When your smartphone can’t make it through the day, have a backup plan.
Chances are you’ve been stuck more than once searching for an outlet to top off a dying smartphone battery. If you’re looking to avoid that stress in the future, a portable battery pack is a great way to give yourself some added peace of mind and ensure that your mobile devices are always charged when you need them. Even if you’re not using it every day, it’s a great thing to keep on-hand (and juiced) in the event of an emergency, power outage, or if you just need something to run your lantern off of at the campsite.
Deciding to get one is simple. Choosing which one to get, however, isn’t. Some might only be able to partially recharge your smartphone or tablet (or juice it more slowly than your wall charger), while others are able to quickly recharge multiple devices but might be more than you need. Read on for buying advice and things to consider, plus reviews of stand-out models that are worth your hard-earned cash.
Size vs. Capacity
When deciding on a portable battery pack, keep in mind when and where you’re going to use it, and what you’ll be using it for. If you often find yourself looking to top off your smartphone battery during your daily routine, you’ll likely want a more portable but smaller capacity battery pack that’s easier to carry with you. If, on the other hand, you’re traveling a lot or regularly find yourself far from a power outlet for extended periods of time, you might be more inclined to trade some portability for added capacity that can let you recharge a number of devices (even a laptop) a couple of times over.
Like your smartphone or laptop’s battery, a portable battery pack’s capacity is measured in milliamp hours (or mAh). And that capacity can range from 1,000 or 1,500 in the smallest, most portable battery packs (enough to only partially recharge an average smartphone) to tens of thousands in higher capacity units—the biggest of which can weigh as much as the laptops they’re designed to power.
Another important consideration when it comes to portable battery packs is connectivity. While almost all of them will have at least one standard USB port to charge a range of devices, many also have Lightning connectors for Apple devices, as well as USB-C ports for newer smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets like the Nintendo Switch. Some larger battery packs can even have a regular AC outlet built into them.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the battery pack’s power output, which can indicate how fast it’s able to recharge devices. As you’d expect, the higher the output, the faster it provides juice—given your phone or other device supports that level of charging. Chargers with a low power output (under ten watts) will charge your phone more slowly that your regular power adapter, while a higher output (up to 45 watts) will be able to easily charge most USB-C laptops relatively quickly.
How We Chose
To select these portable battery packs, we relied on our own previous research on the subject and experience using similar devices. Then we consulted reviews from a range of trusted publications, including PC World, Wirecutter, and Android Central. We also took into account customer ratings from online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, using them to calculate our Consumer Score. This represents the percentage of reviewers on those sites that rated the battery packs at least four out of five stars.
Mophie Powerstation Plus XL
Consumer Score: 87% gave it 4 stars or more
Mophie’s battery packs have set the standard over the years, and the company’s Powerstation Plus XL is no exception. What makes this one a winner is the high 10,000-mAh capacity and a USB-C port in addition to a standard USB-A plug-in. A fabric finish makes it feel more high-end (and easier to grip) than many others. No, it isn’t cheap as far as battery packs go, but a two-year warranty (better than what many companies give) will afford you some added peace of mind for that somewhat premium price.
Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 PD
Consumer Score: 90% gave it 4 stars or more
Anker’s well-regarded PowerCore line of battery packs includes so many models that it can be difficult to narrow down a choice. But the PowerCore Slim 10,000 PD strikes a balance that will suit most people. It’s about the size of an average smartphone and boasts an ample 10,000-mAh battery, which offers enough juice to recharge an iPhone 12 twice. A USB-C port also ensures that devices supporting the standard are charged as quickly as possible, and helps the battery pack itself recharge quickly as well (Anker promises a full charge in 4.5 hours).
Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000 PD
Consumer Score: 91% gave it 4 stars or more
If you’re looking to cut down on the number of gadgets you have to carry around with you, a 2-in-1 charger like the Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000 PD is a great option. It has a fold-out AC plug that lets you use it as a regular wall charger around your home or office, but it also has a 5,000-mAh battery that lets it double as a portable battery pack. This newly updated model also adds a USB-C port with Power Delivery to the standard USB 3.0 port, giving you faster charging times for your USB-C-based devices. (If you still have several USB-A devices, opt for this version.)
RAVPower 20000 Portable Charger
Consumer Score: 95% gave it 4 stars or more
It’ll add a little more bulk and weight to your bag compared to the likes of Anker’s PowerCore Slim. But this 20,000-mAh power bank affords plenty of capacity to recharge your devices multiple times before you need to worry about replenishing the battery pack itself. Three ports (one USB-C and two USB 3.0) provide simultaneous charging for multiple devices, and a built-in display lets you quickly see how much power is remaining at a glance.
MaxOak Laptop Power Bank
Consumer Score: 87% gave it 4 stars or more
If you want to be prepared for any event—be it a long road trip or a prolonged power outage—a heavy-duty power bank like this one from MaxOak should easily keep your laptop, smartphone, and just about anything else powered for a couple of days straight. Not only does it boast a massive 50,000-mAh capacity, it has four USB ports and two DC ports, plus no less than 14 interchangeable connectors for different laptop computers. The only thing missing is USB-C. And it’s worth noting that, because of the capacity, this isn’t approved by TSA.
Omnicharge Omni 20+
Consumer Score: 92% gave it 4 stars or more
A battery pack with a couple of USB ports is all you need to keep your most-used mobile devices charged, but there are also more capable power banks that can really expand your options. The 20,000-mAh Omni 20+ has those USB ports you’d expect (one USB-C and two USB 3.0), as well as wireless charging, but it also adds a regular old AC outlet that lets you plug virtually anything into it—be it separate charger for a DSLR battery or even a flashlight during a power outage. That flexibility does come with some expected trade-offs in portability (and the steep price). But the Omni is still relatively compact and lightweight given its capabilities, and will easily fit in an average-size laptop bag along with your other gear.
Consumer Score: 74% gave it 4 stars or more
Scosche’s QiDock only has a 5,000-mAh capacity, but what it lacks in power it makes up for in flexibility. The unique design of the device includes a dock portion that’s meant to be left on your desk, which keeps the battery pack itself constantly charged and also props up your smartphone so you can keep an eye on it while you’re working. You can then take the battery pack with you for a top-up whenever you need one. Wirecutter did find the QiDock to charge slightly slower than some other battery packs they tested. But it wasn’t a deal-breaker for them, especially considering its versatility and affordable price (as well as generous three-year warranty).