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Published Oct. 7, 2021

Most of the time, our gadgets are magical little devices that fill our lives with content and communication. Then the battery dies and they become pricy little bricks that fill us with frustration. Luckily portable power banks have gotten better and cheaper in recent years. But, you can’t just go buy any old rectangle full of cells and expect to have the best experience. You want your power bank to match your needs so you can keep your specific collection of electronics alive and kicking during that painfully long wait at the oil change place or the waiting room at the doctor’s office. 

We’ve selected a variety of the best portable power banks with specific specs that fit user needs. Some offer massive power storage, while others offer built-in conveniences like built-in charging cables in case you’re the forgetful type. Here are some meticulously researched recommendations for the best portable power banks.

Best power bank for iPhone: iWalk Portable Charger with Lightning

Lightning in a bottle

Don’t worry about forgetting your cable because there’s one built in.

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Why it made the cut: The rounded, compact form factor makes it easy to lug and the built-in Lightning cable allows it to charge an iPhone without an extra cord. The iWalk Portable Charger is one of the best power banks for iPhones.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 9,000 mAh
  • Connectivity: Lightning, USB-C
  • Weight: 10 ounces

Pros: 

  • Built-in iPhone connector
  • 9,000 mAh battery
  • Charges two devices at once
  • Four color options

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Slightly pricy

Even the biggest, most fully charged power bank won’t help you out of a jam if you can’t plug your phone into it. This 9,000 mAh charger has a short Lightning cable integrated into its top. You can plug it directly into any iPhone with a modern connector, which really comes in handy if you’re forgetful or you hate trying to coil up a long cable to cram into your bag. 

In addition to the Lightning connector, there’s also a USB-C port on the side. That’s how you charge the power bank, but it can also spit power out so you can charge another device and your iPhone at the same time. 

The 9,000 mAh battery is plenty of power for several full iPhone charges, even if you drain the battery completely. Both the USB-C and the Lightning connector output 5V maximum, which means you shouldn’t expect your device to charge super quickly, but it’s more than enough to top off your device or even bring it back from the dead. 

Apple just refreshed its iPhone line and looks like it’s sticking ardently to the Lightning connector, at least for now, so the built-in cable will be useful for years down the road.

Best portable power bank with AC outlet: Omnicharge 20+

Big plug

This burly bank can handle heavy duty charging tasks most portables can’t.

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Why it made the cut: In addition to the typical USB ports, this massive charger also has a typical AC outlet so you can charge larger devices that draw more power. 

Specs:

  • Capacity: 20,000 mAh
  • Connectivity: USB-C, USB-A, AC, DC (for laptops), wireless
  • Weight: 23 ounces

Pros:

  • Large capacity battery
  • AC outlet
  • DC laptop charging
  • Handy display

Cons:

  • Pricy
  • Heavy

Some devices require a little more oomph than a typical USB-only charger can deliver. The Omnicharge 20+ has a 20,000 mAh battery inside, which isn’t out of the normal for a high-end power bank. It differentiates itself, however, with its connectors. It has a full-on AC outlet on the side, just like the one you’d find on your wall. That allows you to plug in more robust devices, like an older laptop, PC, or musical gear. Of course, those power-hungry devices will drain the battery more quickly, but it’s much easier to lug than a huge generator. 

The device has a pair of USB-A ports on the front, a USB-C port, as well as a DC out that allows you to directly charge a laptop much more efficiently than converting back and forth to and from AC power. 

The top of the device has a Qi coil built-in so you can wirelessly charge a smartphone or other Qi-compatible device just by setting it on top of the Omnicharge. 

At the end of the day, this is one of the most powerful portable power banks you’re going to find full stop. If you don’t mind the weight, it can do just about anything you could want it to do.

Best solar power bank: Anker PowerCore Solar

Sun salutation

When you’re away from the mains, the sun can help.

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Why it made the cut:  A built-in solar panel can pull a charge from the sun if you’re out in the wild where wired electricity is out of the question. 

Specs:

  • Capacity: 20,000 mAh
  • Connectivity: USB-C
  • Weight: 16 ounces

Pros:

  • Large capacity
  • Built-in solar charging
  • Fast output
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Ruggedized against water and dust

Cons:

  • Solar charging takes a long time
  • Big

Even portable battery banks run out of juice sometimes. And if you’re not near a plug, it might as well be a brick taking up space in your backpack. This solar power bank from Anker wraps a hefty 20,000 mAh battery in a tough outer shell that’s reinforced to protect against the elements. It brings with it an IP65 rating, which means it’s resistant to water and totally sealed against dust getting inside to destroy the delicate electronics. 

The real differentiator, however, lives on the top of the battery pack. A built-in solar panel can slowly recharge the cells inside to give you a little extra juice without having to find an outlet. Solar charging isn’t fast, even with large panels, so it will take several days to fully charge this one-pound device. But, if you’re in the woods and you just need a little bit of emergency power, it will do the job. 

Even if you don’t plan on getting stranded, it’s still a full-featured battery pack with some upscale features that are useful in everyday life. It offers 12W charging via the built-in USB port, which is faster than some competitive models. The integrated LED flashlight could also come in handy where a typical battery pack wouldn’t.

Best cheap portable power bank: Anker PowerCore Slim

Just the basics

This is a great option if you’re just looking for a simple charger.

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Why it made the cut: With this simple, slim drive, you’re not paying for extra features or capacity you won’t need.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 10,000 mAh
  • Connectivity: USB-A
  • Weight: 8 ounces

Pros: 

  • Cheap
  • Durable
  • Good thermal protection
  • Large capacity

Cons: 

  • USB-A out only
  • One charging port

Sometimes, all you need is a little brick full of electricity. That’s what Anker has offered with this 10,000 mAh power bank. The USB-A port on the end of this device can put out up to 12W of charging power to a single device, which is actually fairly quick when you consider the price. 

Even for this low price, Anker still equipped this device with its advanced thermal protection systems, which help avoid overheating and protect the health of your smartphone’s battery in the long term. 

The power bank charges via USB-C, but those ports are input-only, so don’t expect to use them for charging other devices. 

This really is a fairly barebones solution, but it does exactly what it promises for less than the price of a late-night order from the local fast food joint.

Best portable charger with USB-C: Mophie Power Station XXL

Port of entry

Lots of battery life and ample USB options make this appealing to Android and Switch users

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Why we picked it: With access to 18W fast charging, this USB-C power bank can juice up a smartphone faster than most 12W models in its class.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 20,000 mAh
  • Connectivity: USB-C, USB-A
  • Weight: 17 ounces

Pros: 

  • Bidirectional USB-C port
  • USB-A compatibility
  • Big battery
  • Nice fabric exterior

Cons:

  • Big

USB-C has been slowly taking over from the familiar USB-A format for years now. This powerful pack has a bidirectional USB-C port built-in. That means you can charge the device with it, then plug in a cable and use that same port to power up your smartphone or other devices. There are also two USB-A ports onboard in case you want to connect an older cable. 

The USB-C port has an 18W output, which is up to 50 percent faster than some of its competition, which offers 12W charging. That will create noticeably faster charging times with the right cable and device. The USB-A ports aren’t as fast, but they are all accessible at once, which means you can plug up to three devices in at the same time and give all of them a battery boost. 

This USB-C portable charger also looks a little fancier than most of its competition. The outside sports a layer of textured fabric that provides a solid grip and defense against scuffs. 

Methodology

To pick the best portable power banks, we relied on a mixture of in-depth online research and hands-on testing that involved playing too many smartphone games and then impatiently waiting for our devices to turn back on once we attached the charger. 

We surveyed dozens of models across a number of categories, taking into consideration the promised specs as well as real-world performance. I personally carry at least two phones with me at any given time and they’re always running out of battery, so these power packs have come in clutch on many occasions. 

Things to consider before buying a portable power bank

There are some crucial differences to worry about before making a purchase. Here are some of the most important variables to know. 

Capacity

This is the big one. You’ll typically find portable power banks measure their overall capacity in terms of mAh, which stands for milliamp hours. In short, a higher number represents a larger overall capacity for energy storage. You’ll often find models starting as low as 3,000-4,000 mAh, but they can regularly climb up to 20,000 mAh. For reference, your phone’s battery capacity is probably somewhere in the 3,000 to 5,000 mAh range. There are many variables that will determine how much real-world charge you get out of a device. Things like temperature, charging speed, and the age of the battery itself will affect its overall ability to hold a charge. But, as a general rule, bigger means more power inside.

Size and weight

If you’re only ever going to need to charge your phone once, then you probably don’t want to opt for something that weighs more than a pound. They take up too much space in your bag and are unwieldy if you’re trying to hold them next to your device during the charging process. More capacity is good, but it comes at the cost of portability. Buy what you need so you’re not carrying around a literal power brick. 

Connectivity

Most charging bricks will have either USB-A (the old, rectangular kind you’ve been using forever) or USB-C, which has an oval-shaped connector. Make sure the power bank you pick has the right kind of connector for your gear. Some larger power banks also come with AC adapters, but you’ll have to go looking for those specifically since it’s not a common feature. 

Charging speed

You may notice that some power banks charge your devices slower than others. You can typically tell how fast it’s going to charge by the wattage rating on each port. It’s not uncommon to see 5W, 12W, or even up to 18W charging depending on the selection of ports. If speed is a consideration, be sure to check the ratings before you buy. 

Wireless charging

A few portable power banks offer wireless charging, which means you can set your smartphone (or other compatible devices) on top of it and charge without having to actually plug it in. This can be handy, but be aware that it’s not very efficient, so you’ll burn up more of the power bank’s storage getting your smartphone charged. It’s also typically rather slow, so the wired method is usually better. But, if you forgot your cable, it’s nice to have as a backup. 

FAQs

Q: Are cheap power banks any good?

When buying a cheap power bank, we recommend sticking with reliable brands and known models. These are batteries after all, and they have a ton of power stored inside. If the thermal management is lacking, they can literally catch on fire. Go with something reliable. Even if nothing catastrophic happens, cheap cells can wear out more quickly and leave you stranded without a charge.

Q: How many mAh is good for a power bank?

It depends on what you’re charging and how big you want the device to be. The 20,000 mAh banks are great because they can recharge your device several times. They’re also usually fairly chunky and weigh more than a pound. On the other hand, you don’t want to run out of juice at an inconvenient time. I typically recommend going at least 9,000 mAh, but you can go less if you only need the occasional top-off.

Q: How long do portable power banks last?

Batteries degrade every time you discharge them and then power them back up, so your experience may depend on usage. If you have one that’s more than four of five years old, it’s definitely time to replace it. You may also want to replace it if you start to notice that it doesn’t hold as much of a charge. They’re very cheap now, so there’s no reason to suffer.

Final thoughts about the best portable power banks

Maybe someday down the road, batteries will last indefinitely. We’ll have some kind of magical Tony Stark technology that will let our gadgets thrive without needing a trip to the charger. Until that day, however, packing extra power with you can really save the day. The best portable power banks can keep you up and running well past your device’s expected lifetime. You can use that time to finish up crucial work or watch just a few more TikToks while they replace your tires. The possibilities are endless.

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