Best USB-C Power Banks

Updated December 2020
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Pros
Cons

Buying guide for Best USB-C power banks

If you rely heavily on your mobile devices, you know that as a resource, power is right up there with food and water. It fuels your productivity, connects you with others, and provides mood-saving entertainment when you need it most. However, power isn’t always easy to find. Outlets can be difficult to claim in airports, cafes, and bus stations, and sometimes your vehicle doesn’t have the tech to replenish your batteries. Luckily, portable power banks all but eliminate these issues. Today, we’re focusing on those built around the ever-popular USB-C connector.

As the name implies, portable power banks allow you to charge up your tools on the road. While USB-C cables can transfer both energy and data very efficiently, in this case, we’re only talking about power. USB-C power banks store their energy in either lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries, and they often boast enough power to replenish phones and tablets several times. With a tough metal or plastic shell, power banks are built to be moved around and typically wear several output ports, so you can charge different devices.

Check out our recommendations if you know what you need. If you’d like to know more, keep reading.

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With iM-Power technology, your power bank can function as a true plug-and-play device. Simply connect whatever needs charging, and iM-Power automatically turns your device on, charges it at the highest possible speed, and turns it off.

Key considerations

Connectivity options

The USB-C connector is extremely versatile, and its widespread popularity in the electronics world makes a USB-C power bank all the more practical. Obviously, a USB-C port is a given with these products, but additional connectivity expands the tool’s use.

One example? The Lighting connector. Yes, more and more Apple products are integrating USB-C connectors these days, but a dedicated Lightning port considerably improves a power bank’s functionality. Notably, it allows you to charge up iPhones and iPads without an adapter. We also recommend you look for other ports, such as Micro USB and Mini USB. You might purchase a gadget with Micro USB connectors some day, and you can never have too much connectivity.

Battery

Capacity: Battery capacity (the amount of energy a battery can hold) is measured in milliamperes (mA) or milliamp-hours (mAh). USB-C power banks typically range from 10,000 to 40,000 milliamp-hours and up. An average iPhone battery has a capacity of around 2,000, so a fully charged 10,000-milliamp-hour power bank could replenish it approximately five times. Keep your average use in mind when shopping, because when it comes to battery life, you often get what you pay for.

Material: Another factor is the battery material itself. Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries are both popular in the segment, and each has its pros and cons.

  • Lithium-ion batteries are cheaper and have higher energy density than lithium-polymer equivalents, but they tend to degrade more quickly.
  • Lithium-polymer batteries are spendier and less dense, but they will likely last longer. And they can be manufactured in slimmer profiles.

Speed

The other major factor is how quickly the power bank can charge your devices. This is determined by the speed of the ports themselves, and speed is commonly measured in volts (V) and amps (A). USB-C ports can support up to 5 volts/3 amps, which is quick enough to charge smartphones and other devices very quickly. Some power banks may feature 12-volt/1.5-amp ports for older devices as well, but with modern tech, you don’t really have to choose.

If you see the terms like “iM-Power” or “Quick Charge” when shopping, take notice. These smart ports are capable of automatically detecting the charging needs of connected devices, adjusting power outputs as necessary to prevent damage and speed up the process.

Size

Finally, consider the physical size and weight of your chosen USB-C power bank. While power banks aren’t huge, they can be rather dense and carry more mass than you’d think based on their profile. They may not be big enough to strain your back on their own, but if you’re adding them to a mobile workstation, particularly if you often take it through airports, keep its physical dimensions in mind.

Do not plug USB-C cables into Apple Lightning ports. Though the connectors look similar and are both flippable, they are not compatible. Thankfully, there are myriad adapters available that allow the connectors to be used together safely.

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Features

Built-in cables

The majority of USB-C power banks come with a USB-C connector, which can be used to charge other devices from the power bank or replenish the bank itself. As a backup, many have a separate Micro USB charging port as well. However, some equip built-in charging cables that fold into designated slots on the shell. As we all know, cables are easy to lose, so this feature can certainly save you stress down the road.

Quick charging

As we mentioned above, not all USB ports are created equal. Sitting near the top are Quick Charge, iM-Power, and iSmart ports, because they’re able to deliver power significantly more efficiently than standard versions. Each brand’s technology is slightly different, but the systems can all detect the proper amperage and voltage for a particular device and tailor their power outputs to match. Not only does this decrease the charging times overall, they also reduce the wear on the device’s batteries and extend their life. As an example, a Quick Charge 3.0 port can charge a compatible device up to 80% in just 35 minutes.

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Did You Know?
USB connectors were launched in 1996, so there are several types. For clarity, the Type-A, Type-B, and Type-C monikers refer to the physical design. Type-A is common and rectangular, Type-B is square and often used in printers, and Type-C is the newest and thinnest.
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USB-C power bank prices

Inexpensive: USB-C power banks offer an incredible amount of freedom, and entry-level versions start at just $10 to $20. Battery capacity is on the lower end at this price point, generally between 10,000 and 15,000 milliamp-hours, but some include Quick Charge tech.

Mid-range: At $25 to $50, you’re getting the best bank for your buck. Very common here are 26,800-milliamp-hour batteries (just below Federal Aviation Administration limits), as are Quick Charge options, additional connectivity ports, and more reputable brands.

Expensive: Spend $50 to $75 and enjoy huge batteries with capacities exceeding 40,000 milliamp-hours. These are capable of charging phones, tablets, and even laptops multiple times, and they often support multi-device charging as well.

The Thunderbolt 3 port is yet another improvement to USB tech. It has the same physical design as the USB-C connector, but it allows for faster access to data. USB-C 3.2 ports can access data at 20 gigabits per second, but Thunderbolts can do it at 40.

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Tips

  • Purchase an extra cable with your USB-C power bank. It will save you a headache if you lose your primary cable or if your built-in cable fails. You might even come to the rescue if a friend loses theirs.
  • Confirm compatibility. If you aim to charge multiple devices at once, take the time to confirm that your chosen power bank supports it. Not every model with multiple connectors does. Supported power banks have overvoltage, overcurrent, and short-circuit protection.
  • Store your power bank in a cool, dry place. Keep it away from rapid temperature fluctuations and moisture. Also, avoid charging it to 100% and leaving it plugged in. This causes the power bank to consume energy as it replenishes itself, increasing wear.
  • Invest in a case or bag for your power bank. Not only do these protect the device from damage, they’re also convenient for storing cables, adapters, and whatever else you need in one place.
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Believe it or not, there are USB-C power banks with enough juice to jump-start your car. And while portable jump-starters are technically different from power banks, they often have USB-C functionality for mobile devices. Sometimes, they even feature 20-volt DC ports for laptops.

FAQ

Q. What are some examples of USB-C-compatible products?

A. The first USB-C 1.0 specification came out in 2014, and before long the connector was the industry standard, with a few notable exceptions. Today, nearly every new device you purchase features a USB-C port, allowing for rapid data transfer and charging through a single cable.

USB-C compatible products include the following:

For devices without a USB-C port, there are myriad adapters available to get your devices to talk to one another.

Q. How long do power banks last?

A. USB-C power banks are meant to last for several years and provide hundreds if not thousands of charges before the batteries degrade. While healthy, the batteries can hold a charge for months. All of this depends on how you treat the power bank, however.

Q. What are the current TSA regulations for power banks?

A. Power banks are must-haves when traveling, because it isn’t always easy to find outlets on the road. What’s more, you may need an adapter to connect to outlets in other countries, which makes portable power a vital part of any travel kit.

Unfortunately, not all power banks comply with airport regulations, and we’d hate for you to get turned back at security for bringing the wrong device. As of this writing, TSA mandates that portable chargers can be packed in carry-on bags only; they are not allowed in checked luggage. The FAA also says that battery voltage must not exceed 12 volts (V), and battery ratings must not exceed 100 watt-hours (Wh). You’re also limited to two spare batteries or chargers in your bag.

Confused about the conversions? This website simplifies the whole process — all you have to do is plug in the values. If you want to know more, read on.

Let’s start with battery voltage. Battery voltage is a measurement of the interior lithium cells, not the device’s output voltage. Lithium cells have around 3.6 volts, so on that front, you’re well under the 12-volt limit for the overwhelming majority of USB-C power banks.

To calculate Wh, multiply battery voltage (V) by its ampere-hours (Ah). Ampere-hours are found by dividing the milliamp-hours (mAh) by 1,000. For example, if you have a 26,800 mAh (26.8 Ah) lithium battery power bank, the equation is as follows: 3.6 V X 26.8 Ah = 96.5 Wh.

In this case, you’re under 12 volts and 100 watt-hours, so you’re okay to pack the power bank in a carry-on bag. This is an extremely common result, because power banks for mobile devices are generally designed to be below TSA and FAA limits. For extra peace of mind, seek out power banks that say, “TSA approved.”

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