Your smartphone tends to die before the end of the day. It’s understandable, given the fact that you use it as a phone, camera, music player, personal computer, navigation device and social media machine — but it’s still a big problem. Of course, there are various settings on your smartphone to preserve its battery life. Or you could bring a power adapter and charging cord with you. But by far the best way to extend your smartphone’s battery life without slowing yourself down is to carry with a portable battery, also known as a portable power bank.
Portable power banks have been around for years and, for the most part, understanding them has been pretty straightforward. There’s storage capacity (measured in mAH) and power output (measured in amps), and, of course, other things like size, weight, durability and number of ports. It’s only been with the recent advancements in charging standards and fast charging technology that you’ve needed to know more. Not all power banks have the power output to charge a MacBook Pro, for example. And not all can fast charge your iPhone or Android smartphone.
Before going any further, it’s important to note that a 2,716mAh power bank probably won’t fully charge a smartphone with a 2,716mAh battery capacity. Power isn’t efficient enough to transfer at a like-for-like rate. Also, the more you use a power bank the more the power bank’s capacity will actually decrease. Batteries just tend to get worse over time. (Don’t worry, you’ll get hundreds of recharges out of a power bank before it becomes noticeably worse.) To make sure you’re buying a power bank that’s as efficient and dependable as possible, we recommend buying from a reputable brand. Start with these: Anker, Aukey, RavPower, Belkin and Mophie.
If you’re looking for a power bank to charge your smartphone to its fullest, you want it to support Qualcomm Quick Charge technology. Most of the latest smartphones, including the recent iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X, support fast charging technology. The quick charge technology allows your smartphone faster than you would with a traditional power bank (it outputs at 5A rather than 3A). More specifically, you want the power bank to support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 — it will be noticeably faster than older models that support Quick Charge 2.0.
Most power banks aren’t powerful enough to charge a laptop, but there are a few exceptions. Power banks that support USB Power Delivery (USB PD), which is fast charge standard, are able to control more watts and deliver more power — basically, they’re able to fast charge larger devices (if those devices support it). USB Power Delivery only works with a USB-C to USB-C connection, so if you have a 2016 MacBook Pro or new laptop that charges via USB-C, you want a power bank that supports this technology.
There are other factors to consider before buying a portable power bank — such as if it can simultaneously charge two devices, whether it allows for pass-through charging and what its power input is (how fast it takes to recharge itself) — but the support for Qualcomm Quick Charge and USB Power Delivery are the two big ones. The size of the power bank is also going to dictate the price as well. In general, the more mAh storage capacity, the more expensive the power bank is going to be. But really, the mAh storage capacity should be secondary to what exactly you’re trying to charge.
The above copy is just an intro to portable power banks — the basics. To take a further dive into the concepts and lingo of portable batteries, and how they are able to charge (or not charge) your devices, we suggest reading the below articles.
• “The Ultimate Guide to Capactity and Efficiency of Portable Chargers,” Zendure
• “What is USB Power Delivery?”, Belkin Resource Center
• “USB-C battery packs: Understanding the basics of battery power,” MacWorld
Power Your: iPhone or Android Smartphone
Our Pick: RAVPower 12000 Portable Charger
The RavPower 12000 is light and slim enough to fit in your pocket. More importantly, it has enough power to charge your new iPhone almost four times. It has two USB charging ports, too. The first port supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 — according to the company, it allows you to fast charge supported smartphones to 80-percent in just 35 minutes. The second USB port can charge most other connected devices, although it doesn’t support fast charging. If there’s a knock against this power bank it’s that it has a max 2A power input, so it’ll take around six hours to fully recharge.
Runner Up: Anker PowerCore Speed 10000
The PowerCore Speed 10000 has less storage capacity and only one port (instead of the above RAVPower’s two). It’s slightly more expensive, too. But other than those minor strikes, the PowerCore Speed 10000 is an excellent power bank. It also supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, which is the only big difference from its predecessor, the PowerCore 10000 ($26).
Power Your: MacBook Pro or USB-C Laptop
Our Pick: Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD
This is one of Anker’s only power banks to supports USB Power Delivery. The company claims that it can completely charge a 13-inch MacBook Pro one time, and charge the newest iPhones and Androids six or seven times over. In addition to a USB-C port, the PowerCore+ 26800 PD also has two USB-A ports (5V/3A each) to charge your other devices. This power bank comes with a 30W wall charger, which costs roughly $20 by itself. And this wall charger can charge your MacBook Pro by itself, should you forget the 61W USB-C power adapter that comes with the laptop. The only downside is that the PowerCore+ 26800 PD doesn’t support Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, so it won’t be able to fast charge your smartphone or tablet (should they support it).
Runner Up: RavPower 26800mAh PD
This basically has the same abilities as the above power bank, and it’s also more affordable, but it differs in a few areas to make it our “runner-up” pick. It doesn’t come with a Type-C power adapter — you’ll probably want buy a 30W power adapter (~$20) if you want to recharge the power bank the fastest. (If you buy a 1A charger, like your iPhone’s power adapter ($19), it could take up to three or four times as long to recharge it.) This RavPower power bank only has four LED lights, compared to the above Anker’s 10, which ultimately leads to a less accurate reading of how much juice it has less. These are small differences, admittedly. The RavPower 26800mAh PD is still a terrific portable charger. And if you plan on charging it overnight, you might not need to invest extra in a 30W wall adapter.
The Wild Card: Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL
This is an impressive power bank for a number of reasons. It can fast-charge two devices at once, which no other power bank on this list can do. And it supports USB Power Delivery — according to Mophie it can extend the battery life of a 2016 or 2017 MacBook Pro for up to 14 hours. The Powerstation USB-C XXL is the “wild card” because it’s really expensive and will be impractical for most people, especially when you consider that both Anker and RavPower offer similarly-sized power banks for a fraction of its price. The other differentiating factor is that it’s wrapped in fabric, making it slightly more stylish than any other power bank.