Best Budget Power Banks

Nafisa AkaborCache This, Latest

Power banks are one of those essential items – and with load shedding occurring more frequently, it makes sense to keep a spare or two on hand. If you have a big family, buy one for each member of your household. An easy way to manage power banks is to create a dedicated charging station in your living area to ensure you always have fully charged power banks at the ready.

 A quick look at smartphone battery capacity

The bigger the phone, the larger the battery. The Samsung S series battery could range from anywhere between 3700mAh to 5000mAh, though it’s a given that the Ultra is on the high end of the spectrum. An iPhone Mini has around 2400mAh whereas the Pro Max goes up to 4300mAh, and somewhere in the middle is the Pro at around 3000mAh. 

How much power do you need?

Deciding on the battery capacity for a power bank comes down to individual needs – do you want something that will give you one recharge or two? For example, a 5000mAh power bank can charge an iPhone 13 mini twice and a Samsung S22 Ultra once (it can vary). 

I prefer 10,000 – 20,000mAh battery packs because I can get multiple charges before recharging them again. But if you want something that can last a weekend away in the bush for the entire family, you need to look at a 30,000mAh power bank.

Features to look out for

Take note of the design and shape – the more power it has, the heavier it is. I use slimmer high-capacity power banks when I’m carrying a small bag, a thicker unit when space isn’t an issue, and for overnight work trips, I pack a chunky 20 000mAh.

Apart from size and weight, I look out for multiple charging ports (one being a fast-charging port), the ability to cut off power automatically when not in use and the option to recharge the power bank with any cable (USB-C, Lightning, micro-USB). Another under-rated feature is pass-through charging (when you charge and recharge simultaneously). I find this feature useful for travelling because I can charge my power bank from a wall socket overnight, while my phone charges from the power bank.

Fast charging

Power banks are used while out and about, so it’s best to get something that charges faster than what you achieve overnight. Standard charging is at 5V 1A, while fast charging ports are 5V 2.1A. It would typically take a 3000mAh phone 90 minutes to charge if you don’t use the phone the whole time. Phones, cables, and power banks also need to be compatible.

 Budget and brands

It’s important to remember that lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, and power banks eventually need to be replaced. I’ve had good experiences with the Romoss brand. Some of their power banks have lasted me over 5 years – and they support pass-through charging.

You can pick up a 10 000mAh unit for around R300 and a 20 000mAh one for R500. For a large capacity power bank expect to pay R700 and upwards for a 30 000mAh, but remember that it will be big and heavy. Slim design and features for power users will cost more. Other brands to consider are Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi. And don’t bother with wireless charging, it’s always slower.

For bigger budgets and more demanding needs, the RCT Megapower can charge a MacBook and power gadgets with 2-pin plugs up to 200W. The 54 000mAh unit weighs 1.42kgs, but has 2x USB-A, 1x USB-C and 2x 230V AC sockets. It’s a plug-and-play solution with a R5,000 price tag, while the 80 000mAh unit will set you back R6,500.

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Technology is an ever increasing part of our lives and let’s be honest, many of us like gadgets. There is also an abundance of new online services and apps taking over the traditional services we use. Nafisa Akabor has been covering everything tech for well over a decade and she’ll be writing on how we can do tech within a budget and reviewing some of the new online services. Cache This is published on the last Tuesday of every month.