Fast-Charging Battery Packs

What It Is: A pair of external battery packs that can be charged to full in an hour.

Why We Like It: A couple of years ago, portable battery packs were such a niche product, they were often referred to as Mophies. That's a reference to the battery-maker Mophie, a trailblazer in a category that's now tipped into commodity. A flood of cheap lithium-ion cells from Chinese factories has made it difficult for any single company or product to stand out. So battery-makers have resorted to showy gimmicks. Some are useful, like Tylt's models that double as wall-attached charging bases for other devices. Others are throwaways, like integrated flashlights, in an age when even 10-year-olds know to use their phone screens as emergency lights. But of all the try-hard gimmicks in this space, the best right now is the Pronto's ultrafast charging.

Normally, it can take hours to fully charge an external battery as big as the Pronto 5. At 4,500 mAh, it stores enough power to recharge most smartphones to full, three times over. Once they're drained, refilling cells that big should require as long as four hours. The Pronto 5 can recharge in an hour. The same goes for the larger Pronto 12 (pictured above), whose 13,500 mAh capacity also charges to full in hour. And if that's too long to wait, the Pronto 12 can get enough power to charge most phones to 100 percent in just 5 minutes.

There's a catch: For the fastest speeds, you have to use the Pronto's included AC adapter. For the Pronto 12, there's no other choice. But the Pronto 5 has a micro USB port for standard — meaning slow — charging. Both models have wheel-like indicators that light up during charging, with one showing the current capacity, and the other showing charge speeds. The latter is pretty pointless, but helps demonstrate the way most lithium-ion batteries now work, which is to charge more quickly at first, and then coast into a trickle-charge as the cells fill up. And in the case of the Pronto 5, the speed lights will shame you into finding that AC adaptor, instead of reaching for the nearest micro USB cable.

Both Prontos also have aluminum bodies, which is great, and a protective cap that stays in place using an elastic band, which is not so great. The resulting seal from those bands isn't tight enough to protect these batteries from an abundance of rain or snow, and straps themselves are borderline ugly. The banded cap is probably best stored in the garbage.

The Pronto 5 is an easy pick for our favorite everyday battery pack. The Pronto 12 is another story, though. This brick of a power pack is a tool for professionals. Its 13,500 mAh capacity is enough to charge a tablet to full, while also juicing up a digital camera. And because it has a 12V output, as well as two USB ports, it can at least partially charge a laptop. The ability to juice multiple devices at once, and then recharge itself in an hour, makes this a huge asset for photographers, journalists, or anyone who travels frequently and needs a slew of gadgets to function.

Nitpick: Both packs are heavier than we'd like, due in part to the rugged aluminum construction. And we really are baffled by those elastic caps, which have nowhere to go when the batteries are in use, and are just waiting to be abandoned, either intentionally (in a drawer) or not (next to a wall outlet in an airport). A hinged hatch would have served the same purpose, and probably would have created a more secure seal.

[$80 for Pronto 5, $150 for Pronto 12; powerpractical.com]