This is the real deal!
Phones and laptops get better battery life than ever before, yet we still find our devices time and time again in need of a little pick-me-up, and that’s where portable chargers — power banks, if you will — come in, and these days, our options are far more varied than you probably know.
They come in so many forms: pocket-able MagSafe batteries with just enough to push you to the end of your day, powerful multiple-device bricks, and even large power packs meant to recharge your laptop or start up your car’s dead battery. It may seem like a battery is a battery, and to some degree I’m with you on that, but each has its own little touches that can make one a surprisingly great product or an annoyance that all-too-frequently leaves you with a dead phone where you expected a fully-rejuvenated one. After looking at the best options from many of the top brands in this space, these are the best portable chargers you can get today.
Inside this article
Price: $29.99 | Ports: 3 | Output Wattage: 15W
- Slim and packable
- Three ports for charging multiple devices
- Doesn't feel as sturdy as other options
At just under $30, the offers the best compromise between cost and functionality of the chargers I tested. Rated for 15W output from any of its two USB-A or one USB-C ports, it’s about as quick as using , which for iPhone users is pretty fast, but it may feel limited for Android users, whose phones support as much as 45W charging (as in the case of the ). The three ports can be used simultaneously, though of course, charging speed will be limited to a maximum of 15 watts, split amongst them.
The charger automatically activates when something is plugged into it, a state that is indicated by four LED lights on the side. Based on the number of these pinprick LEDs showing, you can ascertain how depleted the battery is. The battery feels sturdy enough, with a very slender profile making it easy to slip the charger into a purse or backpack — though I don’t know that it would stand up to as much abuse as some of the pricier, beefier options from the likes of Anker.
Still, being a lightweight 10,000mAh power bank, this Belkin power bank is a great option if you want an easily-packable, slim option that will keep your devices juiced up on multi-day trips without needing to go outlet hunting.
Best for mobile professionals
Price: $74.99 | Ports: 2 | Output Wattage: 20W
- 20000mAh capacity
- 20W USB-C fast charging
- Only two ports
It’s hard not to recommend the company that essentially created the power bank category on Amazon. The is a sturdy, capacious portable charger that can keep your phone going for days on end without ever seeing a wall charger. Up to 20 watts of power throughput is available via the USB-C PD port, while the USB-A port can be used to simultaneously charge a second device at 18 watts.
This device feels very well-built, perhaps owing to the heft of the heat sink Anker indicates is inside in its product photography. Where other power banks give off a hollow resonance when tapped, the Anker PowerCore Essential 20000 PD comes across as a dense, reassuringly-solid item.
For anyone working around town with power-sipping laptops like the , or who want to keep camera batteries charged while on assignment, this is a perfectly packable, durable power bank with plenty of juice to keep you going.
Best for travel
Price: $199.99 | Ports: 4 | Output Wattage: 100W
- High-wattage AC outlet
- 45W USB-C PD output
- Capacity feels like it could be higher
The is a good compromise between massive power stations (like the ones our own Zoë Hannah looked at) and packable, if limited, power banks that can keep your personal devices charged. Though certainly larger than the latter, the PowerHouse is still small enough to slip into a laptop bag, with a 100W AC output significantly extending your laptop’s battery life. Its generous 27,000mAh capacity only takes between 2 and 3 hours to reach when using the included 45W USB-C PD wall adapter and USB-C cable.
I do have concerns about durability, however; at one point during testing I dropped the unit with a USB-C cable plugged in, which loosened one of the side seams and partially disabled the USB-C connector. Though I was able to snap the housing back together, and the port was still somewhat usable (it no longer charges my devices, but the power bank itself can still be charged), it was disappointing that such a short fall managed to do so much damage.
That said, I would still recommend this. For the less clumsy, the Anker 511 PowerHouse is a very practical device, and one that goes right up to the edge of what’s allowed in international carry-on luggage, making it the best power bank for traveling professionals or anyone who just likes to have backup power.
Best magnetic portable charger
Price: $69.99 | Ports: 1 | Output wattage: up to 7.5W | Capacity: 5,000mAh
- Pulls double duty as a stand
- Starts charging automatically
- A little big for iPhone 12 mini or 13 Mini owners
Apple released a great proof of concept in its , which feels great in the hand and has nice touches like on-screen battery percentage and a physical clicking sound when attached, mimicking the sound the iPhone makes when locked. However, the slight portable battery, for all its slick implementation and despite being my favorite MagSafe power bank, misses in this category because of its comparatively-minuscule 1,460mAh capacity and the fact it uses Lightning to recharge, and can’t be used for wired charging of any devices, greatly limiting its usefulness.
It’s , then, that gets my pick. Its 5,000mAh battery will get your phone a full charge and then some, whether you’re using its Qi-based up-to-7.5W wireless charging feature or you’re going wired via the USB-C port on the bottom. Add to that the folding stand and its pocketable size, as well as the fact it starts charging automatically when a phone is attached to it, and you get the best option for most MagSafe lovers.
For owners of Apple’s iPhones 12 and 13 Mini, it may be a bit too large, as it adds a fat neck to the bottom of those diminutive phones.
Best budget MagSafe-style power bank
Price: $49.99 | Ports: 1 | Output wattage: Up to 7.5W | Capacity: 2,500mAh
- Almost identical to Apple MagSafe Battery Pack
- Higher capacity than Apple’s option
- Doesn’t start charging automatically
Being the same size and form factor as Apple’s battery pack but only half the price, it seems like a no-brainer to buy Belkin’s more affordable offering, but you do give up some features. For one, this charger doesn’t start automatically when a phone is attached. The button to activate it is a small one on the side, flush with the device and hard to find by feel. It’s easy to believe you’ve pressed it and, unless you verify it’s charging, not discover until way later that you were never charging your phone at all.
A smaller missing feature is one shared by any MagSafe charger not made by Apple — you’ll not be treated to its charge status in the iPhone battery widget. In honesty though, this only feels like a drawback once you’ve used Apple’s variant, and not a dealbreaker. Finally, although rated for 2,500mAh, in testing it seemed closer to 1,700mAh, which is likely explained by some energy leaving in the form of heat, and no great surprise.
Best for emergencies
Price: $125.95 | Ports: 3 | Output wattage: Varies | Capacity: About 6,000mAh
It stinks when you get in your car only to find your battery dead, and sometimes there just isn’t anyone around to help you out — maybe you’re out driving in the high desert in Utah and the nearest auto shop with a tow truck is 100 miles away. That’s when something like the Mophie Powerstation Go Rugged Compact power bank becomes a powerful tool to have at your disposal.
The Powerstation Go Rugged Compact isn’t the most capacious battery, and its listed 29,900mWh capacity translates to a touch under 6,000mAh at 5 volts. But that’s not the main attraction anyway: this device comes with car battery terminal clamps which can output 600 amps — plenty to turn over a car engine with a dead battery, even in cold weather.
Other features of this power bank include a flashlight with three settings — solid white, solid red, and blinking red — and two 7.5W USB ports. Oddly, the single USB-C port on the other side is for charging the Powerstation Go itself, and cannot be used to power other devices.
How we picked the best portable battery
As I’ve been a fan of power banks for many years, I know which brands I trust and which ones seem suspicious. To bolster that, I looked at the best current (no pun intended) batteries by taking a look at reviews from the good folks at CNET, Wirecutter, and others. Putting those together, I got in touch with the companies you see represented in this list, among others, and assembled 15 different devices. All were great in their own ways, but those listed here were my picks for the best.
What to look for in a portable battery
Picking the right portable battery of course depends on what you need to charge. If your only concern is keeping your phone juiced up for a night out, and you want a pocketable battery, go with something up to 5,000mAh — anything larger will be a cumbersome, annoying thing to keep on your person. For weekend trips, bringing a good 10,000mAh battery will usually get you through when you’re in places with limited outlet choices, and if you’re a professional photographer or otherwise work in an industry that requires you to keep multiple devices charged, a minimum 20,000mAh is ideal.
For some (and mostly this applies to owners of the last two generations of iPhone) magnetic charging adds a level of convenience that transforms the power bank into a must-have device. After all, needing only enough space for around a pack of cards and not having to bring cables with you makes it far easier to go ahead and bring the extra battery with you.
Finally, pick based on trusted brands. There are plenty — plenty — of incomprehensibly-named power banks on Amazon that cost far less than the name brands you often see recommended, but without any sort of traceable track record, it’s difficult to know if they’re truly trustworthy manufacturers or sloppily-made batteries aimed at turning a quick buck, ready to go up in dramatic flames at any time.
Are power banks safe?
Generally speaking, provided you buy from a reputable brand that actually offers a warranty, they’re as likely to explode as any other lithium battery — that is, not all that likely, unless damaged or defective. They often have safety built in: heat sinks to prevent overheating, cutoff chips that stop them overcharging or will shut them down when they get too hot. Generally, you’ll want to take the same level of care with a power bank that you do with any other lithium-ion battery — keep it out in the open for heat dissipation, don’t get it wet, and don’t beat it up, no matter how mad you get.
Beyond heat, you’ll also want to look for noises from the battery, as well as bulging. If you see any of these things, place the battery outdoors or on a surface that won’t catch fire. If your power bank does catch fire, a fire extinguisher is ideal, but water may also be used, per Battery University.
My portable battery is pretty hot — is that a problem?
A battery warm to the touch is pretty normal when it’s in use, but if you’re not currently and haven’t recently been charging or discharging it, concern is warranted, particularly if it gets extremely hot. Keep your power bank dry, out of direct sunlight, and never cover it up while using it, as that could cause it to overheat.
Can I bring a power bank on the plane?
For travel within the US, power banks are allowed only in checked baggage with no specific restrictions on capacity or power throughput — however, the Federal Aviation Administration states that it’s up to the Transportation Security Administration officer checking your baggage whether the device presents a potential safety concern. For international travel, per the International Air Transport Association website, flying with an under-100Wh device requires no operator approval, but anything over 100Wh will require special approval. Up to 20 spare batteries under that 100Wh limit may be carried, and only two over it may.
Can I use my phone while charging it with a wireless charger?
Yes. It may feel warm to the touch, but as long as it doesn’t become uncomfortably hot to hold, it should be fine.
Why trust decidedly?
Having been a delivery driver and a tech enthusiast, I was an early adopter of power banks. My job had me driving all day long, and for a delivery driver, modern GPS routing via smartphone is one of the handiest ways to avoid traffic snarls and wrap up your day. However, power from a 12V outlet on the well-used van I drove was iffy, so I chose to go with high-capacity power banks so I would always have a steady source of clean power.
Since then, I’ve gone through many such devices, so I’m familiar with the pitfalls and design quirks that make some of them a hassle while others shine, and I know which brands to trust.