What the best portable chargers have
operation. In this frenetic world, the less hassle the better. A plug-and-forget
portable charger that monitors itself is best, and one that automatically
stops charging when a device reaches full capacity is even better.
- Plenty of
power. The more power portable chargers store, the more devices they
can charge or the longer they can stretch the life of a single device.
charging ports. Many portable chargers can power up only a
single device at a time, so if you need to charge multiple devices at
once, the more USB ports the better.
lights. Charging times and capacities shouldn't be a mystery; the better
chargers have LED lights indicating the status of the charge and of the portable
charging times. The biggest complaint with solar portable chargers is that they
are painfully slow to recharge. For now, you're better off with
traditional portable chargers, where charging speeds are much faster.
- Compatibility. With the right connectivity, a good external battery charger is
compatible with thousands of devices. Chargers that have the ability to
connect to USB mini and USB micro devices open more possibilities. Apple
users need to look for lightning-connector compatibility.
design and durability. These devices will
often see heavy use, and it's important to know about design flaws or
incompatibilities in advance. Especially important for users on the go is
a portable charger's durability.
- Accessories. Portable chargers are relatively inexpensive. Some require additional components like adapter tips
and charging sleeves that may have to be purchased separately and can
become costly, depending on the number of gadgets you need to charge.
While it's becoming less common, some manufacturers help offset these
costs by offering bundled packages, customized selection of adapters and
designs, and vouchers to receive free adapters.
before you go
How much money do you want to
spend? All of the portable chargers reviewed here cost $100 or less. Most
range between $20 and $80, but some chargers might need additional accessories
like connectors, and these add to the cost.
How many devices will you charge at
once? Plenty of options are available for charging a single device. It helps to know how many devices you
intend to charge and whether you will charge them all at once.
Are all your devices compatible
with the charger? If not, are adapters available to connect your
device to the charger? Again, additional adapters drive up the cost.
How much power will you need? Many portable chargers store enough power to charge a typical phone or
small USB device. Even when they don't, they can boost battery life enough to
allow the device to operate a little longer. Power-guzzlers like iPads demand
too much juice for some lower-capacity portable chargers; look for those with
10,000 mAh and up for tablet charging.
Where will you do most of your
charging? If you plan to travel and need to keep your
devices charged, a portable charger is a great tool. It's also important to
take note of the device's design, durability and mAh -- particularly if you
plan on going off the grid for a while.
What's to come
Green energy solutions
can be a good thing, and portable chargers are no exception. Up-and-coming
within this category are solar chargers. Although plenty of good solar chargers
are on the market, they have a ways to go before they can compete with
grid-powered devices. Their primary drawbacks are long charging times and
cloudy days. Other charging devices include those powered by propane, boiling
water and people, as they move or ride about. High-tech inductive charging, in
which you can charge a device simply by laying it down on a pad, is a cool
concept but hasn't gained a lot of traction with consumers.