights and size comparisons to some other products

Basically, this thing is one of the most dense power supplies out there for laptops. It is a huge step in the right direction. It's not too heavy, and it has the power to run heavy workstation loads on laptops. 


Next, I look at the thermal performance of this charger. It's always the part that gets me worried that something is going to blow up because these get hot. Let's face it. You want it smaller, this means they get hotter. 

In this case, after half an hour, things look more or less reasonable. Mid 50s of degrees Celsius. After an hour, or even longer as it turns out, it achieves thermal equilibrium and sits at around 63 degrees. That's 145 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot, but it's better than most other adapters. And in this power range, it's a very good result. 

The fact that it didn't shut down and post one hour, and it didn't continue to get even hotter was a positive result. Another reason every percent of efficiency matters. Framework did a press release on this charger where they talked about the topology of this charger as well as the main components. 

Some of the mentioned items I wasn't able to find datasheets for, which isn't too uncommon in the electronics world, but basically these are some of the latest and greatest parts for the functions they need to perform. 

The next thing I found was basically expected, as this is a single-port device made to power laptops. It lacks power factor correction when used on lower voltage modes. The power factor correction is a technique to clean up the power and help reduce wasted energy. 

In the 5V and 9V modes, the power adapter turns it off. At 18W out, the power adapter actually used more power with it off versus it being on in the 15V mode. That's the test for this article, to see if you know why. It makes sense in this case though, because the idle power consumption would be too high if it was on in the 5V mode especially. 

light load power uses chart of framework power adapter

Basically, what this means is this is a laptop power adapter. Don't charge your phone with it. Will it? Yes, but it's not made for that. 


Okay, time to compare some numbers now. This part's going to get me in trouble one of these days. In looking at the idle power data, this thing, in comparison with others of the higher wattage variety, as already discussed, does great. 

comparison metric of framework power adapter with other brands

There are some similar performers, like the Dell adapters, that get close, but they don't do what this does, like have compatibility with literally one machine. The good thing about this adapter is that even on 230 volts, the idle power didn't really increase that much, so this is truly globally designed and is made to work everywhere basically equally. 

This is probably the biggest win for this device. In terms of the average performance, this adapter's average efficiency, specifically looking at the DOE6 efficiency, means 25 to 100% load efficiency, this power adapter does great. It is a top-tier performer. 

This is plotted versus power quality, which is a little too much for this article. To put it simply, it also does very good. It's not the best, as mentioned, at low power levels. It struggles a little. 

Time to look at the value of this power adapter, and cost-wise, I think it's a win. This thing is reasonable. It's $100 at the time of writing, and you get a decent USB cable. This really helps make this power adapter stand out in the market. 

It not only has the most power on one USB port, but it isn't trying to charge some exorbitant price for that extra feature, which is nice. I know Framework doesn't primarily make power adapters, but... Maybe this is the go-to for other machines that they didn't think about. At 140 watts, this framework adapter is also very good. 


So this is a laptop power adapter. What else is there to really say about it? It performs at a very high level as expected and as advertised. It exceeds the requirements of the energy efficiency standards, which to keep the heat in check is basically a requirement. It's the only power adapter that can do 180 watts on one USB-C port that I've seen. If you know of some others, leave them in the comments. 

The real question on this power adapter is whether or not other manufacturers will jump in and use the higher voltages and therefore higher power levels of the USB power delivery specification. Obviously, the technology is available, but it does require changing some things out on laptops to support the higher voltages. 

In terms of efficiency, it actually should be better as the cabling to the laptop will be using less current while delivering any number of watts. In a world where every watt is being counted, this is just another positive step in reducing that number. 

I hope to see many more innovations like this one in the future. Let me know what you think in the comments section. Is it time for Framework to make a multi-port option with some more features? 

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