Every personal electronic device needs power. Power cords snake across airport lobbies and trip people up at home, and power supplies and AC/DC adapters are nuisances to carry. Those who travel frequently know that the search for power can become desperate at times. Portable devices are equipped with built-in rechargeable batteries, and, if the device charges through a USB port, there is an excellent chance it can also be recharged using practically any USB charger.
A wide array of devices specifically for that purpose is readily available, including portable USB chargers. Once a charging device is charged itself, it essentially becomes a portable power-pack, eliminating the need to find an outlet while on the go. Portable USB chargers typically cost from $50 to $100, but basic models for $25 and less are also available. Beyond cost, the amount of power they store (measured in milliamps per hour, or mA), how many devices they can charge at once, how well they are designed and built, and of course their portability are all important.
Some devices have more than one method of charging. For example, inductive charging mats don't require a USB cable, but gadgets must first be fit into a custom charging case, or sleeve, before being placed on the mat for charging. Like a rechargeable electric toothbrush, current passes from the mat into the device's batteries. At about $100 and less, these devices are not terribly expensive, but they do have drawbacks. Most crucial is that they will only charge devices in a charging case, and the case selection is slim. Everything else is limited to charging via the mat's USB connection.
Desktop USB chargers serve to centralize the charging process and reduce clutter by recharging multiple devices at once. In addition to a USB connection, these chargers sometimes require special adapter tips for connectivity, adding to the cost of the charger. Both users and experts appreciate being able to wake up in the morning to find all of their portable devices in one spot and fully charged. The most expensive desktop charger we review costs $70. Desktop USB chargers use outlet power and thus do not need to be charged.
After poring over multiple professional reviews and hundreds more customer reviews, ConsumerSearch finds and rates the best portable USB charger; inductive charging mat; basic charger and desktop USB charger. Criteria used to make our choices include price, ease of use, design and performance.