There’s a huge selection of power banks available. They’re all designed to do fundamentally the same thing. There are of course different capacities, ranging from tiny lipstick-size batteries that are helpful when your phone or camera needs an urgent top-up, to much larger-capacity and much faster charging capabilities that work just as well for more power-hungry devices like laptops and tablets.
They can also vary quite a lot in terms of the quality of the battery cells, but so long as you’re sticking with one of the better-known brands, you’re usually in reasonably safe territory on that score.
So the differences often come down to little things. But some of that little things can be useful in practical ways. In this case, one of the things I like is a more precise progress indicator. That’s true whether I’m using a USB power bank or a battery charger. Many just have four LED lights, with each light usually corresponding to a band of 25% of capacity. But particularly when I’m traveling and pressed for time, I often want to be able to judge more accurately what I can charge with the remaining juice and when I might need to find a power outlet.
In place of the four-light approach, some chargers and batteries come with a percentage scale. I’ve recently been trying one from RAVPower. Its model number is RP-PB172. Or if you want rather more of a mouthful, its full name is the RAVPower PD Pioneer 20000mAh 18W 3-Port Power Bank. The folks at RAVPower sent me one to try out.
It’s a 20,000 mAh battery, so is on the larger side in terms of capacity. It can comfortably charge my MacBook and iPhone several times over when I’m out and about. 1 But is still easily small enough to put in my daypack but small enough that it doesn’t attract unwanted attention in airline carry-on bag checks. 2 Add some short, common USB cables, and it makes for a far more convenient option than lugging around multiple AC adapters and trying to find outlets for them.
Using the RAVPower RP-PB172 Power Bank
To charge the battery, you can use micro-USB or USB-C. The IN2 port with the USB-C connector offers the fastest potential charging (which is dependent on your original charging power source) of 5V / 3A.
For output, there PD (USB-C port – 5V / 2A, 9V / 2A, 12V / 1.5A), QC (Qualcomm Quick Charge) (USB-A port – 5V / 3A, 9V / 2A, 12V / 1.5A), and iSmart (USB-A port – 5V / 2.4A) options. All of them are designed to gracefully roll back to lower outputs if that’s all the device can handle.
Those are all well and good, but something that makes this power bank stand out for me is the percentage charge display. It shows up automatically when you connect to an output device or power source, or you can use the power button on the side of the battery to display it on demand if the screen has dimmed.
What’s in the Box?
In addition to the battery itself, there’s also a micro-USB charging cable and a small user guide.
Oddly, the only cable that comes with it is a short micro-USB cable. That’s the bare minimum you’ll need to charge the battery pack. But there’s no USB-C cable included.
RAVPower RP-PB172 Power Bank Specs
|Capacity||20,000 mAh / 74Wh|
|PD Input||5V / 2A, 9V / 2A, 12V / 1.5A|
|Input (In 1)||5V / 2.1A|
|Input (In 2)||5V / 3A, 9V / 2A, 12V / 1.5A|
|PD Output||5V / 3A, 9V / 2A, 12V / 1.5A|
|QC Output||5V / 3A, 9V / 2A, 12V / 1.5A|
|iSmart Output||5V / 2.4A|
|Total Output||5V / 3A Max|
|Rated Capacity||5500 mAh / 66Wh (12V / 1.5A)|
|Dimensions||165.5 x 78.5 x 23.5mm / 6.5 x 3.1 x 0.9 in|
|Weight||450 grams / 15.9 ounces|
I’ve found it to work well. The capacity is versatile and a good size for my needs. I’ve been using it to charge a variety of devices, from camera batteries to my iPhone to my MacBook, and it has handled all of those with reliably fast outputs. I find the percentage display to be handy (and could be even better if it also displayed the output, as at least one of its competitors has). While I don’t always need the precision of the percentage display, I like having it there for those times when I’m pressed for time and need to know how tight I can push it.
Where to Find Them
RAVPower is no longer selling through Amazon, but you can find them on RAVPower’s website.
- My MacBook’s battery is rated to a little over 4000mAh, and my iPhone has a battery rated to a little under 4000mAh.
- Many airlines now require you to carry loose lithium batteries like this in your carry-on and prohibit you from putting them checked luggage.