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What is pass-through charging in power banks?

Pass-through charging is one of the most common features that portable chargers come with. We list it among the rest of the key features of our individual product reviews from our review section, as you can see below: 

pass through charging


Although the naming is pretty intuitive, we wanted to dive a bit deeper and shed some more light on this topic.

What is pass-through charging?

Pass-through charging is, in the simplest terms, a technology built into various devices that allows other devices to be connected and recharged while the original one is plugged into a power supply outlet and charging itself. This technology makes use of a series of power-regulating circuits that match the amount of energy needed by a connected device to the power being drawn out from the wall outlet.

This technology is widely used in power banks, power stations, and other portable batteries. But other devices such as USB charging docks, docking stations, or even laptops can feature it as well. Basically, any device that will charge other connected devices while itself being plugged in uses one form of pass-through charging. 

Some advanced portable power sources will be able to charge multiple devices simultaneously while charging themselves. Furthermore, they would supply each of those devices with exactly how much power each of them needs. 

How does pass-through charging actually work?

First of all, you should know that pass-through charging is not supported by all power banks. If you own one that doesn’t have it and you plug the power bank into a wall outlet, then the outputs will turn off and will remain in that state until manual intervention. 

Otherwise, if it supports simultaneous charge and recharge, then what will happen is both the connected device and portable charger will become fully replenished. However, the amount of energy going into the power bank is limited, and only some of it will go into the connected device and some to the battery. So it will take a long time to fully recharge both devices.

What is important to know, is the fact that power banks can’t actually charge and discharge simultaneously, technically speaking. This is because the current can only go in a single direction at a time. However, because power banks have separate charging and discharging circuits, pass-through charging does appear to work simultaneously. 

You should also know that there are two types of pass-through charging: 

  • Direct pass-through: In this case, if a mobile device is connected to a power bank, which is plugged into a wall outlet, then the power will be sent straight to the device. This will cause the mobile device to take the full output from the power supply, the battery is basically bypassed. 
  • Charge-Discharge Pass-Through: This method first charges the power bank’s battery and then uses the stored power to charge the connected device. This method is slower than direct pass-through because energy is being lost due to the inefficiency of the charge-discharge processes. 

However, you’ll have a hard time figuring out which exact pass-through circuit type a specific battery pack is using. Generally speaking, manufacturers only mention if their devices offer pass-through charging or not. But they do not go into details regarding how it actually works when it comes to the custom circuitry.  

When to use pass-through charging

Simultaneous charging is not actually needed in most use cases. However, there are some situations that showcase the benefits of pass-through charging: 

  • There’s a lack of power outlets. If you only have a single wall outlet available and you need to charge your portable power source and phone at the same time, then pass-through is a great option.  
  • There’s a lack of chargers. You may be in a situation with plenty of wall outlets, but you have just a single charger at hand for multiple devices, including the power bank. 
  • You’re using the power bank as a backup in case power goes out. In some cases, you may want a device to run in case of a power downtime. For example a video camera. So you can hook it up to a portable power bank that can function as a temporary backup until the power supply comes back on.

All in all, this is a great way to keep all your devices charged by using only a single power source. 

How to activate pass-through charging in a power bank

Not all power banks are built in the exact same way. So the best way to find out how to activate the pass-through charging feature in a specific power bank is to read the user manual. If you don’t have it anymore, you can usually find it online by searching after the exact power bank name and then ‘user manual’ in quotes. 

However, generally speaking, there are two types of activation: 

  • Manual activation. This can be done by pressing the power button in a specific way (long press, 3 consecutive short presses, etc). 
  • Auto activation. Some power banks will automatically turn the pass-through charging feature on once they sense power coming from the input port but also power being drawn out from one or more of the output USB ports. 

Power banks with pass-through charging

We previously put together a list with pass-through power bank ideas. But you can check out some of our suggestions down below as well:

RAVPower 20000mAh PD 60W

Compact, portable, well-built, and equipped with PD and QC, the RAVPower 20000mAh is the perfect companion to charge your devices.

Read More

Crave Plus 10000mAh

The Crave Plus 10000mAh is a slim portable charger with QC 3.0 and also comes with an aluminum frame

Read More


Can pass-through charging affect battery life?

Generally speaking, pass-through charging will not have a noticeable negative effect on battery life if used sparingly. However, if used intensively, it might affect the battery lifespan of the portable charger itself. This can happen because pass-through charging generally produces extra heat and this is an important factor that can degrade battery life, even in the case of the most durable power bank. 

A portable power bank that supports pass-through charging is not built with the aim of this feature being constantly turned on. So if you have a specific use case that requires this, please also take into consideration that your portable charger might not last as long. 

Does pass-through charging affect charging speeds?

It is quite possible for pass-through charging to negatively affect charging speeds. One reason for it would be the fact that the power from the outlet will need to be split up between multiple devices instead of just a single one. If the maximum requirement of the connected devices is more than what the power source can provide, then you’ll see a decrease in charging speeds. 

Another factor that can slow down charging is heat build-up. As mentioned before, pass-through charging generates extra heat during the process. This makes charging less efficient, thus it might lead to decreased charging speeds. This can also happen during wireless charging, for example. 

Overall, you can expect any device connected to a battery pack whilst it’s also recharging, to get charged at a slower rate than compared to using a dedicated high-speed charging brick. 

Can a power bank with pass-through charging function as a UPS?

The majority of power banks that come with pass-through charging cannot function as a traditional UPS. That’s because when the main power goes out, it will take them a very short period of time until the battery kicks in. Although this might be shorter than one second, some devices will lose connectivity and restart. 

However, there are a few power bank manufacturers that took this into consideration and implemented a UPS feature in their products. So if you’re looking for such a device, make sure it clearly states on the product page the fact that it can serve as a UPS. These types of power banks are not that common, but they do exist. 

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