Have you ever been somewhere with a phone or laptop on the verge of death, panicked when the last few percent ticked?
Of course you have; we were all there. Leaving power at key moments is never easy, whether on an important phone call, in the middle of booking a place to spend the night that night, or even catching the last few minutes of a game or favorite TV show.
Ever since we carried our first iPhone all those years, we’ve used portable chargers, also known as batteries or external batteries. These days we never go on a trip without grabbing at least a few external battery chargers.
In this article, we review our latest acquisition, the powerful Crave PowerPack 2 external battery charger, and discuss what to look for when buying an external battery pack.
So, tired of constantly looking for a place to connect a smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop? Well, then, let’s dive into the world of portable chargers.
Use code TBN10 to take advantage of a 10% discount on the portable charger at Crave Direct.
What to look for when buying an external battery charger
For a simple device, an external battery charger can have a surprising amount of technical information that makes the choice confusing.
So, what is the most important thing when purchasing a charger? Some say portability, however, is for most people a billing amount that is equally important.
When you look at external battery chargers, the first thing you’ll notice is how many mAhs are provided.
What does mAh mean?
MAh means Milliamp Hours. It basically measures how much battery power it can charge in one hour.
To get an idea, a small lipstick-sized charger typically has about 2,000 to 3,000 mAh, a standard card charger counter has about 10,000 to 15,000 mAh, while a monstrous family-sized external battery charger can have up to 50,000 mAh.
I like to think about mAh in terms of the number of smartphone charges you can get. A small 3,000 mAh battery can almost fully charge my current phone once, while a 50,000 mAh family charger can charge my phone 15 times.
Of course, the amount charged will depend on the size of your phone or tablet and you will lose a small percentage (up to 15%) when transferring from a portable charger.
How many ports does a portable charger need?
When choosing an external battery, it is important to know which charging connectors are included. The number of ports (usually USB Type A or C ports) determines how many devices can be charged at one time. For example, if you have a phone and tablet, owning 2 ports can be very helpful. Multiple ports also help when you have a partner or family.
Once you decide that you need a lot of mAh and how many connectors you want, then you need to consider the size and weight. Most batteries have a ratio of similar size and power to weight, so if the battery you’re looking at seems significantly different, that could be a cause for alarm.
Built-in LEDs and accessories
In addition to dimensions, portable chargers may include a built-in accessory such as LED lights or hangers, and there are carrying cases to consider. These are not switches for most people, however they could tip the scales when comparing two similar models.
A typical battery charger should also have an LED display that shows the charge level. Some chargers will show you a few lines, while some may tell you the percentage. Most are just an estimate, so always take these readings with a grain of salt.
Portable charger sizes and weights
Like capacity, the size and weight of the charger is of great importance to most people. The smallest lipstick-shaped chargers weigh virtually no more than two ounces. The largest chargers of 50,000 mAh weigh about three kilograms and are about eight centimeters long, two and five centimeters wide.
Not only is it wise to choose a powerful enough battery charger, but you also need to buy one that suits your lifestyle. If you need an occasional quick refill and like to travel lightly, then a lipstick-sized charger may suit you. However, if you’re a road worker, then a heavier charger that can recharge your laptop and phone multiple times might be more appropriate.
The same goes if you like streaming videos or playing a lot of video games on the go. They can both drain your batteries much faster than simply browsing, chatting or texting. If you have to charge your devices several times in one day, then you definitely need a bigger charger.
People often find that their best charger is the one they are most likely to carry with them on a regular basis. Too big could slow you down, but too small could leave you looking for another answer. You may also find that it is more powerful and lighter for you, which suits you best, depending on the day.
USB port options for external charger
Although portable battery chargers come in all shapes and sizes, older battery packs typically have standard USB-A output ports and a micro USB port for battery input or charging. They work well for older devices, but luckily a lot of newer chargers come with a USB-C standard.
USB-C is easier to connect (it doesn’t care which direction it goes and can often be used for both input and output port), and generally has the advantage of allowing faster charging (though not always). Of course, if you have older devices that still use USB-A, it might be better to get a charger with that stylish output.
Note: Apple’s Lightning cables can have USB-A or USB-C opposite ends, depending on the model of phone or tablet you own, so you can go either way. Also keep in mind that you can get cables or adapters that work with any stylish charger connector, so don’t worry if the model you like best doesn’t fully fit your current phone or tablet.
One thing we’ll notice is that if you get one of the newer chargers that uses USB-C, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you find it with both USB-C input and output so you can use the same cable for both charging the device and charging the battery charger.
Quick charging options for battery chargers
For fast charging, you need a device that accepts fast charging, a cable that allows fast charging, and an external battery that allows fast charging.
So what is fast charging? To understand this, you must first understand what regular charging means. Most phone chargers are based on USB specifications. The traditional specifications for USB 2.0 meant 5 volts and a power of 500 milliAmpres, but then USB 3.0 came out and amplified it to 5 volts and 1 amp.
Fast charging means that the power does not increase only from 5 V to 9 V (or even 12 V). but the current can be amplified up to 2 amps, and sometimes even over 3 amps. This means that if your device is connected to one of these super chargers and your phone supports it, you can charge your device faster than ever before.
Now there are a dozen different companies that support a bunch of different protocols, so how do you know which one works best for your device? Well, it’s best to research your device and see what it supports.
QC3 or Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 is the most common newer protocol when it comes to fast charging, which often works on multiple brands like Samsung, Motorola and LG devices. Apple uses a USB power supply for fast charging. That means an 18W adapter with a USB-C lightning cable.
The good news is that most chargers should work with almost all brands. Most will output at a default power of 5V / 500ma, unless there is a chip in your device that tells it it can support higher speeds. Although you are not guaranteed the fastest charging without finding a compatible charger, the charger will still charge your device (although it may be slower than the maximum).
If you’re still not sure which works best with your device, check the reviews of people using the same device as yours on different chargers. While they are not always 100% accurate, I can often tell you if you are covered.
Our Crave PowerPack battery charger review
For years, our family charger has been a 20,000 mAh portable charger. It can charge two devices at once and has high speed charging.
Since we are a family of four, each with their own devices, we have found that we often have to carry at least two of these 20,000 mAh chargers in order for our phones to be charged on the go. We also seem to be constantly looking for an outlet to recharge external battery chargers, which really seems to nullify the purpose of the portable charger.
Since our family of four often travels complete with laptops and gaming systems, it’s obvious we need a lot of battery life. Something with a lot of power is also great for our passenger trailer which helps prevent strain on our main batteries.
For us, it was time for an external battery charger that was powerful enough to manage charge charging on all of our devices.
The time is for something bigger, with more power.
It’s time for Crave PowerPack 2.
The You crave PowerPack 2 is a beast. That’s a whopping 50,000 mAh, which means that when fully charged, a typical smartphone can charge 15 times from 0% to 100%. The tablet can even be charged over half a dozen times.
Complete with two Quick Charge 3.0 ports (the most common charging style), charging our phones has never been so fast.
Use code TBN10 to get a 10% discount on Crave Direct.
Like almost any small device in your home, you can charge your laptop with it (provided it has a Type C charging port). Our current laptop still uses the old style charger, however, we are looking for a new one, so a PowerPack with these connectors will make our decision even easier.
Tip: Crave on Amazon sells a set of multi-pin USB cables that work with older laptops. Click here to check.
The trade-off for all that charging power is that the Crave PowerPack 2 is quite larger and heavier than our current 20,000 mAh chargers. This is not a charger that you can put in your back pocket and carry around town. It is made for heavier work needs than that.
Honestly, though, now that we do more travel and use our luggage more, the weight of the PowerPack 2 is no problem.
Travel restrictions have definitely changed our travel style. We traveled with the lightest possible equipment to make our plane as light hand lugs as possible for our family. However, we haven’t taken off since the pandemic started, deciding to travel more to campsites and campgrounds.
Now that we spend a lot more time in our passenger trailer or beyond excursions, we can carry a little more in the bags. Honestly, I really like being able to be a little more relaxed with our packaging!
Use code TBN10 to get a 10% discount on Crave Direct.
If you want to see what Crave sells and what their reviews look like, jump in and take a look You crave products on Amazon.
More about craving
While the Crave is best known for its external battery chargers, that’s not all they sell.
There are also screen protectors, cables, cases (for Apple, Samsung and Google), Bluetooth speakers and headphones.
Use code TBN10 to get a 10% discount on Crave Direct.