Considering how much we rely on our smartphones, tablets, and other electronic gear these days, a good USB power bank is essential when traveling. After all, the last thing you want is to have your devices run out of juice at the airport or even mid-flight. Thankfully, there are numerous portable power options available these days, including the new BioLite Charge 80 PD—a durable battery pack with plenty of features.
When it comes to buying a new power bank, one of the first specs that we all look at is the size of the battery that the unit comes with. BioLite has equipped the Charge 80 PD with a 20,000 mAh power cell, which is enough to recharge modern smartphones roughly four to five times or a standard tablet up to two times.
That’s more than enough to get most people through a full day, although it should be noted that the maximum size battery that is allowed on an aircraft is 26,800 mAh. That extra 6800 mAh can come in handy, particularly if you’re powering larger devices. I would have liked to have seen the Charge 80 push the battery size but higher to get closer to that limit. Undeoubtled, there were tradeoffs made in terms of cost, size, and weight, but the extra power would have been welcomed.
That said, the other thing to consider is the charging time for a larger battery. The Charge 80 PD requires roughly five hours to recharge using an 18-watt USB source. Had BioLite equipped it with an even larger power cell, that charge time would have been longer. That is part of the balancing act that goes into selecting battery size too.
Ports and Cables
In addition to having a sufficiently-sized battery, the other important thing to consider when selecting a power bank is the type and number of ports that it comes equipped with. The Charge 80 includes two standard USB-A 3-amp ports and a single USB-C 18-watt power delivery port. This allows you to charge as many as three devices at once, which comes in handy when sharing with friends and family.
USB-A ports have been a part of our lives for years at this point, but the transition to USB-C is taking a bit longer. The USB-C port on the Charge 80 is powerful enough to fast-charge most modern smartphones and tablets, which is extremely handy when on the go. It can also provide power to 13″ laptops, although it can’t keep up with larger, more power-hungry mobile workstations. The USB-C port is also bi-directional, meaning it is used to recharge the battery pack too. When connected to a power source, it automatically begins the recharging process, which can be done even when two devices are plugged into the USB-A ports. BioLite includes a short USB-C cable in the box to help facilitate the charging process, but you’ll need to supply your own charger.
As someone who is a bit of a techy, I’ve made the transition to using USB-C on almost all of my devices some time ago. Because of this, I would have preferred to have seen a second USB-C port on this power bank. It wouldn’t need to be a faster PD (power delivery) port, but just a standard version would do. Hopefully, future editions of the Charge 80 will include this feature as we move away from USB-A for good.
Durable Portable Power
One of the features that sets the Charge 80 apart from most of the competition is its rugged, durable case. BioLite has wrapped the device in a hard plastic shell that is impact-resistant and capable of surviving the rigors of travel and use in the outdoors. That gives it a leg up on most other power banks, which often lean towards being lightweight at the expense of durability.
Speaking of weight, the BioLite Charge 80 PD tips the scales at 16.4 ounces (465 grams), which is a bit on the heavy side. That is the trade-off that comes with having something that is built to withstand punishment and I appreciate that this battery pack feels substantial in the hand. If you happen to be someone who counts every ounce when packing for a trip, this unit may be on the heavy side. On the other hand, a power bank that can’t survive in the wild isn’t all that useful either.
The Charge 80 features a clean, simple design with signature BioLite colors. Its rounded corners and smooth edges make it easy to hold onto and its ports are very accessible. A battery indicator light located on the top of the device shares the current charge level at a glance. The straightforward layout and configuration of the power bank makes it easy to operate at all times.
Priced at $69.95, the BioLite Charge 80 PD offers good value. While it is true that you can find battery packs that are less expensive than this one and offer larger batteries, few are as durable and efficient as this one. For outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers, that is an important thing to consider.
Some will likely look at this USB battery pack and come to the conclusion that BioLite made some compromises in the design and production of the Charge 80. The reality is, the company made some good choices that deliver plenty of power and ports, in a package that is rugged, but not overly large. Hitting all of those sweet spots isn’t easy, but the results make it worth it. This will likely be my battery pack of choice moving forward, both in my daily backpack for commuting, and when traveling.
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