Gadgets

The best power banks and portable chargers for 2024

The Best Power Banks And Portable Chargers For 2024

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Finding yourself far from an outlet when your phone hits five percent can make you feel a little shaky — which is why stashing a portable charger in your bag is never a bad idea. People who travel or are simply forgetful will appreciate the benefit of having a little extra juice on hand, but picking out a good portable charger from among the thousands out there can quickly get overwhelming. I’ve spent the past year and a half testing more than two dozen units to help you find the best portable power banks for all kinds of different scenarios, from a partial recharge for an iPhone to a massive laptop battery for working out in the field. 

Nearly every rechargeable power bank you can buy (and most portable devices) contain a lithium-ion battery. These beat other current battery types in terms of size-to-charge capacity, and have even increased in energy density by eight fold in the past 14 years. They also don’t suffer from a memory effect (where battery life deteriorates due to partial charges).

One drawback you may have heard is the possibility of lithium ion batteries catching fire. To limit the danger, battery packs require internal mechanisms to limit things like voltage and pressure. While you should still make sure a battery isn’t exposed to unnecessary stress like excessive heat, damage from drops or operating in freezing weather, battery packs are considered safe enough to bring on an airplane. According to the TSA, external batteries rated at 100Wh or less (which all of our recommendations are) can fly with you – just make sure you stash them in your carryon as they aren’t allowed in checked baggage.

Power bank manufacturers almost always list a battery’s capacity in milliamp hours, or mAh. Smaller batteries, say those that can charge a smartphone to between 50 and 75 percent, tend to have a 5,000mAh capacity. Larger batteries that can recharge laptops and tablets, or give phones multiple charges, can exceed 25,000mAh. Unsurprisingly, the prices on most batteries goes up as mAh capacity increases, and since batteries are physical storage units, size and weight go up with capacity as well. If you want more power, be prepared to spend more and carry around a heavier brick.

You might think that a 10,000mAh power bank could charge a 5,000mAh phone to 100 percent twice, but that’s not the case. In addition to simple energy loss through heat dissipation, factors like voltage conversion also bring down the amount of juice that makes it into your phone. Most manufacturers list how many charges a battery can give a certain smartphone. In our tests, 10,000mAh of battery pack capacity translated to roughly 5,800mAh of device charge. 20,000mAh chargers delivered around 11,250mAh to a device, and 25,000mAh banks translated to about 16,200mAh of charge. That’s an average efficiency rate of around 60 percent.

Wireless

More manufacturers are making power banks with wireless charging. Not hassling with cables is nice, but it’s important to note that wireless charging is less efficient than plugging in your phone. Outside of MagSafe options, wireless portable chargers historically didn’t make the cut for our top picks for this guide for that reason. The Qi2 wireless charging standard arrived last year and improves performance for wireless charging, including for portable banks. Currently, iPhones are the only handsets that support the new tech, but as it’s an open standard, expect Google, Samsung and others to adopt it for future phones. In my testing, I’ve noticed an uptick in the performance of non-Qi2-enabled batteries as well, so you’ll now see wireless options on this list.

Ports

Since Apple ditched the Lightning cable and adopted USB-C, we’re getting closer to a standard for charging connections — and all of our picks have at least one such port. But plenty of other devices use older interfaces, like USB-A and microUSB ports, plus Lightning for older iPhones. You can find cables with just about any combination of those connections, so when you’re picking out a battery, just check that one end of your preferred cord will fit.

Most battery packs have more than one port, which gives you different charging options. You’ll typically see at least one port labeled “in/out,” which means you can use it to both charge the bank and charge your device. While USB-A output ports can power up smartphones and other small devices, they can’t charge larger devices. Plus, they aren’t as fast as USB-C ports overall. That’s something to keep in mind when you’re deciding which ports and charging cables to use to connect your phone to the pack.

There’s even more variation among USB-C ports themselves, with different ports on the same device supporting different power transfer rates. What that means in practical terms is an iPhone will charge just fine plugged into a power bank’s 18W port. But to properly charge, say, a MacBook or similar laptop, it’ll need the extra juice supplied by a 100W port (which larger power banks can offer). Power banks with more than one port can also charge multiple devices at the same time, but speeds and the overall charge delivered will be lower.

You’ll also want to consider your charging cable. For anything larger than a smartphone (and to access fast-charging capabilities) you’ll want to use USB-C ports and cables. But not all cables are created equal, even when they have the same USB-C plugs on the end. If you want power delivery from a 100W USB-C power bank port, you’ll need a 100W-rated USB-C cable. Luckily, power banks capable of delivering 100W tend to include a compatible cable. For any devices that don’t, we’ve tried and liked Anker’s 100W USB-C cable. For smaller devices, we used this 60W cable from Nimble and we don’t recommend bothering with cables under 60W. For around $20, higher-capacity charging cables will make sure you’re not wasting time with connections that limit your potential power transfer.

For the most part, these rechargeable batteries have a squared-off, brick-like design, though many nod towards aesthetics with attractive finishes and detailing. While that doesn’t affect how they perform, it’s a consideration for something you’ll interact with regularly. Some portable power stations include extra features like MagSafe compatibility, a built-in wall plug or even a kickstand. Nearly all have some sort of indicator to let you know how much available charge your power bank has left, usually expressed with lighted pips near the power button. Some of the newer banks take that a step further with an LED display indicating remaining battery percentage.

Before we even put our hands on a battery pack, we did extensive research. We considered brands Engadget reviewers and staff have tried over the years and we checked out customer ratings on retail sites like Amazon and Best Buy. Then we get our hanHere’s the full list of power banks we’ve tested, which range from small wireless banks to large, multi-device batteries.

an assortment of power banks sit on a wooden table
Amy Skorheim for Engadget

MagSafe-compatible

Low capacity (≤10,000mAh)

Mid capacity (10,001 – 20,000mAh)

High capacity (20,001mAh+)

We’re continuously updating this guide as companies release new products and we test them. We remove some products as we find picks that are more worthy of the best portable charger designation. We also add updated specs and prices where necessary. For testing, I used each battery with some combination of an iPhone 15, an iPhone 14 Plus, an iPhone 11, a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, a Galaxy S23 Ultra, a 5th-gen iPad Air and an M1 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro. I charged one phone battery at a time, even though some packs are capable of multiple-device charging. I charged the phones and tablets from between zero and five percent until they were 100 percent full (or until the power bank was dead), and didn’t use the phones or tablets while they charged other than to power them on and enter the unlock code. In the case of the MacBook, I used it while it was charging (it’s my work computer).

I used the charging cable included with each power bank to charge the Galaxy S22 Ultra, MacBook Pro and the iPad Air. For the iPhones, I used the USB-C to Lighting cable that Apple provides. In the case of the lower-capacity power banks that didn’t include a cord or included one with USB-C to USB-A connectors, I used this 60W-rated USB-C to USB-C cable.

For reference, here are the battery capacities of each device we used for testing:

I noted the times for each charge and the number of charges each bank provided. I also paid attention to things like ease of use and overall design.

The Blade 2 from Baseus has a unique, flat shape that’s just a little wider than an ereader — which may make it easier to slip into a low profile laptop bag. It charged a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra considerably faster than any other battery bank we tried, getting it from four percent to full in just over an hour. It then filled the phone back to 62 percent from dead on a second charge in about a half an hour. But $100 is a lot for a standard power bank that holds fewer than two full charges. But if you can find the Blade 2 on sale, snap it up.

Anker’s 6.6k MagGo is pretty similar to our top pick for a MagSafe-compatible battery pack. It supports the Qi2 charging standard and props up your iPhone so you can use it or enable StandBy mode while powering up. This one even lets you set the viewing angle from 30 to 65 degrees. It was speedy in getting an iPhone 15 up to 50 percent in about 40 minutes. But for the added bulk, it doesn’t have as much capacity as the 10K MagGo, holding just enough juice for a single full charge plus about 5 percent. But it is $20 cheaper, which may be key for some.

A slew of terms are used to describe power banks, including portable batteries, portable chargers, external battery packs and even, somewhat confusingly, USB chargers, which is what wall chargers are often called. They all mean the same thing: a lithium ion battery that stores a charge so you can refill a smartphone, tablet, earbuds, console controller, ereader, laptop, or just about any other device with its own built-in, rechargeable battery. 

There’s little difference between the terms, so the specs you’ll want to pay attention to are capacity (expressed in mAh), size and weight so you can find the right balance between recharging what you need and portability.

Power stations, on the other hand, are distinct. These are bigger units (often around the size of a car battery) that can be used to charge multiple devices multiple times, but notably, they can’t be taken on airplanes.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-power-bank-143048526.html?src=rss
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