The Best External Power Banks for Gaming Laptops
(Updated on September 5, 2021 to include latest prices and product information.)
As more PC manufacturers (HP, Apple, Lenovo, etc.) shift to use of non-removable, sealed batteries in their laptops, you can no longer count on buying and carrying around extra laptop batteries to run your laptop when on the road. The battery is now an internal component, and replacing it is equivalent to replacing a laptop’s HDD.
The portable power bank! This is an external battery pack for running your laptop or notebook computer. Unfortunately, MOST so-called portable power banks are intended for smartphones and tablets and cannot handle the high power demands of a gaming laptop. Even if you can find a power bank with an AC outlet connector (most have USB ports only), after connecting it to a high-power device like a laptop, the power bank may automatically shut off due to the high current (amperage) demand.
Step 1: Find Your Computer’s Maximum Power
This is written on the power adapter. It is either written in large text as 120W, 230W, or similar, or you can figure it out from the numbers 19.5V===11.8A, 19.5V===6.15A, and so on, on the adapter. Multiplying 19.5V x 11.8A gives us 230W, and multiplying 19.5V x 6.15A gives us 120W.
Step 2: Find the Power Bank’s Maximum Power Output (Not Power Capacity)
To determine if a power bank will work for your computer, the most important spec is maximum power output, not power capacity. This is often displayed as “100W max”, “250W max”, or similar. Even if a battery pack has a high capacity of 30,000 mAh (110 Wh) to 50,000 mAh (185 Wh), most cannot continuously supply power to run devices at more than 90W.
It’s like having a water tank that is full (=lots of stored power), but it can only supply water in a small trickle like a water fountain (= low power output) — Forget about taking a shower with that water output! A battery pack must be capable of spurting out power like a high-pressure jet stream to keep your laptop or notebook computer running.
How Long Will My Device Run?
Because about 10% to 15% of power is lost during power conversion, which is normal for all power banks, use the following formula to calculate how long a selected power bank will run your device.
(Power capacity of power bank (Wh)) x 0.85 / (Device wattage (W))
And so, if your device is averaging 60 W usage, for the 146 Wh power bank below, we get 146 Wh x 0.85 / 60 W= 2.07 hours.
This analysis covers three power banks that can fit into the second pocket of most laptop backpacks where the AC power adapter and extra batteries usually go. If you can carry around even larger sizes (lunch pail size), take a look at our recommended portable power stations.
To better compare with your laptop, the specs of our tested laptops (120 W, 230 W) are shown at the end of this article.
|Best Cost Performance 1
||Best Cost Performance 2||Best for 90W and less
|42000 mAh (146 Wh) Power Bank/Solar Charger||64800 mAH (220 Wh) Power Bank/Solar Charger||50000 mAH (185 Wh) Power Bank|
Comparison of Three Portable Power Banks
|42000 mAh (146 Wh) Power Bank/Solar Charger||Available from a large number of vendors on Amazon, such as Powkey, this high performance product can sometimes be found for a great price (especially Amazon Lightning Sales). As of this writing, the best price for 42000 mAh (146 Wh) power bank is around $150.
This model comes with an AC adapter cable, manual, and case. The power output specifications are 200W continuous power/250W peak power. This product does NOT include pass-through charging, but we don’t consider this a necessary feature.
We were able to successfully power BOTH our 120W and 230W laptops using this power bank (but not at the same time), and so for us, this power bank presents the right sweet spot between cost and performance. In fact, our high-power 230W laptop ran without any problems.
One quirk with this power bank was that, for our 230W device, it would not run when using an AC adapter with 2-prong plug (frequently used in Japan). Only when a 3-prong plug was inserted would it work. However, other (lower-power) 2-prong plug devices, such as lamps, worked fine.
Also, after turning on the power bank, you have to press the “AC” button to activate power from the outlets.
As mentioned below, although this power bank meets the current TSA regulations for carry-on baggage (but NOT checked baggage), I suggest bringing the manual with you to show that it is 42000 mAh (146 Wh).
|Verdict||Power bank with best price performance
Although the somewhat heavy and bulky, this power bank can provide long power performance at a reasonable price.
|If you are thinking about the above high cost-performance model, you might want to consider this higher capacity version by the same manufacturer. It features a higher maximum power output of 300W continuous / 600 W peak, making it the power bank with the highest maximum power output of our featured models here.
The tradeoff is a higher weight and bulkier body. Also, because this exceeds TSA regulations for carry-on baggage, you will be UNABLE to take this with you on airline flights.
Like the above model, after turning on the power bank, you have to press the “AC” button to activate power from the outlets.
|Verdict||Great combination of high capacity and low price — if weight and size are not an issue|
|50000 mAH Power Bank||Available from the vendors MAXOAK and Krisdonia on Amazon for just above $100, this is the slimmest of the power banks that we tested. In contrast to the other two, it does NOT include an AC outlet. Instead, it has four USB ports, one 20V/3A output for laptops, and one 12V/2.5A output for digital cameras. This power bank also comes with a full set of laptop connectors for connecting your laptop.
In our test model, we were able to successfully run our 120W laptop without any problems even though the stated specs only indicated power up to 90W. However, this power bank was unable to power our 230W laptop even without any power-hungry apps running. Instead, this message appeared. However, we were able to charge the 230W laptop’s battery when the laptop was off.
Still, for our 120W laptop, this is the ideal solution. It’s cheap, slim, and relatively lightweight. Also, I would think that a direct connection of DC power from the power bank to the laptop (without an AC adapter) means higher efficiency due to less power loss without the need to convert back and forth between DC and AC. And for this size, 50000 mAH (185 Wh) is outstanding.
An Amazon reviewer having a Dell XPS 15 (9550) with 130W power supply noted that the power bank would shut off when running under high loads, such as when firing up a game. If you need the power bank for running games, you should probably go for the safe choice of the other power banks here which can handle 250W.
By the way, the 50000 mAh (185 Wh) capacity means that this power bank would NOT be allowed on planes (either carry-on or checked baggage) under current TSA restrictions (limited to 42000 mAh).
|Verdict||Best solution IF you can run your gaming laptop
Slimmest size of all three power banks (but second heaviest), this will fit right into your backpack as an external battery.
Summary of Power Bank Specifications
|Name||50000 mAH (185 Wh) Power Bank||42000mAh (146Wh) Power Bank/Solar Charger||64800 mAH (220 Wh) Power Bank/Solar Charger|
|Verdict||Slimmest and cheapest, but limited compatibility||Best performance for price, wide compatibility||Higher capacity cost-performance model|
|Price||$130 to $133||Around $150||Around $190|
|AC Power Output
(Key spec for running gaming laptops)
|90W / 5 Amps Max.
Auto-shutoff if draws more than 5 Amps.
|300 W / 600 W (Peak)|
|Capacity||50000 mAh (185 Wh)||42000 mAh (146 Wh)||64,800 mAh (220 Wh)|
|Dimensions||5.3 x 8.1 x 1.3 in||5.71 x 7.87 x 1.81 in||7.87 x 7.87 x 3.15 in|
|Weight||2.77 lbs||3.31 lbs||5 lbs|
|Can run Laptop 1 (120W)?||Yes, but may not run high-load programs (i.e. games)||Yes||Yes|
|Can run Laptop 2 (230W)?||No, but can charge internal battery when laptop is off.||Yes||Yes|
|Laptop Power Bank (Maxoak) Manual||Portable Solar Generator 42000 mAh (146Wh) Manual||Specifications Sheet|
Specs of Tested Laptops
|Type||Laptop 1: Desktop Replacement Laptop (120W)||Laptop 2: Gaming Laptop (230W)|
|Model||HP DV7-7300||Omen 17-w200|
|Features||17.3″ widescreen, 2 internal HDDs||17.3″ widescreen, 2 internal HDDs|
|AC Power||120W Smart AC adapter
|230W AC adapter
|Power Usage (standard/maximum)||Approx. 17W/120W||Approx. 23W/230W|
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New similar products are continuously being introduced, such as the Omni 20400 mAh (max. output 100W) and the 60000 mAh/222 Wh Krisdonia (max. output 130W), but none of these seem capable of providing the power to run a gaming laptop.
Our testing did NOT include external power supplies (or “power stations”) that cannot be carried in your backpack or bag, such as the Rockpals Power Station (weighing 5.5 lbs) (literally a “power brick”). Still, these products can carry tremendous capacity (100,000 mAH and higher) and convenient features (UPS, solar charging, etc.), and most can run gaming laptops (power outputs of 250W+ are typical) with power to spare. We review these portable power stations here.
Update: Airplane Travel with 42000 mAh Power Bank
Before our recent trip (summer 2018), we checked the airline’s website and found that up to two batteries between 100 and 160 watt-hours (Wh) are allowed in carry-on baggage only (United Airlines details). In case that the baggage scanning employees were unaware of these regulations, we printed out (1) the airline baggage restriction information and also brought (2) the manual for the battery packs, which clearly shows “146 Wh”. In fact, we did not even need to show these documents, and we passed through the baggage checks in two North American cities without any problems. Still, I strongly suggest that all travelers bring the manual for their large-capacity battery packs as documentation just in case problems arise.
For the portion of the flight in the large aircraft (Boeing 777), an outlet was available near the bottom of the seat in front of me, BUT it would turn off whenever I plugged in my gaming laptop, indicating that the required power output was too high. Still, I could charge the portable power banks from the outlet. This way, I was able to switch between using one power bank while simultaneously recharging the other. This would not work indefinitely because I was using power faster than it could be recharged, and so at some point, you may have to take a break to allow the charging to catch up. Generally, it took about 2 to 2.5 hours to use the charge in the power bank and about 7 hours to fully charge it.
– This testing is intended only to provide data points for analysis as case studies. No guarantee is provided that these portable power banks will work for your computer. Check your computer’s specifications carefully to compare with those here, but be aware that results may also vary based on your individual usage patterns.
– The limit for airline travel is 100 watt-hours in the United States for checked luggage and 160 watt-hours for carry-on luggage (with certain restrictions), but even this may vary by airlines and country. Still, all regulations are subject to change without notice. Please confirm with the TSA and your airlines before your trip.