Portable chargers and power banks that support passthrough charging

Keeping a single board computer or Arduino powered without interruption tends to be a requirement for several projects, examples including a home automation system, media centre or an autonomous robot. Portable chargers are very convenient and readily available at various online and brick-and-mortar electronics stores. However, not all of them support passthrough charging, which is a feature where power is provided to a connected device while plugged in to a wall socket. The only caveat here is if the device being powered consumes more power than the wall or socket AC output,

I have spent some time looking for options and here are a few brands that you can consider if you’re looking for a portable passthrough charger.

RAVPower

Most of the RAVPower portable chargers I’ve come across support passthrough charging. I personally have experience with the 16750mAh charger and I can confirm that it works great. With several good reviews from buyers on Amazon, it looks like you cannot go wrong with this option.

RAVPower Portable Charger 10400mAh
Capacity – 10400 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A (2.4A, iSmart)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 226g (0.5lbs)
Price – $21.99

RAVPower Portable Charger 16750mAh
Capacity – 16750 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A (2.4A, iSmart)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 303g (0.67lbs)
Price – $31.99

RAVPower Portable Charger 20100mAh
Capacity – 20100 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A, 1 USB Type-C (2.4A, iSmart, 3A)
Max Input – 2A (micro USB), 3A (USB-C)
Weight – 381g (0.84lbs)
Price – $49.99

Anker

My first portable charger was by Anker, but I soon discovered that whenever I plugged the charger to AC, the power from the USB ports was shut off. Apparently, their earlier products supported this feature, but they decided to remove it due to possible issues with the difference between the wall charger output and the input of the device being recharged (see caveat above). However, there is the 5000mAh PowerCore Fusion which is a hybrid wall and portable charger with support for passthrough charging.

Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000
Capacity – 5000 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A (2.1A / 3A)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 190g (0.42lbs)
Price – $20.49

Aukey

I haven’t had any experience with Aukey, but they do provide a number of portable chargers that support passthrough charging and they appear to be well reviewed on Amazon.

AUKEY 10000mAh Portable Charger
Capacity – 10000 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A (2.4A)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 198g (0.44lbs)
Price – $25.99

AUKEY 20000mAh Portable Charger
Capacity – 20000 mAh
Outputs – 3 USB Type-A, 1 USB Type-C (3A)
Max Input – 2A (micro USB), 3A (USB-C)
Weight – 379g (0.84lbs)
Price – $39.99

AUKEY 30000mAh USB-C Portable Charger
Capacity – 30000 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A, 1 USB Type-C (3A)
Max Input – 2.4A (micro USB), 3A (USB-C)
Weight – 635g (1.4lbs)
Price – $59.99

EasyAcc

This is a lesser known brand with several options that have received a significant number of good reviews on Amazon.

EasyAcc 10000mAh Power Bank
Capacity – 10000 mAh
Outputs – 2 USB Type-A (3.1A)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 272g (0.6lbs)
Price – $19.99

EasyAcc 15000mAh Power Bank
Capacity – 15000 mAh
Outputs – 3 USB Type-A (2.4A)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 334g (0.74lbs)
Price – $28.99

EasyAcc 20000mAh Power Bank
Capacity – 20000 mAh
Outputs – 4 USB Type-A (3.1A)
Max Input – 2A
Weight – 408g (0.9lbs)
Price – $39.99

That is quite a number of options from 4 different brands, and there are probably more that I haven’t even come across. Feel free to comment if you’ve got experience with portable passthrough chargers and you’d like to share.s

Measuring PINE64 Idle Power Consumption

I got a DROK digital multimeter and I decided to find out just how much power the PINE64 consumes running headless.

PINE64 connected to RAVPOWER powerbank through DROK multimeter

The measurements were taken on my 1GB PINE64 running longsleep’s Ubuntu image. The measured voltage from the powerbank is 5.06V.

 CPU @ 1152MHzCPU @ 480MHz
WiFi / BT module plugged in260mA (1.32W)200mA (1.01W)
WiFi / BT module removed250mA (1.27W)190mA (0.96W)

This is not by any means a proper scientific test, but it gives an idea of what to expect. Got any tips for reducing power consumption? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

The PINE64 is finally here

I received my PINE64 yesterday and I was pretty excited after such a long wait. The following items were in the package:

  • PINE64 1GB board
  • Camera module
  • RTC battery module (which is actually bigger than I expected)
  • WiFi/Bluetooth module

They were all in good shape, and the board was not bent nor warped which I was afraid would happen after reading a few horror stories. The Pine64 is most definitely a huge board (compared to the Raspberry Pi), and the build quality also seems solid. I was able to burn the longsleep Ubuntu Xenial image to a 32GB microSD card, and since I wanted to run the board as a headless device, I mounted the microSD on my Linux box and updated the /etc/network/interfaces file to connect to my wireless network. The connection to the network was established a few seconds after providing power to the board and I was able to SSH into the device after the boot process was successfully completed.

I’ll update this post with a few pictures once I get a decent camera.

Update

1GB PINE64 with the WiFi module and RTC battery module installed. It's huge!
1GB PINE64 with the WiFi module and RTC battery module installed. It’s huge!
PINE64 side-by-side with a Raspberry Pi 3 and the Keyestudio Mega clone
PINE64 side-by-side with a Raspberry Pi 3 and the Keyestudio Mega clone

Shopping list for parts

In anticipation of my PINE64 board arriving, I have been trying to identify items I will need for my autonomous robot project (really should come up with a name for this). Since this is pretty much my first project and I don’t have an electronics background, there are no tools nor parts lying around and I have to start from scratch. Here’s an outline of items I will be purchasing over the course of the project with pricing on some of the components to provide a basic budget estimate.

Tools

  • Basic pliers
  • Drill
  • Screwdrivers
  • Soldering kit (soldering iron, lead-free solder)
  • Third arm

Hardware

Components

  • 32GB microSD card – Amazon $10.56 / Aliexpress $12.89
  • Dagu 4 channel motor controller for the Rover 5 Chassis – Amazon $21.95
  • Flash drive, hard drive or other external USB storage
  • LEDs and resistors
  • Keyestudio MEGA 2560 R3 (an Arduino MEGA 2560 clone board) – Amazon $14.99 / Aliexpress $11
    This provides additional GPIO pins which can be used for better control of the motors using the motor controller. The plan is to connect the Arduino clone board to the PINE64 using the I2C bus.
    Male-male, male-female and female-female jumper wires
  • PINE A64+ with 1GB DDR3 RAM – $19
  • RAVPower 16750mAh portable battery pack – Amazon $31.99
  • Solderless breadboard (for prototyping)
  • USB to TTL cable – Aliexpress $1.75

PINE64 Add-on modules

  • 5MP camera module – $15.99
  • Real time clock (RTC) battery module – $2.99
  • WiFi 802.11bgn / Bluetooth 4.0 module – $12.99