You might see ads for portable chargers that refer to the devices as power banks, and you might see ads for power banks that refer to them as portable chargers. The two devices differ though, so those ads that use the terms interchangeably, do so erroneously.
So, what is the difference between a power bank and a portable charger? While the terms refer to devices in the same class of electronics, they do not work the same way.
Main Ways Power Banks and Power Chargers Differ
A power bank lets you charge the device like an extra battery. It may be an extra battery. You either replace the dead battery in the phone or tablet or laptop, or you plug the charged battery or power bank into the electronic device. A portable charger refers to devices that can power large items such as a car battery or multiple laptops at one time.
A power bank weighs little and may fit in your purse or shirt pocket. These small portables typically provide you with one or two charges for your cell or tablet. Some of these devices can charge a laptop. A portable charger could be so large that it can power all the appliances in your RV or home.
Both items store an electrical charge that you can transfer to your phone. You can purchase both that come with standard DC voltage power adapters or with a solar adapter so you can charge them using the sun. The latter proves popular with those who hike or camp since it allows them to charge their devices consistently while away from any outlet.
Some larger versions of these chargers are also referred to generically as power banks power whole houses. The batteries plugged into a solar power system get referred to as power banks, but they do not always fit in your pocket. In these cases, the term refers to devices similar to the Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack. These rechargeable lithium-ion battery products manufactured by Tesla, Inc. allow for stationary energy storage to power a home during an outage or to store energy from solar panels in the case of the Powerwall or charging your cell phone or laptop as with the Powerpack.
Far more generic names exist for these types of devices. Terms besides power bank or portable charger include:
- Battery bank,
- Battery pack,
- External battery,
- Portable battery,
Although these differ from an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), they do the same thing. A UPS plugs into your computer or other electronic equipment that you want to continue powering during a power interruption. If the electricity goes out, your UPS kicks in immediately and powers your computer and sometimes your peripheral devices for a specified number of hours. Most UPS devices provide about four to five hours of device time. While this does not provide the continuous uptime of a backup generator, these small devices that typically take up less space than a toaster let you save your work and provide surge protection, so your computer does not get fried when the power goes out. You can come home from dinner to find the power out, but the computer and television not only in fine shape but capable of providing enough power that you can check email while you watch a movie. When you go on vacation, these devices are small enough to go with you in a suitcase or in your RV to continue protecting your equipment while on the road.
Which One Do You Need?
You choose between the pocket-sized power pack, the brick-sized power charger, the toaster-sized UPS, and the nearly refrigerator-sized Powerwall dependent on your needs. If you only need something that can charge your phone while you run errands, work in the field, or road trip, go with a power pack. If you need to power multiple devices during a weekend or week of camping, go with a solar-powered power charger. If you just need your expensive TV and DVR plus your computer to stay on during a power outage, so they do not get damaged, a UPS serves your purpose. You need a device like a Powerwall if you want to power the entire home during an outage.
These similar terms get used interchangeably but they refer to different yet similar devices. Ignore the ads’ text and examine the description of the technology to determine what is on sale.