WHAT ARE POWER BANKS AND WHAT DO WE USE THEM FOR?
Power bank is relatively small and usually highly portable device that is used to recharge the battery of some other device (usually phone battery) on the go. They are also called chargers or external batteries and one of their most important features is their size. Power banks tend to be as small and as powerful as possible. That way, you can wear them in your bag or even pocket and use anytime you need them, no matter where you are.
Those devices are very useful for any of us, especially for business people who use their phones every day for many hours. Modern phones usually have powerful batteries, but they also have large screens and many apps that “eat” the battery very fast, no matter how many mAh it has. Besides that, no battery can really survive the whole day if you spend the whole day typing messages and making calls. That’s why we use power banks. They can recharge phone battery very fast whenever we don’t have wall socket nearby.
They can be divided into three basic groups by the power (number of mAh) and size. The first group relates to the smallest power banks (they aren’t usually bigger than an average lipstick), their capacity isn’t usually larger than 5000 mAh and they can charge your phone only once. These are the cheapest power banks on the market. The second mid-priced group relates to stronger devices with 5000-10000 mAh capacity and they can charge your phone at least twice. The third group relates to more expensive products with more than 10000 mAh. They are the most expensive but they can charge your phone battery multiple times.
THE MOST IMPORTANT POWER BANK FEATURES
Power bank capacity is measured in mAh, just like the capacity of your phone battery, because power bank is, in fact, one case with the battery inside. The battery is used for storing electrical energy and recharging other, less powerful batteries on different devices such as phones, tablets, players, etc.
Capacity affects the size of the power bank because batteries with bigger capacity require bigger cases, which are also heavier and less portable. External battery capacity also affects the number of times you can use it to recharge your device, but that also depends on the device itself. For example, if you have a phone with 2000 mAh battery, it means that a bank with 3000 mAh can charge it only once, but the bank with 5000 or 6000 mAh can charge it twice.
- Adequate input/output ports
Most of the power banks have at least two ports – one input port that is used for recharging the bank itself and the output port used for connecting to other devices that should be charged. Modern power banks have more than one output port and there are often not only USB (mini, micro) ports, but also Lightning or USB-C ports. USB-C and Lightning ports enable faster charging, but your choice will depend only on the type of device you have and on the type of port on that device. The best option would be to have all those ports, but it is quite rare. USB-A ports are commonly used as output ports, while micro USB ports play the role of input ports.
Besides that, pay attention to the cables that come with certain power bank. It is very important that the connector on the other side of the cable can be inserted into your phone or any other device you want to charge. For example, if you have a cable with USB-C connector and your device doesn’t support it, there’s no way to charge a phone with micro USB input port.
OPTIONAL POWER BANK FEATURES
- Fast / Smart charging
There is an easy way to find out if you will be able to charge your device fast or not. The charging speed depends on wattage (W) that is defined by multiplying voltage (V – potential energy) and amperage (A – the amount of energy that goes from power bank to your device). Fact charging relates to wattage higher than 10 (5V/2.1A). Anything below that is standard charging speed. However, the speed also depends on your device specs. If it supports only 5V/1A, don’t count on fast charging as the device receives the amount of power it was designed for.
Many power bank manufacturers have their own technologies for fast and smart charging and they all have different names. Here are some names so you can recognize them when you see them in power bank specs: PowerIQ, AiPower, VoltiQ, iSmart, etc. The point is that the power bank detects the type of device it is charging (for example, if it is phone or tablet). Tablets and iPads usually can receive more power and power bank supplies them with the maximum power they can receive. That way, they increase charging speed.
- Pass through
This feature is not obligatory or common, but it is still very useful. It comes in handy when both your device and power bank batteries are low. In that situation, if your power bank supports this feature, you will be able to connect the bank to the wall socket and the device to the bank, so that they can charge at the same time.
1) Anker PowerCore+ mini 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger
Anker PowerCore+ Mini is one of the smallest (3.5×0.9×0.9 in) and cheapest power banks on the market that does its job very well. It does nothing special really, but it is great as a backup battery. PowerCore+ Mini weighs only 2.8 ounces, it has 3350 mAh capacity, one 1A input, and one 5V/1A output port. It also uses PowerIQ charging technology that detects maximum current flow that your device can receive.
PowerCore+ Mini is extremely small and lightweight external battery that can be thrown in a pocket or bag and used in case of emergency at any place and any time. Its dimensions let you forget about it when you don’t have to use it. Besides that, this power bank is surprisingly well built (it has metal housing).
PowerCore+ Mini comes in a nice cardboard box with 18-month warranty, user manual, one black carrying pouch and USB-A to USB mini charging cable.
As far as design is concerned, the product is available in many colors (black, pink, silver, golden, blue) with shiny matte finish. It looks compact and elegant. Next to the ports, you will see small button that is used to start charging as well as LED indicator showing when the bank is fully charged.
This charger is not made to be severely used, as it has some problems with USB ports that sometimes fall apart.
It also doesn’t support fast charging. You can be sure that it can’t charge anything but phone, but depending on the type of the phone, you might even not get one full charge. For example, if you have iPhone 5 – iPhone 7, you can get even more than one full charge. It can also charge some lees needy Android phones, but if you have newer models of Samsung Galaxy, don’t buy this bank.
One more thing – Lightning cable is not included in the package, so you can use your own or buy one separately.
2) RAVPower RP-PB19 16750mAh External Battery
RAVPower is very powerful external battery that can be used for charging not only phones but also tablets, but its capacity (16750 mAh) makes it a bit bulky. Its dimensions are 5.0×3.2×0.86 inches and it weighs 10.9 ounces. RP-PB19 has one 2A input port and 2 output ports (5V/2.4A and 5V/2.1A). It also uses iSmart+ 2.0 charging technology and special protection from overheating, over current and short circuits.
RP-PB19 is nicely designed charger available in black and white colors. They have nice matte finish and look quite smooth. They come in a nice package with two USB to micro USB charging cables, 18-month warranty card, user manual and one nice carrying pouch.
This power bank has great capacity and it has one micro USB input port as well as two USB-A output ports with total current output of 4.5A. Both of the ports support fast charging but don’t count on that if your device doesn’t support current input of 2.1A or 2.4A. RP-PB19 also uses iSmart+ 2.0 charging technology, which means the power bank recognizes the maximum power that your device can receive and supplies it with that exact amount.
This device can charge many different phones several times, while tablets can be recharged probably only once. It also has flashlight that turns on any time you press and hold the round button on the front side of the bank above the status indicator light. That indicator turns on any time you shortly press the previously mentioned button. It is divided into 4 parts, each of them representing 25% of battery capacity. If you have all 4 of them showing blue light, it means your bank is fully charged.
As all banks with high capacity, RP-PB19 is a bit bulky, but not nearly as some others. It is great that you can charge two devices at once, but be aware that by doing that you make the bank practically not portable.
Also, if you don’t have wall charger with 5V/2A output, be prepared to spend long hours waiting for the bank to be recharged.
3) EasyAcc 20000mAh Portable Charger
EasyAcc MS20000-BO portable charger is powerful device that you can get at very affordable price. Its full capacity is 20000 mAh, its dimensions are 6.6×3.1×0.8 inches and it weighs approximately 16 ounces. It has 2 input ports (4A max) and even 4 smart output ports (4.8A max).
This power bank has very attractive and simple design. It is available in all-black, black-red and black-orange versions with matte finish that looks quite smooth. On the side of the bank, you have one button. When pressed once, it activates 4 LED indicators on the front side that show you how much juice you have left. If pressed twice, it will turn the flashlight on.
The charger has two input ports that enable you to cut charging time in half and reduce it to 6-8 hours (in case you have two-port wall charger). The 4 output ports enable smart charging by detecting the optimal power that your device can receive and make charging faster than usual. You can charge 4 devices at the same time at maximum speed without any problems. This makes it very useful for big family trips.
This power bank has ability to charge many smartphones several times (iPhone 7 up to 6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 up to 4 times) and iPad Mini even twice, which is pretty great.
On the down side, MS20000-BO doesn’t offer all 20000 mAh. You actually get only about 14000 mAh. Wall charger with 2 USB ports is not included in the package, so you have to get it separately because the power bank charges significantly slower without the appropriate wall charger. Also, it has 4 output ports and it comes with only 2 charging cable none of which is Lightning cable. In addition, carrying pouch is not included and the bank itself is a bit heavy.
4) Lumina A1601 15000mAh Power Bank
Lumina A1601 power bank comes with a full capacity of 15000 mAh, one micro USB 2A input port and two 2.4A USB-A smart output ports. The battery is quite large (6.7×4.1×0.6 inches) and it weighs a whole pound.
This power bank has very nice and simple design. The all-black style and matte finish make it look rather elegant. It is interesting that the battery doesn’t have any button. It has LED display. All you have to do is to shake the power bank and the battery status will appear on the display.
The battery comes in a nice and stylish box with one very short USB to micro USB charging cable that enables fast charging (it can be fully recharged in about 6-7 hours). Both the power banks and the cable look rather durable and the inside of the battery was made from Aluminum Alloy, although the case is plastic.
It is really great that you can charge two devices simultaneously at maximum allowed speed and it can recharge many smartphones many times (S7 Edge more than 3 times, iPhone 6s more than 4 times) while it can recharge low capacity iPads twice.
On the other side, the power bank is a bit bulky and heavy. You won’t be able to wear it in your pocket, but it will feel fine in your bag or backpack.
Although the full capacity is 15000 mAh, the power bank loses part of the energy during charging other devices and you will have approximately 12000 mAh at your disposal, depending on the number of output ports used at the same time.
Pay attention to the ports. Use them carefully as they seem poorly built.
Also, if you want to charge your power bank fast, buy 2A wall charger as it is not included in the package, just like Lightning cable or at least another USB charging cable.