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Shopping Guide For The Best Portable Chargers

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.

Portable chargers are popular with consumers because, as you probably know all too well, smartphones and tablets require frequent charging. They’re two of the most common devices people carry with them, and to be caught without a charged phone is — for some folks — tantamount to a minor emergency!

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.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

RAVPower Smart 16750mAh External Battery Pack 4.5A Dual USB

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. And although it's one of the priciest options we recommend, the RAVPower should be able to recharge your phone 500 times over during its lifetime.

What is a Portable Charger?

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:

  • Are constantly on the go and need a backup to help you stay connected
  • Often drain your devices due to frequent use
  • Are at an event (like a convention) and need to charge throughout
  • Are planning an overnight camping trip
  • Like to have a backup power source in case of an emergency
EXPERT TIP

If you spend time outdoors, a product with a flashlight could be perfect. Just keep in mind that using it will drain the charger's battery.


Staff  | BestReviews

What Can it Charge?

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 something that can charge two devices at once and includes an LED flashlight.

Size and Aesthetics

With the exception of single port chargers, usually 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.

In general, it takes less time to charge a device with a portable charger than it does with a standard plug accessory.

Weight

While most chargers may look about the same, they definitely don’t share the same weight, as different chargers use different components.

The lightest option we saw was 0.3 ounces.

The heaviest of the bunch came in at 16.1-ounce. But most of the extra wait was due to non-charging accessories.

DID YOU KNOW?

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.

Charging Times

Charging times

Charging Your Charger’s Battery

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%. Most take somewhere between four and six hours.

Charging times

Charging Your Device

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.

One of the benefits of portable chargers is that you can mix and match tech with multiple companies and brands without suffering compatibility issues. For example, you could plug a Samsung phone and an LG tablet into the same charger at the same time — as long as it has two ports.

USB Ports

The average heavy-duty charger includes at least two USB ports so you can charge two devices at the same time. Most budget chargers will come with at least two ports.

For those who need to charge multiple items at once, look for one with even more. Only the slimmest and most portable chargers come with just one port.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Anker Astro 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized

The compact Anker Astro is perfect for consumers who only need to charge their devices on-the-go occasionally. While it only takes 3 to 4 hours to charge (significantly less than others we reviewed) it can add up to 6 hours of talk time to an iPhone and a whole charge to a Galaxy S6. Plus, having an 18-month warranty means you can trust this charger to last, despite its small size and single USB port.

Accessories

Portable chargers aren’t usually big on accessories. Some come 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.

EXPERT TIP

Things charge at different speeds. So, if charging two devices, expect one to finish quicker.


Rafe  | Technologist, Product Review Professional

Lifespan

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.

Price

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 for about $100.

On a budget? Look for one that's under $20. It's 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.

If you plug multiple devices (phone, tablet) into your charger that are close to 0%, be aware that you may drain the charger completely.

FAQ

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.

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