“Bigger and better” has been a safe sequel strategy for years, but “smaller, lighter, and slightly more affordable” sequels began to take off when Apple debuted the iPod mini and iPod nano a decade ago. Anker relied upon “bigger and better” for its insanely powerful 25,600mAh Astro E7 battery, and now is using “smaller and lighter” with PowerCore 20100 ($40), a sequel with nearly 80% of Astro E7’s power. But Anker’s diverging from Apple’s formula on one key point: PowerCore 20100 sells for only 50% of Astro E7’s price. It’s still capable of recharging many iPads twice, which is more than enough portable energy for most people. Given its more manageable size and excellent price point, it’s likely to be an even bigger hit than its predecessor.

Anker has also released a “you’ll never need another USB charging port again” solution called PowerPort 10 ($40, shown above). PowerPort 10 steps up from Anker’s excellent 60W 6-Port USB Charger (reviewed here), which was recently renamed PowerPort 6. For only $4 more than PowerPort 6, PowerPort 10 gives you 4 additional USB ports for charging. Ten ports is enough for a family full of iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch users to simultaneously recharge all their devices. The only hitch: PowerPort 10 has the same 60W power output as PowerPort 6, the details of which I’ll explain further in the review below…

High-capacity rechargeable batteries always have the same problem — they’re bag-challengingly large — so the question is typically how portable the battery really is. Measuring roughly 6.6″ long by 2.4″ deep by 0.7″ thick, PowerCore 20100 drops nearly an inch of depth compared with Astro E7 (shown above), stays about the same in thickness, and adds a barely perceptible several millimeters of length. The net effect is to take a brick with roughly the same footprint as an iPhone 6 Plus and make it feel more like a TV remote control. You still get the four pleasantly blue LED power indicators, recessed remaining power indicator button, and PowerIQ charging, which auto-regulates the amount of power to meet the demands of connected iPads, iPhones, iPods, and Apple Watches.

Key Details:

  • PowerCore offers a 195% iPad Air 2 recharge and can refuel any iPhone over 4X, amazing for price
  • Markedly smaller than Astro E7
  • Two USB ports rather than three
  • PowerPort 10 recharges up to 10 USB devices at once
  • 60W power is a price compromise

Anker has also changed the formerly glossy texture to matte plastic, eliminated the gray side accents, and switched from three USB ports to two. The battery has shifted from 25,600mAh to 20,100mAh, which is 78.5% as much capacity as Astro E7. Collectively, all of these changes make PowerCore 20100 less flashy and technically less powerful than its predecessor, but like the slimmed-down iPad Air 2, it’s easier to carry and still has plenty to offer. I personally preferred PowerCore’s finish, which doesn’t show fingerprint smudges. An atypically nice mesh fabric drawstring carrying case is included, along with a micro-USB cable for recharging.

PowerCore 20100’s performance is outstanding for the price. In my testing, it was able to fully recharge an iPad Air 2 from dead to 100% while retaining enough power to deliver an 81% recharge to a more power-hungry iPad Air 1. In another test, it recharged an iPad Air 2 from dead to 100%, then restored an additional 95% after the same iPad was drained down to dead — very nearly two complete iPad Air 2 recharges. That means you can recharge any iPad mini at least three times, and any iPhone four or more times.

Anker specifies the power output at 4.8A, which is to say that the two USB ports should each be able to recharge an iPad at full speed at the same time; my test iPad Air 1 and 2 both refueled from PowerCore at their peak speeds. The only hitch is the power input, which is only 2A. This means that even if you self-supply an iPad power adapter, you can expect to leave PowerCore 20100 recharging overnight. After seven hours on a 2.4A charger, PowerCore 20100 was more than half-recharged but not fully at the 75% mark. That’s a common limitation of huge battery packs, but it would be great to see Anker improve upon it in the future.

I typically don’t use the word “remarkable” when discussing batteries, but given the $40 asking price — less than the cost of a typical 4,000mAh iPhone battery case — the 20,100mAh PowerCore offers remarkable performance for the dollar. Astro E7 was already class-leadingly capacious for $80, so to get 79% of the power for 50% of the price is a great deal. The part I personally appreciate most is the reduction in physical size: having traveled with Astro E7 because I really wanted the spare power for emergencies, I found that I was sometimes willing to compromise insane capacity for something that took up less space in a small, crowded bag. That’s exactly what PowerCore 20100 offers, so if the power it offers matches your needs, you’ll be thrilled with the price and quality.

There are certain situations where having a 10-port USB charger could make sense. It could be a travel accessory for a large family with multiple iPads, iPhones, iPods and Apple Watches. Or the same family’s center-of-house charging station. Or a communal office recharger. Even so, there’s no getting around the fact that PowerPort 10 will look like overkill to some people, as connecting 10 devices tends to create clutter. Like all USB chargers, you need to self-supply the Apple charging cables — not a problem if you have the ones that came with your devices — and apart from one included Velcro cable tie, managing all of the wires and devices is up to you.

If you’ve seen PowerPort 6, PowerPort 10’s design will be substantially familiar. Boxy and compact, it mixes a glossy-finished collection of USB ports (and a single blue power light) with a matte-finished body and a detachable wall power cable. Measuring roughly 4.4″ wide by 2.7″ deep by 1″ thick, it’s incredibly small given how many devices it charges at once — similar in footprint to an iPhone 5, and much smaller than an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The only major differences are a universal power on/off switch on the back, found directly opposing the power light on the front, and a mostly soft touch rubber coating rather than a glossy plastic body. There aren’t any rubber feet on the bottom, so the only thing that keeps it from slipping around is the weight and the ever-so-slight friction of its rubbery finish.

PowerPort 10 presents an interesting price to performance trade-off. Yes, it can recharge 10 devices at once. Yes, each of its 10 ports has Anker’s PowerIQ, which means each is capable of switching power output based on the specific demands of the connected device. And yes, based on my testing, PowerPort 10 is capable of handling everything without becoming crazy hot to the touch, breaking, or behaving oddly when devices are connected and disconnected. The only thing you’ll need to consider is how much your personal collection of devices will bump up against its power output limits.

Each iPad requires between 5 Watts (W) and 10W/12W of power, an iPhone 2.5W to 5W/10W, iPods a maximum of 2.5W, and Apple Watches 5W or less. Since PowerPort 10 has 60 Watts of power to spread across its ports, it can recharge 5 old, power-hungry iPad 3/4 models at full speed at once, 6 current-generation iPads, iPad minis, or iPhone 6/6 Pluses at full speed at once, and 10 iPhone 5s or older iPhones, any 10 iPods, or any 10 Apple Watches at full speed at once. But once you start dealing with real world mixes of devices, the speeds will vary. If all of the ports are filled, PowerPort 10’s PowerIQ may compromise to make sure every device is receiving something. In other words, your ability to get “full-speed” charging will depend on how much and what you connect to the USB ports. Ideally, everything would recharge from 0-100% in 2-4 hours, but unless you’re an office or school with 10 older, power-hungry iPad 3/4 units, you’re not likely to start with 10 completely drained tablets. Most people will have no issue with PowerPort 10’s abilities.

In the past, I’ve been somewhat hesitant about USB chargers that didn’t provide full-speed charging from all of their ports, but two factors make PowerPort 10 a different story. The key one is the price: at only $40, this 10-port charger costs as little as two single-port Apple USB chargers, and only $4 more than the PowerPort 6 I previously tested and loved. If your primary metric is bang for the buck, PowerPort 10 delivers more than any other USB charger I’ve seen. The other factor is versatility. I haven’t seen another charger from a well-respected company that charges so many devices simultaneously in so small of a package; if you’re an Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone user with a family, you’ll immediately understand its appeal. You can decide whether PowerPort 6 or PowerPort 10 is the right pick for your needs, but the fact that Anker has two options so close in (low) price should make the decision more fun than challenging.