Power On-The Go: A Guide to Portable Chargers
Before you buy, here’s what you need to know
Have you been in a situation where your device battery dies—and there isn’t an outlet or a charger in sight? A portable device charger might be what you need.
Before shopping, consider these three factors:
+ Which device or devices will you need to charge?
+ How often will you need to charge them?
+ How much bulk and weight are you willing to carry around?
If you just want to charge your phone at the end of a busy day, your needs will be different than a business traveler who needs to keep a phone and tablet charged over long international flights.
There are essentially four categories of packs:
Less than 3 ounces, usually credit card or lipstick shaped, to top off a cell phone or allow you to make a couple more calls.
Everyday purse or pack carry
Less than six ounces, about the size of a deck of cards, capable of fully charging your phone one or two times.
Briefcase or carry-on
Less than a pound, about the size of an external hard drive, can charge multiple devices including a tablet and phone.
More than a pound, about the size of a fat paperback, allows you to charge your phone and devices multiple times or over several days.
To decide what size device charger to buy, determine the total needs of what you want to charge. If you want to charge your dead phone, the portable charger you choose should have at least as much capacity as your smartphone.
A rechargeable battery’s capacity is measured in milliamperes (mAh) and device batteries are measured the same way. For example, a Samsung S10 has a 3400 mAh battery and a Kindle Fire HD 7 has a 4,440mAh battery. Assuming I want to recharge both, you’d need a charger capable of 7840mAh. The easiest way to find your device’s battery size is to Google: “(your device name) mAh battery.”
With so much competition in the marketplace, portable device charges have come down significantly in price and it helps to shop around.
To make a fair comparison, shop units with a similar charging capacity. This is pretty simple technology, so you can eliminate ones that are far more expensive than comparable models without too much worry about quality. Then compare charging rates (speed), and eliminate those with significantly slower rates, unless you are okay with a slower speed in exchange for a bargain. If that still leaves you with too many choices, do a little math and compute the charging capacity to dollar ratio.
Style, color and sleekness might also sway your decision, as well as warranty coverage and compatibility with your devices—some units can charge different types of devices such as Apple and Android at the same time.
It is interesting that no portable device charger will have the exact capacity of what is claimed. It is basically a power cell (battery) in a case with a connector. The rating is for the maximum power capacity of the raw power cell, not what the finished unit will actually release because the unit’s design is not perfectly efficient. Just something to keep in mind.
If you’re planning on taking a device charger on a flight, FAA regulations allow these devices in your carry on, but not your checked baggage.
There is a great variety available in middle battery pack sizes, but following other device trends expect to see smaller more powerful units in the future. Happy power shopping!