Best USB-C battery packs: We review the top portable chargers for your phone or tablet

Keep your gadgets topped off on the go.

battery hub primary IDG (IDG Worldwide)

Battery packs: If you own a smart phone, you need one in your bag or backpack. And if you own a modern Android phone, you probably need a USB-C battery pack to boot.

Even as smartphones get smarter—adding mobile payment options, better screens, and performance gains all around—there’s one aspect that seems to fall further and further behind with each new generation of devices: battery life.

As such, battery cases and portable battery backs are slowly creeping into the must-have accessory column for many users, especially those who frequently travel.

With Amazon seemingly overrun by inexpensive battery packs, each one claiming faster charging and better efficiency than the next, it’s hard to know just what you are getting. So we went out, purchased fancy testing equipment, and gathered batteries priced high and low, with capacities all over the place.

Below you’ll find our recommendations for various classes of battery packs, but be sure to read through our list of reviews, linked to at the bottom of this page, to help you find the best battery pack for your needs.

Best Overall: Aukey 30000 Type-C Power Bank

This is a tough one. Most of the packs tested performed well, with little to differentiate them. A battery pack not only needs to charge your devices in a timely manner, it has to charge itself without taking a lifetime. It’s not as straightforward as picking the pack with the highest capacity and the most ports.

My overall pick is the Aukey 30000 Type-C Power Bank. It’s overall capacity, combined with USB-C and Quick Charge 3.0 support, with a handy flashlight for use during power outages, make it my top pick.

I’ll be the first to admit Aukey’s overall design approach could use some work. Putting ugly looks aside, this pack quickly charged a Galaxy S7 Edge and a Google Pixel without hesitation. Four ports are found on the front of the pack, one USB-C, one microUSB, and two USB-A.

Did I mention it’s priced at only $46?

Most portable: iVoler Type C Power Bank 10000mAh 

The iVoler Type C Power Bank 10000mAh is my pick for the best performing, most portable battery pack. Its overall footprint is similar to a small water bottle. It has a USB-C and a USB-A port, and indicator lights to show you how much juice it has in the tank.

Quick Charge 3.0 is nowhere to be found, but in testing the Google Pixel fast-charged when connected to the USB-C port.

Perhaps the most important indicator of the iVoler’s performance is that our testing showed it consistently transferred 91 percent of its total capacity when charging a phone. In other words, you’re getting your money’s worth.

For road warriors: ZeroLemon ToughJuice 30000 

ZeroLemon’s ToughJuice 30000 is built to withstand a beating, and has ports for days. In fact, it has six ports. Four USB-A, a lone USB-C, and a microUSB port round out the list.

The ToughJuice stops short of offering Quick Charge 3.0, but does have a single Quick Charge 2.0 port. What’s more, the ToughJuice tested highest in its class offering up 93 percent of its massive capacity to other devices.

Its big, heavy, ugly, and rugged battery pack designed for someone who is prone to dropping stuff, or constantly on the go. A rubber sleeve wraps around the pack, adding another layer of protection.

For someone who is constantly traveling, forgo the sitting on the floor near the only available outlet in an airport and pick up the ToughJuice 30000.

How we tested

Determining if a battery lives up to a company’s promise entails more than connecting it to a phone and charging. Testing battery packs is done over weeks, not days, and requires extra equipment in order to ensure the batteries work as expected. Our process looks like this:

  1. Upon receiving each battery pack, it was fully charged using its indicator lights (if any) as a means to track charge level.
  2. The battery was then drained using a USB load generator to track efficiency. Using this DROK Micro Load Tester combined with the PortaPow USB Power Monitor, we were able to determine how much power a battery pack was actually able to deliver before it was depleted.

    Using the DROK load tester meant we were able to test see if a battery delivers as much current as it says it can, and verify that proper shutdown mechanisms were in place should something go wrong during a charging session. (A device attempting to draw more than the maximum amperage, for example.)

    By using the PortaPow power monitor, we were able to monitor volts and amps, total power throughput, and total amount of time to deplete a battery from full to empty.

  3. The battery was recharged, this time using the PortaPow power monitor to track total power input and total amount of time to achieve a full battery, based on watt-hours.

    There are some hiccups using this method, however. Because batteries often trickle-charge once they’re full, the power monitor would never really shut off, and thus we had to keep an eye on it (recording with a GoPro) to see when normal charging had ended.

    If a battery was capable of charging through USB-C, we used that instead of microUSB.

  4. We then connected each battery to a Pixel XL and LG G5 to ensure the devices registered the expected fast charging output for each respective device. The Pixel XL uses USB-C power delivery, while the LG G5 supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 (and 2.0) protocol, despite using a USB-C connector. Between Quick Charge and USB-C power delivery, we cover the vast majority of fast-charging methods on Android phones and tablets.
  5. All of our tests were conducted using the same wall adapter, and when possible USB-C or microUSB cable. This was done to eliminate any discrepancies with wall adapters and cable throughput. Note that some battery packs come with their own wall adapters, which may perform differently than ours. We feel it’s more important to provide a level playing field, as many battery packs do not come with a wall adapter.

What to look for

Without fancy and expensive testing equipment, you never truly know if you’re getting what you pay for with a battery pack. Vendors, especially in Amazon listings, like to throw around a lot of terms, specs, and certifications.

Here are a few tips to help you make a decision:

  • Make sure it’s Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0 certified. Depending on your phone or tablet, this can make a big difference in performance. If you own a QC 2.0 device, however, ask yourself if paying extra for a QC 3.0 capable pack is worth it—the difference is sometimes minimal.
  • Don’t put 100% confidence in a company’s claims of “This pack will charge an Galaxy S7 6 times” in product listings. Battery capacity and efficiency varies based on a number of factors. This Macworld article has some great information about batteries and capacity.
  • Look at the specs of the battery, and ensure its input isn’t limited to slow charging such as 5V/1A. For example, the RAVPower 26800 pack we reviewed charges at 5V/2A through microUSB, taking over 11 hours to fully charge. However, charging through its USB-C port cut that time down to only four hours.

The complicated world of USB-C

In the wild world of USB-C cables and accessories, there are a lot of bad products that can potentially ruin your computer or smartphone. In short: Not every USB-C cable, wall adapter, and battery pack is created equal. That applies to inexpensive and expensive products alike.

Thankfully, people like Google employee Benson Leung have decided to take a look at individual USB-C chargers and cables, testing them for compatibility and specification compliance.

Each time Leung tests a product, he posts a recommendation on his Google+ account, along with a link to his full review on Amazon. He has an extensive FAQ detailing what makes a cable or charger dangerous to use, and the impact of using a bad product can have on your device.

Reddit users have created a spreadsheet compiling Leung’s recommendations and testing results, making it easier to quickly look up a cable or power adapter to double-check that it won’t damage your devices. Although, the spreadsheet is in desparate need of an update.

All of our USB-C battery pack reviews

We will continue to review battery packs and update this guide as we choose new winners. In the meantime, take a look below at all of our battery pack reviews. Some of them might be the right fit for your needs, even if it wasn’t one of our “best” picks—especially if it’s available at a steeply discounted price.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
Latest Reviews