Review: Anker's PowerHouse is a beefy brickful of electrons

Anker's PowerHouse is the beefiest portable battery I've owned, with 120,000mAh coming though four USB ports, 110V AC and 12v DC. At $500 and weighing in at 9 pounds, though, it's also an big expensive box with a thin range of practical uses, aimed sharply at people willing to pay high premium for a user-friendly appliance that replaces buckets of lead and bagfuls of power bricks.

Anker pitches it as a general-purpose multi-device charger, or for keeping a specific power-hungry appliance online for a day at a time. CPAP machines, PA systems and mini-fridges are among bullet-list examples. It can run a 15V lamp for almost a week, Anker claims, and reader-reviewers have found many interesting street uses.

The downside is that it's way too heavy and bulky for any kind of casual portable use, and it's a gadget, not a tool. You won't be servicing it (as you might a similarly-priced generator), and the 18-month warranty is unnervingly suggestive of a lifespan under regular use.

But the upside is that whatever needs you bring to it, it can likely handle them.

For example, I found it useful as a tripod weight, keeping energy-hungry video cameras (such as the Blackmagic Cinema Camera) continuosly charged in the wilds of Pittsburgh.

It also kept an all-in-one workstation on its feet during a blackout. These are great if you're working somewhere with intermittent power, where a noisy generator is out of the question.

It took about 6-8 hours to charge from empty. It came with a five-inch power brick of its own, a 10m cord, and a USB cable. The battery display can be read a mile away and it worked without problem over a month of lightweight general use.

The feature list poses a 120W maximum draw, the spec sheet 160W, but either means no heaters or AC, cooking appliances, serious gaming computers, big TVs, laser printers or heavy motorized tools. It can't jump a car, though you could use it to charge up something that can. It outputs 110V only; you can charge it in Europe, but don't expect to run local equipment with it.

All in all, it's a blandly useful power appliance for those looking to avoid bigger, uglier worksite battery boxes like it. Anker found a sweet spot–the limit of what's reasonable to just leave lying around in an RV kitchen or stuff in a backpack–and stuck a just-works gadget in it.

Anker PowerHouse [Amazon]