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How to choose the best portable charger in 2021

If your smartphone is regularly running on empty it could be the perfect time to pick up a new portable charger. Here’s what you need to know.

Portable chargers

There’s nothing fun about reaching for your phone and finding out that its battery is totally drained. So if you regularly discover your devices running on empty – it could be the perfect time to invest in a portable power bank charger.

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While many smartphone batteries are better than ever these days – many offering up to two days of charge – a lot of handsets remain power-hungry thanks to large high-res screens, 5G chips, Bluetooth add-ons and heavy internet use.

After an entire day of scrolling social media, checking notifications and listening to Spotify, though, even the most flagship smartphones will benefit from a top-up – and that’s not ideal if you’re travelling, slogging through a commute home from work or end up on a night out with friends that goes on slightly longer than planned.

That’s where the power bank comes in. Should your battery run out, they can have you back online and tweeting again in seconds. But like most tech, there are so many types that browsing for the right one can quickly become overwhelming.

Do you want fast-charging? Do you prefer portability over capacity? What ports do you need, and how many? Is budget your priority? Do you want it to also be able to charge your new OLED Nintendo Switch or tablet during a lengthy flight? Sure, it can be a tad confusing at first – but we are here to help you narrow down your options.

How to choose the best portable charger 

Size & weight

One of the first big considerations is the size of the charger – will it fit comfortably in your bag? – and how much it will weigh you down. As a general rule, the smaller chargers will have smaller capacities, and the large bulkier models will be able to power your devices for longer and with better overall capacity. Some chargers will be as big as your smartphone, while others won’t be bigger than a lipstick case.

Do you want a charger to subtly pop in your bag and just provide short bursts of charge to your phone on nights out, then an ultra-compact like the Bonai Portable Charger will be a solid option. But if you are putting it in a backpack and need more juice, you may as well compromise on the size in favour of power. A charger like the Anker PowerCore Essential is a fine choice if you don’t mind more size and weight. Ultimately, this will always come down to personal choice and use cases.

Capacity 

The capacity of a portable charger is measured in mAh (milliamp hours). Broadly, the compact lipstick-style models will be 5,000mAh or under, medium-capacity models will be closer to 10,000mAh, and larger models that can power up a smartphone multiple times using a single reserve will be more than 20,000mAh.

Compact chargers are perfect if you need small bursts of power, but generally, we could advise targeting the 10,000mAh range if possible. If you can compromise on the slightly bigger size, these offer great value for money – and often some in slim casings, have a better selection of ports and more robust build quality.

Another factor to consider is how long the charger takes to fill. Some of the larger models can take many hours, while smaller models take significantly less. In general, the bigger the charger, the longer it will take to reach capacity. That won’t always be a dealbreaker – as it can be charged overnight – but still worth mentioning.

Some models may have fast-charging protocols, such as USB Power Delivery (PD) and Quick Charge. PD. Essentially, they make the process of charging faster and more efficient between the power bank and device. Another category altogether is wireless chargers, which cut down on link cables between charger and phone and work by placing your device onto a round pad, for example, the Apple MagSafe charger.

Budget

You can’t buy what you can’t afford, of course. Luckily, there are a wide variety of solid portable chargers available for every price point. While the rule applies that more power = more money, it’s now easy to find a portable charger that strikes a balance between capacity and cost. You can expect to pick up a compact portable charger for under £20, while the larger 20,000mAh models can often reach £50-plus.

Compatibility 

Luckily, the majority of portable chargers will work with most smartphones – as long as you have the correct cable. Just make sure to check the item listing, which will always state if the charger is compatible with your cable, be it a USB-Type C or Apple Lightning. For each model, the input port is used to charge the model itself – that will often be micro-USB or USB-C – via a wall adapter or laptop. Output ports are used to transfer power from the charger to your device. You will often be able to use the cable that came with your phone, plugged directly into one charger port.

Which portable charger should you buy?

So now that we know some of the key factors to look out for when browsing for a portable charger, the question remains: what’s the best model for you? Here are some solid options that we have found on Amazon at a range of price points.

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Great all-rounder: Anker PowerCore Essential 20,000 PD

Price: £49.99 | Buy now on Amazon

Anker PowerCore 20000PD power bank

This 20,000mAh power bank from Anker is a fantastic all-rounder, priced at just under £50 and offering a large capacity that carries enough juice to fully charge an iPhone 12 five times and an iPad Mini 5 more than two times on a single reserve. The LED indicator is a neat touch, and pairing it with an 18W USB-C PD charger (not included) can fully recharge the PowerCore’s internal battery in 6.8 hours (up to 20 hours without). Yes, it’s bigger and heavier than some of the other models on this list, but if you’re willing to compromise on size and weight, then this charger – which supports both the Power Delivery and Quick Charge protocols – is a dependable option.

Great for compact size: Anker PowerCore 13000

Price: £35.99 | Buy now on Amazon

Anker PowerCore 13000 Power Bank

If you want a slightly more compact power bank without compromising too much on capacity, you can’t go too wrong with Anker’s PowerCore 13000. This model – as the name suggests – offers 13000mAh of power and two output ports in a frame that’s smaller (9.75 x 8 x 2.2 cm) and lighter (254 grams) than many other power banks. In day-to-day use, it will be able to be slipped into your pocket while travelling and boasts enough energy to charge your iPhone multiple times.

If you need two cheaper alternatives, check out the INIU Power Bank (20000mAh battery, £25.99) as well as the EAFU Power Bank (10000mAh battery, £17.99).

Great for ultra-portable size: Bonai Charger 

Price: £19.99 | Buy now on Amazon

Bonai Portable Phone Charger, 5800mAh Power Ban

If a small size is your priority, this Bonai charger has a lipstick design that makes it easy to carry in a pocket or bag. Attractively priced at just under £20 and offering 5800mAh capacity, it’s lighter than the Anker PowerCore 13000 at 138g. The Bonai charger’s frame is metal construction, and it comes with a nice LED indicator that tells you how much charge is remaining. It’s packaged with a USB to Lightning cable – which means it’s targeted at iPhones – but the bank will also be compatible with Android handsets via their own cables. It comes in black, green, red, rose gold and silver. For a solid alternative, check out the Anker PowerCore 5000 (£22.99).

Great for a slimline design: INIU 20W Power Bank 

Price: £19.99 | Buy now on Amazon

INIU Power Bank, 20W

We love the design of this INIU charger, which has a clear LCD  indicator showing how much power is left in the battery. While the overall charger size is comparable to your smartphone, the model packs some impressive specs into its slimline frame: such as a 10500mAh battery capacity, 20W PD fast charging and a built-in phone holder that uses clips to keep your device in place so it can be used while charging. The Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 (£19.99) also deserves a shout-out in this category.

Great for higher capacity: HETP Power Bank 

Price: £26.99 | Buy now on Amazon

HETP Power Bank

If you want to bump up the capacity slightly more than the 20,000mAh range, this HETP power bank is a great choice. It may not exactly be a looker – with a chunkier body and basic minimalist frame – but its black-red colour choice has a certain charm, and it’s difficult to argue with the 25800mAh capacity and two ports that lets you charge multiple devices at the same time. While its aesthetics are minimal, there is a nice panel of LED lights on the front, and the price point is pleasing.

Great budget option: INIU Power Bank (2021)

Price: £13.48 | Buy now on Amazon

INIU power bank 2021

While there’s a wide variety of portable chargers at the £20 mark, there’s arguably no better affordable model than the 2021 INIU power bank – which lacks the large LCD indicator of its predecessor on this list (in favour of a paw-print light) but has a lot going for it: the 10000mAh battery capacity, a slimline frame, the three-port setup and, best of all, a USB-C input/output port. Best of all – it’s currently under £14.

Great for Nintendo Switch: Home Care Wholesale Charger

Price: £34.90 | Buy now on Amazon

Home Care Wholesale Charger

It’s not only phones and tablets that can benefit from a portable charger, but also the Nintendo Switch console – which is a perfect travel companion for gamers but has a battery life that quickly drains. Most of the models, for example, will last for roughly three hours when put under heavy use – so a portable charger will be helpful when gaming on the go. The standard Switch has a 4310mAh battery, and the new OLED model has a 4310mAh battery, while the Switch Lite has a 3570mAh battery. That gives you a baseline amount of capacity that your new portable charger will need, but we advise aiming for at least 10000mAh capacity for use with the console.

We found two options that will play nicely with the Nintendo Switch USB-C port: the super-powerful Anker PowerCore 26800mAh and the Home Care Wholesale 10000mAh Charger, which comes with a really neat back mount that attaches the bank to the rear of the Switch so it can still be used while powering up. (Note, this blocks the kickstand while attached). The Anker charger is the better-looking product of the two but costs more, at £59.99 compared to the Home Care’s £34.90.

Great for sheer power: MAXOAK 50000mAh Charger

Price: £169.99 | Buy now on Amazon

MAXOAK

The Maxoak portable charger is a beast. With a huge 50000mAh battery capacity, a multi-port setup that will charge multiple devices at once and an industrial design – it has enough capacity to charge a Nintendo Switch around seven times and more than enough juice to refuel some laptops (unfortunately not MacBooks, though). It’s not small, it’s not light, not cheap, won’t be allowed on some flights, and in all honesty, it’s probably overkill if you’re only looking for a way to charge your smartphone. But it’s great for road trips and deserves a place on the list for sheer power alone.

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