Nathan Landale

The Technology for The Next Generation

Overhead view of the devices used for battery testing arranged on a table, including an iPhone, Galaxy phone and iPad, all face down.
Computer, Gadget & Technology

The best power banks for 2023


Whether you call them battery packs, power banks or portable chargers, these accessories do one thing well: charge devices when you can’t find an open outlet. Whether you’re heading out for a long work day or a long weekend to visit family and friends, battery packs are small, sturdy and powerful enough to charge your smartphone, tablet, laptop or even all three at once, depending on their size. Take stock of the devices you need when you’re on the go — those will dictate the size and type of power bank you’ll want to buy. With so many options on the market right now, we tested out a bunch of models to determine the best portable power banks you can get right now.

What to look for in a portable battery pack

Battery type

Nearly every rechargeable power bank you can buy (and most portable devices) contain a lithium-ion battery. These beat other current battery types in terms of size-to-charge capacity, and have even increased in energy density by eight fold in the past 14 years. They also don’t suffer from a memory effect (where battery life deteriorates due to partial charges).

One drawback you may have heard is the possibility of lithium ion batteries catching fire. To limit the danger, battery packs require internal mechanisms to limit things like voltage and pressure. While you should still make sure a battery isn’t exposed to unnecessary stress like excessive heat, damage from drops or operating in freezing weather, battery packs are considered safe enough to bring on an airplane. According to the TSA, external batteries rated at 100Wh or less (which all of our recommendations are) can fly with you – just make sure you stash them in your carryon the next time you fly as they aren’t allowed in checked baggage.

Capacity

Power bank manufacturers almost always list a battery’s capacity in milliamp hours, or mAh. Smaller batteries, say those that can charge a smartphone to between 50 and 75 percent, tend to have a 5,000mAh capacity. Larger batteries that can recharge laptops and tablets, or give phones multiple charges, can exceed 25,000mAh. Unsurprisingly, the prices on most batteries goes up as capacity increases, and since batteries are physical storage units, size and weight go up with capacity as well. If you want more power, be prepared to spend more and carry around a heavier brick.

You might think that a 10,000mAh power bank could charge a 5,000mAh phone to 100 percent twice, but that’s not the case. In addition to simple energy loss through heat dissipation, factors like voltage conversion also bring down the amount of juice that makes it into your phone. Most manufacturers list how many charges a battery can give a certain smartphone. In our tests, 10,000mAh of battery pack capacity translated to roughly 5,800mAh of device charge. 20,000mAh chargers delivered around 11,250mAh to a device, and 25,000mAh banks translated to about 16,200mAh of charge. That’s an average efficiency rate of around 60 percent.

Ports

While the tech world is (thankfully) moving towards USB-C charging as the standard, it’s still a mixed bag in the power bank world. All of our picks have at least one USB-C port and a few also have a USB-A port or two. Newer Android smartphones charge via USB-C, iPhones still use the Lightning port, but the latest tablets (including current generation iPads) and newer laptops are typically powered up via USB-C.

When a battery pack has more than one charging port, they usually serve different functions. You’ll typically see at least one port labeled “in/out,” which means you can use it to both charge the bank and charge your device. While USB-A ports can power up smartphones and other small devices, they can’t charge larger devices. Plus, they aren’t as fast as USB-C ports overall. That’s something to keep in mind when you’re deciding which ports and charging cables to use to connect your phone to the pack.

There’s even more variation among USB-C ports themselves, with different ports on the same device supporting different power transfer rates. What that means in practical terms is an iPhone will charge just fine plugged into a power bank’s 18W port. But to properly charge, say, a MacBook or similar laptop, it’ll need the extra juice supplied by a 100W port (which larger power banks can offer). Power banks with more than one port can also charge multiple devices at the same time, but speeds and the overall charge delivered will be lower.

You’ll also want to consider your charging cable. For anything larger than a smartphone (and to access fast-charging capabilities) you’ll want to use USB-C ports and cables. But not all cables are created equal, even when they have the same USB-C plugs on the end. If you want power delivery from a 100W USB-C power bank port, you’ll need a 100W-rated USB-C cable. Luckily, power banks capable of delivering 100W tend to include a compatible cable. For any devices that don’t, we’ve tried and liked Anker’s 100W USB-C cable. For smaller devices, we used this 60W cable from Nimble and we don’t recommend bothering with cables under 60W. For around $20, higher-capacity charging cables will make sure you’re not wasting time with connections that limit your potential power transfer.

Design

For the most part, battery packs have a squared-off, brick-like design, though many nod towards aesthetics with attractive finishes and detailing. While that doesn’t affect how they perform, it’s a consideration for something you’ll interact with regularly. Some portable power stations include extra features like MagSafe compatibility, a built-in wall plug or even a kickstand. Nearly all have some sort of indicator to let you know how much available charge your power bank has left, usually expressed with lighted pips near the power button. Some of the largest banks take that a step further with an LED display indicating a percentage for the remaining battery, which can be helpful if you’re relying on a pack in a mobile office setting or something similar.

How we tested

Overhead view of the devices used for battery testing arranged on a table, including an iPhone, Galaxy phone and iPad, all face down.
Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Before we even put our hands on a battery pack, we did extensive research. We considered brands Engadget reviewers and staff have tried over the years and we checked out customer ratings on retail sites like Amazon and Best Buy. Here’s the full list of power banks we’ve tested, which range from small wireless banks to large, multi-device batteries.

MagSafe-compatible

  • Apple MagSafe Battery Pack (5000 mAh)

  • Spigen ArcHybrid Mag (5000mAh)

  • Anker 521 Magnetic Battery (5000 mAh)

  • Anker 633 Magnetic Battery (10,000mAh)

Low capacity (≤10,000mAh)

  • Anker 511 Power Bank (5,000 mAh)

  • Anker 313 Power Bank (10,000mAh)

  • Nimble Champ (10,000mAh)

  • Biolite Charge 40 PD (10,000mAh)

Mid capacity (10,001 – 20,000mAh)

  • Otterbox Fast Charge (15,000mAh)

  • Mophie Powerstation Pro (20,000mAh)

  • Anker 535 PowerCore 20K (20,000mAh)

  • Anker Prime (20,000mAh)

  • Nestout Portable Charger (15,000mAh)

High capacity (20,001mAh+)

  • Mophie Powerstation Pro XL (25,000mAh)

  • Anker 737 Power Bank (25,600 mAh)

  • Zendure Supertank Pro (26,800mAh)

  • Mophie Powerstation Pro AC (27,000mAh)

As well as removing some products, adding new updated specs and updated prices

We’re continuously updating this guide as companies release new products and we test them. We remove some products as we find better top picks, and we add updated specs and prices where necessary. For testing, we used each battery with some combination of an iPhone 14 Plus, an iPhone 11, a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, a 5th-gen iPad Air and an M1 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro. I charged one device at a time, even though some packs are capable of multiple-device charging. I charged the phones or tablet from fully depleted to 100 percent (or until the power bank was dead), and didn’t use the device while they charged other than to power them on and enter the unlock code.

The six winning power banks arranged on a wooden table with a houseplant in the background
Amy Skorheim / Engadget

I used the charging cable included with each power bank to charge the Galaxy S22 Ultra, MacBook Pro and the iPad Air. For the iPhones, I used the USB-C to Lighting cable that Apple provides. In the case of the lower-capacity power banks that didn’t include a cord or included one with USB-C to USB-A connectors, I used this 60W-rated USB-C to USB-C cable.

For reference, here are the battery capacities of each device we used for testing:

  • iPhone 11: 3,110 mAh

  • iPhone 14 Plus: 4,325 mAh

  • Galaxy S22 Ultra: 4,855mAh

  • iPad Air: 7,729mAh

  • 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro: 27,027mAh

I noted the times for each charge and the number of charges each bank provided. I also paid attention to things like ease of use and overall design. Here’s what made the cut for best portable chargers:

Best MagSafe-compatible battery: Spigen ArcHybrid Mag

I went into this category expecting Apple’s own MagSafe battery pack to be a top pick. And while it performed admirably, charging a dead 14 Plus to about 43 percent in an hour and 45 minutes, Spigen’s ArcHybrid delivered a 56 percent charge in nearly the same amount of time. The ArcHybrid firmly attaches to the MagSafe ring and it’s flush enough that you can easily hold your phone and use it while charging up. Unlike the Apple battery, it includes four indicator lights to help you gauge how much juice the pack itself has left. Considering Spigen’s battery is $30 cheaper than Apple’s, it’s easy to recommend.

Alternatively, Anker’s 633 Magnetic battery delivered a larger charge thanks to its 10,000mAh capacity, boosting the iPhone to 100 percent in three hours with enough left over for an additional 29 percent charge. And while the kickstand feature felt mildly useful, the battery itself was bulky – but that’s understandable for a power bank that’s twice as large as Spigen’s. Ultimately, the ArcHybrid performed better as a quick and convenient way to give a partial charge to your iPhone on the go.

It’s important to note that wireless charging is less efficient than wired. Our tests showed wired battery banks deliver a device charge at around 60 percent efficiency. With the wireless chargers, that rate dropped to an average of 46 percent. Something to keep in mind when weighing the costs, both ecological and monetary, of wasted energy.

Best battery for a partial charge on an Android: Anker 511 Power Bank

Until Android phones get something like MagSafe, a wired connection makes the most sense for on-the-go charges. The Anker 511 Power Bank is a cleverly designed unit about the size and shape of a slim stick of butter. The battery has enough capacity to charge a depleted Galaxy S22 Ultra to 75 percent in a little over an hour, so you’ll be covered if you don’t have long between flights to give your phone a bit more juice. It also has a built-in plug and allows for pass-through charging, which means it can act as a wall adapter if you’re ever stuck with both a dead battery bank and phone, but happen to be near an outlet. It doesn’t come with a cable, though, so you’ll need to provide one that can go from the bank’s single USB-C port to your device.

Best low capacity battery: BioLite Charge 40 PD

BioLite is probably better known in the outdoor community than the tech world, and it’s fair to say that the Charge 40 PD is geared more towards camping trips than urban commutes. But this battery simply outperformed the others in its category. The rugged, yellow-accented exterior is a refreshing change from the standard shiny black of many tech accessories. It also has a rubberized finish and feels solid enough to handle the bumps and jolts of riding around in a purse or messenger bag all day. It gave both the iPhone and the Galaxy one and a half charges, which means it’s plenty capable of reviving a dead phone a couple of times when you’re out and about.

The Nimble Champ gets an honorary mention here because it’ll also deliver a few reliable fill-ups and comes in a rugged package. It delivered a full charge to the iPhone in two hours plus a 22 percent charge in 16 minutes. It gave the Galaxy a full charge in an hour and 44 minutes, then got the phone from dead to 41 percent in 50 minutes. At the same $60 price point as the BioLite, Nimble gets extra points for being one of the few B-Corp-certified personal tech manufacturers out there, meaning they’ve committed themselves to higher environmental and social standards, and took the time to prove it through B Lab’s certification process.

Best medium capacity battery: Otterbox Fast Charge

At the medium-capacity level, you can charge multiple devices at once or power up something larger than a phone. The Otterbox Fast Charge power bank only lists 15,000mAh of capacity, but it performed nearly as well as the 20,000mAh batteries while costing about $30 less. Over the month and a half I spent testing battery packs, this was the unit I grabbed the most when my own devices needed a charge. It has a stylish exterior with a gray faux leather finish and copper detailing. A little bigger than a deck of cards and weighing just over 11 ounces, it’s a nice looking accessory that feels solid.

It filled up both smartphones twice, then gave an additional third of a charge each. I introduced the iPad to the mix here and got a full charge plus an extra third. The Otterbox also lost very little battery power while sitting dormant, which means if you carry it around on the off chance that you’ll need it, it should have plenty of power when the time comes.

This category may have been the closest to call, as Anker’s 535 Power Core performed slightly better than the Otterbox, but Anker’s price point is higher. That said, if you want a screaming quick charge for your Galaxy phone, grab the 535. It got the Galaxy up to 100 percent three times, taking about an hour each time. It had enough left over for a small nine-percent charge before it finally gave up. While the battery did get pretty warm, it never felt overly hot. That one-hour fill up is the fastest any power bank was able to deliver a charge to the Galaxy, other than Anker’s 737, which shaved off a few minutes, but costs $90 more. I also appreciated the 535’s cool iridescent finish.

Update, 2/13/2023: Anker’s 535 Power Core battery, which we mentioned as an alternate medium-capacity option, has been recalled due to a potential fire hazard. If you’ve purchased the 535 battery pack, the Anker rep we spoke with recommended that you stop using the device and follow the guidelines from the EPA or local agencies to dispose of the battery. Follow this link to learn how to initiate a refund. 

Best high capacity battery: Anker PowerCore III Elite 26K 737 Power Bank

If you want something with a lot of charge that transfers quickly, go for the Anker PowerCore III Elite 26K. It was for the most part the fastest bank we tried, capable of delivering the largest amount of charge in the shortest period of time for the iPad and Galaxy. (Anker’s 535 got the iPhone to 100 percent an average of two minutes faster, but didn’t give as many charges.) The 737 fully charged our S22 Ultra three times, with enough power left over for another 93 percent charge – and those full charges completed in under an hour on average. That’s on par with wall charging. The numbers for the iPhone were slightly less staggering, but still impressive, going from zero to full in about an hour and a half. The iPad charged completely twice, and did so in just over two hours, which is also close to that device’s wall-connected charge speeds.

While it’s great for multiple full charges on a given smartphone, I should point out that the 737 has three ports, but only one of those provides USB-C charging. If you want to charge more than one device at a time, you’ll have to use the lower-efficiency USB-A ports for a couple of them. That said, this bank not only costs less than the other high capacity batteries we tried, it also includes a 65W PowerPort fast charger, which goes for $34 on its own.

The design is nothing groundbreaking, with a glossy black exterior and a metallic-looking finish on one side. It weighs a little over a pound and has the same general form as an old school TI-85 graphing calculator. Its single button has eight lighted pips to show you how much charge it has left.

Best mobile command center battery: Mophie Powerstation Pro AC

The TSA’s 100-watt-hour battery limit translates to around 27,000mAh for lithium ion batteries. Mophie’s Powerstation Pro AC is so massive it necessitates a grab handle and get close to the edge of that max carry-on size. You probably won’t find a larger, acceptable portable power bank — after all, an on-the-go charging brick is pointless if you can’t travel with it. I took this one through security at two airports and no one gave it a second glance.

To power your mobile work setup, the Powerstation has four ports. Three of them are the usual USBs, but there’s also a three-prong AC outlet. Most current devices charge via USB (and doing so is more efficient than using a power adapter between the cable and power bank), but older devices and certain mobile workstation accessories — speakers, lights and printers come to mind — might only power up through a basic wall plug. Just be sure to hold down the status button until the light turns red to turn on the AC port.

The AC plug powered most small appliances I plugged into it, including a small speaker, an HP printer and various LED lights. The 100 available watts isn’t enough to continuously push a charge through the 140W power adapter that ships with the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but via the USB-C port, it was able to charge that laptop from 10 percent to 75 percent in under 90 minutes.

The four lighted LED indicators will tell you when the battery is full. Unfortunately, it’s not the best indicator of when the bank will run out of juice. It charges for quite a while with four and three pips lit up, but then quickly cycles through the last two dots before it dies. So it might be better to just remember how much you’ve used the brick rather than relying too heavily on its indicators.

Smaller devices like a smartphone will get numerous charges; I got nearly five refills on an iPhone 11, and two charges and some change on an iPad. The Powerstation Pro AC was even a little faster at both tasks than our previous pick for a mobile command center. That said, this bank is overkill for a simple mobile device fill-up. At 2.6 pounds, it makes the most sense as a power source when you’re working in the field with multiple components.

The Zendure Supertank Pro is also a great pick. It’s slightly smaller at 26800mAh but has a lighted LED display that indicates exactly how much charge remains and how much you’re using. It has four variable-wattage USB-C ports, a tough exterior and comes with a semi-hard case. 

Best premium: Anker Prime 20,000mAh Power Bank

Not only does Anker’s new 20,000mAh Prime power bank look pretty slick, it’s also easier to recharge — as long as you pony up for the companion base. Magnets help align the pins so you can just plonk the battery down and move on with your life. The set will run you $200, which is pretty spendy for a battery bank, but if you consider that the base offers extra ports (one USB-A and two USB-C), you can also use it as a power hub for other devices, which takes some of the sting out of the price.

The battery itself has the same three ports and a blocky, upright design. The case is a textured metallic plastic with a high-polish, built-in screen and rounded corners. It tells you how many watts are flowing out to each device and displays the overall remaining charge within the battery. When you press the power button, it takes a moment to wake. But the extra processes that run the screen don’t seem to slow the battery down or diminish the power it has to give. Its charge times and capacity was on par with the other 20K batteries I’ve tested.

I’ve been pretty careful with my review unit, but I’d be worried that the sleek and shiny finish will get wrecked with regular use. It does come with a faux-suede pouch to carry it in, but I doubt anyone will use that regularly — after all, the whole appeal of the Prime’s base and battery set is the low-hassle efficiency.

Best power bank for outdoors: Nestout Portable Charger

Plenty of battery packs are built to withstand drops and other abuse, but very few are waterproof or even water resistance. It makes sense; water and electrical charges aren’t good companions. The Nestout Portable Charger battery has an IP67 rating, which means it can handle being submerged in water for a number of minutes, and Nestout claims a 30-minute dunk in a meter of water shouldn’t interfere with the battery’s operation. I couldn’t think of a likely scenario where a power bank would spend a half hour in three feet of water, but I could see a backpacker traversing a river and submerging their pack for a few minutes, or a sudden downpour drenching all of their gear. So I tested by dropping the battery in a five gallon bucket of water for five minutes. After drying it off, the unit performed as if it had never been wet.

The water resistance comes courtesy of screw-on caps with silicone gaskets that physically keep the water out, so you’ll need to make sure you tighten (but don’t over tighten) the caps whenever you think wetness is in your future. The company also claims the battery lives up to a military-standard shock/drop specification which sounds impressive, but it’s hard to pin down what exactly that means. I figured it should at minimum survive repeated drops from chest height onto a hard surface, and it did.

As for charging speeds, it wasn’t quite as quick as our recommendation for a mid-capacity bank. The Otterbox charged an iPhone 14 Plus to 80 percent in about an hour and the Nestout got the smaller iPhone 11 to 80 percent in the same amount of time. Another thing to note is that the supplied cable is short, just seven inches total, so you’ll likely want to use your own cord.

Nestout also makes accessories for its batteries, which I found delightful. A dimmable LED worklight snaps on to the top of the battery while a small tripod holds them both up. The portable solar panel reminded me of a baby version of Biolite’s camping panels. Nestout’s version refilled the 15,000mAh bank to 40 percent in under three hours, which sounds slow, but is actually fairly impressive considering the compact size of the panels. This is also a blazingly hot summer, so I’d expect better performance in more reasonable weather.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-power-bank-143048526.html?src=rss



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