PORTABLE CHARGING & POWER BANK BUYING GUIDE
How to charge anywhere.
Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets make life so much easier. That is, until they run out of battery power when there’s nowhere to plug in.
The answer is a portable charger.
A lightweight power bank or mobile battery pack that you can carry anywhere.
They go under different names: battery packs, power banks, portable chargers, fuel banks, pocket power cells and back-up charging devices to name just a few.
But whatever you call them, they all do the same thing.
Charge your phone or tablet without needing a power outlet.
Simply charge it up at home, throw it in your bag or your pocket, and connect it to your phone whenever it needs a quick battery boost.
You’ll never suffer from “low battery anxiety” again.
Make sure you’re always connected with back up battery power that’s as mobile as you are.
Battery packs come in all shapes and sizes, smaller sizes for an essential smartphone boost in your pocket, or bigger sizes for multiple charges or to charge a tablet.
Choose one with cables included, or one with multiple ports to charge more than one device at a time.
Pick out a power fortress or something small and sleek, and take the power to charge anywhere, with you everywhere.
Size & Power
Start by choosing the size of your battery (aka power bank).
This is not just about which one will fit in your pocket or your purse. The size of the battery is about the power inside. Most batteries will feature a number on the front that tells you the number of mAh or “milliamp-hours.”
Common sizes range from 2000mAh up to 10,000 or even 12,000 mAh. Bigger numbers mean more power, which means more recharges for your smartphone, or charging for bigger devices that need more power, like a tablet.
- Give a smartphone a battery boost in an emergency.
- Usually small and easy to carry.
- Not recommended to charge a tablet.
- Charge a smartphone three times before needing a recharge
- Charge a tablet 1.5 times before needing a recharge.
- Charge a smartphone four times before needing a recharge
- Charge a tablet 2.5 times before needing a recharge.
We’ve used smartphones and tablets to compare battery sizes, but most battery packs will charge any device that charges via USB, such as a GoPro camera, Kindle reader or Bluetooth headset. Bigger devices that draw more power will need bigger batteries - more mAh - to charge them fully.
How to ensure fast charging for your phone/tablet.
Technically the standard USB port on your battery pack (aka power bank) will fit any standard USB cable. However, the amount of power it can provide may vary.
|1 AMP||A 1 amp USB port will charge your smartphone or tablet but may charge slowly, even if the battery is big enough to charge your smartphone more than once.|
|2 AMP||This will charge most smartphones at the fastest possible speed for smartphones. This is also called “optimal charging.”|
|2.4 AMP |
|5.4 AMP |
|This has the power to charge 2 tablets simultaneously at the fastest possible speed.|
ports, and is the total power available from all ports combined.
NUMBER OF USB PORTS
How many devices do you need to charge?
Bigger batteries (aka power banks) – with more mAh – sometimes have more than one USB port, because with all at that power inside, why not share it out?
This can be useful to charge two smartphones at the same time – maybe to give a battery boost to a friend.
Or you can charge your smartphone and your GoPro at the same time.
Or your smartphone and your Bluetooth headset.
Or even a smartphone and a tablet, if you choose a battery with enough mAh to provide all that power.
With multiple ports, simultaneous charging is super-easy.
Will my battery pack come with a cable?
A cable to charge the battery: YES
Every battery pack (aka power bank) should come with one cable to charge the battery pack itself. This is usually a standard USB to Micro-USB cable, which you use to connect the battery pack input port (usually Micro-USB) to a standard USB wall charger.
A cable to charge your phone/tablet: MAYBE
If your phone or tablet connects via Micro-USB, you can use the supplied cable to charge it. Just connect the standard USB end of the cable to the battery pack USB port, and the Micro-USB end to your phone or tablet.
If your phone or tablet connects via a Lightning or USB-C connector, you will need to use an additional cable to charge it. Some battery packs come with multiple cables – one to charge the battery pack, and an additional one for your device. Check the packaging to see what’s included.
Some battery packs provide cables that are detachable, which makes it easy to switch between cables for your iPad, your Samsung phone, your Kindle or another device. It also gives you the option to swap the cable for one that is shorter or longer, to suit your needs.
Others have cables that are hard-wired to the battery so they cannot be detached. This could make them easier to find in a low battery emergency, but may make them less versatile overall.
Some batteries even have clever storage solutions to give you the best of both worlds: a detachable cable you can switch out for other cables, plus a way to keep the cable close so it’s always close at hand.
CHARGING THE BATTERY PACK
There is no such thing as a magic battery pack.
Unfortunately, no battery pack has been invented that magically recharges itself when it’s empty. But on the whole, they are pretty simple to charge.
If you need one immediately, check on the package if it’s ready to use when you buy it. Some will need to be charged at home before they can be used.
To charge, plug the supplied cable into the input port on the battery pack. Attach the other end, usually a standard USB, into a wall charger or other power source.
Battery pack input ranges from 1Amp up to 2.4Amps. Put simply, the bigger the input number, the faster it will recharge. Most wall chargers deliver up to 2.4Amps, but it’s worth checking the charger if you’re in a hurry, as a 1Amp charger might take twice as long.
Some battery packs have an LED indicator, which tells you how much power the battery pack has left. This will tell you when you need to recharge the battery.
WITH GREAT POWER…
A portable battery seems like a good idea. But is it safe?
Some battery packs are carefully designed and rigorously tested to offer complete peace of mind, that is backed up by robust warranties and guarantees. Some warranties protect the battery itself, while others also safeguard the electronic devices you attach to it, like your phone or tablet.
Some batteries might not offer such peace of mind. Opting for cheap or counterfeit products can turn out to be expensive, even dangerous. It’s easy to avoid this by following these simple steps.
REGISTER YOUR DEVICE
Some battery packs require you to register your purchase, by providing the serial number either online or via a helpline. This is a good way to activate your returns policy and to ensure your product is not a counterfeit.
CHECK THE WARRANTY
Manufacturer, country of origin and the type of battery may mean differences in the type or duration of the warranty. If you are unsure, check the small print on the package or the instructions provided. Below are a few common types of warranties and what they will cover.
Covers the battery pack for a specific period from the date of purchase, and usually requires you to keep your receipt to prove purchase date.
LIMITED LIFETIME WARRANTY
Covers the battery pack for the reasonable life expectancy of the product, which may vary according to manufacturer.
CONNECTED EQUIPMENT WARRANTY
A more robust warranty which not only covers the battery pack itself, but will also offer to repair or replace devices that are damaged while “properly connected” to the battery pack, in line with manufacturer guidelines. Such warranties usually have a clause stating “up to $1000” or similar. The amount should be enough to cover the types of device recommended for use with the battery pack, such as a smartphone or tablet.
THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY
A robust quality assurance offers durability and peace of mind.
Rigorous testing and thorough investigation of product performance make your battery pack more likely to last longer, and less likely to harm you and your valuable electronics.
Safe battery packs should have undergone the following testin
More efficient battery packs will have a lower operating temperature, which wastes less energy, giving it longer life expectancy.
Over Current Protection
OCP prevents too much power going into the battery pack and the power going out to the connected equipment, protecting the delicate circuitry of both devices.
OVER VOLTAGE PROTECTION
Like OCP, OVP protects both the battery pack and the connected device by keeping the voltage within recommended safety parameters to avoid damage.
Over Discharge/Charge Protection
High-performing batteries should not be overcharged or fully discharged to prolong their life expectancy. Some battery packs consistently monitor charge states to prevent this from happening.
Heat Tests at Extreme Temperatures
While using batteries in extreme temperatures isn’t advised anywhere, it can be a good indicator of weaknesses in design and construction. Batteries which pass such stringent testing will be more durable and offer improved assurances of overall safety and performance.
Compliance with legal standards of safety.
These logos or marks, usually found on the packaging, will indicate that they have passed the necessary industry standard regulations, to comply with and achieve the following certifications.
While many battery packs may look identical, when it comes to safety, it’s what’s inside that counts.
- Quality Connectors
- LED Indicator Lights
- Input Voltage Regulator
- CPU Controller
- Battery Protection
- Battery Regulation
- Temperature Sensors
- Quality Connectors
- Universal USB ID
- Low Noise Inductor
and quantifies the energy storage capacity. It is based on how long a battery will last when power is drawn constantly, e.g. a 2000 mAh battery will power a device drawing 100 mAh for 20 hours.
Amps—Short for ampere
is a unit of current, not a unit of charge. It describes the constant and average current that passes through the circuit.
The total power available from all ports combined. Some multi-port battery packs (aka power banks) will have fixed outputs on each port, e.g. a 2 x 1.2A [2.4A total] will charge two smartphones at 1.2A. Other battery packs will provide power where it’s needed, e.g. a 2 x 2.4A [4.8A total] will charge two smartphones at 1.2A each, or one tablet at 2.4A.
A mobile phone with an advanced mobile operating system, usually with internet access, touchscreen interfaces, cameras, media players and the ability to run third-party apps.
A mobile computer with a touchscreen display, circuitry and battery in a single, portable device, usually featuring pop-up, virtual keyboards for typing.
a port designed for use with an industry standard connector to communicate data and supply electric power between devices.
Standard USB—Also known as USB-A
the most common, universal connector on the “other end” of most current USB cables, often suitable for use with computers, car chargers, wall chargers, and many other devices.
A USB connector that is smaller than USB-A, and is often found on smaller or thinner mobile devices, such as android smartphones, digital cameras, battery pack input ports, Kindle readers and many others.
USB-C—Also known as Type-C
a new type of USB connector, hailed as the new standard. Smaller, faster and more user-friendly than previous USB types, USB-C has widespread support from industry leaders, meaning that USB-C will come to replace all other USB types.
A connector developed by Apple to replace the 30-pin connector. Used across all iPhone, iPod and iPad releases since iPhone 5, iPod Touch (5th generation) and iPad 4th generation.
Optimal Charging—Also known as rapid charging
the fastest possible charging for the connected device. Larger devices require more power, so a charger with limited output may still charge, but will take longer to charge the device fully.