It’s easy to view power stations as nothing more than really big portable battery packs, but they offer much more than just a way to recharge your devices. A portable power station can light a room by powering lamp, or in some cases keep a mini-fridge running during a power outage. It can be major convenience on camping trips, or a means to a backyard movie night, running a projector and speakers.
The point is, a portable power station is as versatile as you need it to be. Below you’ll find our top picks for different use cases to help you find the best portable power station for your needs. And below our recommendations you can find helpful buying advice on what features matter most.
If you’re in the market for a more modest power source—one you can use to charge a laptop or phone—see our roundup of best power banks for our top picks in that category.
Updated 11/30/22 to include our review of the EcoFlow Delta 2 power station, which takes the place of the EcoFlow Delta Mini as our pick for the best high-tech option. Scroll down to learn more about this power station’s advanced battery technology and EcoFlow’s unique battery expansion modules.
1. RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh Power House – Best overall
- Small form factor
- Plenty of ports
- Comes with a case and built-in flashlight
- Built for quick trips, not for extended use
Whether you’re looking for a power station for weekends off the grid, or you want to be prepared for a power shortage at home, RAVPower’s 252.7Wh portable power station can meet the demand. It’s got a nice complement of ports, as well as a carrying handle and a case, and it’s affordably priced.
2. Aukey PowerTitan 300 – Best overall runner-up
- Big bright display
- Plenty of ports
- Highly efficient
- Solar panel accessory is a miss
Aukey’s PowerTitan is in a close tie with RAVPower’s power station above. It also has high-efficiency, a nice array of ports, a fairly fast re-charge time, and an affordable price. Although, RAVPower’s option is the less expensive of the two, giving it a slight edge.
3. Goal Zero Yeti 1000X – Best for preppers
- Power for days, literally
- Plenty of connection options
It you want maximum preparedness, Goal Zero’s Yeti 1000X is the choice for you. This 983Wh power station can run multiple appliances in the even of a power shortage. What’s more, the Yeti system is expandable, offering such options as a Home Integration Kit for connecting the 1000X to your home’s electrical system, or a battery expansion for increasing your the power stations capacity. Granted, this kind of power costs a high price.
4. Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station – Best for preppers runner-up
- Plenty of power to go around
- More than enough ports
- It’s heavy, in case you want to take it camping
You can probably get the gist of Jackery’s Explorer 1000 from its name. Yep, it offers 1000Wh of power to keep household appliances or camping gear humming. It’s heavy, though, at 22 pounds, so it’s not a backup power source you’ll casually take on an outing to the park. It’s also expensive. But cost and weight are fair tradeoffs when you want the kind of coverage this power station offers.
5. EcoFlow Delta 2 – Best high-tech and expandable option
- Lithium Iron Phophate batteries for longer duty cycles
- Companion app is handy
- Impressive recharge rate
- Can be expanded by adding secondary battery
- Loud fans under heavy and even light loads
- Expansion battery too expensive
The new Delta 2 is now one of the most high-tech portable power stations available, with good app support for remote control and the option to augment the unit with a secondary battery. With one of the fastest charge rates around, an 1,800-watt output, a 2,700-watt surge output, and “X-Boost” output of 2,200W, the Delta 2 is robust and powerful. Our only major complaint is fan noise, which gets excessive under heavy use. We’re hopeful EcoFlow will address that in a firmware update.
What to look for in a power station
Not all power stations are created equal. For example, some stations have the ability to power a microwave, while others can maybe deal with the power requirements of a desktop gaming computer. When shopping for a power station, there are some important aspects to keep in mind. In the list below, we try not to get too technical.
- Consider what you plan on using the power station for to decide the ideal capacity and physical size of the power station. The stations are filled with batteries to keep your devices powered, and batteries are heavy. When shopping for something you want to take camping, for example, it makes sense to prioritize a lighter weight. But if you want something to use as a backup power source in your home, size and weight may not matter all that much.
- Check the capacity of the power station. Often the capacity of the station is included in its name, but that’s not always the case. For example, the Anker 535 PowerHouse may lead you to believe that its capacity is 535Wh, but in reality it’s 512Wh. Always read the fine print or spec sheet to see the exact capacity. For reference, a capacity of 512Wh is roughly 7x more than our top pick for best portable battery pack, the Mophie PowerStation XXL.
- While it’s not realistic to know how you’ll use the power station in the future, try to guesstimate the number of ports and outlets you’ll need.
- Here’s the technical part. Some power stations list modified sine wave or pure sine wave on their spec sheet. If you plan on using the power station to charge your phone, laptop, or even power a lamp, a station that lists “sine wave” is perfectly fine. However, if you’re going to use the station for medical equipment (like a CPAP machine), a microwave, or anything with a motor, you’ll want to opt for a station that can output a pure sine wave signal. These days, it’s actually hard to find a higher capacity power station with a anything but pure sine wave.
- Lastly, it’s important to check the watt output of the device(s) you need to power and compare it to the power station’s rating. Usually a power station will list two different outputs: a standard output and a peak output. The standard output is what it’s built to run at for extended amounts of time, while the peak output is what it can handle for brief periods of time — such as when you first power on a device and it draws more power. You can get a rough estimate of the wattage on a device by multiplying the voltage times the amps. For example, if the power brick says 20 volts at 3 amps, the brick can output up to 60 watts.
How we test
We use two methods to test power stations. Many of the units you see here were tested by connecting a PortaPow power monitor and DROK load tester to a standard USB port and let the battery completely empty. The results are recorded compared to the quoted capacity to get the efficiency of the power station.
Once that’s done, the station is charged with the included power adapter while the time taken is recorded. Some stations leave the screen on while charging so a Wyze Camera to create a timelapse of the charging process. Other stations include an estimated time to charge on the display, which times out and turns off after a few minutes. In that case, we check on the station’s progress roughly every hour, as well as near the original estimated time to ensure it’s accurate.
Finally, a 4W desk lamp is connected to the 110V wall plug on each power station while a timelapse is created of how long the lamp remains on.
Our second method first conditions the unit by fully discharging it one cycle. The unit is then connected to a 200 watt incandescent lamp plugged into a watt meter which is then plugged into the power station. The watt meter records the total power consumed by the light bulb expressed in watt hours. We then recharge the unit over AC at its fastest recharge rate with a logging wattmeter recording the start and end time.
Because the AC efficiency of a power station can differ from its DC efficiency, we also fully discharge the unit using a USB-C load tester set to 60 watts (the typical power consumed by a small laptop on full load) with a USB-PD trigger set to 20 volts DC.
We also note any excessive fan noise while charging or discharging the unit as well as evaluate the unit based on its port selection, charging input options.
Is a power station the same as a power bank?
Yes and no. Both are batteries with ports you can plug your devices into. Typical power banks are very portable and used to charge phones, tablets, and even laptops sometimes. They usually only have USB ports but some do have the familiar AC ports too that can power very small devices. A power bank, however, is typically limited to a very small capacity of 100 watt hours or less, which is the largest you can bring on a plane legally due to fire risks. A power station typically has AC plugs that can support everything from power tools to appliances and can range from petite 250 watt hours to 3,000 watt hours and can weigh 70 pounds or more.
Is a power station the same as a solar generator?
Yes. This is mostly a semantics discussion but some get irked at use of the term “generator” for a battery that stores power rather than generates it. The optional solar panels, in fact, generate the electricity, not the power station itself. All you need to know is they are the same and can be used interchangeably so long as you don’t mind the occasional brow-beating.
What’s the difference between a traditional generator and a solar generator, aka power station?
The traditional generator you see on a food truck or construction site generates electricity via a small engine no different than what is in your car. It requires gasoline, propane, natural gas, or diesel to run. A solar generator is a battery with a circuit to convert the stored electricity into DC or AC power that your phone or appliances can use, and can usually be charged via a wall outlet or by solar panels.
Is a power station better than a gas generator?
Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and it very much depends on how you plan to use the equipment and your requirements. A gas generator must be used outdoors in a well vented area and can be deadly if not used properly due to the carbon monoxide output and fire hazards. While there are exceptions, gas generators tend to be far noisier. The benefits of a gas generator is in the ability to constantly generate electricity so long as you have the fuel to run it. Gasoline, propane, and natural gas are also very energy dense and a typical 2,200-watt inverter generator would be the equal of a 20,000 watt-hour power station storage, using just five gallons of gasoline. Gas generators tend to be far lower in cost as well.
The power station’s strengths come from the ability to be run inside your home with no carbon monoxide risks. That’s a boon for anyone who lives in an apartment, condo, or other restrictions to having outdoor space to safely run a generator, that’s a big plus. In stored capacity, the gas generator will win, but access to fuel and safe storage of that fuel can become an issue. This is especially true on an extended outing or during a lengthy outage—in which case you’re better off generating power from solar panel arrays. Fairly minimal maintenance and a minimal learning curve also favor a power station.
How long does a portable power station last?
How long a power station lasts largely depends on how much power you’re draining from it and how large it is.
The power station spec that’s most important here is the capacity, typically expressed as watt hours. Think of watt hours similar to your car’s capacity for gas. The larger the gas tank, the longer in between fill-ups.
In a power station, a 1,000 watt-hour power station would last roughly one hour if you ran a space heater that constantly consumed 1,000 watts. If you plugged a 100-watt incandescent light bulb into the power station, it would, in theory, last 10 hours. If you plugged in a CPAP device that uses 50 watts, you could potentially see 20 hours of run time.
“How long it lasts” is largely answered by what you’re running off it as well as other factors such as efficiency and even the age of the power station.
What can a portable power station run?
The other important spec is the output wattage the circuit that converts to AC power (the inverter) it supports. This is also expressed in watts but relates to how much power the power station can provide to what is plugged into it. For example, on a Goal Zero Yeti 1000X, each AC plug is rated for 1,500 watts or 3,500 watt surge (or momentary spikes).
This is enough to start or run most things found in a typical home: From a refrigerator or chest freezer to power tools to CPAP devices. Remember, when we refer to “run” this is strictly in reference to what you can run—it doesn’t refer to how long you can run it for. And as we learned earlier, that’s mostly influenced by how much capacity or watt hours that power station has.
Can a portable power station run a refrigerator?
One of the primary reasons people own power stations is to keep a refrigerator running so your expensive groceries don’t spoil. Unlike a light bulb that never uses more than its rated wattage, refrigerators have compressors that consume more power when started and then ease back down once started. For example, a refrigerator might use 1,200 watts for less than a second but then mostly consume 150 to 250 watts for the next 45 minutes.
If you’re looking for a power station to run a refrigerator, first you’ll want one with an adequate output on the AC ports to support the surge when it starts. Some very small power stations may only support a surge rating of 500 watts, which isn’t enough. Your refrigerator will typically have a label inside or on back that lists how many amps it requires. If it, for example, says it needs 9.5 amps, you can simply multiple 9.5 amps x 120 volts to roughly determine how many watts it needs to start, which is 1,140 for the example here. Remember it’s just 1,200 watts for a second or two while the compressor motor starts. Most fridges use far less power after the initial start.
The second important spec to look for is capacity or how many watt hours the power station has. This dictates how long the power station can last between charging.
We’d set the floor at no smaller than 1,000 watt hours if you’re intent on running a refrigerator, with a 2,000 watt-hour unit a strong recommended if you want to get a full day of use from it. Even then, we’d strongly encourage a plan for charging the power station via solar or by lugging it to an available power source if you’re expecting a longer outage.
How important is power station battery chemistry?
The vast majority of power stations today are based on lithium ion batteries, but not all lithium ion batteries are the same. Two popular chemistries today are Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) or Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP). NMC batteries’ main advantage is energy density, which means they can pack more into a smaller size. LFP batteries’ main advantage is in cost (although NMC can also be lower cost), but also lifespan. For example, EcoFlow’s original NMC-based Delta was rated for 800 full power cycles before capacity would drop to 60 percent. EcoFlow’s new LFP-based Delta 2 is rated for 3,000 full cycles before capacity drops to 80 percent.
That’s a huge difference, but it may be a little overrated depending on your use case. Since most power stations sit on a shelf 95 percent of the time, the average use during emergencies or camping is likely to keep an NMC battery lasting for years and years of service.
Those who use a battery in a full-time off-the-grid situation, however, will likely want as many full cycles as possible, which a properly built LFP battery can provide.