The Best Battery Packs to Keep Your Gadgets Going
Chances are you’ve been stuck more than once searching for an outlet to top off a dying smartphone battery. If you’re looking to avoid that stress in the future, a portable battery pack is a great way to give yourself some added peace of mind and ensure that your mobile devices are always charged when you need them. Even if you’re not using it every day, it’s a great thing to keep on-hand (and juiced) in the event of an emergency, power outage, or if you just need something to run your lantern off of at the campsite.
Deciding to get one is simple. Choosing which one to get, however, isn’t. Some might only be able to partially recharge your smartphone or tablet (or juice it more slowly than your wall charger), while others are able to quickly recharge multiple devices but might be more than you need. Read on for buying advice and things to consider, plus reviews of stand-out models that are worth your hard-earned cash.
Size vs. Capacity
When deciding on a portable battery pack, keep in mind when and where you’re going to use it, and what you’ll be using it for. If you often find yourself looking to top off your smartphone battery during your daily routine, you’ll likely want a more portable but smaller capacity battery pack that’s easier to carry with you. If, on the other hand, you’re traveling a lot or regularly find yourself far from a power outlet for extended periods of time, you might be more inclined to trade some portability for added capacity that can let you recharge a number of devices (even a laptop) a couple of times over.
Like your smartphone or laptop’s battery, a portable battery pack’s capacity is measured in milliamp hours (or mAh). And that capacity can range from 1,000 or 1,500 in the smallest, most portable battery packs (enough to only partially recharge an average smartphone) to tens of thousands in higher capacity units—the biggest of which can weigh as much as the laptops they’re designed to power.
Another important consideration when it comes to portable battery packs is connectivity. While almost all of them will have at least one standard USB port to charge a range of devices, many also have Lightning connectors for Apple devices, as well as USB-C ports for newer smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets like the Nintendo Switch. Some larger battery packs can even have a regular AC outlet built into them.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the battery pack’s power output, which can indicate how fast it’s able to recharge devices. As you’d expect, the higher the output, the faster it provides juice—given your phone or other device supports that level of charging. Chargers with a low power output (under ten watts) will charge your phone more slowly that your regular power adapter, while a higher output (up to 45 watts) will be able to easily charge most USB-C laptops relatively quickly.
How We Chose
To select these portable battery packs, we relied on our own previous research on the subject and experience using similar devices. Then we consulted reviews from a range of trusted publications, including PC World, Wirecutter, and Android Central. We also took into account customer ratings from online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, using them to calculate our Consumer Score. This represents the percentage of reviewers on those sites that rated the battery packs at least four out of five stars.
When your smartphone can’t make it through the day, have a backup plan.