The best portable chargers are fast,
light and easy to carry
Portable devices like
smartphones, tablets and iPods are equipped with built-in rechargeable
batteries that always seem to need recharging at the worst moment. When that
happens, the search for power can become desperate. Visit any airport terminal
or similar venue and you are sure to see masses of power-starved devices -- and
their owners -- huddled around every available electrical outlet.
Portable chargers - also
called power banks or USB battery packs – eliminate the need to find an
outlet while you're on the go. These devices can get a dead smartphone up to
half-charged or better in under an hour. When the charger itself runs out of
juice, you can recharge it from a
powered USB port on a computer or laptop – or, for faster results, plug
it directly into a wall outlet. Most portable chargers don't come with an AC
power supply, but you can often use the one that came with your mobile device. Some
chargers can even continue to provide power to your devices while they're being
recharged, a feature called pass-through charging. This can be a real
convenience when you're pressed for time and outlets.
Portable chargers are
lighter, smaller and more ruggedly built than ever before. Mini power banks the
size of a lipstick tube or a stack of three credit cards can fully charge a
drained smartphone once or twice over. On the other end of the spectrum are powerful
chargers rated at 20,000 mAh or more, which are about as big as a large
paperback, weigh around a pound, and can power up to four devices at once. These
powerful portable chargers typically cost from $30 to $50, but basic models are
available for $20 or less.
final feature that sets the best portable chargers apart is their lifespan
– the number of times they can be recharged and discharged before their
own internal batteries give out. The
best models include fail-safes to protect them against overcharging, so they
won't damage or overheat your devices. Some also include protection against
surges, short-circuits, and high temperatures. Finally, a good charger should
be backed by a strong warranty, so you can get a replacement if it conks out
too soon after purchase.
Finding the best portable chargers
The best portable chargers
pack plenty of power in a small package. They can power up your devices quickly
and reliably, and they're easy to use. Many of them offer useful extras like indicator
lights and pass-through charging, which will let you recharge the power bank
even as it's recharging your mobile device(s). We looked to professional
comparison tests from sites like TheWirecutter.com, PC Advisor, GottaBeMobile.com
and GadgetViper.com for information about performance and features. User
reviews from sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com helped us gauge long-term
durability and customer service. We factored in all these results to select our
Best Reviewed portable chargers.
The RAVPower RP-PB19 is the best portable charger
If you're looking for a
portable charger that you can keep in your bag and use to power multiple
devices while you're on the go, our sources say the (Est. $35) is
the one to have. This palm-sized slab is a bit too big to slip into a pocket
– about 5 by 3.2 by 0.9 inches and 11 ounces in weight – but that
extra heft comes with plenty of power. It's rated at 16,700 milliampere-hours
(mAh), and tests at The Wirecutter.com found that it could deliver about 11,030
mAh in actual use. According to reviewer Mark Smirinotis, that's "enough
to completely charge a tablet with power to spare, or to charge most
smartphones five times over."
Better still, this power
bank can charge two devices at the same time. It has two ports, one rated at
2.55 A and the other at 2.4 A, and testers at The Wirecutter.com were able to
squeeze a total of 4.9 A out of both ports together before the device shut
down. That's enough power to charge two iPads simultaneously at top speed. The The
RAVPower RP-PB19 power bank also has smart charging technology, so it can
automatically sense the ideal level of current for your device and adjust
itself accordingly. Pass-through charging isn't advertised as a feature for
this portable charger, but owners say they've successfully used the charger in
More than 11,600 owners
have reviewed the RAVPower RP-PB19 at Amazon.com, giving it an overall rating
of 4.6 stars out of 5. Users say this portable charger works fast, bringing a
smartphone from nearly dead to fully charged in under an hour. They also report
that with its high capacity, it can recharge that same phone through multiple
cycles before it needs to be recharged itself. Other features they appreciate
include the LED power indicators and the carrying pouch and assortment of
cables that come with the charger. Owners' main complaints are that the
portable charger is bulky and heavy and that it takes a long time to recharge
itself – anywhere from 8 to 13 hours.
Most owners say the RP-PB19
is well built and durable, but there are a few complaints that it broke down
soon after purchase – usually because one or both USB ports stopped
working. However, the charger is backed by a 12-month warranty – which
you can extend to 18 months if you register the product online – and most
users who had problems say RAVPower replaced the damaged unit for free. We saw
several reviews that started out negative, but ended with praise for RAVPower's
great customer service.
If portability is a top
priority – and you don't need to charge two devices at once – you
can get good results with the (Est. $25).
Marie Brewis of PC Advisor describes this as "an awesome little power
bank: tiny in size, but with heaps of power and insanely fast charging speeds."
It's significantly smaller than the RAVPower RP-PB19, measuring just 3.6 by 2.4
by 0.9 inches – about the size of a deck of cards – and it weighs
only 6 ounces. Its rated power is 10,000 mAh, but Brewis says it's roughly 60
to 70 percent efficient, so you'll only get 6,000 to 7,000 mAh out of it in
practice. However, that's still enough to provide four recharges for an iPhone
or a low-end Android phone. For "flagship Android" devices, with
around 3,000 mAh battery capacity, the Anker is good for two charges.
Like the RAVPower, the
Anker portable charger has LED indicator lights, smart charging, and an auto-on
function that starts it up as soon as you plug in your device. However, unlike
the RAVPower, it has only a single USB port, which can output power at up to
2.4 A. Also, unlike the RAVPower, it can't be used for pass-through charging.
It comes with a USB-to-micro-USB cable, but no carrying case, and it's backed
by an 18-month warranty.
We found over 3,200
reviews for the Anker PowerCore 10000 at Amazon.com, with a remarkable overall
rating of 4.8 stars out of 5. Owners love its compact size and say that it
works fast, charging their devices from dead to full in 60 to 90 minutes. Like
the RAVPower, the Anker gets a few complaints from owners whose devices were
defective, but these are countered by praise for Anker's helpful customer
Mini chargers power up smartphones
Mini portable chargers are
external battery packs that can easily slip into a pocket or hang on a
keychain. At this size, their batteries aren't large, typically, providing
between 1,000 mAh and 3,000 mAh of capacity. However, that's enough to boost
the charge of a dying cellphone, or even a smartphone or tablet, at the end of
a long day, even if it can't get the device back to full capacity.
In this category, the
lipstick-sized (Est. $11) is a top choice. "Not
only is this portable charger extremely efficient, it's easily portable,
intelligent and pretty good looking," Brewis says. Cory Gunther of
GottaBeMobile.com also includes the Astro Mini in a roundup of the 14 best
portable chargers, saying it's great option for those who "truly want a
Unlike the cheap,
unreliable lipstick chargers you can pick up at the checkout counter, this
one's the real deal. It sports a rugged anodized aluminum case and packs a full
3,200 mAh of power. Moreover, according to Brewis, its superior battery cells
and chips can manage a remarkable 90 percent efficiency, so that 3,200 mAh
capacity translates to 2,880 mAh in real life – enough to bring a
smartphone back to full charge. Unlike some lipstick chargers, the Astro Mini
is brainy enough to sense your device's recharge rate and match it
automatically. Brewis calls this "an undeniably cool feature that meant
the Anker was able to charge even our iPad mini, and iPads are notorious for
being fussy about the devices from which they charge."
Because this portable
charger is so tiny, it can't match the functionality of the larger chargers
listed above. It has no auto-on or auto-off capability, and no LED indicators
to show how much power you have left. It also can't support pass-through
charging. However, at a mere $11, it's hard to beat for value –
especially when backed by Anker's 18-month warranty.
The basic version of the
Anker 2nd Generation Astro Mini has only a handful of reviews at
Amazon.com. However, a package deal that includes a Lightning cable, the (Est. $25) has over 450
reviews with an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Frequent fliers
particularly love its compact size and ability to charge up their phones in
about an hour. However, the charger itself is slow to recharge, taking 4 hours
or longer for most users. Quality control also seems to be an issue, as we saw
several complaints from owners who received defective devices. Anker's customer
service typically replaced them promptly, but a few users say the replacements
they received didn't work either.
High-capacity portable chargers power up smartphones,
tablets and iPods -- simultaneously
chargers are ideal for travelers who constantly use several personal
electronics devices, but are not always near an outlet. These mega-chargers
certainly aren't the smallest of the bunch, but they pack the power needed to charge
smartphones, music players, tablets and more – even two or more at a time.
The (Est. $40) receives more positive reviews from professionals and users than
any other portable charger we've seen. The Wirecutter.com recommends this as
the best high-capacity charger to stow in your luggage on a trip. You wouldn't
want to carry it every day, as it's a sturdy brick weighing 14.4 ounces and
measuring 6.5 by 2.8 by 0.9 inches. However, for long family trips –
especially camping trips away from an electrical outlet – it's just the
ticket. It has a whopping 22,000 mAh of max power, and The Wirecutter.com's
tests found this works out to 15,560 mAh in real-world use. That's enough to
keep a smartphone fully charged for a week out in the woods.
If you have multiple
devices to charge, that's where the RP-PB052 really shines. It boasts three
charging ports and can put out power from all of them at a combined 5.5 A.
According to TheWirecutter.com's Smirinotis, that's enough to "charge
three large devices at a solid clip or two full-size tablets at full speed."
However, Brewis cautions in PC Advisor that charging slows down somewhat when
all three ports are in use. The power bank starts charging automatically when
you plug in a device (or three) and uses smart charging to deliver the right
amount of power to all of them.
LED indicators on the body
let you know when the power bank is running out of juice – and you should
heed them, because once it's empty, it takes quite a while to recharge. Although
Smirinotis says it "recharges faster than any other pack we tried,"
Brewis reports that it takes 10 to 11 hours to get the charger back to full
power using the micro-USB input. Fortunately, users who have tested the power
bank report that it's possible to use pass-through power while it's recharging,
even though RAVPower doesn't advertise this feature. Reviewer Simon Tunnard of
Gadget Viper.com is impressed that the power bank "was able to charge both
my boys' Fire HD Tablets faster than they could deplete them."
Tunnard gives the RAVPower
RP-PB052 one of the top slots in Gadget Viper.com's list of the best
high-capacity power banks. He's particularly impressed with its wealth of safety
features, which include "protection against high temperatures, short
circuits, surges and over charging." He also notes that its "improved
high-density Li-Polymer batteries" not only boost its efficiency but also
give it an estimated lifespan of 500 charge cycles. "If you were to
recharge this power bank once a fortnight," he says, "it could last
you a whopping 20 years." RAVPower backs up this claim with a lifetime
The 2,650-plus owners who
have reviewed this portable charger at Amazon.com give it an overall rating of
4.5 stars out of 5. They say they can get an incredible number of charges out
of this device, keeping multiple devices going for a week or more. They also
love the accessories that come with the charger, including a carrying pouch,
two good USB cables, and an AC power cable for charging. Its main drawbacks are
its size and long recharge time. There are a few complaints about durability
– but RAVPower's customer support responded to all of these with an offer
to replace the power bank.
If the RAVPower RP-PB052
is unavailable, the (Est. $40) is a
good substitute. At GottaBeMobile.com, Gunther says this is the charger he
turns to for long trips or for charging multiple devices. With 20,100 mAh of rated
capacity, he says, this portable charger can provide a good five or six
recharges for most smartphones – enough to get him through a whole week
without an outlet. In tests at The Wirecutter.com, this Anker portable charger
produces just over 60 Wh of power before conking out. That's not nearly as
impressive as the RAVPower's 78.92 Wh, but it's still a nice reservoir of
juice, which it can dispense at a total of 5.2 A across its two power ports.
However, unlike the RAVPower, the Anker doesn't offer pass-through charging.
The Anker PowerCore 20100
receives more than 8,475 reviews from owners at Amazon.com, and an overall rating
of 4.7 stars out of 5. Owners say it charges up their devices fast, and they
can get five to seven full charges out of it before it runs dry. Once it does,
however, it needs 8 to 10 hours to recharge. A few users complain that the
power bank either broke down after a few weeks of use or didn't seem to deliver
as much power as Anker claimed it would. However, most of them add that Anker's
customer service is wonderful and was quick to replace the faulty devices under
the 18-month warranty.
Expert & User Review Sources
Although there are lots of
portable chargers on the market, there aren't as many professional reviews from
highly reputable tech sites as one would expect. The best reviews we've seen
are at TheWirecutter.com and Britain's PC Advisor, which provide detailed
information based on hands-on testing. We also found some useful professional reviews
at GottaBeMobile.com and GadgetViper.com. User reviews -- and
there are thousands of them at sites like Amazon.com and BestBuy.com -- add to the picture as well, providing feedback on issues like reliability
and support that expert reviewers often can't address.