Table of Contents
In this article:
If you’re looking to juice up your devices, your options are no longer limited to bulky, simple power banks with basic outlets. There have been major improvements to portable power stations since we first started reviewing them here at CNET. As the category has matured, it’s brought even more portable power station options with features including USB ports, solar panel inputs and wireless charging. You can even daisy chain some models for even more power, or connect them to your home’s electrical system, giving you backup power in an emergency.
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.
Other portable power stations we’ve tested
Energizer PPS700 (626Wh): OK performance and features overall, but one of the lowest tested capacities, making the usable capacity closer to 477Wh.
EcoFlow River MAX (576Wh): 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?
Speedwatt (298Wh): 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.
GoSun PowerBank 1100 (1,100Wh): 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.
Bluetti EB55 (537Wh): 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.
Fanttik EVO 300 (299Wh): 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.
BigBlue Cellpowa 500 (537.6Wh): This is a better-than-average performing unit at better-than-average pricing. Nothing outstanding to speak of.
Jackery Explorer 240 (240Wh): 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.
Generark HomePower ONE (1,002Wh): 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.
Oupes 600W (595Wh): 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.
Goal Zero Yeti 200X:Goal Zero Yeti 200X: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.
Rockpals 300W: 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.
BioLite BaseCharge 600 (622Wh): 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!
Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro (1002Wh): 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.
Anker 555 PowerHouse (1024Wh): 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!
EcoFlow Delta 2 (1024Wh): 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.
Geneverse HomePower ONE Pro (1210Wh): 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.
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 (1521Wh): 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!
Renogy Phoenix 200 (189Wh): 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.
Zendure SuperBase Pro 2000 (2096Wh): 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.
Runhood Rallye 600 (648Wh): 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.
Jackery Explorer 1500 Pro (1512Wh): 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 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%.