It’s no surprise that in the connected world we live in, the most useful and important gadget of them all has got to be a powerbank. These days battery technology is not where we want it to be with relation to how much we use our devices and we often find ourselves out and about, stuck with the dreaded red battery logo. I for one have often found myself seeing how I could stretch the last sliver of battery life out of my 1% by employing all sorts of brightness reducing and EDGE enabling tactics.
The portable power bank has come a long way since the early days where they were not as commonplace and honestly not as needed as they are now. The problem is that in this market, there is a plethora to choose from that come in all shapes, sizes and for every use known to man. In fact, some powerbanks are able to charge netbooks (remember those) and on the higher end, some will even charge your full sized laptop.
So how do you know whats good when price is not the biggest determining factor? I’ll be going through a few key points to look out for when you’re looking around for your next saviour of your electronic gadgets!
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1) Capacity – Bigger is alway better!
When talking about a Powerbank or any battery for that matter, battery capacity is measured in Milliampere Hours or mAh. Modern powerbanks often range from a very diminutive 2,000mAh to a massive 20,000mAh brick. In this case, get the highest mAh powerbank you can afford, it’s always better to have extra juice rather than run out mid-charge! A good estimate is if you have only an iPhone 5S (and we all know how powerhungry these are) the capacity of that is 1,570mAh; When choosing a powerbank, you should definitely get one that has a larger capacity than that (not very hard). If you have multiple devices, add up the capacity of the batteries and try to get a powerbank that has a multiple of that total.
For example, if you have an iPhone 5S and if you get this Silvertec 4,700mAh powerbank, you will be able to charge the phone from empty to full about 2.5times give or take. The disadvantage to getting larger batteries is the time in which it takes to charge the powerbank as well as the size and weight. The Silvertec 4,700mAh Ultra Slim is a pretty decent midway point for those looking to have a portable solution with a decent amount of power.
2) Output ports and Ampere output – iPads Charging Speed
Most powerbanks will come with 1 output port, letting you charge 1 device at a time. Some devices like the Silvertec Sanyo 7,800mAh powerbank comes with 2. This is all well and good if you need to charge 2 phones at once, but what if you need to charge your iPad? Most of the time, the USB port will be rated at 1A output. Unfortunately at 1A, you’re not likely able to charge your iPad. If your powerbank has 2 like the silvertec, the second one should be higher like 2.1A for use with your iPad. If you have these 2 output choices, chances are you can charge anything you have a cable for!
Worth noting that if your powerbank doesn’t have USB charging and requires a proprietary cable to connect to your device via microUSB, give it a miss. The usefulness of a powerbank is its versatility!
3) Brand Name, Build And Cells Used
At first glance it may sound like a vanity or bragging rights thing, but in actual fact when dealing with batteries, it’s also to do with Safety! There have been cases of counterfeit powerbanks which were rated at 10,000mAh only giving 2,000mAh and even shoddy workmanship making the powerbanks unsafe. Generally I would avoid buying powerbanks from unverified sellers, or directly from China. Pay a little bit extra, get your stuff from reputable brick and mortar stores or even from Storekini.com where they have a large range of Powerbanks for you to choose from. You don’t have to avoid China brands like YooBao, but make sure you get it from someone you can trust.
Also in the same vein, if you know the cells that the powerbank use are good, chances are paying a little extra is not that bad. The Silvertec powerbanks use Sanyo Cells. Sanyo does the eneloop rechargeables which we use very extensively here at HQ, that’s a personal preference, but you get what I mean. Another one of my favourites are the Mophie Powerstations, a little more expensive, but the design, automatic switching output and reliability makes it worthwhile. As far as I know, you can get Mophies at the Apple Resellers.
4) Interesting Value Added Features And Bundle
In this day and age, it’s not just important how good the product is, but what you get when you buy the product that matters too! Some powerbanks will come with all manner of multi Pronged cables to save you having to carry them around. Also a short cable is much appreciated because you don’t really need such a long cable for this purpose. I remember buying one a while back which bundled a suction cup pad so you could always keep the phone with your powerbank!
The popular thing these days with Powerbanks is to include a small LED light that can be activated to give a small torch when needed. I’m not sure when I’d use something like that. There are some which make the most of a portable form factor like the Eton Rugged Rukus Solar-Powered Portable Bluetooth Sound System which is a pair of bluetooth speakers, powerbank and is also solar powered all in one!
Perhaps the coolest one I’ve seen isn’t strictly a Powerbank. The XTAR WP2s is a very common name if you’re in the e-Cig or Vaping scene. Unless you’ve got a ready supply of charged batteries, you tend to want to bring a charger around because of the non-standard batteries that these devices use. The WP2s is rather special in a sense that you can use a battery in one of the bays of the charger to power a device via USB! That’s right, a battery charger is a powerbank as well! I’ve just ordered one myself!