Scott Hanselman

Choosing the right Portable Power Phone/Tablet/Gadget Battery Charger

July 26, '13 Comments [18] Posted in Hardware | Reviews
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microusb-vs-miniusb[1]I travel a lot and I've talked about the importance of having power while on the go. I carry a small Four Outlet Mini Power Strip, for example, as well as an all-in-one travel plug adapter. I like tools and gadgets that solve more than one problem and/or have multiple-functions.

Until phone and tablet batteries batteries can last for a day of solid use, I also carry a portable battery charger. In fact, I have been testing a bunch over the last few months in search of the Perfect Portable Battery Charger. Spoiler Alert, it doesn't exist yet, but each of these chargers has one of those characteristics.

What do I want? I want a 8000mAh or greater portable charger that weighs less than a pound, has a USB port. It should support a full 2A output for iPads or large tablets, but at LEAST 1A for phones. Bonus points for built in cables for iPhone and micro USB. It should have Solar for emergency charging. Bonus points if it can charge two phones at once, or at least take a 2A load. The fewer dongles or adapters I need to carry, the better.

NOTE: For reference as you read, here's mini-USB vs micro-USB using a photo from PowerLet and Rob Jackson.

What kind of charger do I need?

As you look at these devices and their Pros and Cons, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many times will I need to charge a single phone in a day?
    • Look at your phone's battery and see if one of these batteries will charge it once, twice, or ten times.
  • How large a battery do I want to lug around?
    • Some of these are the weight of your phone, one over a pound and a half. You WILL notice that.
  • Do I live somewhere with a lot of sun and not a lot of outlets?
    • Consider a solar charger, especially if camping (or urban camping)

WakaWaka POWER Smartphone Charger

That black part isn't a phone, that's the battery and on the side is a Solar Cell. The WakaWaka will charge in sunlight in about 8 hours, or in about 4 hours when charge it using micro-USB input.

71-7UCaCJBL._SL1500_WakaWaka

Pros

  • Charges with Solar if needed
  • Extremely light, less than half a pound (200 grams!)
  • Flashlight with several brightness levels, good for camping
  • Small company, supports micro-finance and charitable giving

Cons

  • Only a 2200 mAh Lithium battery.
    • NOTE: Given that an iPhone 4/4s battery has 1420/1430 mAh battery this will give you about a single charge and a bit more. This device would be great with a 6000 mAh battery.

 

myCharge RFAM-0007 Portable Power Bank 6000

This simple and light charger charges with whatever micro-USB AC adapter you already have. It's claim to fame is the three built in cables for charging.

61N9tMfZVbL._SL1436_71cnXqNibzL._SL1500_[1]

Pros

  • Built in old-style iPhone cable. Built in mini- and micro-USB cable.
  • 6000 mAh, very light.

Cons

  • Built in cables are wonky. My iPhone one has failed and no longer charges. I can still charge via the one USB port.
  • In my experience it's power drops off FAST. Feels more like a 2500 mAh device.

Yell BPS66 6600mAh Dual USB Energy Bar

This weirdly shaped battery is a full 6600mAh and weighs only 180 grams (well under a half-pound.) It has a mini-USB in for charging and two USB ports for output. It comes with 8 little adapters, but I haven't used any of them. I just use what came with my phone. It will also charge a large iPad which is a great plus. Charges in about 9 hours.

81ExbDgkRNL._SL1500_201895144254

 

 

Pros

  • Very small and extremely powerful
  • Inexpensive given how much power it packs.

Cons

  • Still needs a mini-USB charger, preferably one that puts out 1A or more.

i.Sound Portable Power Max with 16,000 mAh

Ok, TO BE CLEAR, this thing is a BEAST. It weights 1.4 pounds, almost half what my Ultrabook laptop weighs, but - it puts out an obscene 2.4A if need be and can charge as many as 5 small phones at a time. It adds over 24 hours more usage to an iPad with a 16000mAh battery. This is a great overnight charger.

71n2sddoy-L._SL1500_814rHMTWcKL._SL1500_[1]

Pros

  • 16,000 mAh. There's nothing else that packs this much power. Charges an iPhone 10 times.
  • Up to 6 devices (if you use their splitter, otherwise 5)
  • Flashlight

Cons

  • Requires a proprietary AC charger - Don't lose it!
  • Heavy as heck.

PowerTrip 6000mAh with 50mA Solar Panel

This is a nice charger that plugs right into the wall. The solar panel is very small and will top it up a little in a day of full sunlight, although I've never been able to full the battery only on solar. It's the built in AC that sets it apart.

PowerTrip-with-iPhone-5powertrip2

Pros

  • Built in US AC plug. Just plug the whole charger into the wall. Big win.
  • 6000 mAh, 1.5A output.
  • Small solar panel built in.
  • Comes with three little 6 inch cables for mini, micro and Apple, useful.

Cons

  • Expensive and hard to find, about $100
  • Just one USB port

Related Posts

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, July 26, 2013 1:35:13 AM UTC
Scott, I recently bought a charger that meets most of your criteria, except for the solar panel. I am extremely happy with it. Given the size and weight, its capacity is surprisingly high at 12000mAh. NewTrent makes it, the model is an iCarrier IMP12D, it weighs 10oz (.6lbs), the form factor is great, it has 2 USB ports (2.1A for tablets & 1A for phones). Take a look at it.

Diego
Friday, July 26, 2013 2:00:42 AM UTC
If you move/bike/walk a lot, here's another option: http://www.npowerpeg.com/
Friday, July 26, 2013 7:19:53 AM UTC
Or you could kickstart your own! Eh?
Alexander
Friday, July 26, 2013 7:42:24 AM UTC
Nice article, i would rather go for solar powered battery charger that may give some extra power in sunny days.
Friday, July 26, 2013 8:30:42 AM UTC
I recently grabbed one of these from Anker: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00BQ5KHJW/ref=ya_aw_oh_pit

I have (so far) found it to be great. 2A + 1A simultaneously 13,000mAh - had meant 1 full Nexus 7 recharge + 3 full Nexus 4 recharges, with juice still to spare.

Highly recommended.
Michael Connaughton
Friday, July 26, 2013 9:47:22 AM UTC
How did you come up with 8000mah? Two iphone full charge?
Friday, July 26, 2013 11:25:29 AM UTC
I have this one, and it is a beast. Was able to charge a laptop x2, or phone x5, or Kindle Fire x3. Has a bunch of laptop and USB adapters as well.

http://anytone.en.alibaba.com/product/708010119-200422121/20000mAh_universal_portable_travel_power_supply_battery_charger_for_iphone5_ipad_mini_for_all_major_laptops_tablets_smartphones.html
Shane
Friday, July 26, 2013 12:43:50 PM UTC
I funded a kickstarter recently that was a 5/7/10w solar panel with a usb plug (10w = 2A USB), with optional batteries (2600, 5600, 10000mAh). The guy has the solar cells up for preorder, but looks like those batteries aren't there yet.
Friday, July 26, 2013 2:57:38 PM UTC
I'm very happy with my Anker Astro 3E

I'm not sure solar is really viable unless you have large external panels and lots of direct sunlight (no glass in the way).
Rupert Rawnsley
Friday, July 26, 2013 6:00:04 PM UTC
I have the iSound. The weight doesn't bother me as much (I don't travel often), but you're spot on with the criticism about the charger - would it kill them to use a non-proprietary charger? They'd get bonus points if they used a micro or mini USB attachment. (Not sure how that would affect the charging time, which is already substantial).
Friday, July 26, 2013 8:52:13 PM UTC
I just picked my a Limeade L130x , and I love it. Not only will it charge my Nexus 3 times, but my wife can get a full charge on her iPad 3. It not only fits all of your criteria, but it gets extra points for coming with an iPad/Micro USB cable.
Ray W.
Saturday, July 27, 2013 4:07:52 AM UTC
Perhaps the powermonkey extreme would fit the bill?
https://www.powertraveller.com/en/shop/portable-chargers/outdoor-adventure/powermonkey-extreme/
j
Monday, July 29, 2013 12:55:40 PM UTC
I use one of these:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lightning-Sensation-Blackberry-connectors-customized/dp/B0063AAIRG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1374487385&sr=8-3&keywords=portable+phone+charger

It charged mine and friends phones all weekend while camping and still survived.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:00:57 PM UTC
Definitely look into products made by Anker. I got the Astro Pro 14400mAh battery pack and I'm very happy with it.
Bart
Monday, August 05, 2013 7:27:05 PM UTC
I started using/testing this one on the day you posted this :) After 3 weeks on the road I can say it works really well and I think it meets most of your requirements.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 7:01:58 AM UTC
How about this kickstarter project:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/triglyph/powercycle-the-ultimate-usb-power-source

It has some unique features, but probably also some stuff you would miss. Also the kickstarter is almost ending and they haven't got enough funding. But the guy is a genius, he created a 5.9W (idle) High-end desktop machine:
http://ssj3gohan.tweakblogs.net/blog/8217/fluffy2-59-watt-high-end-desktop-computer.html
Jeroen Vos
Sunday, August 25, 2013 12:07:47 AM UTC
Re: "There's nothing else that packs this much power."

Just ran across the EnergyBar 250:

http://www.aspectsolar.com/products_EnergyBar_250.aspx

It's 20Ah w/ 12V @ 10A, 5V @ 2A, or 15V @ 4A ...

... and 8 pounds.
Sunday, August 25, 2013 12:12:05 AM UTC
Oh, and 1) it's got a built in inverter, and 2) they say it holds its charge for YEARS.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.