Never run out of juice again, no matter where you are.
Whether you call them battery packs, power banks or portable chargers, these accessories do one thing well: charge your devices when you can’t find an open outlet. Small enough to fit in a day pack and sturdy enough to live at the bottom of your carry on, battery packs can charge your smartphone, tablet, laptop or even all three at once, depending on the size of the battery. What size you’ll need, and any extra features you may find useful, will largely depend on the devices you plan on charging up. With so many of these accessories on the market right now, we tested out a bunch to see which are worth your money.
What to look for in a portable battery pack
A lithium-ion battery can be found in almost all portable electronics and rechargeable power banks. These outperformed other modern battery types in terms of size-to-charge capacity and even saw an eight-fold gain in energy density over the previous 14 years. Additionally, they are immune to the memory effect (where battery life deteriorates due to partial charges).
You may have heard that lithium ion batteries have the potential to catch fire. Battery packs need internal devices to regulate voltage and pressure in order to reduce the risk. Battery packs are regarded as safe enough to travel on an aero plane, while you should still take precautions to prevent a battery from being subjected to unneeded stress like extreme heat, damage from drops, or operation in frigid temperatures. The TSA states that you can fly with external batteries that are 100Wh or less in capacity (which is true of all of our suggestions); just make sure to pack them in your carry-on bag since they are not permitted in checked luggage.
Manufacturers of power banks nearly universally indicate a battery’s capacity in milliamp hours, or mash. Smaller batteries typically have a 5,000mAh capacity, such as those that can charge a smartphone to between 50 and 75 percent. Batteries larger than 25,000mAh can recharge laptops, tablets, and phones numerous times. Because batteries are physical storage units, it should come as no surprise that prices increase as capacity increases. Since batteries are also physical storage units, size and weight also increase. Be ready to spend more money and move a heavier block if you want greater power.
It’s a common misconception that a 10,000mAh power bank can double-charge a 5,000mAh phone to 100%. The quantity of juice that gets into your phone is reduced by factors like voltage conversion in addition to the straightforward energy loss from heat dissipation. The majority of manufacturers specify how many charges a particular smartphone’s battery can provide. In our experiments, a battery pack with a capacity of 10,000mAh provided a device charge of approximately 5,800mAh. A gadget received around 11,250mAh from 20,000mAh chargers and 16,200mAh from 25,000mAh banks. That represents an efficiency rate of almost 60% on average.
Although the electronics industry is (happily) going towards USB-C as the standard, the situation with power banks is still complicated. The majority of our recommendations also offer one or two USB-A ports in addition to at least one USB-C port. The newest tablets (including the current generation iPads) and newer computers are frequently powered by USB-C. Newer Android smartphones charge by USB-C, but iPhones continue to use the Lightning connection.
When a battery pack includes many ports, they typically have distinct purposes. Usually, there will be at least one connector with the designation “in/out,” which indicates you may use it to charge both your device and the power bank at the same time. Smartphones and other tiny devices can be powered by USB-A ports, but larger items cannot be charged by them. Additionally, they are generally slower than USB-C ports. When choosing which ports and cables to use to connect your phone to the pack, keep that in mind.
The USB-C ports themselves vary even more, with different ports on the same device allowing various power transfer speeds. Practically speaking, this means that an iPhone will charge just fine when connected to a power bank’s 18W connector. However, a MacBook or other similar laptop will require the additional power provided by a 100W connector to charge successfully (which larger power banks can offer). Numerous devices can be charged simultaneously by power banks with multiple ports, although the speeds and total amount of energy given will be slower.
You should also think about your cable. Use USB-C connections and cables for anything larger than a smartphone (and to gain access to fast-charging features). Even though all cables have the identical USB-C plugs on the end, not all cables are created equal. A 100W USB-C cable is required to transmit power from a 100W USB-C power bank socket. Fortunately, a suitable cable is frequently included with power banks that can give 100W of electricity. We’ve tried and enjoyed Anker’s 100W USB-C cable for any devices that don’t. We used this 60W cable from Nimble for smaller devices, and we don’t suggest wasting your time with cables that are less than 60W. Higher-capacity cables, which cost about $20, will ensure that you don’t waste time on connections that restrict your potential transfer of power.
Battery packs often have a squared-off, brick-like shape, however many make an aesthetic effort with lovely finishes and craftsmanship. Even if it has no effect on how they operate, it should be taken into account for anything you’ll use frequently. Some come with extra features like kickstands, wall plugs that are integrated in or even Mag Safe compatibility. Almost all power banks contain some kind of indication to show you how much remaining charge is in your power bank; this indicator is typically depicted with lit pips close to the power button. If you depend on a pack in a mobile office situation or something similar, some of the biggest banks go one step further and have an LED display showing a percentage for the remaining battery.
How we tested
We performed a lot of research before we even got our hands on a battery pack. We took into account the brands that staff members and reviewers of Engadget have used over the years, and we looked at user reviews on retail websites like Amazon and Best Buy. We bought a total of 14 battery packs, from tiny wireless banks to big multi-device batteries.
This is the complete list:
- Pack of Apple Mag Safe Batteries (5000)
- Arc Hybrid Mag by Spiga (5000)
- Magnetic Anker 521 Battery (5000)
- Magnetic Anker 633 Battery (10,000)
Low capacity (≤10,000mAh)
- Power bank Anker 511 (5,000)
- Power bank Anker 313 (10,000)
- Swift Champion (10,000)
- Biotite 40 PD Charge (10,000)
Mid capacity (10,001 – 20,000mAh)
- Fast Charge for Otter box (15,000)
- Power station Pro by Morphia (20,000)
- 535 Power Core 20K Anker (20,000)
High capacity (20,001mAh+)
- Power station Pro XL by Morphia (25,000)
- 737 Anker Power Bank (25,600)
- Super tank Endure (26,800)
On an iPhone 14 Plus and a Galaxy S22 Ultra, I evaluated each battery. I added a fifth-generation iPad Air to the mix for the mid- and high-capacity packs. Even though some can charge multiple devices at once, I only charged one at a time. I used the devices only to turn them on and enter the unlock code while they were charging, charging them from completely discharged to 100% (or until the power bank went dead).
I mostly charged the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the iPad Air using the wire that came with each power bank. I used the USB-C to Lighting cable that was provided with Apple’s phone for the iPhone 14 Plus. I utilized a USB-C to USB-C cable with a 60W rating for the smaller power banks that lacked a cable or came with a USB-C to USB-A cord.
Best Mag Safe-compatible battery: Spiga Arc Hybrid Mag
I entered this competition assuming Apple’s own Mag Safe battery pack would take first place. Spiga’s Arc Hybrid produced a 56 percent charge in almost the same amount of time as it did an admirable job of charging a dead 14 Plus to roughly 43 percent in an hour and 45 minutes. You can effortlessly hold your phone and use it while it charges because to the Arc Hybrid’s flush mounting to the Mag Safe ring. It contains four indication lights instead of just one like the Apple battery, so you can tell how much power is still in the pack. Spiga’s battery is $30 less expensive than Apple’s, so recommending it is simple.
Anker’s 633 Magnetic battery, on the other hand, offered a more powerful charge because of its 10,000mAh capacity. It charged the iPhone to 100% in three hours and had enough juice left over for an extra 29% charge. Although the kickstand function felt marginally practical, the battery itself was huge, which is to be expected from a power bank twice the size of Spiga’s. In the end, the Arc Hybrid delivered a quicker and more practical solution to partially charge your iPhone while you’re on the road.
It’s crucial to remember that wireless charging is inefficient compared to cable. Our testing revealed that wired battery banks charge a gadget with an efficiency of about 60%. That rate decreased to an average of 46% using the wireless chargers. Something to consider when assessing the financial and ecological impacts of squandered energy.
Specs: 5000mAh, 7.5W max
Ports: One USB-C in/out
Cable: USB-C to USB-C
Number of charges iPhone: 0.56
Charge time iPhone: 0 to 56% in 1h 43m
Best battery for a partial charge on an Android: Anker 511 Power Bank
For on-the-go charging, a cable connection makes the most sense until Android phones acquire something akin to Mag Safe. A cleverly created device, the Anker 511 Power Bank is about the size and form of a slender stick of butter. If you don’t have much time between flights to give your phone a little more energy, you’ll be covered because the battery charged a drained Galaxy S22 Ultra to 75 percent in just over an hour. It also includes a built-in connector and supports pass-through charging, making it a wall adaptor if you ever find yourself without a working phone or battery bank but are close to an outlet. However, a cable is not included, so you must supply one one that can connect your device to the bank’s sole USB-C connector.
Specs: 5,000 mAh, 10W max
Ports: One USB-C and wall outlet prongs
Number of charges Galaxy S22 Ultra: 0.75
Charge time Galaxy: 0 to 75% in 1h 7m
Best low capacity battery: Bolete Charge 40 PD
It’s safe to assume that the Charge 40 PD is more suited to camping excursions than to daily commutes, and Bolete is perhaps better known in the outdoor community than the IT industry. But this battery simply performed better than the competition in its class. The exterior’s tough, yellow accents are a welcome break from the typical slick black of many tech gadgets. Additionally, it features a rubberized texture and is sturdy enough to withstand the jolts and bumps that come with carrying a handbag or messenger bag all day. When you’re out and about, it can easily revive a dead phone a few times because it gave both the iPhone and the Galaxy one and a half charges.
The Nimble Champ is given honorable mention because it will also provide a few trustworthy fill-ups and is packaged in a durable manner. The iPhone received a 22 percent charge in 16 minutes in addition to a full charge in two hours. It took an hour and 44 minutes to fully charge the Galaxy, and 50 minutes to charge it from 0% to 41%. Nimble, which sells for the same $60 as the Bolete, earns bonus marks for being one of the few B-Corp certified personal technology manufacturers in existence, demonstrating their dedication to higher environmental and social standards by going through B Lab’s certification procedure.
Specs: 10,000mAh, 18W max
Ports: One in/out USB-C, two USB-A out only
Cable: USB-C to USB-A
Number of charges iPhone 14 Plus: 1.36
Charge time iPhone: 0 to 100% in 1h 50m, 0 to 50% in 36m
Number of charges Galaxy S22 Ultra: 1.33
Charge time Galaxy: 0 to 100% in 1h 33m, 0 to 50% in 45m
Best medium capacity battery: Otter box Fast Charge
You can power up something larger than a phone or charge numerous gadgets simultaneously with a medium-capacity battery. Even while the Otter box Fast Charge power bank only claims to have a 15,000mAh capacity, it performed almost as well as batteries with a 20,000mAh capacity while being roughly $30 less expensive. This was the battery pack I reached for the most throughout the month and a half I spent evaluating battery packs when one of my personal gadgets required a charge. It boasts a chic appearance with copper accents and a faux leather finish in grey. It’s a stylish item that feels sturdy, measuring slightly larger than a deck of cards and weighing slightly more than 11 ounces.
It double-charged both devices before adding a third more charge to each. I added the iPad to the discussion and received a full charge plus an additional third. The Otter box also didn’t lose much power while it was lying inactive, so if you take it around in case you need it, it should be fully charged when the time comes.
This category may have been the most difficult to predict because Anker’s 535 Power Core outperformed Otter box marginally but costs more. Having said that, choose the 535 if you want a lightning-fast charge for your Galaxy phone. It took around an hour each time to fully charge the Galaxy three times. Before giving up, it had enough money left over for a tiny nine-percent charge. Despite getting rather warm, the battery never felt uncomfortable. Except for Anker’s 737, which shaved off a few minutes but costs $90 more, the one-hour charge is the fastest any power bank was able to provide a charge to the Galaxy. I also liked how cool and sparkly the 535 was finish.
Specs: 15,000mAh, 18W max
Ports: One in/out USB-C, one in/out USB-A
Cable: USB-C to USB-A
Number of charges iPhone 14 Plus: 2.33
Charge time iPhone: 0 to 100% in 2h 2m average, and 0% to 33% in 27m
Number of charges Galaxy S22 Ultra: 2.33
Charge time Galaxy: 0 to 100% in 1h 35m and 0 to 37% in 33m
Number of charges iPad Air: 1.31
Charge time iPad: 0 to 100% in 2h 23m and 0% to 31% in 38m
Best high capacity battery: Anker 737 Power Bank
Choose the Anker 737 Power Bank if you want a device with a lot of charge that transfers swiftly. It was, for the most part, the fastest bank we tested, able to provide the iPad and Galaxy the most charge in the least amount of time. (Anker’s 535 charged the iPhone to 100% on average two minutes quicker, but provided less charges.) The 737 completed three full charges for our S22 Ultra, with enough juice left over for another 93 percent charge, and those full charges typically took under one hour. Comparable to outlet charging, that. The figures for the iPhone went from zero to full in roughly an hour, which was still great but much less astounding with a half. The iPad charged twice completely in just over two hours, which is comparable to the rate at which the device charges when plugged into a wall.
I should note that even though the 737 has three ports, only one of them is USB-C, even though it’s wonderful for numerous complete charges on one particular smartphone. You will need to use a few of the USB-A ports, which are less efficient, to charge many devices at once. Having said that, this bank is more affordable than the other high capacity batteries we tested and comes with a 65W Power Port fast charger, which alone costs $34.
With a shiny black surface and a metallic-looking finish on one side, the design is unremarkable. It is little over a pound in weight and roughly similar in shape to a vintage TI-85 graphing calculator. The one button on it has Eight lit pips indicate how much charge is still in the device.
Specs: 25,600mAh, 60W max
Ports: One in/out USB-C, two out only USB-A
Cable: USB-C to USB-C, includes 65W wall adapter
Number of charges iPhone 14 Plus: 3.67
Charge time iPhone: 0 to 100% in 1h 38m average and 0 to 67% in 40m
Number of charges Galaxy S22 Ultra: 3.93
Charge time Galaxy: 0 to 100% in 57m average 0 to 93% in 59m
Number of charges iPad Air: 2.14
Charge time iPad: 0 to 100% in 2h 7m average and 0 to 14% in 13m
Best mobile command center battery: Morphia Power station Pro XL
Ports: One USB-C in/out, two USB-C out only
Cable: USB-C to USB-C
Number of charges iPhone 14 Plus: 3.23
Charge time iPhone: 0 to 100% in 1h 45m average and 23% in 18m
Number of charges Galaxy S22 Ultra: 3.85
Charge time Galaxy: 0 to 100% in 1h 36m and 85% in 1h 12m
Number of charges iPad Air: 2.02
Charge time iPad: 0 to 100% in 2h 16m and 2% in 7m