Portable power stations have come a long way since we first started reviewing them here at CNET. In the past, they were limited to big, simple power banks that you could plug things into and receive juice from. But now there are tons of advanced models that offer much greater versatility and are equipped with helpful features like USB ports, solar panel inputs, wireless charging and much more. Some models can even be linked to other units for even more power and can tie into your home setup to provide backup power in emergencies.
Traditionally, 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. But 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.
That's it. Let's find the best portable power station to suit your needs.
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, however, 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.
It's listed for $320 at Amazon, but you can save $35 by activating the instant coupon on the product page.
Pronounced like the color blue and the letter "t" (instead of rhyming three syllables with spaghetti), Bluetti is a likable company with feature-rich product offerings at reasonable prices. The midsize portable power station category is a crowded space and there are a few nearly equal alternatives to the 50S including both Ecoflow models (River Max and Delta Mini) and the Big Blue Cellpowa 500.
The 50S comes in as the second lowest "price per watt-hour" metric (second to the Bluetti AC200P), so when you're looking at a multiway finish, that value comes into play. 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, however, 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.
At just over 60 pounds, this machine is not for the faint of heart or weak of arm. If you can manage to get this machine where you want it, it will keep you going for ages with a massive capacity of 2,000 watt-hours. It offers an app for basic monitoring and configuration. It sports a LiFePO4 battery for over 3,500 charge cycles. It will charge completely in a little over three hours, and all this for the lowest "cost per watt-hour" of any unit we tested. Normally that might qualify this unit for the "best value" category as well, but that is a tougher call to make when it is also the most expensive unit on our list currently, at $1,599.
Another often overlooked aspect of portable power stations is the surge wattage and power rating. This is different from the continuous power rating (in watts) for each unit. For example, this unit not only boasts a 2,000Wh capacity rating, but also a 2,000W 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 ten of those simultaneously. When LED lights are turned on, generally, they don't require any "extra" power to get going.
Let's say that you're building a deck on the back of your house and you need to use the AC200P to power a miter saw. It has a running power rating of 1,800W -- no problem, that's within the 2,000W window, but it also requires an additional 1,800W of surge power to get going. Not many portable power stations offer a surge rating that high. (The surge power number is normally double the nominal power rating.) But the AC200P offers a massive 4,800W of surge power. This is great for people who might want to use larger tools at a remote job site, or even large heating units when you're out camping.
This unit just missed out on "Best small portable power station," but with all the great features including a fast charging LiFePO4 battery, wireless charger, app-enabled, solar charging, USBA/C and AC and DC outputs all packed into 10 pounds for under $300, it's a shoo-in for best value.
If you're in the market for a small portable power station (we consider that to be a unit with a capacity less than 400 watt-hours), or if you're new to the portable power game and looking for an easy entry, it doesn't get much easier than the EB3A. With this unit you'll get almost all the options for charging and powering your devices that you could hope for. You can even pick up a 120- or 200-watt solar panel from Bluetti to have a solar generator setup.
The LiFePO4 battery in this unit guarantees over 2,500 cycles (charges to 80% capacity), which is at least four years of service life, even if you're using the EB3A twice a day. Bluetti also boasts a 40-minute charge time to 80% capacity (although my test showed 54 minutes) and the ability to charge via AC+Solar.
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.
And 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.
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.
: Fast charging speeds (keep in mind its smaller capacity), and I'm also a fan of the extra wide display screen and rear-mounted light bar. Most expensive small portable power station.
: 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?
: This is a basic, no-frills unit. If you just need power, period, this will work assuming it fits your capacity needs. Slow to charge and lower than average capacity rating at a probably-too-high price.
: 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 twice as long as our largest power station (Bluetti AC200P) that offers nearly twice the capacity. At $1,499, 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.
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%.