Quick Guide: How Do Power Banks Work?

Quick Guide: How Do Power Banks Work?

Found in the pockets of millions around the world, power banks are a must-have accessory for phones, tablets, and other smart devices. Despite their popularity, not everyone is clear about how power banks work or are familiar with the technology inside them. So if you cannot tell input from output or USB Type-C from Type-A, read on for our no-nonsense guide to understanding the technology found in your portable charger.

Battery Size

If you are still unsure what a portable charger is, it’s a compact device that houses a battery that can be used to charge a digital device like a phone, tablet, digital camera, laptop, mp3 player, or any other USB-powered product. Portable chargers are not all the same and one of the things that distinguishes them is the battery size. Naturally the larger the battery, the more times your smart device can recharge. For example, a pocket friendly portable charger with a 3350mAh battery might only charge an iPhone 7 once. On the other hand, a far larger device with a 27000mAh battery can charge the same iPhone 8 times.

Output

A device that charges with 1 amp can be used with a 1A output charger and will charge at a normal speed and within a standard time. However, if charging an iPad, a portable charger with a 1A output will take double the time. This is because an iPad requires 2 amps to charge, which means a 2A charger or above is needed. When there are multiple outputs on a power bank, it is common to find 2.4A, 2.1A, and 1A outputs together. With simultaneous charging across all three of those ports, all devices, no matter their charging amplitude, can power up.

RAVPower Input Output Chargers

Input

Input on the other hand refers to charging the power bank itself. Similar to speed limitations on output charging, the input charging speed is dependent on the type of wall charger used. A standard wall charger that provides a 2A output would recharge the power bank twice as fast as one with only 1A. However, this requires that the portable charger support a 2A input. The vast majority of power banks currently do not support that. That said, with technology advances, the recharge speed of most power banks has increased. While 1A has long been the standard input, 2A is becoming more and more common.

Quick Charge

Qualcomm’s rapid charging technology has proven to be the current fastest recharge speed on the market. Now in the third generation of their Quick Charge series, devices with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor require only 5 minutes of charging to get back 5 hours of battery life. It is so fast that it can get 66% of your phone battery back in only 27 minutes. Power banks with Qualcomm Quick Charge technology are not limited to faster output rates. The technology allows for a faster input meaning you can get a rapid recharge that is even quicker than the already fast 2A input.

Want to learn more about our Quick Charge technology? Clear here.

iSmart Charging

iSmart Technology is a RAVPower exclusive and is a form of integrated automatic charging. The way it works is that iSmart will analyze and determine the optimized charging current for any connected device. If a device requires a 1.8A charge, iSmart will change the current flow to get that device’s ideal charge. The recently upgraded iSmart 2.0 technology also corrects irregular charging behavior, offers 10 improved safeguards and protections, and balances the current output when charging multiple devices at once. For those that want the best charge for their device, the tailored charging of iSmart is something you will always need from your next portable charger.

Want to learn more about our iSmart technology? Clear here.

USB Type-C

The latest in USB technology is USB Type-C / USB-C. Relatively new, the reversible head and smaller size stand in contrast from the older yet familiar USB Type-A. Type-A, of course, being the standard USB input nearly all charging cables use. While power banks have traditionally catered for USB Type-A inputs, the latest power banks support USB-C as it slowly becomes the newest standard for transferring and charging. When recharging with USB Type-C, a 20100mAh power bank will take just 4 hours to be recharge. Conversely, charging with a standard 1A charger can take close to 30 hours. What is even better is that USB Type-C compatible portable chargers can power the latest MacBook as fast as the original 30W charger so you can have mobile charging on the go wherever you are. In addition, if you are charging your Nintendo Switch then you will need a USB-C charger and cable.

Please note: An appropriate USB Type-C charger and USB-Type C cable are necessary to achieve these speeds.

Protections

Carrying a little device with serious power might raise a few safety concerns. Even airlines limit flying with portable chargers that exceed battery limits. Thankfully, any external battery charger worth purchasing comes with a bare minimum of safety protections to safeguard your devices. These protections help to prevent malfunctions or more serious safety risks. Mandatory protections include over-charge and short-circuiting, with extra protections needed depending on the battery size. These extras include over-discharge, surge current, surge voltage, over-current, high temperature, a safe reset mechanism, reverse connection, and EMF protections. An exhaustive list? Yes, but all have their useful purposes, especially if you do not handle or charge your external battery correctly.

RAVPower Protections Power Bank Infographic Power Banks

Extras

Not found in every portable charger, these extras can enhance the user experience making for greater convenience or improved safety:
Built-In AC Pins: For those travelling, power banks with built-in AC pins require you to connect to a socket to recharge; saving you from bringing a cable and a wall charger.
Waterproof or Shockproof Protections: In addition to internal protections, power banks also contain durable outer protections in the form of one-cast casing, or thicker, rugged hard shells. It is very useful as a safety precaution, especially if used daily.
AC Output Less common but still a feature found in incredibly powerful chargers, a built-in AC output can power 110V home appliances so you can be mobile with your favorite gadgets.


Portable chargers are not hard to understand – simply connect your phone, tablet, or other device and charge. However, they contain technology that might not be clear to everyone. We hope now that you can tell the key differences between input and output, or iSmart Charging or Quick Charge technology. Happy charging.

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Team RAVPower

Team RAVPower

We're technology enthusiasts, charging geeks, and cat lovers

12 Replies to “Quick Guide: How Do Power Banks Work?

  1. Have a question: Can I find a power cord that has a usb on both ends to power up the battery in a car charger or can only charge it in a a/c outlet?
    Like this charger I purchased from you all. Just wish there was a way to charge the power Bank in the car…example vacation…long trips etc…

    1. Hi Helen,
      We don’t currently sell a dual USB cord but we do have a USB car charger. It connects via your cigarette lighter socket and can charge two devices simultaneously. It might not be exactly what you are after but you can use it to charge your device when driving instead of only using a power bank. You can find it here.
      Hope that helps.

  2. Can I charge a small Ravpower from a larger one? My idea is to keep a large one at camp and use the smaller one while hiking etc… away from base camp so as not to have the extra weight.

    1. Hi Jerry,
      We do not recommend that. There will be a loss of power due to the output conversion rate when using a larger charger to power a smaller one. We hope to cover this soon in a blog post.

  3. We just purchased a 16750 mAh deluxe series external battery pack , the instructions don’t tell you when the battery pack is fully charged ..How do you know ??

  4. Having a powerbank available can be a lifesaver, however, you still need to remember to charge it. Do you have and solar powered charger available in your product line?

  5. I use my Xtreme RP-PB14 to power my electric spinning wheel that needs 12V. I must have misplaced my paperwork. I charged up the power pack and when it was at 100% power, it says it is at 9V. I don’t want to plug it into my spinning wheel until I can make sure it is at 12V DC output. Can you give me a quick resource to check on the technique to change the output to 12V? Thanks.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Please press and hold the power button to see the 9V icon flashing on the LCD screen. If you press the power button again you can change cycle through the voltages to 12V. I hope this helps!

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