When reading about the electrical needs of various electronic devices and/or appliances, I often see a requirement for only one of the various measures related to electricity. For example, it will say "requires 120 volts" and not mention anything about amps. Or it will say "takes 10 amps" but not mention anything about volts.

Here is just one example from Lifehacker, in an article about the Raspberry Pi:

A power supply: The Raspberry Pi is powered by a micro USB, much like the one you’ve likely used for your phone. Since the Pi 3 has four USB ports, it’s best to use a good power supply that can provide at least 2.5A of juice.

Isn't a statement like that useless? There is no mention of required voltage. 2.5 amps can be delivered in many different ways - i.e. by 5 volt pressure, or 240 volt pressure. I suspect this can produce very different outcomes.

So why are volts and amps often given as though they are completely independent? Why would there be an explicit requirement for one and not the other?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If it's got a mains plug, it's designed to run at mains voltage, if it goes into a car's cigarette lighter socket, it's designed for 12V, if it's USB powered it's designed for 5V because each of these outlets is intended for only one specific voltage. However, if the product has some generic connector (like a barrel jack) then it's considered poor form not to have both V and A ratings (the only exception is if it needs so little power that the amps rating is irrelevant, probably <50mA I'd say) as barrel jacks are used for a whole slew of different voltages (mainly anywhere between 3 to 24V) \$\endgroup\$
    – Sam
    Jan 1, 2017 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sam True enough BUT sorry the user in a 230 VAC environment who plugs in an appliance intended for 110 VAC or with a 110/230 V switch set incorrectly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Mar 29, 2020 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RussellMcMahon yeah, that does sometimes happen, not as much as it used to though (universal power supplies are a wonderful thing) but I'd advise restraint when dealing with unknown mains products and not just go around plugging then into random outlets willy-nilly... the fireworks show is quite amusing but the aftermath usually isn't ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Sam
    Mar 30, 2020 at 1:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sam I've had a 110/230V selector switch blowup happen to me once in the last 57+ years. Many decades ago - but something I managed to not repeat since :-). details fade with the decades but I recall being annoyed at myself for missing it. (We have 230 VAC here in NZ so such a slipup is usually fatal for the PSU.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Mar 30, 2020 at 1:18

2 Answers 2


You are right in that both voltage and current must be specified for a DC power supply. However, sometimes one or the other is omitted because it is implied.

In the case you quote, note that it mentions "The Raspberry Pi is powered by a micro USB". That implies 5 V. The only remaining question is now the current.

As another example, consider a device that has a power cord attached ending in a wall plug compatible with outlets in your locality. Brief documentation for that device might only say that it draws 1.5 A. Since it obviously runs from line power, it might not explicitly say "120 VAC, 60 Hz" (or whatever the line power is in your locality).

More thorough documentation someplace should specify the voltage, current, and any other relavant parameters.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you mean current, not voltage, in your second paragraph. \$\endgroup\$
    – Barry
    Jan 1, 2017 at 21:04

It's going to depend on exactly what specifications are given in each case.

In the example you quoted, when they said it is powered by USB, that implies the voltage is 5 V.


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