Best Power Banks and Portable Chargers in the UK 2018
Power banks and portable chargers are one and the same, although as the name suggests the latter is usually slightly smaller. They are small external battery packs which contain rechargeable lithium-ion batteries enclosed in a durable plastic (or similar material) shell.
The majority of today’s devices come with built in rechargeable batteries, rather than using standard AAs or AAAs for which you can carry spares. As a result, if you’re spending the day out and about or are heading off on a weekend camping trip, there’s a very good chance your phone, tablet or camera won’t last without a bit of extra juice. You can go into power-saving mode, close additional apps and turn the brightness down but despite your best efforts, your dwindling battery will give up the ghost. And this is where portable chargers come in.
For any outdoor adventurer, or really anyone that spends extended amounts of time away from a plug socket, a power bank is an absolute necessity. Their recharging capacity ranges from one phone charge, to multiple laptop charges with some left over.
Portable chargers vary greatly in shape, size, capacity, and additional features, and cover a range of price points. Below are some considerations to help you choose the right one for your needs and budget.
What should you look for in a portable charger?
Size and weight
If your phone battery can’t be trusted to hold out and you just need a little extra boost, then you’ll find a pocket- and budget-friendly charger does the trick. Some power banks are as thin as a credit card or as small as a lipstick. On the flipside, anything designed to keep you going all day or revive a larger device is going to be a bit chunkier and weigh up to 700 grams.
The trade off is that the larger the battery pack, the bigger its capacity, so although you might want to travel light on your camping trip – if you’ve got multiple devices, a mini power bank with one phone charge is hardly going to be worth taking.
Essentially this is just how many times it will be able to charge your device(s) and without getting overly technical, the capacity is measured in milliampere hours (mAh). By comparing the capacity of the power bank with the capacity of the devices you want to charge, you can figure out how many charges you’ll get each time. For example, an iPhone 7 has a battery capacity of 1,960mAh, while a 13-inch iPad Pro’s battery is 10,307mAh. To ensure your device gets at least one full charge from the charger, make sure its capacity is no more than 70 per cent of the charger’s capacity.
If you regularly head off the grid for two or three days at a time, look for a battery with a capacity of 15,000mAh or higher – but be prepared to carry it!
Number of ports
Some larger power banks will have multiple USB Type A ports, allowing you to charge more than one device at a time. This is perfect if you’re on a weekend camping trip and need to charge a camera and phone overnight, rather than having to do them separately and risk being left without one or the other.
The type of ports a power bank will also determine its charging speed. At a minimum, most battery packs will have a standard micro USB port for input and a USB-A port for output, but increasingly you’ll find some with USB Type C. This allows you to charge faster and also consolidate input/output to one port.
Charging cables and connections
This isn’t something that will influence your decision, as much as something to just be conscious of. Whilst some portable chargers have built-in USB or Lightning charging cables, most will require you to use your existing charging cables, connected via a standard USB port. So bear in mind that it may be worth checking your connections before you buy.
So now you have the prerequisites figured out, what kind of portable charger or power bank should you buy? Below we have reviewed six of the best portable chargers on the market right now that suit a variety of needs and budgets.
Power Banks Reviewed
Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Charger
The Anker PowerCore 13000 is an excellent combination of everything you need in a charger: capacity, speed, versatility, durability and great value. For those looking to get a few extra phone charges over the course of a weekend, or a couple of devices here and there, this is the perfect option. The battery has enough juice to recharge an iPhone up to five times, a small tablet twice, or a Go Pro with plenty left over.
The PowerCore takes just under five hours to be fully charged itself but annoyingly doesn’t allow for pass-through charging – i.e. you can’t charge it and your device at the same time. A key improvement is that the battery is slightly larger than it’s predecessor as it now offers two USB ports, both of which can output up to 3A.
The design is relatively robust whilst still being sleek, although the smooth exterior and round-edged design makes it droppable – and it doesn’t withstand impacts particularly well. An occasional drop here would be fine, but anyone engaging in rough adventure activities or wanting to be able to throw it in the bottom of a tent may want to look elsewhere.
Aukey Power Bank 20000mAh Portable Charger with Lightning
Although it’s pretty slow to charge up, it’s also slow to discharge. Aukey claims to provide up to eight charges for a smartphone and testing gave about 90% efficiency of its battery capacity, which is 20,000mAh. The device also holds its charge for extended periods of time without being used, meaning you could use it right at the end of your outdoor trip and still expect a good performance.
Plenty of portable chargers that fall below the £20 mark sacrifice key features, either in terms of poor design, durability or capacity – none of which this Aukey falters in. The two best things about the Aukey Power Bank is the AiPower adaptive charging technology and its Quick Charge offering. The single button on top makes the pack easy to use, easily switching between functions such as battery check, turning on and off and switching the built-in flashlight on.
There are two standard USB ports – the first uses AiPower technology to automatically adjust the power output for your device’s needs (meaning they each receive the safest maximum recharge rate possible) and the second is the Quick Charge 2.0 port.
The Aukey surpasses its competitors in this price range in that it has Quick Charge capacity. This Qualcomm technology is supported by many newer mobile devices that allows for rapid charging and also means that the power bank itself will charge faster depending on what cables you have. If your device doesn’t have Quick Charge capability, then the second USB port will act like a regular charging port. One thing to look out for is that its lights, indicating remaining battery levels, show white for fully charged and green for partly depleted – a weird choice if you ask us.
PNY 7800 mAh Universal Rechargeable Battery Charger
PNY is a company renowned for its mobile accessories and its range of phone chargers don’t disappoint. The PNY 7800 mAh Universal Charger is specifically made for the outdoors thanks to its official IP65 qualification. Its sturdy rectangular build is comprised of a plastic shell with a rubber coating, so it can take a fair few knocks and drops without showing any damage.
Don’t be afraid to take it out on your most daring adventures, as well as being shock resistant, the cap on the end can be closed to make it resistant to dust or sand and to water sprays such as rain or water in a boat.
Although PNY have released newer chargers over the last year or so, this power bank still offers all the key features. Its 7800mAh capacity, 2A input for quick charging on the go as well as a 2.1A output is perfect for charging phones, tablets and cameras. Not only this it offers a strong flashlight activated by a large button on the side – it is stronger than a phone and does the job of your average torch so is a space saver and perfect for setting up camp in the dark, or trying to find something in your bag.
It also comes with a carabiner, so it can be hung in a tent or off a bag, either during charging or to make the most of the torch. The four LED lights indicate the battery’s charge levels for easy use and inside the box comes a micro-USB and mini-USB cable.
RAVPower 26800mAh PD Portable Phone Charger
Although this external battery isn’t the biggest you can buy, this is the perfect balance of capacity and size, and past here you start to sacrifice some ease of portability. The RAVPower’s 26,800 mAh capacity is huge. Users can charge a tablet, a phone and a camera and still have room to spare – meaning it’s a great companion on longer trips off the grid, power outages, international flights, road trips, or camping.
Whilst previous RAVPower models had only about 33 per cent efficiency, the 26800mAh offers closer to 75 per cent. The charger takes around 2.5 hours to fully recharge a 12-inch MacBook from empty, with tablets taking significantly less, and can do so whilst the devices are in use.
Inside the box you will find a 30W Type-C Charger to rapidly recharge the battery pack – note: this should not be used for other devices such as phones – a carrying case, and two microUSB cables.
Users can choose to either recharge the battery with the included micro-USB cable or using the Type-C port. The latter will take just 4.5 hours, compared to 10-plus hours with a micro-USB cable, but users will need to purchase an additional power adapter. The design is generally sleek and simple and four blue LEDs indicate quartile charges in the battery.
EasyAcc 15000mAh Power Bank Smart Output
If you run out of battery and rapidly need to re-power your phone and/or GPS or camera for an excursion happening in an hour, this would be the power bank you’d want in your bag. Although it’s not exactly small, weighing in at just under half a kilogram, it certainly packs a punch. With 15,000mAh capacity – enough to charge a small laptop or iPad pro, or an iPhone five times over, you get the best of both speed and capacity at what we think is a very reasonable price.
The EasyAcc offers a 4.8A output, competently charging three smartphones or other small devices at once, or just the one at outstanding speeds. Similar to the Aukey, each of the three smart ports adapt to whichever device you’ve connected, delivering the maximum level of power that is safe, and they will automatically switch off when not in use to save power. This saves fiddling around with various buttons and options – if a device is connected, it will start charging straight away and the port will shut off when complete or unplugged.
With 2A input, it takes nine hours to fully charge up itself but can charge other devices whilst continuing to charge up itself, and the built-in torch comes in handy in a variety of situations.
The only downside is that although it’s still quite small, it’s reasonably heavy and comes with just the one lead. Some users have also reported that its capacity decreases after extended/repeated use, something which is probably reflected in its relatively low price.
Soluser 10000mAh Portable Solar Charger
When you are out in the wilderness exploring, finding a plug socket to charge your phone is almost impossible. So, if you want to feel like a real outdoor adventurer, this portable charger will certainly help. The Soluser power bank is a portable solar charger, refuelled by sunlight. You will never have to worry about being stranded without phone battery again, just find some sunlight and you will be good to go. The flexibility that this charger provides is perfect for adventurers as you are free to move around as you please without being bound to charging points.
Of course, there is the also the added bonus of this powerpack being environmentally friendly so is perfect for eco-warriors looking for new ways to convert the sun’s rays into energy whilst out and about.
In keeping with the adventurer feel, the built-in powerful LED Light can be used as a torch, or as an SOS warning in emergencies, using its flashing light mode. This rugged charger is up for whatever challenge you happen to throw at it, it is IP67 water-resistant, shock-resistant and dust-proof. The charger also comes with a carabiner so you can easily attach it to backpack or belt loop for hands-free on the go charging.
The power pack has two built-in 2 *5V/2.1A USB to charge two devices simultaneously. The ports are covered by a rubber flap preventing dust or grit getting in. The handy LEDs on the charger glow blue to indicate the power status and green when it is being topped up by solar power. Its 10000mAh capacity has enough power to last a few days and has enough juice to charge an iPhone 6 seven times. It charges at 2.1 amps from each USB port so is also ideal for larger tablets and notebooks.
Although the ability to use the sunlight to charge dying devices is a handy addition, the charger works more efficiently when recharged using a cable overnight and the solar panels are used during the daylight hours to keep it topped up. The charger is also a slightly heavier model than its competitors making it less portable for day-to-day use, but fine if throwing into a rucksack for a weekend adventure.
Svpro Portable Charger Pack for Sport
We thought we were done after reviewing the above six portable chargers, but then we stumbled across the Svpro portable waterproof bluetooth speaker. Yes – it charges your devices and can also play music. On top of that, it’s waterproof, sand-proof and shockproof – making it perfect for any outdoor adventure, from kayaking and sailing, to camping or hiking.
The Bluetooth speaker is IPX4-level water resistant, meaning that it is protected against splashing water from any angle but cannot be submerged. A powerful dual 3W audio acoustic driver produces decent-enough sound and it even has an enhanced subwoofer for a good bass without distortion even at highest volume – surprising from a power bank!
It goes without saying that using the speaker feature of this power bank will drain its battery and reduce its recharging capabilities. If you’re just looking for an outdoor speaker, take a look at these. The power bank can either recharge a smartphone three to four times or provide 10 hours of music playtime. Other fun features of this charger include a built-in microphone for hands in calling a snap hook for clipping onto a bag or inside a tent and it also comes with two cables.
Thanks to its sporting and outdoor design it is both rugged and sturdy, but the trade off here is that it’s relatively heavy – coming in at almost double the weight of some our other contenders on this shortlist. However, at this price and for a hybrid device, we figure it’s a worthy sacrifice.
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