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Let’s face it: we’re a battery-dependent society. Our mobile devices require power, and as we use them day in and day out, those batteries drain. And sometimes you’re just nowhere near an outlet or a computer to recharge.
A portable charger can help solve this problem. This is a device you can charge at night while you sleep, then throw in your bag or purse for those times during the day when you need a quick boost. A portable charger can restore your mobile device to full power in a matter of minutes.
So which portable charger is right for you? Here at BestReviews, we set out to answer that question.
We scrutinized the market, examined products, and analyzed customer feedback in order to identify the five best portable chargers available. If you’re looking for product recommendations, we’re happy to endorse the five awesome chargers in our product matrix, above.
You can trust our product advice and shopping guides because we never accept “free” manufacturer samples. At BestReviews, we buy our test products off of store shelves and online, just as you would. We put them through their paces in our test lab, then donate them to charity when we’re through evaluating them.
Our mission is to provide consumers with an honest, unbiased look at what they can get for their money.
If you’d like to learn more about portable chargers and how to select one, please continue reading this shopping guide.
When it comes to the number of charges a unit can provide with one full battery, every manufacturer seems to have its own measuring stick. For example, RAVPower claims that one battery cycle of its Power Bank model can charge an iPhone 12 times over. Intocircuit claims that its Portable Power Bank can recharge an iPhone four or five times.
At this point, you may be wondering what a portable charger is, how it works, and why you might want one.
A portable charger is an accessory that quickly charges your devices without being plugged into a wall. You fill it up with power which you can then use anywhere to charge your device.
There are portable chargers that use your car’s battery and solar power, but this guide focuses primarily on the kind you charge in an outlet overnight and then take with you to power a mobile device.
People buy portable chargers for a number of reasons. You may appreciate having one if you:
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, a product with a flashlight like the Introcircuit could be perfect for you.
The vast majority of chargers are designed for smartphone and tablet charging. However, some portable chargers are equipped to charge laptops as well.
Before buying a portable charger, ask yourself what it is you need it to do. Otherwise, you may end up buying a charger that doesn’t suit your needs… or one that sits in a drawer most of the time. For example, a person who needs a charger for an overnight camping trip would probably do better with the Introcircuit on our shortlist — which can charge two devices at once and includes an LED flashlight — than the miniature Anker.
The RAVPower in our product matrix can be used to charge a laptop. While this is a much longer process, it works the same way as charging a phone or tablet — with the slight adjustment of having an extra device connected to one of your ports.
With the exception of the Anker, which is about the size of a lipstick tube, the average charger looks like a small brick. Dimensions vary between brands, but most conform to a 2”x4” size with a thickness of ½” to ¾”. They’re designed to easily fit in a pocket or suitcase. Bulk is generally not an issue with a portable charger.
Each charger has its own aesthetic appeal, which you can judge for yourself. Some are shiny and metallic; some are plastic; some have a rubber housing.
While most chargers may look about the same, they definitely don’t share the same weight, as different chargers use different components.
The lightest of the bunch is the rubber-encased myCharge, weighing in at a surprising 0.3 ounces.
The plastic Anker weighs more, although it is still fairly light at 2.4 ounces.
The heaviest of the bunch is the 16.1-ounce RAVPower. This one weighs more because it carries some extra tech, as you’ll read below.
You can have the charger plugged in while it’s recharging something; i.e. charge both devices — charger and phone/tablet — together. Just keep an eye on any overheating.
Every portable charger has a battery that must be charged. If you don’t charge your charger’s battery, it’s of little use to you.
Because every battery is designed differently, they all require a different amount of time to reach 100%. All of the models on our shortlist require a period of about six hours to get from empty to full except the Anker, which only needs about four hours.
Regardless of which product you buy, a portable charger will juice up your smartphone or tablet much faster than a standard USB cord plugged into an outlet or computer.
Why do portable chargers work so fast? Simply put, a charger’s goal is to send as much power as possible to whatever device it’s connected to. As a result, you end up getting about twice the amount of power from a portable charger as you would from an outlet.
This is a smart and effective way to cut down on charging times for phones and tablets that seem to take forever to refill. Would you like your phone fully charged in a matter of 20 minutes or so? Yes, please.
The average heavy-duty charger includes at least two USB ports so you can charge two devices at the same time. For example, the RAVPower, Intocircuit, and MyCharge all boast a standard, two-port design.
For those who need to charge multiple items at once, the Lenmar comes with three USB ports. The only device on our list with a single port is the Anker, but in exchange for that, it has a slim “pocket” design that’s great for people on the move.
The affordable Anker comes in five cool colors: black, blue, pink, silver, and gold.
Portable chargers aren’t usually big on accessories. Only one of the five chargers in our matrix includes an accessory you may find useful: the Introcircuit comes with a built-in LED flashlight with a range up to 15 feet. If you’re a camper, this could prove to be handy.
Some other brands also include this accessory with varying degrees of light, range, and brightness.
But if you’re considering a portable charger with a flashlight, bear in mind that the flashlight draws from the same power as your device. The longer you use the flashlight, the less reserve power you have.
Things charge at different speeds. So, if charging two devices, expect one to finish quicker.
Will your portable charger last forever? In a word, no.
While chargers do an incredible job of keeping your personal tech at full battery, keep in mind that you’re essentially buying a large battery when you buy a portable charger. And all batteries have an expiration date.
The difference between a portable charger and a standard battery is that the battery’s “lifespan” and subsequent expiration is more or less set in stone based on size and usage. A charger’s lifespan has no set time and date. Used moderately, a charger could last you two to five years. Used daily, it’s more likely to last one or two years.
The RAVPower is one of the pricier portable chargers on our list. But according to the manufacturer, it will provide 500+ charges over the course of its battery life.
Now is a great time to snag a portable charger, as prices have reduced significantly. A year or two ago, you’d be paying $150 for one the best models. Today, you can buy a high-end model like the RAVPower for about $100.
On a budget? The Anker sits under $15. This one could be the best bet for your cash if you’re a person who attends a lot of conventions or takes frequent work trips. It’s a simple, inexpensive device that can go with you anywhere.
Q: Can I use a charger underwater?
A: No! Unless you specifically look for an underwater charger, none of these are meant to be submerged.
Q: How do I know it’s fully charged?
A: Every device comes with an external meter that informs you of its power level. That way, you can visually see when the battery is at 100% and when it’s time for a recharge.
Q: How long does it take to charge?
A: Every device is different, but the average amount of time it takes to go from 0% to 100% is about six hours.
Q: What kind of battery is inside?
A: Every manufacturer has a different design and model, but the most common design is the li-polymer battery. These batteries have thousands of power cells which store energy for a period of time but eventually dissipate when not being used.
Q: How long will it stay charged if I don’t use it?
A: This is usually determined by the size of the battery and the amount of cells within it. Generally speaking, a portable charger will lose all power within a year of not being used.