Anyone who owns a smartphone knows that you need a way to recharge it when you’re on the go. The most versatile way to ensure power away from an outlet is to carry a trusty battery pack. If you own a modern Android phone, that portable charger probably needs to support USB-C. (See our Best power banks of 2018 roundup if USB-C is not a requirement and our roundup of USB car chargers if you spend a lot of time in a vehicle.)
Of course, inexpensive battery packs abound, particularly on Amazon, with each one claiming faster charging and better efficiency than the next. To help you make an informed choice, we went out and purchased fancy testing equipment, then gathered batteries priced high and low, with capacities all over the place.
Below you’ll find our picks for various classes of USB-C battery packs, but be sure to read through our list of reviews, linked at the bottom of this page, to help you find the right battery pack for your needs.
Best overall: Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD
This is a tough one. After another round of testing, we again found that 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, most ports, or best efficiency.
That said, my overall pick has changed from the Aukey 30000 Type-C Power Bank to the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD. Between capacity, recharge time, charging capabilities, USB-C, and the wide range of devices it can charge—not to mention what’s included in the box—the price point is worth it (see our full review).
Yes, it’s big and bulky. But being able to quickly top off your phone while trekking through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch is worth the added weight and the price.
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 is 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:
- Upon receiving each battery pack, it was fully charged using its indicator lights (if any) as a means to track charge level.
- 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.
- 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.
- We then connected each battery to a Pixel XL and LG G5 or Galaxy S8 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.
- 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. However, the spreadsheet is in desperate need of an update.
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.