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Power Banks: specifications, types
The nominal capacity of the battery installed in the powerbank.
The higher the battery capacity, the more energy the powerbank is able to accumulate and then transfer when charging gadgets connected to it. However, note that not all of the accumulated energy goes specifically to charging — part of it is spent on service functioning and inevitable losses in the transmission process. Thus, in addition to the nominal, the specs often also specify the real capacity of the power bank (see below), and it is that you should pay attention when assessing the actual capabilities of a particular model. If there is no data on real capacity, when calculating it is worth proceeding from the fact that it is usually somewhere 1.6 times lower than the nominal one. For example, for a model with a nominal capacity of 10,000 mAh, the actual value will be approximately 6250 mAh (in fact, usually a little more, but for a full guarantee it is best to use a factor of 1.6).
As for the specific values of the nominal capacity, in the most modest models it is 5000 – 7000 mAh and even less ; such power banks are suitable as a backup source of energy for 1 – 2 charges of a smartphone with a not very capacious battery or other similar gadget. The most popular nowadays are models for 7000 – 10000 mAh — in many cases, this option provides the best ratio of price and capacity. Options...for 10,000 – 15,000 mAh and 15,000 – 20,000 mAh are also very common; and even a capacity of more than 20,000 mAh, thanks to the development of modern technologies, is quite common — including in low-cost models.
The real capacity of the powerbank.
Real capacity is the amount of energy that a power bank is able to transfer to rechargeable gadgets. This amount is inevitably lower than the nominal capacity (see above) — most often by about 1.6 times (due to the fact that part of the energy goes to additional features and transmission losses). However, it is by real capacity that it is easiest to evaluate the actual capabilities of an external battery: for example, if this figure is 6500 mAh, this model is guaranteed to be enough for two full charges of a smartphone with a 3000 mAh battery and smartwatches for 250 mAh.
The capacity in this case is indicated for 5 V — the standard USB charging voltage. At the same time, the features of milliamp-hours as a unit of capacity are such that the actual amount of energy in the battery depends not only on the number of mAh, but also on the operating voltage. In fact, this means that when using fast charging technologies (see below) that involve increased voltage, the actual value of the actual capacity will differ from the claimed one (it will be lower). There are formulas and methods for calculating this value, they can be found in special sources.
Battery capacity in watt-hours. These units of measurement are less popular than milliamp hours, but more physically correct: they accurately describe the amount of energy stored in a battery. Thanks to this, in terms of capacity in Wh, it is possible to compare batteries with different nominal voltages (whereas this is not allowed for mAh - additional calculations must be carried out using special formulas). At the same time, Wh can be easily converted to mAh if the battery voltage is known (for power banks, this is in most cases 3.7 V): for this, the capacity in Wh must be divided by the voltage and multiplied by 1000.
The type of own batteries installed in the powerbank. Lithium-ion(Li-Ion) or lithium-polymer(Li-Pol) batteries are most commonly used today. Other options are less common — solutions based on nickel-metal hydride(Ni-Mh) batteries, as well as on LiFePO4 type cells. In addition, a rather promising development has appeared relatively recently — graphene batteries; however, as of early 2021, they are just beginning to be introduced into mass production. Here are the main features of each of these varieties:
— Li-Ion. Lithium-ion technology allows you to create quite capacious batteries of small dimensions and weight. In addition, such elements are easy to use (the main operating parameters are regulated by the built-in controller), have a high charge speed and are practically not affected by the "memory effect" (reduction in capacity when charging an incompletely discharged battery). The main disadvantage of lithium-ion batteries is a rather narrow range of permissible ambient temperatures. This is not a problem in urban usage, when the powerbank is used mainly indoors and is carried in a pocket or in a bag; but for less favorable conditions (such as long hikes in the cold season), it is worth choosing models with good thermal insulation. You can also find information that lithium-ion batteries are prone to fires and even explosions; however, this is usually due to fa...ilures in the embedded controllers, and these controllers are also constantly being improved, and nowadays the risk of such an accident is so low that it can actually be neglected.
— Li-pol. Further development and improvement of the lithium-ion technology described above; the main difference is the use of a solid polymer electrolyte instead of a liquid one (hence the name). This made it possible to achieve even greater capacity without increasing the dimensions, as well as to reduce the potential for fires and explosions during abnormal operation. On the other hand, lithium-polymer batteries are somewhat more expensive than lithium-ion batteries and are even more sensitive to temperature disturbances.
— Ni-Mh. Nickel-metal hydride batteries are distinguished by their reliability and a wide range of permissible temperatures, however, with the same dimensions, they are inferior in capacity to lithium-ion (and even more to lithium-polymer) batteries, and they also require certain specific operating rules to be observed. In addition, it is worth noting that Ni-Mh technology is well suited for removable batteries. It is in this format that such batteries are most often used: powerbanks of the Ni-Mh format are usually adapters with slots for several replaceable elements of a standard size (for example, AA). In this case, usually, several corresponding removable batteries are included in the kit, however, if desired, they can be replaced with other elements — these can even be disposable batteries from the nearest store. Such an opportunity can turn out to be very useful if the powerbank is out of juice at an unfortunate moment, but there is no way to charge it; in addition, worn-out batteries can be replaced with fresh ones without changing the entire device.
— LiFePO4. Another modified version of the Li-Ion batteries described above, the so-called "lithium iron phosphate". The advantages of such cells over classical lithium-ion ones are, first of all, a stable discharge voltage (until the energy is exhausted), high peak power, long service life, resistance to low temperatures, stability and safety. In addition, due to the use of iron instead of cobalt, such batteries are also safer to manufacture and easier to dispose of. At the same time, they are noticeably inferior to the classic lithium-ion ones in terms of capacity, and they are more expensive, which is why they are rarely used.
— Graphene. Batteries based on graphene — a carbon film one atom thick. The battery itself consists of a set of such films, between which silicon plates are laid, and lithium cobaltate or magnesium oxide is used as an anode. This design provides a number of advantages over the earlier batteries described above. First, graphene technology provides a high charge density, which allows you to create capacious and at the same time light and compact batteries. Secondly, for the production of such batteries, fewer rare resources are needed than for the same lithium ones; and the production itself is more environmentally friendly. Thirdly, such batteries are not prone to overheating and explosions when overloaded or damaged. On the other hand, graphene power supplies take a long time to charge and are not durable. However, this technology is still developing, and in the future it is likely that these shortcomings will be eliminated — completely or at least partially.
The number of charge-discharge cycles that the battery can withstand without significant loss of performance.
During operation, batteries wear out, and because of this, their specs (primarily capacity) noticeably deteriorate. Battery life is usually measured in charge-discharge cycles. The features of counting cycles are described in detail in special sources, but here we note that not always models with the same claimed resource turn out to be equally durable in fact. The fact is that different manufacturers may understand “significant loss of performance” differently: for example, one brand can indicate a resource up to a 20% decrease in capacity, the second — up to a 60% decrease. Therefore, when choosing, it makes sense to focus not only on pure numbers, but also on other sources — test results, reviews, etc.
Also note that battery life can be noticeably reduced if the operating conditions are violated — for example, in case of overheating or excessive cold.
Full charge time
The time required to fully charge a battery discharged “to zero”. Features of the charging process in different models may be different, respectively, and the time required for this may differ markedly even with the same capacity.
Fast-charging batteries tend to be more expensive. Therefore, choosing this option makes sense if you do not have much time to replenish your energy supply — for example, for hiking. However, keep in mind that charging at full speed may require a charger that supports certain fast charging technologies (see below).
It must also be said that in most modern batteries, the charging speed is uneven — it is highest at the several first percent from zero, then gradually decreases. Therefore, the time required to replenish the energy supply by a certain percentage will not be strictly proportional to the total claimed charge time; moreover, this time will depend on how much the battery is already charged at the time the procedure starts. For example, charging from 0 to 50% will take less time than from 50 to 100%, although both there and there we are talking about half the capacity.
Powerbank charging inputs
The type of input used to charge the power bank's own battery. Simply put, this paragraph indicates which connector on the cable you need to charge the powerbank. At the same time, some models provide several inputs for charging at once, which simplifies the search for a cable. Also note that for models with a built-in powerbank charging connector (see below), the type of this connector is specified separately.
Most often in modern power banks there are standard connectors microUSB, USB-C and/or Apple Lightning. A lot of accessories are produced for such connectors — cables, network and car chargers, adapters, etc.; so there is usually no difficulty in finding a source of energy. Less common are models with DC input, they are usually equipped with their own power supply (or at least a cable under such a connector). Here is a more detailed description of the different types of inputs:
— microUSB. A smaller version of the USB connector, still very popular in portable tech, despite the active spread of the more advanced USB-C. It has relatively modest capabilities — in particular, it does not allow the implementation of some advanced fast charging technologies. On the other hand, it is very easy to find a source of energy for such a connector: both modern and many of the frankly outdated cables and chargers are suitable for...it.
— USB-C. A miniature type of USB connector, positioned, among other things, as the successor to microUSB. The most noticeable improvement is the reversible design, which allows you not to worry about which side of the plug is inserted into the connector. However, in the case of powerbanks, this is not the only or even the main advantage: USB-C has more extensive capabilities, allows more powerful currents and use a wider range of fast charging technologies (and Power Delivery was originally created specifically for this connector). Note that in some models the same connector of this type can be used both as an input for charging the battery and as an output for charging external devices — moreover, with automatic switching between these modes.
— Apple Lightning. Initially, this connector is designed for portable gadgets made by Apple. However, in the case of powerbanks, it can also be found in third-party devices: the idea is that the presence of Lightning allows you to charge an external battery using a cable from an iPhone or iPad and eliminates the need to look for a separate wire. For a number of reasons, this charging input is rarely used as the only one, more often it is provided in addition to microUSB or USB-C (see above).
— DC input. DC is a standard covering several types of connectors at once. Their common feature is a signature round shape, but the diameter, rated voltage and power can be different. In this sense, such connectors are not as convenient as USB-C, Lightning and other generally accepted standards — with a DC socket, it is best to use a native power supply (usually it comes bundled right away), and finding a third-party power source can be a problem. On the other hand, inputs of this type have practically no power limitations, it is easier to achieve high power supply with them than with the connectors described above. Therefore, DC inputs are used mainly in high-capacity power banks, where charging through a "weaker" interface would take an unreasonably long time. However, such models can also be equipped with standard microUSB or USB-C connectors "just in case".
Built-in powerbank charging connector
The presence of a built-in connector in the powerbank for charging the batteries of the device itself. Such a connector is most often a fixed wire with a charging plug at the end, although there are other options — for example, a fold-out plug for an outlet built right into the case. The type of plug can also be different, most often it is a standard USB or one of the reduced varieties (usually USB-C). However, anyway, the advantage of this design is that it eliminates the need for a separate cable; this is especially convenient due to the fact that the detachable cable can be lost or forgotten somewhere, and the built-in connector always remains with the powerbank. On the other hand, a removable wire can be selected according to the length and type of plug, and if it fails, it can be replaced without any problems; for the connector, such features are not available, you have to make do with what you have, and in the event of a breakdown, carry the device for repair or change it entirely. So this feature is quite rare in modern power banks, and sometimes the connector is also supplemented with a port for a detachable cable.
Powerbank charge current via USB
Nominal charge current supported by the powerbank when charging its own battery via microUSB, USB-C, or Lightning (see "Battery charging inputs").
This is the maximum and, in fact, the recommended power bank charge current. If the amperes supplied by the power source exceed this value, the charge current will still be limited by the built-in controller to avoid overloading. And using a charger with a lower output current, in turn, will lead to an increase in charging time.
Data on the charge current via USB (Lightning) is especially important due to the fact that modern powerbanks are usually not equipped with their own chargers for these inputs, and energy sources must be separate. On the other hand, if a high charging speed is not critical for you, you can ignore this parameter: any USB connector is suitable as a power source for the corresponding powerbank inputs.
DC powerbank charge current
Nominal charge current supported by the powerbank when charging its own battery via the DC connector (see "Battery Charging Inputs").
Models with DC charging inputs are usually equipped with chargers that most often have a current of this indicator. Therefore, you have to pay attention to the amperes indicated for the DC input, mainly when looking for a third-party charger for this connector. And here it is worth proceeding from the fact that the current issued by this charger should perfectly correspond to the charge current of the powerbank itself. It is quite possible that the output current of the charger is lower than the nominal one — unless the charge time increases accordingly. But it is undesirable to connect a power bank to an overly powerful energy source: it is not a fact that the built-in controller can effectively reduce the current to the nominal value and prevent battery overload.
Powerbank charge power
Nominal power supported by the power bank when charging its own battery through the appropriate interface. See "Battery Charging Inputs" for details.
USB-C charging power
The power supplied by the powerbank on the USB-C output.
USB-C is a relatively new type of USB connector, with small size, double-sided design and fairly advanced (theoretically) capabilities. And the power supplied to the device being charged directly depends on the charge current — and, accordingly, the maximum speed of the process (in fact, it can be lower if the device being charged has strict limits on the charge current). However power is also determined by the supply voltage (the number of watts is calculated by multiplying amperes by volts); while the standard USB output voltage is 5V, however, many fast charging technologies (see below) use higher voltages. Therefore, in the notes to this paragraph, the maximum power on the USB-C connector is additionally indicated.
As for specific values, the most popular option for USB-C outputs in modern power banks is 3 A. There are other values - both smaller ones (2.4 A and 2 A) and larger ones — but noticeably less often.
USB A charge current (1st)
The nominal current issued by the powerbank when the cable is connected to the first or only USB A output. If there are several outputs of this type, the first one is considered to be the connector capable of delivering the highest amount of amperes.
The charging power and, accordingly, the speed of the process directly depend on this indicator. Recall that power is calculated by multiplying current by voltage; however, the standard voltage for USB power is 5 V, so current is considered the main indicator of power. However many fast charging technologies provide operation at elevated voltages. By default, the current for the USB port is indicated exactly based on the standard 5 V, values for other voltages can be specified in the notes to this paragraph.
Nowadays, currents up to 2 A on USB ports are considered quite modest, 2 A or 2.1 A is the average, 2.4 A is noticeably above average, and individual fast charging technologies can achieve values of 3 A and even more. However, note that in order to work at high current, such feature should be provided not only in the powerbank, but also in the rechargeable gadget. So when buying a model with USB ports over 2 A, it's ok to clarify whether the devices being charged suppo...rt such power.
It is also worth noting two nuances associated with the presence of several USB ports for charging. Firstly, they can differ in the output current. This allows you to select the optimal connector for each device: for example, to quickly charge a tablet with a capacious battery, it is desirable to have a higher current strength, and a device with a low charging current can also be connected to a less performant port so as not to create excessive load on the battery and controller. The second nuance is that when using all USB connectors at the same time, the current output by each of these connectors may be lower than the maximum; in other words, not all power banks allow you to simultaneously use all USB ports to the maximum possible power. You can understand whether there is such a possibility by the power of the charge (see below); if the charge power is not indicated, you should refer to the detailed documentation from the manufacturer.
USB A charge current (2nd)
The nominal current issued by the powerbank when the cable is connected to the second USB port. For details on this setting, see "USB A charge current (1st)".
USB A charge current (3rd)
The nominal current issued by the powerbank when the cable is connected to the third USB port. See "USB A (1st) charge current" for details on this setting.
USB A charge current (4th)
The nominal current issued by the power bank when the cable is connected to the fourth USB port. For details on this setting, see "USB A charge current (1st)".
DC connector charge current
The maximum current that the battery can deliver when cable is connected to the direct current (DC) jack.
The DC plug usually has a signature round shape; at the same time, there is no single standard here, and in different models such connectors may vary in diameter. Usually, connection to it is carried out through the appropriate adapter; some models provide the ability to adjust the output voltage (see "Manual voltage switch"), which allows you to optimally adjust the external battery to various devices.
And the battery charging time depends primarily on the output current: the higher the current, the faster the charging. However, before choosing an external battery by output current, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the requirements for charging the batteries of your devices. The fact is that too many amperes are undesirable: at best, the built-in battery controller will still limit the charging current to the maximum allowable, at worst, an overload and damage to the external device is possible. But using less current for charging is quite acceptable — this will slow down the process, but nothing more.
Low current charging
Low current charging allows you to seamlessly charge devices that do not require high current. This allows you to extend the life cycle of the devices and protect them as much as possible during charging. Such devices include smart watches, headphones, headsets, etc.
Power (with 1 device)
The maximum power that the powerbank, theoretically, is capable of delivering to one rechargeable device. Usually, this power is achieved under the condition that no other device is connected to the battery (although exceptions to this rule are possible). And if you have ports with different charging currents or support multiple fast charging technologies, this information is given for the most powerful output or technology.
For modern power banks, a power of 10 watts or less is considered quite low; among other things, it usually means that the device does not support fast charging. Nevertheless, such devices are inexpensive and often turn out to be quite sufficient for simple tasks; Therefore, there are many models with similar specs on the market. The power of 12 – 15 W is also relatively small, 18 W can be called the average level, 20 - 25 W is already considered an advanced level and in some solutions this parameter may exceed 25 W.
In general, higher power output has a positive effect on charging speed, but in fact there are a number of nuances associated with this parameter. Firstly, not only the powerbank, but also the gadget being charged should support the appropriate power — otherwise the speed of the process will be limited by the specs of the gadget. Secondly, in order to use the full capabilities of the p...ower bank, it may be necessary for it to be compatible with certain fast charging technologies (see "Fast Charging").
Power output (all ports)
The total charge power given out by the power bank on all charging ports, in other words, the highest power that this model can provide when devices are connected to all charging ports at the same time.
This parameter is given in the specs due to the fact that the total charge power does not always correspond to the sum of the maximum powers of all available ports. This is due to the fact that the built-in power bank battery has its own limitation on output power. Therefore, for example, in a model with two USB ports of 10 W each (5 V/2 A), the total charge power can be the same 10 W — that is, when working simultaneously, each port will produce only 5 W (5 V/1 A).
So if you plan to regularly use all power bank connectors at once, you should pay attention to this indicator. It should also be mentioned that the power distribution over the connectors can be different: in some models it is divided equally, in others it is proportional to the maximum current (if it differs on different ports). These nuances should be clarified according to the detailed specs.
The power supplied by the powerbank in wireless charging mode.
In accordance with the name, with such charging, energy is transferred to the device being charged literally via the air. However the range of such a transmission is only a few centimeters, so the gadget usually has to be placed directly on the powerbank. However, it's still much easier and more convenient than fussing with wires, and the connectors don't wear out.
As for the power, the higher it is, the faster the external device can be charged. Initially, wireless technologies did not differ in power, but nowadays, even for powerbanks, the minimum is actually 5 W — this is comparable to the power of a modest, but far from the weakest USB port. There are also models with 10 W — this is comparable to the highest power that can be achieved at the USB output in a standard format, without the use of special fast charging technologies.
Of course, in order to use all the possibilities of wireless charging, the charging gadget must also support the appropriate power.
A function that allows a Powerbank connected to the network to transfer power to other external devices for charging. Note that pass-through charging can be implemented in different ways. In some cases, a portable battery can supply all incoming power from an energy source through a USB port, in others, the power bank coordinates the power consumption with the gadget being charged, and accumulates the remaining energy in the cells of its own battery. In the latter version, both devices are recharged at the same time. However, the presence of such a function is not often specified by the manufacturer. Sometimes even the instructions are hushed up and do not provide information on end-to-end charging. Therefore, it is better to focus on the reviews and, before buying, further clarify the availability of pass-through charging.
Magnetic mount (MagSafe)
The latest versions of the Apple iPhone have a built-in magnetic connector that allows you to connect a wireless original branded charger with MagSafe. This gives a strong contact and convenience when using the gadget while charging. Similarly, it is implemented in power banks with magnetic mounts. Magnets allow you to "stick" the phone to the charger, and you can comfortably operate the phone — whether it's for watching movies, surfing the Internet or during a protracted battle in an online game. Most of these powerbanks are designed specifically for the iPhone, but they may not have MagSafe technology.
That means a powerbank has official MFi certification.
The abbreviation "MFi" literally stands for "Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod". This phrase quite accurately describes the essence of this feature: MFi certification means that the powerbank was designed to be fully compatible with Apple gadgets and has successfully passed the official test on this matter. Remember that "apple" devices have fairly strict requirements for compatible accessories; non-compliance with these requirements can make the accessory unusable, or even completely disable the gadget itself. At the same time, Apple branded accessories are not cheap, so their counterparts are produced by many third-party manufacturers — and some of these manufacturers, in order to reduce the cost, ignore the specific requirements mentioned. Therefore, in order to minimize the risk of various troubles, for portable Apple equipment, it is best to choose either proprietary solutions or accessories with official MFi certification. However, the absence of this certification does not mean that there will be problems with the device — a high-quality powerbank from a well-known brand will most likely be quite suitable for an “apple” gadget.
Note that in the case of powerbanks, the specifics of MFi should be clarified separately. So, in some models, built-in charging cables (see below) have such certification, in others — wireless platforms (see "Wireless charging") for smartphon...es or smart watches. But if the power bank uses a detachable cable and does not have MFi-compatible wireless charging, this feature is not indicated for it (even if the bundled cable is MFi certified).
Fast charging technologies supported by the power bank. This is primarily about charging external gadgets, but the same technology can also be used when replenishing the powerbank itself.
The fast charging feature, hence the name, can significantly reduce the time spent on the procedure. This is achieved through increased current and/or voltage, as well as smart process control (at each stage, the current and voltage correspond to the optimal parameters).
Fast charging is especially important for devices with high-capacity batteries that take a long time to charge normally. However, to fully use this feature, the power source and the gadget being charged must support the same charging technology; at the same time, different technologies are not compatible with each other, although occasionally there are exceptions. The most popular fast charging formats these days are QuickCharge (versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 4.0+), Power Delivery, Pump Express, Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging, Huawei Fast Charge Protocol, Huawei SuperCharge Protocol, OPPO VOOC, OnePlus Dash Charge...; Here are the specific features of these, as well as some other options:
— Quick Charge (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0). Technology created by Qualcomm and used in gadgets with Qualcomm CPUs. The later the version, the more advanced the technology: for example, Quick Charge 2.0 has 3 fixed voltage options, and version 3.0 has a smooth adjustment in the range from 3.6 to 20 V. Most often, gadgets with a newer version of Quick Charge are also compatible with older devices for charging, but for full use, an exact match in versions is desirable.
Also note that certain versions of Quick Charge have become the basis for some other technologies. However, again, the mutual compatibility of chargers/powerbanks and gadgets supporting these technologies needs to be clarified separately.
— Pump Express. Own development of MediaTek, used in portable devices with CPUs of this brand. Also available in several versions, with improvements and additions as it develops.
— Power delivery. Native fast charging technology for the USB-C connector. Used by many brands, found mainly in chargers (including powerbanks) and gadgets using this type of connector. Presented in several versions.
— Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging. Samsung's proprietary fast charging technology. It has been used without any changes since 2015, in light of which it looks quite modest compared to newer standards. Nevertheless, it is able to provide good speed, especially in the first 50% of the charge.
— Huawei FastCharge Protocol. One of Huawei's proprietary technologies. Formally similar to Quick Charge 2.0, but used with both Qualcomm and other brands of mobile processors, so compatibility is not guaranteed. In general, it is considered obsolete, gradually being replaced by more advanced standards like the SuperCharge Protocol.
— Huawei SuperCharge Protocol. Another proprietary technology from Huawei introduced in 2016; for 2021 is available in several versions. In some devices, the power of such charging exceeds 60 V — not a record, but quite an indicator.
— Oppo VOOC. OPPO technology, used both in branded smartphones and in equipment from other brands. Available in several versions; The latest (for 2021) version of SuperVOOC is for 2-cell batteries and is sometimes listed as a separate technology called Oppo SuperVOOC Flash Charge.
— OnePlus Dash Charge. A relatively old proprietary standard from OnePlus. An interesting feature is that in some gadgets, the effectiveness of Dash Charge is practically independent of the use of the screen: when the display is on, the battery charges at almost the same rate as when it is off. Technically a licensed version of OPPO's VOOC, however, these technologies are not compatible. Since 2018, Dash Charge has been phased out by Warp Charge, but this newer technology is still rare in separately sold chargers and power banks.
— PowerIQ. Technology developed by the Anker brand. The key feature of PowerIQ is that it is not a standalone standard, but a combined format of operation that combines a wide range of popular fast charging formats. In particular, version 3.0 claims the ability to work with Quick Charge, Power Delivery, Apple Fast Charging, Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging and others.
Laptop charging port (DC)
The ability to use a powerbank to charge laptops. Laptop batteries have a higher capacity and generally higher operating voltage than smartphone and tablet batteries; therefore, not every power bank is suitable for charging them. And even if such a feature is directly stated, the compatibility of a power bank with a specific laptop must be clarified separately: different laptop models can differ markedly in terms of battery charging parameters.
Manual voltage switch
A regulator that allows you to change the voltage at the output of the power bank manually. Most often, a manual voltage switch is used to set the parameters on the DC output. This is due to the fact that this type of output does not have a strictly defined standard voltage, and different devices may need a different number of volts. So if you plan to use a powerbank with several DC-charged gadgets at once (for example, laptops), most likely, a model with this feature will be the best choice.
Note that models without DC connectors may have a manual regulator to change the maximum current on the USB outputs; for such devices, the presence of a voltage switch is also indicated, but the notes specify if the current is meant.
Bundled wires (adapters)
Types of wires and/or adapters for charging external devices included in the powerbank set.
The type of such wires is indicated by the plug used to connect to the gadget being charged; connection with the power bank itself is usually carried out through a standard USB A or USB-C output. We emphasize that in this case we are talking about detachable cables/adapters; types of built-in charging cables are specified separately (if any — see below).
In general, this parameter allows you to evaluate the possibilities of a power bank available out of the box, without purchasing additional accessories. As for specific interfaces, most often external batteries nowadays are equipped with microUSB, USB-C and/or Lightning wires/adapters; more specific connectors are extremely rare. Here are the features of the most popular options:
— microUSB. A connector that is extremely common in modern portable gadgets. It is inferior to the newer USB-C in terms of convenience and a number of performance specs, but still does not lose popularity.
— USB-C. A relatively new standard for miniature USB connectors, used for charging both portable equipment and larger devices — in particular, some ultra-compact laptops. Physically, it differs from microUSB in a slightly larger size and a two-sided design that allows you to connect the plug both ways. In terms o...f performance, USB-C is notable for better compatibility with fast charging technologies (see above): more fast charging technologies can be used with it, and Power Delivery was originally created based on this connector. At the same time, the presence of a USB-C cable does not mean support of fast charging.
— Lightning. Standard original connector for Apple gadgets; other manufacturers do not have such port.
Note that if several types of bundled wires/adapters are claimed in the specs, the specific format of such accessories may be different. For example, "microUSB plus USB-C" could mean two separate wires, one wire with two plugs, a cable with one plug plus an adapter to another, etc.
Built-in charging cable
Type of built-in cable(or cables) for charging external devices, provided in the design of the power bank.
The main advantage of such equipment over a removable one (see "Bundled wires (adapters)") is that the built-in cable is always in place — you can lose it only together with the powerbank itself (or as a result of an "accident" with physical damage to the structure) . On the other hand, such a cable cannot be quickly replaced with another one (longer, with a different plug, etc.); and if it is damaged, you will have to carry the power bank for repair or change it entirely. As for the type of built-in wires, this is indicated by the type of plugs for charging external gadgets that such wires are equipped with. Most often these are microUSB, USB-C and/or Lightning connectors, here is a more detailed description of them:
— microUSB. Relatively old, but still popular connector for portable equipment (mobile phones, tablets, players, etc.); used by almost all manufacturers of such equipment, except for Apple with their proprietary Lightning interface (see below).
— USB-C. A miniature connector, released relatively recently, but gaining more and more popularity (to the point that even Apple, which usually prefers proprietary interfaces, uses USB-C to charge its laptops). It is small (slightly larger than micro...USB) and has conveniently reversible design, well optimized for various advanced features, including some fast charging technologies (although the presence of USB-C does not mean support for such charging).
— Lightning. Apple proprietary connector used in portable devices of this brand (iPhone, iPad, iPod); does not apply to other manufacturers. Note that for a power bank with such a cable, MFi certification is desirable (see above).
If there are several types of plugs, they can be provided both on individual wires and on one combined cable. But if a removable adapter is included in the kit, its type is indicated in the “Bundled wires (adapters)” paragraph.
Additional features provided in the design of the power bank. The list of such features may include, in particular, an info display, a USB hub mode, a photocell for solar charging, a light source ( a flashlight or a lamp), as well as a case with enhanced protection against shocks and/or dust and moisture. Here is a more detailed description of each of these options:
— Info display. Usually, it has the simplest LCD panel capable of displaying 2 – 3 characters and, in some cases, individual special icons. However, even such a screen provides a lot of additional information, making it easier to manage the powerbank and monitor its status.
— USB hub. Ability to work as a USB hub (splitter). In this mode, the external battery's own USB connectors work like the USB inputs of a PC or laptop to which the power bank is connected. The connection itself, usually, is also carried out according to the USB standard, while the battery can be charged. This feature is convenient primarily because it allows you to use one USB port to charge the power bank and connect a peripheral device (or even several). However, it's ok to make sure that the power supply of this port is sufficient to provide all these features; and the charging speed...can be quite slow. If the power bank is fully charged, it can also be useful as a classic USB hub: to increase the number of ports available for connecting peripherals, as well as a kind of remote USB extension cable (for example, if there is a vacant USB port only on the back panel of the system unit, difficult to reach).
— Solar charging. Possibility of charging power bank from the sun or other bright light source. To do this, an appropriate device is installed in the case — a solar battery (photocell). This feature is especially useful when you are away from civilization for a long time — for example, on a hike. And although the efficiency of solar panels in general is not very high, however, with a long stay in bright light, you can accumulate quite a lot of energy.
— Flashlight. In this case, a flashlight means a built-in light source of relatively low power, usually directional (as opposed to the lamp described below). Such a source performs an auxiliary function; it can be useful, for example, to illuminate the road at night, for short-term illumination in a dark room (basement, cellar), etc.
— Lamp. Built-in light source, usually in the form of an oblong panel of several LEDs; such a panel can be made folding. Unlike flashlights (see above), lamps provide not directional, but diffused light, which has a shorter range, but covers a larger area. Such lighting can be useful, for example, for reading, for illuminating a room during an emergency power outage, and camping.
— Dust-, moisture protection. Additional protection against dust and moisture. Note that the specific level of such protection may be different, it should be specified separately; however, even the most modest models with this feature are able to endure at least a short-term exposure to medium-intensity rain, and the most advanced models can withstand even complete immersion under water. Anyway, if you plan to often use the powerbank in adverse conditions (for example, multi-day hikes), you should pay attention to models from this category. Also note that for additional reliability, they are often supplemented with shock protection (see below). On the other hand, note that in order to ensure moisture resistance, the connectors in such devices are usually closed with plugs, and with an open plug, the full level of protection is not guaranteed; these details should be clarified separately.
— Impact protection. Reinforced shock and impact protection. The specific degree of such protection may be different, it should be clarified according to official specs; however, most models in this category are at least able to work after a fall from a height of about 1 – 1.2 m onto a flat hard surface without consequences. Well, anyway, such devices will be more resistant to mechanical stress than conventional ones. It is also worth noting that shock protection in modern powerbanks is most often combined with protection against dust and moisture (see above), although there are exceptions to this rule.
Solar panel power
Panel with photocells to generate electricity under the influence of sunlight. Through its surface, you can recharge the powerbank during the daytime, whether it is far from civilization or when there is no available outlet at hand. Common solar panels include monocrystalline, polycrystalline and film. The former have the highest efficiency, the latter have relatively low efficiency. However, the competitive advantage of film panels is flexibility and light weight. The power at solar surfaces is usually small, which is due to their relatively small area.
The presence of a case in the delivery set of the powerbank.
The case provides additional convenience and safety during storage, and especially when transporting the device: it protects the powerbank from dirt, and in some cases from bumps, scratches and other similar troubles. Theoretically, such an accessory can be bought separately or even made; however , the set case is more convenient — it does not require any extra hassle and perfectly matches the dimensions and shape of the device.
The powerbank has its own stand for a smartphone. Usually, this is a retractable or folding device, on which the smartphone can be installed almost vertically (with a slight inclination); at the same time, the back side of the smartphone will rely on the powerbank itself, and the stand will prevent the gadget from leaning forward.
This feature can be useful, for example, for watching movies — including while charging the device. At the same time, it is worth noting that we are talking specifically about smartphones — usually, it is impossible to install a tablet or even a phablet on such a stand.
The presence of suction cups on the body of the powerbank.
Such devices allow you to attach an external battery to the body of a smartphone or other gadget. This makes it possible to use the device being charged in normal mode without any problems, without interrupting the charging process (except certain features, such as the rear camera, may not be available). Also note that this feature is especially useful for wireless charging (see above) — including when a gadget with a power bank is simply lying idle. In particular, the suction cups reduce the chance of the device falling off the charging platform due to shock.
Powerbanks with an unusual design and noticeably different in appearance from similar devices in a traditional discreet design. Actually, the design of such models can be the most diverse: a fairy-tale character, an animal, an object of unexpected subjects (ice cream on a stick, a book, a lipstick), etc.; in fact, the range is limited only by the imagination of manufacturers.
Anyway, the unusual design most often does not affect the functionality, and such devices are designed primarily for those who want to stand out. Also, such powerbank can be a good gift.
The main material used in the the body of a powerbank.
In addition to traditional plastic, nowadays, external batteries are produced in cases made of more advanced and/or "prestigious" materials. Of these materials, aluminium is the most widely used; also you can find products made of steel, zinc, leather, fabric and even wood. Here are the main features of each option:
— Plastic. The most popular material for the bodies of modern powerbanks. Plastic, on the one hand, is inexpensive, on the other hand, it is quite durable and has a small weight, on the third hand, it makes it easy to create cases of any shape and colour, which is especially important for devices with an unusual design. In terms of strength and reliability, ordinary plastic is somewhat inferior to metals; however, in everyday use, this difference is not critical — except that scratches on such a case will appear faster. And for extreme conditions, cases can be produced from special impact-resistant plastic.
— Aluminum. Aluminum alloy housings are highly durable and lightweight; in addition, they look stylish, and the appearance is retained for a long time due to scratch resistance. The main disadvantage of aluminum is that it is more expensive than plastic.
— Ste...el. Steel is notable for its high durability and reliability; according to these indicators, it surpasses even aluminum, not to mention plastic. On the other hand, this material has a significant weight, and therefore is used much less frequently.
— Leather. Solid body (plastic or metal) with additional leather cover. Such a coating does not affect the functionality and plays a purely aesthetic role: it gives the device a stylish and eye-catching appearance, allowing you to turn the powerbank into a stylish accessory. However, note that in the design of such products (especially inexpensive ones), artificial leather (leatherette) is often used, which is noticeably inferior to natural leather in reliability, durability, and sometimes in appearance. Genuine leather, on the other hand, significantly affects the price — its cost can be more than half of the total price of the entire power bank.
— Fabric. A hard case (usually plastic) with a fabric outer covering. Such a coating not only gives the device a rather original appearance, but also gives some practical advantages: the fabric is pleasant to the touch and does not slip in the hand, which reduces the risk of dropping the powerbank. On the other hand, various contaminants are poorly removed from such a surface, it has no fundamental advantages over plastic or metal, but it costs much more. Therefore, fabric cases are not very popular.
— Wood. Another design material used mainly for its original appearance than practical advantages. Nevertheless, wood is not inferior to plastic; and some users also consider the natural origin of this material to be an important advantage. On the other hand, wooden cases do not have noticeable advantages over plastic ones, and they cost much more.
— Zinc. Zinc alloys are similar in most properties to the aluminum alloys described above, however, for a number of reasons (in particular, due to the greater complexity in production), they are used extremely rarely.
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