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Even though most Lightning cables look the same on the outside, their insides can vary dramatically. This affects everything from long-term durability to charging speed. After measuring the charging speed of 44 cables and then sending the top 11 to our electrical engineer for teardown analysis, the $12 Monoprice 3-ft. MFi Certified Lightning to USB Charge/Sync Cable (available in black and white) is the one we’d buy.
Monoprice’s latest cable stands out from its competitors because it’s very, very similar to Apple’s own Lightning cable, which costs $7 more at full price, and it’s sturdier than previous editions of the same cable. Plus, Monoprice’s lifetime warranty guarantees that if something goes wrong with the cable, they’ll swap it out.
How we tested
After combing through thousands of cables, we tested 44 cables’ charge rates by plugging them into a USB power monitor, which was connected to a 12-watt adapter. We wanted to confirm that both iPads and iPhones charged at full speed from each cable. Next, we tested to see if the Lightning plug would fit in Lifeproof’s Frē, a cas with notoriously small port openings. After we narrowed things down, the top cables were shipped off to our electrical engineering consultant Sam Gordon. He tore the cables down, evaluating the internal structures for components such as braided wires and electromagnetic shielding.
Monoprice’s black or white 3-ft. MFi Certified Lightning to USB Charge/ Sync Cable is the best Lightning cable for most people. It charges the iPad Air at full speed, can be used with any case, and showed all the qualities of a good cable in our teardown test.
Our electrical engineering consultant found Monoprice’s previous Lightning cable to have everything going for it that a good cable should. He concluded: “Based on my teardown alone, the 3-foot Monoprice cable is the one that I would buy if I had to replace or get an extra lightning cable. It felt like Monoprice went the extra mile.” After tearing down the new edition, he said: “Overall, the construction was similar to the previous Monoprice cable just with everything being slimmer.”
The Lightning cables we tested
In our power draw tests, Monoprice’s cable consistently carried a charge of 2.33 A to an iPad Air. While a number of cables performed as well in this facet of the evaluation, none did any better. This high speed ensures any iPhone, iPod, or iPad will charge as quickly as it can, as long as it’s plugged in to a high-voltage power source.
We measured the dimensions of the Lightning plug, and found it to be the same thickness as Apple’s but about 0.1 mm thinner. While that may not sound like a lot, it’s very surprising considering Apple has always produced the smallest housings. This footprint allows for compatibility with literally any case out there.
Other great cables
There are a number of cables that came close, but weren’t built as well as Monoprice’s Lightning cable. They’re still good picks if our pick goes out of stock, as Monoprice products sometimes do, or if you find a good deal. When it comes to cables that are approximately three feet long, Anker’s Lightning to USB Cable ($13) and Dynex’s 3′ Charge/Sync Cable with Lightning Connector ($13) are acceptable runners-up. Both charge at the proper amperage, have solid ratings, and are pretty well constructed internally.
If you’d rather have something short and stubby that’ll easily fit in a bag without having to be wound up, go with Insignia’s 6″ Lightning Charge-and-Sync Cable. If it’s not available, Monoprice’s 4-inch MFi Certified Lightning to USB Charge/ Sync Cable is another decent option. Even though they’re shorter than the standard cables, they cost the same or more; you’re paying for convenience.
Long cables are the most troublesome of the bunch, as they tend to fail more quickly, and they need to be thicker to carry a fast charge. Teardowns reveal this is likely due to the fact that the wires inside are unbraided (and sometimes thinner) so they can keep costs down. That being said, of those we tested, Aduro’s 10’ Sync and Charge Lightning Cable ($15) was the most impressive.
We really like the Micro-USB/Lightning combo plugs a few companies are offering now, and found Dodocool’s Lightning + Micro-USB Charge and Sync Cable ($17) to be the best of the bunch with Skiva’s USBLink Lightning Duo 2-in-1 Sync and Charge Cable ($15) a close second. They’re both about a little more than a meter long, and offer the same speeds and functionality as the rest of our picks.
Wrapping it up
While there’s not one single Lightning cable that stands head and shoulders above the rest on the market, the ones we’ve presented here make great picks when it comes time for replacements or extras. The important factors to consider are MFi certification, charging speeds, and case compatibility.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to The Wirecutter.com