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Cheap Universal Chargers Buying Guide

The chief difference between cheap universal chargers and more expensive chargers is battery capacity. Pricey chargers boast batteries that can juice up even an iPad or a laptop in an emergency.

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The budget chargers we picked generally can't do that, but they have enough oomph to charge your cell phone, smartphone, MP3 player, PDA, PSP, GPS, Bluetooth, and more. We looked for less costly universal chargers with batteries big enough to fully charge a typical smartphone at least once before having to be recharged themselves.

Another feature to note when choosing a cheap universal charger is compatibility. Many low-cost mobile device chargers use only one type of connector: a 30-pin connector for Apple products, for instance, or a mini-USB cable for certain cell phones. But most of us have more than one mobile device. And what happens when you buy a new phone with a different charging interface? To help you get the most for your money, we included only cheap universal chargers that come with a variety of connectors.

The best portable chargers we found are the I-Up 5400 (starting at $40) and the MiLi Power Crystal (starting at $26). We like the I-Up 5400 for its power as well as its broad compatibility. The cheap mobile device charger from MiLi, a line of Apple-certified accessories, boasts a battery capacity of 2,000 milliampere-hours (mAh) and six connector tips -- no other mobile device charger we found offers so much power for so many devices at such a low price. We picked two good universal chargers: the iGo Charge Anywhere PS00273-0001 (starting at $35) and the IOGEAR GearPower GMP1001B (starting at $15), the former for its dual functionality as a wall charger and array of connector tips and the latter for its super-low price and light weight. Another IOGEAR model, the GearPower GMP1001W6 (starting at $35), matches the MiLi charger almost amp for amp and tip for tip, but with its higher price tag and some unhappy user reviewers, it doesn't make our list.

The performance of these cheap universal chargers goes hand in hand with where they rank in terms of power and compatibility. Performance also depends on the types of devices you're charging. So before you buy a cheap universal charger, look at the storage capacities of the batteries in your electronic devices and compare them with the battery capacity of the charger; consumers who expect a 1,000 mAh charger to fully charge a 1,500 mAh smartphone will be disappointed. In online reviews of cheap mobile device chargers, some users also fault their units for being altogether unable to charge certain devices. Make sure the cheap universal charger you choose is compatible with not only the brand name of your device but also the particular model. Many handset makers have switched connectors in recent years. Research In Motion, for example, used to power its BlackBerry smartphones via mini-USB, but newer models call for micro-USB chargers.

by Kara Reinhardt (Google+ Profile)

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