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There have been some major improvements to portable power stations since we first started reviewing them here at CNET. They used to be limited to bulky, simple power banks with basic outlets so you could juice up your devices. As the category has matured, it’s brought us even more portable power station options with advanced features like USB ports, solar panel inputs and wireless charging. You can even daisy chain certain models for even more power, or connect them to your home’s electrical system so you’ve got backup power in case of emergencies.
Gas-powered generators were your main option for “off-grid” power where electricity is needed, especially in more temporary situations like camping if you didn’t have an RV or another power supply for your campsite. As our daily lives are more populated with electronic devices, the need to keep those devices powered and online increases. This can be tough when you don’t have access to grid power. Portable power stations are the perfect solution to keep us, well, portably powered. There are enough bells and whistles these days to consider adding one of these to your normally powered life as well.
I put each power station through its paces and considered factors such as battery life, power output and input charging options as well as output options for juicing up my gear. (Power stations that only sport AC outlets and forcing you to use adapters are no longer viable.) Each is more than just an on-the-go phone battery charger or glamping must-have. These power bank performers have wide-ranging uses from building and construction to staying connected with the office or family to having access to emergency lighting and power wherever you roam or call home.
This was the toughest category to pick. The Jackery Explorer 240 and Bluetti EB3A were also top contenders, and they both cost less than the Togo model. Nifty features and an extra 40%-plus battery capacity give the slightest edge to Togo.
There were two main features that made the difference for me. All three units have an AC plug, 12-volt socket and USB-A connections for devices. But Jackery doesn’t offer a USB-C connection. Additionally, Togo was one of the few units overall to offer wireless charging. (The Bluetti EB3A also has this.)
Togo also showed us the largest measured capacity percentage compared to its stated capacity at 346 watt-hours at 98.95%. This unit isn’t particularly fast to charge, however, taking 4 hours, 17 minutes to fully charge from empty.
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The Bluetti 50S comes in as the second lowest “price per watt-hour” metric I’ve tested to date. When looking at the feature list, that is enough to get you ‘best value’ in this product space.
As well, the 50S also captures our ‘best midsize portable power station’ title. The midsize portable power station category is a crowded space and there are a few nearly equal alternatives to the 50S like the Ecoflow River Max or the Oupes and BioLite models.
You’re getting all the input-output charging options you could ask for, including what seems to be the new industry standard of compatibility with solar panels for charging. This one does take a bit longer to charge than some of its siblings. Seven hours to full compared to just under 5 hours for the Bluetti AC200P which offers 4x the battery capacity, or the similarly-sized Bluetti EB55 (537Wh compared to 500Wh from the 50S) which can achieve 0-100% charge in about three hours.
Bluetti does tend to put wireless charging into most of their devices, and that’s a personal favorite feature of mine. The 50S has one, as well as another ‘must have’ feature for me – a USB-C port. I’d like for it to have more than the one port, but considering many units still are limited to USB-A, I’ll take what I can get.
The previous title-holder (Bluetti AC200P) weighed in at just over 60 pounds, and was not for the faint of heart or weak of arm. The Anker PowerHouse 767 is even heaver (7.4lbs more!) with a major difference that makes that weight a bit more bearable – literally. The 767 is built on wheels and even has a suitcase-style retractable towing handle. You’ll still have to lift it on or into vehicles our countertops, but when you’re moving from place to place, this makes the task much more accessible. The 767 body is also reportedly impact-resistant, shock-proof, anti-UV and flame retardant. Could be fun to test – but I’ll take their word on it. For now.
It sports a LiFePO4 battery for over 3,000 charge cycles. Charge it with up to 1000W of solar power. Tons of output options (three USB-C ports!) and the only one missing in my opinion is a wireless charging base. I suppose there are enough other options to connect a wireless charging pad if you really wanted.
Another often overlooked aspect of portable power stations is the output wattage and power rating. This is different from the continuous power rating (in watts) for each unit. For example, the 767 boasts a maximum 2,400W output power rating. That means, if you wanted to connect several LED lights that were each rated at 200W power output, you could expect to be able to run twelve of those simultaneously. When LED lights are turned on, generally, they don’t require any “extra” power to get going.
The Powerhouse 757 is a solid, sturdy machine (our second heaviest one at nearly 44 pounds). It’s a great pick among the over-1,000Wh choices, and really only missed out on winning the large power station category due to some extra bells and whistles other units in that category have. But there are a couple of notable features Anker’s put into this unit that give it the gas to dominate this category.
For starters, the battery itself is the newer LiFePO4 makeup, compared to the more common Li-ion batteries. This newer battery type can be safer to use and can last five to six times longer than the Li-ion ones. This means that compared to the current standard of a 500-cycle lifespan, LiFePO4-donned units could run 3,000 cycles or more. This gives Anker the opportunity to offer a five-year warranty compared to the two-year warranty of many competing units.
Next, many of the current-gen power stations are coming with a “UPS Mode” to offer backup power to critical pieces of equipment during power failures. You plug the power station into your wall outlet and the equipment in question into your power station. With UPS mode enabled, the power station will kick in and power whatever is plugged into it from its internal battery. But before you run out and replace your existing UPS units with one of these, you should know that it is almost the same as a UPS. But not entirely.
A dedicated UPS could have a transfer time (the amount of time it takes for its battery to take over one the grid power has failed) of anywhere from 0 milliseconds to 12ms, and most of them try to stay at 8ms or faster. Anker states a transfer time of “less than 20ms.” That’s great as far as portable power stations go. But as a dedicated UPS that you might want protecting a core piece of tech or important medical device, you might consider a different solution. But by all means, your TVs, laptops, fridges and other devices will be well looked after.
By camping, I don’t mean “glamping.” I’m not trying to power your PS5, beer fridge and jacuzzi. Since solar panels are more common now, and most every portable power station offers an option to charge with them, we don’t have to be quite as concerned about overall battery capacity or our ability to get to grid power to recharge.
Even if it does carry a hefty price tag (on sale now for $749 from its normal retail price of $999), I feel like this model hits a sweet spot of basic functionality, capacity and price. Even though you have the option of charging via solar panels, you can probably survive a weekend trip with a full charge — obviously depending on what you’re powering. And that helps when you’re in sub-prime conditions for solar charging such as overcast or rainy days.
You have plenty of output options, lots of AC ports and at just under 24 pounds, this unit isn’t too heavy to cart around or move-as-needed during your outing.
If you happen to be a solo flier, or otherwise have very minimal electrical needs when you camp, check out the Jackery Explorer 240. It offers all the basic needs, reliable construction and also happens to be the cheapest power station on our list.
It’s also worth mentioning that even though the GoSun PowerBank 1100 didn’t finish in the top of our testing, GoSun offers a whole suite of camping and solar-friendly equipment, including a nifty folding solar table that I’m hoping to add to an upcoming solar panel best list.
I like the Jackery line of portable power stations. I would still like to see wireless charging in a Jackery battery, but otherwise, the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro checks a lot of boxes, not least of which is charge time.
We run all of our portable power station charge tests using AC power, and based on those results, this Jackery is blazing fast when it comes to charge time. Jackery claims 2160Wh for this unit, and our tests show that it can go from completely dead to 100% in 117 minutes. There are only a handful of units we’ve tested overall that can charge faster than that, and most of those boast half the capacity.
The great thing is, if you’re really in a pinch, you could attach your six Jackery SolarSaga 200 solar panels for 1200 additional solar charging watts and nearly cut that time in half (The 2000 Pro offers a max of 1400 input watts for solar charging – also the largest we’ve tested to date).
If you plan on draining your capacity super fast, and you’d like to recharge ASAP via AC, solar or both, (even while you’re draining it) the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro should be your first choice.
Other portable power stations we’ve tested
: OK performance and features overall, but one of the lowest tested capacities, making the usable capacity closer to 477Wh.
: Blazing fast charging and a low cost per watt-hour make this a reasonable pick, however this unit did test lowest in measured vs expected capacity, putting it at 425 usable watt-hours. Where’d those extra 151 watt-hours go?
: Just kind of OK. Capacity is good, but we tested two separate units and both seemed to have some disconnect between the actual performance of the unit and the information displayed on the user screen. Currently listed as unavailable.
: I really wanted to like this unit more, partially because of GoSun’s extended offerings of solar-friendly devices, and as far as capacity goes, this runs in the middle of the pack, but man is it slow to charge. It took nearly 12 hours — over six times as long as our largest power station (Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro) that offers nearly twice the capacity. At $1,299, I’d like to see a faster charging option and maybe more outputs or at least wireless charging.
: We’ve liked most every unit from Bluetti, and three of them took titles in this best list, but this unit just got overshadowed by its siblings. Just as good or better offerings at better prices keep the EB55 out of the winner’s circle.
: This is a solid pick in the small power station category. And this unit sports my favorite display — extra large and easy to read. Average performances on our charging and capacity tests.
: This is a better-than-average performing unit at better-than-average pricing. Nothing outstanding to speak of.
: We’ve been fans of all the Jackery units we’ve ever tested in the past, and that doesn’t change here. Just missing the best small power station title, this unit still boasts the second best capacity rating of all the ones we tested. A little slow to charge, but a great price.
: This unit was the second slowest overall to charge, but did well on its usable capacity rating at 91%. Its display is small, but offers all the standard input and output features you’d want.
: Not a bad little unit — not a great one, but definitely not bad. I love that it has the LiFePO4 battery. It performed about average (maybe a hair under par) and I feel like it could be cheaper. Also, how do you pronounce that name? “Oops” is the current best guess.
The Goal Zero products are pretty solidly made, but we did get the lowest score in our ‘usable capacity’ tests from this unit – about 65% compared to the industry-accepted norm of 85%. There are better products in the small portable power station category.
: This unit also came in under the line in usable capacity. Given the industry standard of 85%, Rockpals’ 78% is a bit lacking. In terms of charge speed, this unit is one of the faster small portable power stations. Decent features – kind of looks like a handheld radio.
: Here’s a unit that’s totally ok with a totally ok price. 87% usable capacity, Li-ion battery, average features, maybe a little slow on the charge time. But hey — it does have wireless charging!
: The 1000 Pro falls into our large portable power station (begins at 1000Wh – this Jackery weighs in at 1002Wh), same as its big brother the 2000 Pro. I like the 2000 for several reasons more than the 1000, so the 1000 never really had a shot at taking the ‘large’ category. But still, good performance, nice features and pretty amazing charge times. Can’t go wrong.
: More and more portable power stations are shipping with LiFePO4 batteries and I love that. The 555 is slower to charge than most of its competitors, but sports a 94% usable capacity and an attractive price point vs number of watt-hours. All the better to power those six AC outlets!
: The EcoFlow Delta 2 is very similar to the Anker 555 PowerHouse across the board — features, pricing, etc. The main differences you can see from our tests are the usable capacity percentages (Anker with 94% vs EcoFlow with about 70% and charging rates – both being rated at 1024Wh, The EcoFlow Delta 2 charged to full in only 86 minutes, 275 minutes faster than the Anker model. Another cool point for EF with having the capability to wire in a secondary battery module, taking the capacity from 1024Wh to 2048Wh. Expect to pay an additional $800 for that battery expansion.
: This is the ‘grown up’ version of the Geneverse HomePower ONE. The feature specs are about the same, but at 500 bucks more, you’re only getting about 200 extra Wh. As well, the standard ONE model comes in at 91% usable capacity vs the Pro model’s 73%. That gives you 912.6 usable Wh with the standard and only 886.7Wh on the Pro. The Pro did however charge in almost a quarter the time it took the standard version.
: Having tested both the 600 and 1500 models of the BioLite BaseCharge, I can tell you that this company is fairly consistent when it comes to their product manufacturing. The BaseCharge is about 2.5 times the capacity of the 600. And that 2.5 modifier carries across the board fairly accurately from price to capacity, charge times, everything. So, if you like the 600 but you wish you had two-and-a-half of them, save yourself the effort and just buy the 1500!
: Slower to charge, but a whopping 96% usable battery capacity paired with the lowest price of any unit we’ve tested, makes this a great option for smaller use cases or generally for people interested in checking out portable power stations without breaking the bank.
: The first unit we’ve tested with the Li-NMC battery composition. This unit also just missed the Best Large Portable Power Station title. It does have a weight-to-capacity ratio likely thanks to the NMC composition, and boasts our highest solar charging capacity to date at 2,400 watts. It’s telescoping handle and wheels do make it easier to manage, but the form makes it a little more compatible navigating paved walkways versus ‘off-road’ terrain.
: There are a couple of these types of units on the market now, and I’ve been waiting for their arrival. This Runhood unit is the first modular style portable power station I’ve been able to get my hands on, and I love what it means for the industry. Performance-wise this thing was about average, but it could offer you more in flexibility and convenience than many other units. The batteries are swappable, so you can pick up extra ones as well as stand alone AC and USB modules that can use those extra batteries without being plugged into the main power station unit. Could be a game changer for trips where every member of the family is off in a different area draining some electronic device. I look forward to adding a “best modular power station” category soon.
: The latest in Jackery’s flagship line of power stations. If you’re already familiar with the Explorer Pro line, you won’t find many surprises here. Some design improvements, but overall user experience remains unchanged. That is to say, this is a great robust power station that will deliver as promised.
Portable power station FAQs
How many years do portable power stations last?
How many years a portable power station will last depends on three key factors — how well the product is maintained, how often it’s used and the battery type.
We have researched and spoken with several manufacturers and most units boast a 500-cycle lifespan. In some cases, such as the Anker 757, a unit may use LiFePO4 batteries compared to the more common Li-ion battery and offer up to 3,000 cycles or beyond.
One cycle means using the product from fully charged to zero charge (or at least 80% in some cases). Therefore, if you use your portable power station several times a week, it might only last a year or two. But if you use it less frequently, it could last for much longer.
What can you run on a portable power station?
Portable power stations are generally designed to power smaller electronic devices and appliances, from phones and table fans to heavy-duty work lights and CPAP machines. Pay attention to the estimated watt-hours each brand provides in its specs to determine which model makes the most sense for what you’d like to power.
If a company says its portable power station has 200 watt-hours, it should be able power a device with a 1-watt output for about 200 hours. I go into more detail on this in the “How we test” section below, but consider the wattage of the device or devices you want to power and then the number of watt-hours your portable power station would need to have.
Can a power station run a refrigerator?
Possibly, depending on the fridge and the portable power station.
For example, this standard LG refrigerator has an estimated annual energy consumption of 608 kilowatt-hours. That works out to 1.67 kilowatt-hours per day, or 1,670 watt-hours per day.
1,670 watt-hours per day works out to just under 70 watt-hours per hour. If you have a short-term power outage and only need to power your fridge, a 200-watt-hour power station could keep it running for nearly three hours. You’d need a power station with higher estimated watt-hours to run your fridge for longer. A mini fridge would last much longer than a larger model.
Always confirm the electrical requirements for your specific fridge and portable power station before trying this, especially your refrigerator’s peak and startup watts.
How long can you run a portable power station?
You can get close to the answer with some basic math. If you have a power station that is rated at 1,000 watt-hours, and you plug in a device, let’s say a tv, rated at 100 watts, then you can divide that 1,000 by 100 and say that it will run for 10 hours.
However, this isn’t usually the case. The industry ‘standard’ is to say that you should take 85% of the total capacity for that math. In that case, 850 watt-hours divided by 100 watts for the tv would be 8.5 hours.
The reality is that you should expect somewhere between 8.5 and 10 hours in this example.
How is a portable power station different from a generator?
A portable power station is essentially a big rechargeable battery that you carry around. Deplete it and it’s useless until you can recharge.
A generator, by definition is a device which actually will convert some type of energy to usable electricity in whatever circuitry you have it connected to. Examples of this would be gas generators — commonly used as power sources for remote areas or as whole-home backups, electric generators — not very common, but they convert some type of mechanical action to electricity and solar generators which can use solar panels to power devices or homes, often using a battery to temporarily store the electricity. These batteries are often portable power stations themselves.
How we test
Every company that sells portable power stations provides the expected number of watt-hours its products are supposed to last. For the Jackery Explorer 240, that’s 240 watt-hours; for the Ecoflow River MAX, it’s 576 watt-hours. Bluetti AC200P claims 2,000 watt-hours.
That means if you run a device with a 1-watt output on the Jackery Explorer 240, it should last for about 240 hours. You’d get 576 hours from the Ecoflow model and a whopping 2,000 hours using the Bluetti generator. That would last you almost three months! For reference, a USB-C iPhone charger draws up to 18 watts, a 3-quart Instant Pot draws 700 watts and a standard microwave draws around 600 to 1,200 watts, depending on the model.
Currently, we look at two main performance metrics for the portable power stations: charge time and discharge capacity. A power station’s capacity should be a no-brainer. You should be able to look at a device’s rated watt-hours and purchase accordingly based on your needs. And, generally, you can do that. I’ve found that you typically won’t see the entire capacity rating as usable power, however.
There are lots of factors that can affect this, and most of them center on how the manufacturer chooses to build their units’ internals to manage their charged capacity. There is some (usually negligible) amount of power that goes to fuel the various indicator lights and readable led panels on the units. Some of the larger units even have their own operating systems, so it’s almost like powering an additional mini-pc on the inside. Other units can have power-saving features where they reduce outgoing bulk power as they near depleting their charge.
To run our capacity tests, we connect some number of 10,000 lumen LED work lights rated at 110 watts to each unit (the number of work lights is based on the overall watt-hour rating of the unit under test or UUT). We record the outgoing voltage and wattage using external measurement instruments or the UUT’s own measurements if available. Once we have this data, we can math our way into a dizzying array of information about the UUT’s performance. But the main piece of information we look at here is the observed capacity, based on our measurements, compared to the UUT’s stated capacity.
In every case, that percentage ends up at less than 100%. (Most manufacturers say you should calculate expected usage at 85% of stated capacity.) Two of our smaller units both clocked 98% capacity — the Jackery Explorer 240 and the Togo 350. Generally speaking, the midsize units didn’t fare well. The largest units did better, with the Bluetti AC200P scoring highest at almost 96%. Now, if you blindly accept both a unit’s stated capacity and our work light wattage rating of 110 watts, the numbers look very different.
For example, we will take the GoSun PowerBank 1100 (to make the math easier) and attach 4 of the 110 watt lights. That load rating is now 440 watts and the GoSun’s capacity of 1100 divided by 440 is 2.5. We would expect to see 2.5 hours of usage. The actual run time for this unit was 2 hours, 50 minutes — 113% capacity. Great! Right? Well, we’re missing some key factors. Without going into a long(er) explanation of how to more accurately measure power, the fact that this unit has an output of 110 volts AC (compared to 120VAC) and the actual output wattage to the four lights is 352 watts, our real expected run time is 3 hours, 8 minutes, which drops the capacity rating to 90%.
Here is the calculated capacity data for the tested units. One note for these numbers — the Oupes data might be slightly off. The unit turned off the lights at 9%. It would allow me to start the lights again, but would turn them off again after some time. I repeated this process at least twenty times before the unit wouldn’t power the lights for more than a couple of seconds at a time.
Charging performance can be nearly as important as knowing your actual capacity stats. It helps to know how long your device will take to charge, especially if you’re crunched for time or need to be able to charge quickly for whatever reason. Will it take an hour? Two? Ten? Twelve (this is an actual number from our tests!)?
We report three data points for charging performance. Each unit is plugged in for AC charging and we record how long it takes to reach 50%, 80% and 100% charge. Half-full is probably the least amount of power you’re going to want, especially from the smaller units. 80% is the “magic number” for many rechargeable batteries.
Keeping it simple-ish, imagine a swimming pool with room for 100 people, each person representing 1% of the total space. When you first start charging, and that first person dives in, you don’t really have much to worry about. You’re not going to run into anyone else, so dive, splash around, whatever you want. Now, as we add people, it gets a bit more crowded, and complicated. You’ve got less room for people. Once you have 80 people in the pool, that next person is going to take a few extra seconds to more carefully choose their entry so as to not cause any issues by just jumping and hoping no one is in the way.
Each manufacturer deals with this purposeful slow-down in their own way, so you won’t see the exact same performance changes from one manufacturer to the next. And often true to the analogy, person number 100 into the pool can sometimes be very slow, taking several times longer to get in than any of his predecessors.
Take a look at the charging data. Charge times in minutes are listed, with a bonus “watt-hours-per-minute” metric that no one asked for other than myself. In most cases, you’ll see how the charge rate is fairly constant between 0 and 50% and from 50 to 80%, then slows from 80 to 100%.
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