Technology has continued to progress in leaps and bounds in recent years, with each of us spending more time connected to our smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch than ever before. However, there is one technology that still infuriates us all – batteries.
We’ve all been in the situation when you have forgotten to charge your phone overnight, or it has nearly run out of juice over the course of a day but you need it to meet up with your friends later on. Batteries have improved, but we want them to last much longer than they do – with manufacturers having to weigh up battery capacity against the size of their devices – and we want ever thinner phones.
Beyond the daily use, if you are going on a long bus, train, or plane journey – and want to use your phone or tablet to keep you entertained for 8+ hours, you are going to need some help. Some train companies and airlines offer charging ports next to seats, but many do not, so and this is where power banks come into their own. A power bank about the size of a modern smartphone can charge your device two or more times, and can be an absolutely life-saver to help keep you connected.
The kind folks at AUKEY were kind enough to send us three of their best performing power banks, so we could put them through their paces and work out which option could be right for you.
The three options we reviewed are:
- AUKEY PB-N38 Portable Charger 8000mAh with Built in Micro USB Cable (5V 2A Input / 5V 2A Output)
- AUKEY PB-T4 Quick Charge 2.0 External Battery 10000 mAh (5V 2A Input, Quick Charge 2.0 + AiPower Output 5V 1A basic Output)
- AUKEY PB-T10 Quick Charge 3.0 Portable Charger 20000mAh (5V 2A Lightning and Micro USB Input / 5V 2.4A Quick Charge 3.0 Output and AiPower Output)
This power bank is the charger designed for the traveller – it is relatively small measuring 138 x 72 x 16mm (the size of a slightly fat smartphone) and weighs 200g. It features soft curved edges, but is made of cheap-feeling plastic, however most importantly it does have a a built-in rubber MicroUSB cable – making it a very neat package. Some people have complained that the built-in cable is too short, but that keeps it all neatly packed together – I wish more expensive chargers also included such a cable.
In terms of capacity, 8000mAh will charge most smartphones 2-3 times (with power industry standard bank average efficiency rate of about 70%), or give the latest iPad Air or Android tablet a single charge – which should be enough to get you through most long voyages.
Checking the battery level is quite strange, in that there are four small blue LEDs on the power bank that cycle when it is plugged in – but to check the level you need to tap the device quite firmly on the table or the ground. I would have thought a button would be a much better option as I don’t really like to hit my electronics on purpose, but it does work.
The portable charger is also missing the Qualcomm Quick charge technology that comes built into the other power banks, so this option is great for plugging in while you’re using your devices – but if you’re looking to just plug in your device for 45 minutes to give it a quick boost, the other options may be better suited.
The AUKEY Portable Charger retails for £29.99, but at the time of review Amazon has it on sale for £9.99
This power bank is a a little taller and narrower but substantially thicker than the portable charger measuring 155 x 62 x 18mm and weighs 247g. It a sleek modern and minimal design in matt black with two USB out ports, and could sit pretty on any desk next to a MacBook or other beautiful bits of tech kit.
The tech inside this power bank is much more advanced than that of the portable charger, with one of the USB ports offering Qualcomm certified Quick Charge 2.0 support, meaning that for phones that support the technology (which is a large number medium to top tier modern smartphones from a variety of brands), you can charge a phone or tablet in half the time of a traditional charger. For the devices that don’t support Quick charge, AUKEY also has its own AIPower adaptive technology that tries to give all devices the maximum power they can handle up to 5V/2.4A. These accelerated charging technologies mean that you can charge a smartphone from 0-50% in 45 minutes, a task which can take more than 90 minutes with a traditional charger.
The second USB port is very useful if you are trying to charge two devices simultaneously, but it is just a traditional 1A port, so charging is quite slow – it should be treated as an added bonus rather than a feature really.
The sleek design means the only information display on the power pack is a single LED, which glows white if 60% or more full, green if between 20-60% full, and red if below 20% – signalling you should charge it before relying on it to charge your phone. This LED is much better than nothing, but it is very vague – I would have preferred a basic battery e-ink display that could be accurate to the nearest 5% – but this would have pushed up the price. It is a relatively small gripe, but there is a big difference between the power bank having 6,000 mAh and 2,000 mAh left – that’s a whole extra phone charge and both would mean a green LED.
The AUKEY Quick Charge 2.0 External Battery 10,000 mAh retails for £32.99, but at the time of review Amazon has got it for sale for £9.99
This power pack is a bit of a beast coming in at 149.5 x 82.5 x 21mm and weighing in at 387g, but for that heft you get a whopping 20,000 mAh battery – that will give you 5-6 full phone chargers or two full tablet charges in a single package.
The minimal design is very similar to its smaller 10,000 mAh little brother, albeit scaled up – but the sleek lines and matte black finish are very pleasing to the eye. It’s obviously a larger device, but it wouldn’t stand out sitting on the desk next to your iPad Pro at all.
Under the hood, the tech is also a step up from its little brother, with this power bank supporting the latest Qualcomm Quick charge 3.0 technology – which claims to charge devices 38% faster than the 2.0 version (and is also backwards compatible with the previous 1.0 and 2.0 versions). Not that many phones and tablets support the 3.0 tech yet, but that is just because it is so new – it will be pretty ubiquitous across next year’s releases.
In the real world, this tech means that rather tan taking 45 minutes to charge a phone to 50% with Quick charge 2.0 (and 90-120 minutes with a standard charger), Quick charge 3.0 will do the same in just 35 minutes – a very useful upgrade.
Like its smaller brother, this power bank has two USB out ports, but this time one port supports the much improved Quick charge 3.0 technology and both ports support AUKEY’s own AIPower tech. Moreover, the device itself is charged by 5V 2A MicroUSB or Apple Lightning connector, so will recharge pretty quickly.
This power bank also only has a single LED to indicate the charge like its little brother, for which I have the same complaints – but with so much capacity on offer I actually ran into the issue much less with this option.
The AUKEY Quick Charge 3.0 Portable Charger 20000mAh retails for £56.99, but at the time of review was on sale at Amazon for £29.99.
So which should you choose?
Each device has its own specific uses, but if you only buy one of the three then I would go with the 20,000 mAh portable charger for its Quick charge 3.0 support and massive battery capacity – you will definitely have enough juice to finish whatever you were doing and that is the most important factor.
That said, the 20,000 mAh portable charger is pretty hefty, so if you were after something lighter and smaller to have in your handbag or rucksack then the 10,000 options could be a better choice. As with most phone and tablets only support Quick charge 2.0, it will be a while before most people will be able to take advantage of the 3.0 speed benefits too.