For years now friends, family and even colleagues have wondered how I am able to spend so long playing around with power banks. They just charge your phone, right, so what's the big deal?
Not all power banks are created equal. You've got cheap ones and pricey ones as in all veins of consumer tech, and as with anything else sometimes you're just paying for a name. But beyond that, there's so much more to portable power than a charging brick with a USB output.
We want the fastest charging speeds - for the bank itself and for the phone - and to know at a glance that a portable charger is going to get us through the day with juice to spare, even share. But we don't want it weighing down our pockets.
We want multiple ports for charging additional gadgets, and more efficient use of power outlets to free up sockets. We don't want to carry multiple charging cables - in fact we don't want to carry any cables at all.
Design and capacity are most important, sure, but what about wireless- or even solar charging? What about an LCD screen? Waterproofing? Don't you want the coolest and most convenient power bank you can get for your money without paying over the odds?
These days it's even possible to rent power banks as and when you need them (check out ChargedUp). Mind blown. To ensure you get the very best power bank for your needs, whatever that looks like, read on below our chart.
1. Zendure Power Banks
Zendure is a long-time Tech Advisor favourite, with a range of devices starting with the 6,700mAh A2 and culminating in the 26,800mAh A8. Key differences in the range are focused on price, capacity and number of ports, and Zendure is in the process of updating the line with USB-C and Power Delivery.
The A2 stands out to us as the best all-rounder, with an affordable price, a usable capacity and a compact design. The tech inside is also very good, with super-efficient batteries that can retain 95% of their charge after six months and deliver a higher-than-average 80% of their capacity to your phone. There's passthrough charging, too, so you can charge both the power bank and a connected device from a single power outlet.
The design is notable for its durability, with a cool-looking and virtually indestructible crushproof PC/ABS composite material with dual-injection moulding and a shock-absorbing central belt. Four LEDs denote its remaining capacity, though higher up the line in the A8 you'll find an LCD screen.
The basic A2 doesn't support Quick Charge or USB-C, though its 12W output is speedy. There's also a 10.5W Micro-USB input for recharging. Look to other Zendure models for these features, plus additional ports.
Read our full Zendure A2 review
2. Xiaomi Power Banks
We're a little torn between Zendure in first place and the Xiaomi range of power banks, which are not as easy to get hold of but they cannot be beaten on value and are equally well designed.
At the official Mi Store you'll find the 5,000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 (£9.99), 10,000mAh Mi Power Bank 2S (£17.99), and top-end 10,000mAh Mi Power Bank Pro (£24.99), but currently only the Pro is in stock.
The Pro is most interesting to us for its 18W USB-C port that acts as both input and output. There's also a full-size USB output, plus support for passthrough charging. (The 2 and 2S are Micro-USB banks.)
At this price you'd typically be looking at a basic-looking matte-black plastic bank with no bells and whistles. These are super-slim aluminium-alloy banks with a premium finish, and despite their reasonable capacities they are compact and feature rounded corners that make them comfortable in a pocket and in the hand.
Also interesting is their support for low-power charging, for devices such as fitness trackers - often when you attempt to charge a low-power device the bank will automatically turn itself off.
3. Anker Power Banks
Anker is a very well-known brand in the power bank market, so you can buy with complete confidence. Its devices are a little more boring in terms of design, standard matte-black bricks, but the performance is all there and they offer great value.
Our favourite of all is the PowerCore Speed 10,000mAh QC, which has a super-compact design that will easily slip into a pocket. Anker claims it's 27 percent smaller than comparable banks at this capacity, and it weighs just 198g.
There's just a single input and single output, with four blue LEDs on top to show how much power remains. So it's nothing fancy, but the PowerCore Speed is functional and intuitive in use.
The Speed 10000 QC is an upgraded version of the PowerCore 10000, and you'll notice it has a blue plastic prong inside its full-size USB output to indicate the improved performance. It supports Quick Charge 3.0, Voltage Boost and PowerIQ, and these three performance technologies combined in essence ensure that any connected device is charged in the shortest amount of time possible.
If you don't have a Quick Charge-enabled phone you'll still get 12W from this output, and the input is also fast to refill the bank at 10W. Unfortunately there's no support for passthrough charging, which would have been the icing on the cake.
Also new with this version is a bundled mesh carry case, which is handy for keeping together the power bank and necessary cables.
Also recommended in the Anker line-up are the PowerCore II Slim, another 10,000mAh bank with a more rectangular body and faster 18W charging, and the 10,000mAh PowerCore Lite, which has an additional USB-C input.
Read our full Anker PowerCore Speed 10000 QC review
4. xcentz xWingMan Dual 10,000mAh Power Bank with PD
We can't get over the size of this 10,000mAh power bank from xcentz, which makes it the ultimate portable charger for combining capacity and portability. The xWingMan Dual is the same capacity as the RavPower below, yet significantly smaller at 76x59x27mm.
We really like the design - a small, rectangular block with a soft-touch rubberised casing and rounded corners that make it a comfortable fit in the hand or in the pocket. On the top surface is a high-gloss strip with the xcentz logo and four blue LEDs, and a similarly glossy power button just below is used to activate these LEDs and see at a glance how much power remains.
It's not just compact and good-looking, the xWingMan Dual is also very attractively priced, and it's fast. There is a USB-C PD port that can act as both input (12W, allowing you to recharge the bank in 3.5 hours) and output (18W), plus a full-size Quick Charge 3.0 USB-A output.
We also really appreciate the fact you get not only a USB-A to USB-C cable in the box, but also a USB-C to USB-C cable. Both are relatively short 30cm cables, but that's not a bad thing.
Do note that the fact two cables are supplied in the box does not mean this power bank supports passthrough charging, which is the ability to charge the power bank and an attached device at once.
The two cables merely let you charge two devices at once, which is also handy for such a tiny device. We'd expect two full charges of an Android phone from that 10,000mAh capacity, and potentially three for an iPhone.
The xcentz power bank feels incredibly well made, but a two-year warranty adds peace of mind.
5. RavPower PD Pioneer 10000mAh 29W 2-Port Power Bank
RavPower is another very well known maker of power banks, and you won't go far wrong with its products. We particularly like this PD Pioneer model, a compact 10,000mAh power bank that offers fast charging for up to two connected devices.
Don't be fooled by the 29W on the box: that's the maximum output of the two ports combined, so you shouldn't get any ideas about being able to charge a USB-C laptop such as a MacBook. To be fair, you wouldn't really want to use a 10,000mAh power bank to charge a laptop, given that it will quickly run out of power, but it is an ideal capacity for smartphones - small enough to carry in your pocket or bag, yet sufficient for at least two- and potentially four full smartphone charges, depending on your device.
This RavPower unit has two USB outputs: one full-size QC3/2 port, and the other a USB-C power delivery port that can deliver 18W in and out. When recharged using the latter, the RavPower's capacity is restored in as little as three hours. We also found it was happy to support passthrough charging in our tests (the ability to simulatenously charge the device and charge a connected device).
It's worth pointing out that although there is a full-size USB port here, only a USB-C to USB-C cable is provided in the box, so if your device does not support USB-C you'll need to supply your own cable for charging. This cable feels good quality, and we're confident it should last well. A soft grey carry case is supplied, making it easier to store the necessary cables with the bank.
Though it's a relatively standard matte black plastic design, the slightly chunky rectangular body of the RavPower makes it a very comfortable fit for the hand. A thin wedge is cut out from one end of the device, which is where you'll find the USB outputs, sloping down on one side to reveal four LEDs and a button that allows you to see roughly how much power remains in the bank.
6. Aukey 8,000mAh Wireless Charging Power Bank
Wireless power banks are becoming more common, and they are super convenient provided your phone supports the Qi standard - no more fiddling around for wires, since you need these only to recharge the bank itself when the power is depleted.
This 8,000mAh model from Aukey is affordable, and actually only a couple of quid more than we'd expect to pay for a non-wireless model at the same capacity. It is, however, larger than those wired alternatives - quite simply due to the tech inside and the need to balance your phone on top.
The design is fairly no-frills, a matte black plastic slab that is roughly the size of a smartphone, and also about the same weight at 198g.
Some phones now support up to 30W wireless charging speeds, but they are few and far between. For most people wireless charging is a convenient but significantly slower alternative to wired charging, and that's exactly what you're going to get here: it doesn't matter at what speed you phone can wirelessly charge, the most it will get from the Aukey is 5W. And that's slow.
Do note that this power bank can also be used over a cabled connection, and it has two full-size USB-A outputs in addition to USB-C. Two of these three ports are compatible with 18W Power Delivery 2.0/Quick Charge 3.0, but if you use all three together you'll see significantly slower charging as the max output is just 18W. Recharging is handled by a 10W Micro-USB or the USB-C port.
A low-current mode lets you charge devices such as fitness trackers and earbuds that draw only a tiny amount of power, whereas other power banks might auto shut off in such scenarios.
7. Tech Charge Wireless PowerKit 5000
Typically sold separately, you can save some money on charging accessories when you buy them as a bundle - and this Wireless PowerKit 5000 from Tech Charge offers incredible value under £40. In the box you get a 10W wireless charging pad, a 5,000mAh power bank that can charge your mobile devices over standard USB or Qi wireless, and three cables (two Micro-USB and one Lightning).
The power bank is nicely designed, with a rectangular body and rounded corners, plus a soft-touch black casing. Despite being lightweight it's larger than many power banks of this capacity, but necessarily so to build in the wireless charging tech and serve as a stable base for your phone when charging in this manner. You'll also find four nubbins on the bottom to keep it steady on the desk.
We're still not entirely convinced by wireless charging on power banks, given that most people will carry the bank in a pocket or bag (and that's simply not going to work), but for some gadgets such as wireless earbuds and smartwatches Qi is the only way to charge them. And we admit it's a cool feature to have.
Though not advertised as such the Tech Charge power bank appears to support passthrough charging, which means you can simultaneously recharge the power bank and a connected device, freeing up mains power outlets in your home. Not that it's going to take an age to recharge, thanks to a 10W Micro-USB input, but note that the power bank itself does not charge wirelessly.
It is true that you will find faster and more fully featured power banks elsewhere - and cheaper, too, if you won't benefit from the wireless functionality or separate wireless charging pad. It's lacking, for example, Quick Charge support, USB-C and an LCD display (none of which is yet standard in the power bank market). But this Tech Charge kit offers excellent value, and it is eminently functional.
From its 5,000mAh internal battery you can expect between 3,000- and 3,500mAh to be available to your devices, at least when recharged over the standard USB port. These days that is a single charge for most phones, but with older iPhones and budget Androids you should expect to find a small amount of juice left over for emergencies.
As far as we can ascertain the Wireless PowerKit is not Apple-certified, but compatible with all current iPhones that support wireless charging, as well as all Qi-compatible wireless devices.
8. Aukey 5,000mAh Power Bank
It's been a while since we tested any of these cylindrical lipstick-style power banks but, while they are becoming increasingly rare, we still like them. Sure, their rounded design means they are more likely to roll off a desk, but they are also an ideal shape for portability, and can be thrown into a bag or slipped into a pocket with you barely noticing they are there.
Many devices of this type are slow-charging - to your phone, to the bank itself, or both - but this Aukey model operates at 10W in and out. The Micro-USB input is rather old-hat, but the necessary cable is supplied in the box, while the full-size USB-A output can be used with any cable, Lightning, USB-C or Micro-USB.
Its 5,000mAh capacity is good for a full charge of most Android phones, and potentially two full charges for an iPhone.
The metal body feels sturdier than plastic power banks, and as well as the various safety protocols you see built into all power banks there's also a two-year warranty.
An extra feature here that is especially welcome is the low current mode, which means you can charge low-power devices such as fitness trackers and earbuds without it automatically shutting off because the attached device isn't drawing significant power.
Currently priced at just under a tenner, it's difficult to go wrong.
9. Moshi IonGo 5K Duo
More than double the price of the Tech Charge alternative below, you'll pay the extra money for the IonGo 5K Duo from Moshi if style is as important to you as is functionality.
Almost identical in design to the IonGo 5K before it, but here with both USB-C and Lightning cables built-in (hence the name Duo), the Moshi is an undeniably cool-looking power bank that comes tucked away inside a vegan-friendly soft leather case with a magnetic clasp and an anodised aluminium faceplate.
The additional cable means it's now suited to Android as well as iPhone users, although as before this is Made For iPhone-certified.
This is a truly premium device with a colossal 10-year warranty going a long way to account for its higher asking price. It's also possibly the dinkiest 5,000mAh power bank we've seen, suggesting there is some serious high-tech componentry inside.
At this capacity, expect a full charge for any Android phone, and potentially two for iPhone. Moshi claims the bank will also retain that power for up to 27 months when left unused.
Charging is up to 15W over USB-C, and 12W over Lightning. Use Lightning and USB-C together and you'll see slightly slower charging speeds, with a max total output of 3.4A (17W).
You can also use the USB-C cable for recharging the bank, again up to 15W. Better still, the Moshi supports passthrough charging, allowing you to charge both it and a connected device at once, but given that there's no separate input here that's going to work only with iPhone.
10. Tech Charge Super Slim 5000
Much like the Flux Charger below but with a higher-capacity 5,000mAh battery, this ultra-slim power bank from Tech Charge is a good-looking device with built-in cables for USB-C and Lightning (Apple-certified), as well as a full-size USB output. All three can operate at up to 12W.
When viewed from above the aluminium fascia adds premium appeal, but the effect is spoiled somewhat by a black plastic band running around the circumference. The black model looks significantly better for this reason. Still, it's better-looking than many power banks, and it's lightweight (151g) and compact (135x76x9mm), making it easy to slip into a pocket.
Four small white LEDs on the top surface reveal how much power remains, and can be activated at any time with a press of the power button, which sits on the top edge beside a 10W Micro-USB input.
There are no fancy features such as passthrough charging, USB-C, Quick Charge or an LCD display, but what the Tech Charge lacks here it makes up for in functionality, negating the need for you to carry additional cables.
From the 5,000mAh internal battery you can expect between 3,000- and 3,500mAh to be available for charging your devices. How far this goes depends on the capacity of your phone's battery, but for most phones it will be at least one full charge, and potentially a little extra for an emergency boost. It is sold pre-charged, so you can simply take it out the box and start recharging your phone.
The Tech Charge offers good value at around £35, and adds convenience for users with its built-in cables. We were slightly concerned by the fact that when shaken you could hear the internals knocking inside, but a second sample showed no such issues.
For peace of mind Tech Charge builds in the usual safeguards, including overheating, over-voltage, short-circuit, over-current and over-charge protection. There's also a one-year warranty.
11. Tech Charge Super Fast 20,000 Power Bank
This Super Fast power bank from Tech Charge is the same 20,000mAh capacity as the Aukey below, but more compact and significantly better looking with its soft-touch rubberised outer case and grippy, ribbed design.
There's a small Tech Charge badge on one side, directly up from which is a row of four very unobtrusive LEDs to denote remaining power capacity - and then a high gloss panel at either end, one of which houses all the ports.
Rounded corners make this bank comfortable in the hand, while its rectangular body should slip easily into a pocket, despite its 349g weight - actually, for a bank of this capacity, that's really quite impressive. This portable charger measures just 137x67x24mm.
The Tech Charge is also available in a smaller 10,000mAh capacity, at £34.95, though it is currently sold out.
It may be more expensive, but it's also faster than the Aukey, supporting 18W over a USB-C Power Delivery port, plus two full-size USB-A outputs - one a Quick Charge 3.0 port and the other rated at 15W. You will prefer the Aukey only if you're on a tight budget or the faster Amazon Prime delivery times appeal.
There is also a 10.5W Micro-USB input, which can be used for recharging the bank, though you'll get quicker performance over USB-C - thus we were slightly disappointed by the inclusion of a Micro-USB- rather than USB-C cable in the box, though you likely already have your own.
Tech Charge claims its power bank will charge an iPhone 8 nearly eight times. With a rated battery capacity of 1,821mAh, you might be wondering where the rest of the power is going. Actually this is normal for power banks, which lose energy through voltage conversion and heat generated, and typically run at an efficiency of 60-70%.
The bank feels well made, but a two-year warranty adds peace of mind.
12. Aukey 20,000mAh USB-C Power Bank
Aukey's 20,000mAh power bank is appealing for three reasons: its price, its large capacity, and its number and variety of ports.
You get three full-size USB outputs, as well as a single USB-C. You can also use this USB-C port to recharge the power bank, which is the fastest method, or you can use a Lightning or Micro-USB input (the latter oddly hidden around the corner from the other ports), so it will work with whatever cable you happen to have to hand. For what it's worth a USB-C cable is supplied in the box.
This isn't going to be the fastest power bank for charging multiple devices, however. While the USB-C can output up to 3A (15W), the remaining three outputs must share the same amount between all three. So if you plug in three devices they are each going to charge at a slow 5W. Still, all those ports could prove very convenient if you have multiple devices.
And if you are charging more than one device then you're going to need lots of juice. With a rated capacity of 20,000mAh you can expect around 13,000mAh to be available to your devices. That might charge an iPhone seven times, or a typical Android phone four times.
Once depleted the large battery will take 10 hours to recharge, though you can continue charging attached devices in the meantime.
The trade-off for all this power is size, and this Aukey charger is huge. It's much larger than our phone at 200mm long and 96mm wide, though also reasonably skinny at 14mm. It's as heavy as it looks at 435g, and feels quite bulky.
The design is also rather basic, a matt black plastic slab with a shiny plastic bumper running around the circumference. The Aukey logo is printed on the front and four small LEDs are visible on the side to show how much power remains.
13. Aukey 10,000mAh USB-C Power Bank
Very similar in design to the higher-capacity model listed above, this 10,000mAh power bank from Aukey is half the capacity and has fewer ports, but it's also more easily portable and cheaper.
Although you lose one of the full-size USB outputs, with this model offering two not three, one of the outputs here has been upgraded to Quick Charge 3.0 spec, which means it's good for up to 18W. As on the larger model, with both ports engaged you share the 18W maximum output, so having one fewer USB-A is really no major loss.
You might be slightly more disappointed by the removal of the Lightning port if you're an Apple user, but you can charge the bank over Micro-USB or USB-C, with a USB-C cable supplied in the box. This is the faster way to recharge the device, supporting up to 18W in comparison to the Micro-USB port's 10W.
14. Flux Charger
We've included the Flux Card power bank in this round-up because it's a great example of an all-in-one power bank, though it's not the easiest device to get hold of in the UK.
Right now it's on offer at $29.95 (£23.45) on the company's website (down from $39.95/£31.28), but if you want one in the UK you should also factor in $9.50 (£7.44) shipping and the fact you may also have to pay Customs charges.
When we say 'all-in-one' power bank we mean one that includes all the necessary cables for charging your device, resulting in a much sleeker overall package. Typically such devices make you choose Micro-USB or Lightning, but this power bank supports both. All that's missing is USB-C.
It's slim, portable and, since we wrote our original Flux Card review the company has updated its device, now clad in durable black or white aluminium rather than plastic, and still incredibly thin at 7.8mm. It weighs a tiny 88g.
It has a 4,000mAh capacity, which is going to be good enough for a full charge for any phone, and it's reasonably speedy with a 7.5W input and 10.5W output. Passthrough charging is supported, which is a nice extra.
In common with nearly every power bank you'll find today Flux offers four LEDs to show how much power remains, and boasts smart technology to recognise your device and deliver an optimum charge.
Read our full Flux Card review
15. Moshi IonSlim 5K
Another model from Moshi, but this time suitable for everyone, is the 143g IonSlim 5K. It's just as expensive as the IonBank 3K, costing £54.95/$54.95 at Amazon, but packs in more power with a 5,150mAh battery. (There's also a 10K model if your pockets are especially deep.)
A lot of what you're paying for here is the design, and the aluminium-clad IonSlim is a crazy 8.5mm thick - that makes it just a fraction thicker than the USB output found at one end.
There's also a USB-C port, which is both input and output. It's fast at 15W, which means charging the power bank itself doesn't take significantly more time than charging your phone, but we'd have been more impressed were it to provide support for passthrough charging.
Other features are reasonably basic, and this is one of few recent power banks we've tested not to support auto-on. You'll need to plug in your device and then press the power button, which just seems like an unnecessary extra step in this day and age.
Learn more in our full Moshi IonSlim 5K review.
Read our full Moshi IonSlim 5K review
What capacity do I need?
Power bank capacity is commonly misunderstood. You don't need to understand what is mAh, only that if your phone spec says it has a 4,000mAh battery you are going to need at least a 4,000mAh bank in order to get a full charge.
Actually you need more than that. No portable charger runs at 100% efficiency, with most averaging around 65%, and some hitting as high as 80- or 90%. The latter are the ones you want.
In order to fully charge a 4,000mAh battery phone, you're likely going to need something more like a 6,000mAh power bank. So all those 5,000mAh banks that claim to charge your phone twice, don't believe a word - not unless you've got a really old phone with a tiny battery.
Devices tend to sold in 5,000mAh, 10,000mAh and 20,000mAh capacities, with a few variations in between. As a rule of thumb, 5,000mAh is a single-use power bank that will be easily portable; 10,000mAh hits the sweet spot, both portable and offering at least two full charges; 20,000mAh is high-capacity, most useful for those who are going to be away from mains power for extended periods or will be charging multiple gadgets. Don't attempt to stuff a 20,000mAh device in your pocket.
Of course you can buy banks with significantly higher capacities, which are particularly useful if you want to charge a laptop (see our round-up of PD power banks for that), but they are going to be much bigger, bulkier and more expensive.
Do note that if you're travelling on a plane your portable charger must be in your hand luggage, and anything over 27,000mAh (100Wh) needs approval from the airline (over 43,000mAh/160Wh, forget it).
With great power comes two great problems, however. First, recharging can take forever (okay, like nearly a day in some cases). Second, with most devices offering a row of four LEDs to denote how much power remains inside the bank, working out how much you've actually got left can be impossible.
Solutions here are simple. An LCD screen will give you an exact readout of remaining capacity, though these are rarely found on low-capacity and cheap banks. Passthrough charging lets you charge both the power bank and connected devices at once, freeing up power sockets if you are going to have to leave it plugged in for long periods. Ensuring you have the fastest possible input (typically a USB-C PD input, which can be as high as 100W) will also speed things up.
What speed do I need?
If I had it my way 5W power banks would be banned. They are painfully slow. Anything lower than 10W: nope.
These days even 10W, though marketed as 'fast charging', barely scratches the surface of what recent smartphones are capable of. With some able to go as high as 45W over a wired connection, a 10W power bank is not going to feel especially convenient.
That said, 10W is more common among the budget- and mid-range, and many people will be using 10W chargers at home. But we'd still recommend looking for a faster power bank, especially those with Quick Charge or Power Delivery support (even if your current phone doesn't support it, a later upgrade most likely will).
That seems pretty straightforward, although power manufacturers rarely provide the speed of their outputs measured in Watts. Instead you'll see a rating in Amps, which you multiply by five (the Voltage rating) to get the rating in Watts. So 2A x 5V = 10W.
Which outputs do I need?
If you're an iPhone user (and intend to stay an iPhone user), look for a power bank with a Lightning port that can serve as input and output to save you scratching around for cables you wouldn't otherwise use.
Android phones are increasingly moving over from Micro-USB to USB-C, and in which case a USB-C port that acts as input and output is preferable. However, it's still common for power banks to be recharged over Micro-USB, and sometimes you'll find both Micro-USB and USB-C. Don't try to use them simultaneously for recharging the bank. As a rule of thumb, USB-C is going to be the faster option.
How many ports you need depends on how many gadgets you want to charge at once. If more than one, watch out for power banks with a max output that is lower than the sum of all ports together - they won't be able to deliver the maximum rated output of all at once. Also watch out for capacities that are too low to fully charge multiple devices.
There is no need to worry about plugging devices into ports that are capable of delivering more power than they are able to accept, since USB devices will draw only the power they need. Many power banks include technology that is able to intelligently dole out this power among ports more appropriately depending on what devices you are attempting to charge (often known as Power IQ or similar).
Wireless power banks are becoming more commonplace, and here you won't need any outputs if you're intending to use it only for wireless charging. An input will still be required to recharge the bank itself.
We've put together a range of articles to help you choose the best charging tech for the mobile devices you carry everywhere. You'll also like: