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The best battery-powered portable power stations of 2020 – CNET

This story is part of Road Trip 2020, CNET’s series on how we’re preparing now for what could come next.

Portable power stations are the smaller, lesser-known cousin of generators. These versatile, lunch-box-sized gadgets can travel with you on camping trips, to construction sites — and anywhere else you need electricity — to keep your phone, power tools and other electronics charged and running smoothly.

I picked seven power stations to test for this list, ranging in price from $270 to $1,200. Here, I focused exclusively on rechargeable battery-powered models, although gas models are available too. While each power station does the same thing — provide power on the go in a compact design — each one has a different design and range of features. 

Keep in mind that the prices I note below for each power station may change as retailers introduce sales and other updates. I’ll do my best to check in regularly so they reflect the most recent pricing.  

Megan Wollerton/CNET

The Jackery Explorer 1000 is by far the most well-rounded portable power station of the bunch. At 22 pounds, this powerful generator is fairly compact, especially compared to the 44-pound Ego Nexus model. Despite its smaller size, it manages to make space for three three-prong outlets, two USB-C ports, two standard USB-A ports and more. 

Its display is easy to read, too, and it dominated the performance tests, exceeding its expected runtime of 3 hours and 2 minutes (with three work lights connected to it) by an average of 8.5 minutes. 

Fast facts

  • Price (Amazon): $1,000
  • Watt hours: 1,002
  • Weight: 22 pounds

Megan Wollerton/CNET

When you don’t need something quite as powerful as the Jackery Explorer 1000, the Klein Tools KTB5 is an excellent option. While it has roughly half the watt hours of the Jackery generator, it’s still a solid performer with a lot of power. 

Complete with two three-prong outlets, two USB-C ports and two USB-A ports, you can charge pretty much anything you’ll ever need with this midrange power station. Bonus: It did well in my performance tests, averaging just 2 minutes less than its expected 2-hour and 29-minute run time (with two lights connected to it). 

Fast facts

  • Price (Amazon): $500
  • Watt hours: 546
  • Weight: 12 pounds

Megan Wollerton/CNET

The Rockpals 300W is my favorite affordable portable power station. Not only did it average 2.5 minutes over the expected 2-hour 33-minute runtime (with one work light connected), it’s only 7.5 pounds and has a ton of options, ranging from one three-prong outlet to four USB-A ports and a handful of other features. 

I know $270 isn’t exactly budget, but it’s the most affordable model I tested — and its strong performance and solid lineup of features give it even more value. 

Fast facts

  •  Price (Amazon): $270
  • Watt hours: 280
  • Weight: 7.5 pounds

How we test

Before diving into how I tested these things, here’s list of the models I looked at:

Every company that sells portable power stations provides the expected number of watt hours their products are supposed to last. For the Goal Zero Yeti 200x, it’s 187 watt hours; for the Paxcess 300W, it’s 288. The Jackery Explorer 1000 claims 1,002 watt hours. 

That means if you run a device with a 1-watt output on the Yeti 200x, it should last for about 187 hours. You get 288 hours on the Paxcess model and a whooping 1,002 hours on the Jackery generator. For reference, a USB-C iPhone charger draws up to 18 watts, a 3-quart Instant Pot draws 700 watts and a standard microwave draws around 600 to 1,200 watts, depending on the model. 

Since I didn’t have a 1-watt device to test (wait, are there any 1-watt devices out there?) and because I don’t have over 187 hours to test a single power station, our labs manager, Steve Conaway, devised a clever plan: I’d use 110-watt 10,000-lumen portable LED work lights (here’s the exact ones I used).

For example, if you divide the Yeti 200x’s 187 expected watt hours by 110 (the number of watts in one of the work lights), you get 1.7. Then my accountant husband helped me convert each decimal into each power station’s expected runtime. 1.7 equals an expected runtime of 1 hour and 42 minutes from fully charged to zero (when the light turned off). 

I plugged a work light into the Goal Zero Yeti 200x, Rockpals 300W and Paxcess 300W. The higher-watt-hour Blackfire PAC500 and Klein Tools KTB5 each ran two work lights, again, to reduce the test time. And the two largest generators, the Jackery Explorer 1000 and the Ego Nexus 3000 PST3042 each ran three work lights per test.  

I ran two identical tests on each of the seven power stations to track consistency and rule out any anomalous results. In the end, each one performed pretty close to the expected runtime:

Test results

Price Watt hours Expected runtime Actual average runtime Actual vs. expected runtime Number of lights
Goal Zero Yeti 200x $300 187 1 hour, 42 minutes 1 hour, 33 minutes 9 minutes less than expected 1
Rockpals 300W $270 280 2 hours, 33 minutes 2 hours, 35 minutes, 30 seconds 2.5 minutes more than expected 1
Paxcess 300W $300 288 2 hours, 37 minutes 2 hours, 19 minutes 18 minutes less than expected 1
Blackfire PAC500 $500 546 2 hours, 29 minutes 2 hours, 19 minutes, 30 seconds 9.5 minutes less than expected 2
Klein Tools KTB5 $500 546 2 hours, 29 minutes 2 hours, 27 minutes 2 minutes less than expected 2
Jackery Explorer 1000 $1,000 1002 3 hours, 2 minutes 3 hours, 10 minutes, 30 seconds 8.5 minutes more than expected 3
Ego Nexus 3000 PST3042 $1,200 840 2 hours, 33 minutes 2 hours, 14 minutes, 30 seconds 13.5 minutes less than expected 3

As you can see, all of them got pretty close to the mark, with the Paxcess and the Ego models performing the worst. But only the Jackert and Rockpals power stations consistently ran longer than expected, a definite advantage when you’re logging long hours at a worksite, camping off-grid — or need to keep your phone charged at home following a storm that knocks out your electricity. 

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