Best Cheap Portable Chargers
Published on By Jeremy Bender
New Trent iTorch IMP52D Review
From $25 Best
This model is very portable and still holds enough power (5,200 mAh) to recharge most smartphones more than once. Unique features such as a flashlight add value.
The New Trent iTorch IMP52D (starting at $25, Amazon) offers a large battery capacity of 5,200 milliampere hours, a solid yet lightweight feel, and unique features such as a laser pointer and a flashlight built in. At about the size of an iPhone 5, the charger is very portable, according to New Trent iTorch reviews. Some point out it's a little bulky to carry inside a pocket along with a phone, but inside a backpack or purse, no problem. It also comes with a convenient carrying pouch.
A reviewer from iDownloadBlog put the iTorch's battery capacity to the test and found that it didn't quite live up to the manufacturer's claim of up to three charges for an iPhone 5. Still, the battery had more than enough juice for a full charge while the phone stayed powered on. It took around two hours to bring the phone to full power and afterward showed about a third remaining. That was good enough to satisfy the reviewer, given the charger's small size.
In reviews on Amazon, consumers praise the iTorch for its compact size, light weight, and straightforward operation. During one reviewer's testing, the power pack provided more than two full charges to an iPhone 4. Shoppers have found that the iTorch recharges quickly after it's been fully depleted, and many enjoy the laser pointer and flashlight features.
A reviewer at Mac Observer used the New Trent iTorch IMP52D to bring an iPhone 5 and an iPad Mini back to 100 percent from 50 percent, which used up only half the capacity of the external battery. Don't expect this charger to top off a tablet with any kind of speed, however. The output is only 1 ampere, and tablets generally draw about 2 amps. The reviewer also warns that the manual instructs users to deplete the battery's fuel cells at least once a week to keep them healthy, so she doesn't recommend this product for people who might forget to do that.
The New Trent iTorch IMP52D has recharge time of six hours, according to the manufacturer. Its dimensions are 4 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches and it weighs 4.4 ounces. It's compatible with 5-volt devices including iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. It comes with a micro-USB cable and also a Samsung Galaxy Tab converter cable. Users must rely on AC adapters and Apple USB cables they already have.
The New Trent iTorch IMP52D is a portable and powerful little charger that offers a couple of fun extras. Most reviewers have found it handy enough to keep on hand daily and recommend to others.
Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh Review
From $26 Best
This portable USB charger is fairly light and compact, yet it's capable of topping off a tablet on the go. Most other cheap battery packs don't have the amperage for that.
The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh (starting at $26, Amazon) is a powerhouse compared with many other cheap portable chargers. Its 6,000 milliampere-hour capacity allows it to charge most smartphones more than once, yet it remains small enough to fit comfortably in a pocket, backpack, or purse. It also has a 2-ampere output, which delivers a fast enough charging speed for a tablet. An Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh review at Legit Reviews has particular praise for Anker's proprietary Power IQ technology. This allows the charger to adjust the current as the connected device requires.
Consumers posting reviews on Amazon share the expert enthusiasm for this external battery, awarding it a 4.2 rating based on more than 450 reviews at the time of writing. One reviewer notes that the device never gets hot while charging. That user has found that the charger is able to charge an iPhone 5 more than twice and an iPad 3 once.
This device has a rubberized coating that divides reviewers to some extent. One Amazon shopper observes that the finish is less prone to fingerprints, and another opines that the charger feels significantly hardier than other external batteries on the market. Some reviewers, though, mention that the texture makes this charger slightly more difficult to pull out of a pocket.
The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh has an LED power meter that appears when you shake the device to let you know how much power is remaining. The recharge time is five to six hours, according to the manufacturer. This external battery is compatible with USB-charged, 5-volt devices including all Apple and Android smartphones and tablets (including the Nexus 7, although the company specifically notes that it doesn't support the iPod Nano and Classic, HP TouchPad, LG G2 smartphone, Asus tablets, and some GPS and Bluetooth devices). The charger measures 3.7 x 1.8 x 1 inches and 4.8 ounces. It includes a micro-USB charging cable and comes in black, yellow, and green.
The main selling points of the Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh are its power-to-size ratio and 2-amp output for charging a tablet. A nifty power meter and durable build only add to its appeal, and an 18-month warranty solidifies our recommendation.
Where to buy
Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh Review
From $17 Good
This charger is one of the smallest and lightest we researched and can fully charge most any smartphone at least once. Reviewers laud its dependability.
The Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh (starting at $20, Amazon) does not hold a particularly large charge. On the other hand, Anker Astro Mini reviews describe the device as the height of portability, coming in a bit bigger than a lipstick tube. Notably, it supports pass-through charging; i.e., it can juice up other devices even while it's being charged.
A reviewer at Boing Boing calls the Astro Mini a perfect travel companion. It takes only about two hours to charge fully, in this reviewer's experience (three to four hours according to the manufacturer) and then holds enough power for more than one full juicing of an iPhone 5.
Another reviewer writing on the travel blog Map Happy is a little less enthusiastic about the Astro Mini. She points out that the charging capacity, already fairly small, is significantly less than the advertised amount. No charger is 100 percent efficient, and this product's manual advises that the external battery loses about 20 or 30 percent of its total capacity to circuit resistance and voltage conversion. That leaves a true capacity of less than 2,500 milliampere hours. The reviewer notes that the battery should be able to produce one and a quarter charges for an HTC One S -- good enough to get you through the day or a weekend away, just not ideal for long trips.
The Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh weighs in at 3.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches and 2.8 ounces. It can charge a full spectrum of Apple and Android smartphones and other devices, as long as they support a 5-volt input (notable exceptions include the iPod Nano and Classic, HP TouchPad, LG G2 phone, and Asus tablets). The Astro Mini comes with a micro-USB charging cable; users of devices with other types of connectors must use their own cables. This sleek external battery is available in black, silver, and gold. Anker provides an 18-month guarantee.
Despite its shortcomings, this is one of the highest-rated chargers on Amazon, with 4.5 stars overall from more than 5,500 reviews at the time of writing. Reviewers have high praise for the reliability and portability of the Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh and encourage others to keep this cheap, useful little device close at hand.
Lepow Moonstone 3000 Review
From $20 Good
This portable battery has a sleek, rounded shape and comes in several colors. It has two separate outputs, allowing it to charge two devices at the same time.
Consumers and experts show this funky-looking portable battery a lot of love in Lepow Moonstone 3000 reviews for its quick charging ability, efficient capacity, and wide range of supported devices. With two separate output ports (1.2 amps and 0.5 amps), it can charge two devices at once, although that will drain the 3,000 milliampere-hour capacity pretty quickly.
A tech expert from Booredatwork delights in thoughtful touches such as the stylish felt carrying case; flat, tangle-resistant micro-USB cable; and included goodies such as a headset-jack protector. Although these may not be the most important factors for most consumers, they certainly sweeten the deal for those on the fence about which charger to select.
Reviewers posting feedback on the retail site Newegg say the charger gives the impression of being well made and charges almost any USB device, including wireless speakers. Consumers reviewing the Moonstone 3000 on Amazon often mention the charger's sleek aesthetics. It's only about a quarter-inch thick, with a smooth surface and rounded edges, so it easily slips inside a pocket, and it comes in black, green, red, yellow, and white.
In a rare negative review among the hundreds of high ratings on Amazon, a consumer laments that the product lost its ability to hold a charge. However, Lepow immediately reached out to offer of exchange or refund, prompting the reviewer to post an update lauding the company's customer service. Lepow also offers a 12-month guarantee.
The Lepow Moonstone 3000 (starting at $20, Amazon) features LED lights to indicate battery level and has an advertised recharge time of 3.5 hours. The flat shape measures 3.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches and 3.88 ounces. Overall, the Lepow Moonstone 3000 makes a good option that can charge a large range of items. It also has a unique look that consumers are proud to pull out of their pockets.
Where to buy
Jackery Mini Review
From $20 Think Twice
Reviews are generally favorable, and the company has upped the capacity, but some have found that this device doesn't hold a charge or stops working after a few charges.
The Jackery Mini (starting at $20, Amazon) is an OK choice for a portable charger, thanks in large part to its lipstick-size design. Jackery has also increased the capacity to 3,200 mAh from 2,600 mAh and decreased the cost to well below the list price of $69.95. Although Jackery Mini reviews are generally favorable, some reviewers find the device unreliable and difficult to use. Dozens report that it doesn't hold a charge or stopped working after a few months.
Expert review sites such as TechRadar count this among their recommended portable chargers but seem to have low expectations for such a small, inexpensive device and often include caveats in their reviews. For example, the TechRadar reviewer warns that the power button is easy to press accidentally, leaving a low battery when you need it.
User reviews on Amazon likewise note that the power button is apt to get bumped in a bag or pocket and drain the battery. Another frustrating design quirk: Buried in the product manual, and in an FAQ on the company site, are instructions to press and hold the power button for at least three seconds to begin charging after the Jackery Mini has been sitting dormant. That may explain some of the many complaints from consumers who say they used the charger only once or twice before it quit working.
On the whole, the Jackery Mini is fairly well reviewed on Amazon. It has about four stars based on more than 900 reviews at the time of writing. Users appreciate the LEDs that show the level of charge left in the battery and often comment on the handy little size. It's tiny, at 3.7 x 0.9 x 0.8 inches and 2.7 ounces. The Jackery Mini charges most major smartphones and other 5-volt devices using an included micro-USB cable or the cable that came with the device being charged. The Jackery Mini has an advertised charge time of two-and-a-half to four hours.
The Jackery Mini is compact enough for stowing wherever you go, but other similarly small external batteries seem to offer a more reliable charge for the buck.
Cheap Portable Charters Buying Guide
Cheap portable chargers are an answer to the prayers of business travelers and other heavy users of mobile devices. Imagine it's the end of the day, and after hours of phone tag, you finally get hold of a key client or friend. But the minute you launch into your pitch, you hear that first, ominous beep: Your battery is about to die. Luckily an array of portable chargers is available for the rescue, and you don't have to spend big to get your hands on one of these little lifesavers.
In this market you can find recognizable names including mobile device manufacturers such as Samsung and battery brands such as Energizer and Duracell. But some of the best values come from lesser-known names that specialize in mobile accessories. Companies such as Mophie and Anker sell products ranging from battery cases to outdoor solar chargers. We focused on portable external batteries that charge phones and other electronic devices via USB.
Based on our research, the best portable chargers under $30 are the New Trent iTorch IMP52D (starting at $25) and the Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh (starting at $26). The Lepow Moonstone 3000 (starting at $20) and the Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh (starting at $17) have more limited capacities but are highly portable. The Jackery Mini (starting at $20) is only a bit bigger than a lipstick tube, but user complaints about reliability kept it from making our list.
The chief difference between cheap portable chargers and more expensive models is battery capacity. Pricey battery packs can juice up even an iPad or a laptop in an emergency. The budget chargers we picked generally don't have the capacity or the necessary output to charge a tablet, although today's external batteries have double the capacity of our recommendations from a few years ago. They should have enough oomph to charge any top smartphone at least once, not to mention a feature phone, MP3 player, GoPro, PSP, GPS, Bluetooth, and more. A relatively small capacity also makes for a lighter, more portable battery pack.
The portable chargers we picked each come with a micro-USB cable. To charge them up, users plug one end of the cable into a micro-USB input and the other into a computer USB port or an AC adapter (not included). The cable can then be reversed to charge a micro-USB device on the go. Some chargers come with extra connectors for different types of devices, but those aren't necessary as long as you have the USB charging cable that came with your phone. If you have an iPhone, for example, simply use the Lightning or 30-pin cable provided by Apple.
The portable USB charger market used to be somewhat sparsely populated, and the available devices drew more attention from consumers than from expert reviewers. Now the market is crowded and full of competition, which has driven down costs and spurred companies to deliver extra features such as built-in flashlights and sleek design. Ultimately, though, there are bigger considerations.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
What We Looked for in the Specs
At Least 3,000 mAh.The most important feature of a portable battery charger is the amount of extra power it can hold, which is measured in milliampere hours. The larger the capacity, the more charges a power pack can provide before its own battery needs to be recharged. Generally, consumers just want assurance that if their phone dies when they are out for the day, they can get it charged up again. We looked for chargers with a minimum capacity of 3,000 mAh, as this should provide at least one charge for a leading smartphone such as an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Still, consumers should note the sizes of the batteries in their electronic devices and compare them with the capacity of the external battery. The Nokia Lumia 1520, for example, has a 3,400 mAh battery, so consumers who expect a full charge from a 3,000 mAh battery pack will be disappointed. Keep in mind, too, that no charger is 100 percent efficient; some power will be lost in the transfer.
The New Trent iTorch IMP52D boasts a 5,200 mAh capacity and our other top pick, the Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh, has the highest capacity among the low-cost chargers we researched. It also has 2-amp output, which means users can top off the battery on a tablet at a respectable speed. However, 6,000 mAh is not quite enough to fully charge even a small tablet such as an iPad Mini with Retina display.
Smaller Size Than a Smartphone.A portable charger is convenient only if it's small and light enough to carry around easily. With that in mind, we looked for chargers smaller than the smartphones they're designed to power. Our recommendations also weigh less than 5 ounces. That way, you can toss one into a bag along with your other gadgets without adding much extra bulk. The lightest of our picks is the Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh, weighing in at 2.8 ounces.
The trade-off with a compact, lightweight external battery is that you sacrifice capacity. Determining the best size-to-capacity ratio is a personal decision, but some portable chargers stand out more than others. The lightweight Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh is about the size of a roll of quarters, yet it offers a full charge for most smartphones. The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh, the most powerful battery pack on our list, still weighs in at just 4.8 ounces. The best-selling EasyAcc Brilliant Ultra-Slim Power Bank (starting at $24) boasts a 10,000 mAh capacity but weighs more than twice as much as any of our top picks.
Portable Charger Reviews
In order to determine what makes a portable charger successful, we looked at information and reviews from a wide range of expert sources. These included sites such as PC World and the Apple news and review site iDownloadBlog, which conducts hands-on testing. We also found reviewers with related expertise, such as a blogger at the travel site Map Happy. We checked in on sites such as Amazon to see what consumers on had to say after buying and living with the products. In general users and experts seem to want the same thing: a fast, reliable charger with a convenient design. Portable charger reviews indicate whether the performance of cheap models matches up with manufacturer claims about things like battery capacity and portability.
Efficiency.According to their stated capacities, all the external batteries we picked are capable of fully charging a typical smartphone more than once on a single charge. In reality consumers must account for power that's lost in the transfer. A reviewer from iDownloadBlog reports that the New Trent iTorch IMP52D (starting at $25), which is supposedly capable of charging an iPhone 5 up to three times, showed about a third remaining after one full charge. The reviewer suggests that powering off the phone may improve performance and is satisfied with even one full charge from a unit so small and inexpensive. Reviews of the Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh (starting at $17) more or less corroborate the company's estimate of 20 percent power loss due to circuit resistance and voltage conversion. The upshot is that this small device may fall a smidgen short of a full charge for a smartphone with a big battery, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 (2,800 mAh).
Speed.The best portable chargers provide extra juice fast. User experiences vary and many power bank reviews are vague -- e.g., one simply calls the Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh (starting at $26) "insanely" fast -- but we gleaned that a good portable charger should fully charge a smartphone within a couple of hours. In an Amazon review of the Lepow Moonstone 3000 (starting at $20), a consumer points out that this external battery has two ports, one with output of 0.5 amps and one that delivers 1.2 amps for faster charging of power-hungry devices. The latter revived a nearly dead Samsung Galaxy S3 in just over an hour.
Some users see sluggish charging speeds because they're trying to use an inexpensive charger with output of 1 or 1.2 amps to charge a device such as a tablet, which generally draws around 2 amps. Only one of our top picks, the Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6000mAh, has a charging port with output of up to 2 amps. Its proprietary technology enables faster charging by automatically recognizing what kind of device is connected and adjusting the output accordingly. One reviewer found that it took about three hours to charge an iPad Mini almost completely. The rest of the cheap chargers we researched are designed for phones and max out at 1 or 1.2 amps. That current will eventually charge a tablet but far too slowly to be useful.
Manufacturer specs tend to focus on how long it takes to recharge the battery pack itself. This correlates with the size of the battery and generally jibes with what we read in portable charger reviews. The New Trent iTorch IMP52D and Anker 2nd Gen Astro take about five or six hours to recharge, while the smaller batteries on the Lepow Moonstone 3000 and Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh come in at three to four hours.