Gadgets Smartphones Tablets

RAVPower PB-13 Portable Power Bank

Every year, our power needs grow. Tablets get bigger, phones get more needy. Portable power is pretty much a must for anyone travelling or for someone that works away from a power source all day.

The good news is – there are hundreds (if not THOUSANDS) of choices for portable external battery chargers. The bad news is – they are not created equally and may not reasonably meet the needs you bought them for.

When buying an external battery like the RAVPower 14000 mAh PB-13 (from now on, just PB-13; about $40 from Amazon), you need to consider four major things; how long it will last, how powerful is the output, what sort of quality of battery are you getting inside – and finally, how long will it take to recharge?

Of course, once you’re good in those departments, you can talk about features from there.

The PB-13 comes as an attractive little box that still fits in your hand. It is a bit heavier than you might expect, but that is the price for the 14000 mAh rated battery.

The main face of the unit contains 2 USB plugs (1A and 2A), an LED light bulb and a microUSB charging plug. The top of the unit has a recessed button that handles the power cycling and the toggling of the built in LED flashlight.

Construction-wise; it feels sturdy and well-built. I feel it could survive a decent drop if need be.

Included in the box are two coiled USB cables with 5 different phone adapter tips; miniUSB, microUSB, Samsung 30 pin and a Nokia DC and an iPhone adapter. They also throw in a nice cloth case to carry it around.

What is NOT included is a wall charger to actually recharge the PB-13. You are expected to use the microUSB plug and your own USB adapter (or PC) to recharge the unit. more on this in a minute.

So how long will it last? Ah, the eternal question – and you can honestly never believe any number you’re given (even mine). This should be simple math. How big is your phone’s battery? An old Droid X phone has a 1400 mAh battery. The Samsung S4 has a 2400 mAh battery. The iPad 2 boasts a 6930 mAh battery and the Samsung Nexus 10 tablet has a 9000 mAh battery. Provided you turn off each of these devices before charging, the number of charges you should expect are:

Droid X = 10 charges
S4 = 5.8 charges
iPad2 = 2 charges
Nexus 10 = 1.5 charges

That’s math and as long as you’re willing to shut off your device – these numbers are probably accurate. The real question is – how much longer will your device last if you have the PB-13 plugged in while you use it? Fact is – anyone that can give you a number here is lying through their teeth – because everyone’s usage and battery consumption needs vary.

The closest I’ve come to coming up with a reasonable algorithm is (device hours) + (device hours * (number of charges / 3)). So let’s say your iPad2 lasts 10 hours – the PB-13 should provide 2 full charges – divide that by 3 – or .66: 10 hours + (10 * .66) = 16.6 hours. If you have a fully charged iPad 2 that normally runs 10 hours, plugged in the PB-13 the whole time, you should get 16.6 hours of continuous use.

Nexus 10 gets about 6 hours per charge. So 6 + (6 * (1.5/3)) = 6 + (6 * .5) = 9 hours

You get the idea. Your mileage will definitely vary – but at least you have some idea.

What about amps out? MOST phone chargers use 1A out – most tablets between 2A and 3A out. The charger you use in your car … the USB port on your PC – likely to be considerably less than 1A and hence it “trickle charges” your device – certainly not being able to keep up with battery discharge during regular use.

Having a full 1A plug will power most cell phones while in use – keeping the battery level. That same 1A plug wouldn’t keep up with your tablet’s discharge.

The 2A plug will drive a lot more power to your phone – allowing it to actually CHARGE while you use it. You’ll also need that 2A plug for keeping your power-hungry tablet from draining while you use it.

Yes, you can use both plugs at the same time – of course you’ll drain the device faster that way – and 2A usage will drain faster than 1A usage.

What about quality? Samsung is known for top notch, quality batteries and the RP-13 proudly boasts their use. The box says 500 charges, but I’m guessing you’ll see 10-15% more than that. Before you cry about “only” 500 charges, consider that’s a year and a half or so of DAILY charging. Personally, I charge mine about once a week or so.

How fast does it charge back up? It’s a big battery, folks. You aren’t going to rapid charge that sucker in a few hours. I keep meaning to time it, but your results will surely vary anyway. The thing to remember is that you want to use a nice, 2A+ charger to pump this guy back up – don’t plug it into your PC and hope it will top off any time soon. Any smartphone charger should do the trick. If you put it on a 1-2A charger, you should be able to put it on the charger before bed and wake up to a full battery.

By the way, the battery can be turned OFF – meaning it shouldn’t trickle discharge on you when you’re not even using it. That makes this an ideal battery for real emergencies.

The original problem with this unit was the price. $100 when it first came) is a LOT to pay for an external battery Рeven one as fat as this one.  As the vendor promised, the price quickly went down and is now a mere $40.

If you’re looking for quality and reliability? This is a great choice.

The biggest problem to most is the weight; while it isn’t a Ghostbuster proton pack (or Atari Lynx D battery pack) it might be a bit heavy for a clutch or man purse carried around all the time. But a glovebox? Bedside? In the car for a roadtrip? A great solution.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

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