An ailing battery can cause you grief, but a lithium jump pack can soon sort starting problems. Small enough to pop in a glovebox, they can get you on your way without the need for jump leads.
A larger battery size (usually measured in Ah) means generally easier starting and more reserve charging power for phones etc., but adds weight and cost. Some buyers just want emergency starting capability; others demand the versatility of extra sockets and laptop adaptors. Our tests focus on starting ability as we rate the cheaper gadget chargers on sale.
How we tested them
For our starting test, each device had to assist an ailing battery on a 1.6-litre petrol engine, turning it over five times for five seconds, with two minutes in between attempts.
We logged battery state at the end and rated each starter for practical features such as cable length and clamp size, tech spec and weight. Instructions were also rated, as were safety and options, including sockets. As ever, price from a range of online sources was the final factor.
- MSC Overland Waterproof Car Jumper & Power Bank
MSC Overland Waterproof Car Jumper & Power Bank
It may lack its rival’s capacity, but our current jump-pack favourite turned the engine over as required and was still showing all four LEDs. It has just one USB-out socket (2.1A) and charging is by USB only, but its price more than compensates.
If you want extra back-up capacity for charging electronic devices then you’d need the Launch’s 15Ah, but for typical use, this MSC remains our choice. It comes with a jump-start lead, USB charge cable and a useful 12V charging flying connection. The 39cm jump-start lead is reasonable, but a 62cm version can be bought for around £15. The unit has an IP65 rating, so it’s fully dustproof and can resist low-pressure water spray.
Clarke JSM300 Micro Jump Start and Power Pack
The JSM300 is Clarke’s mid-range Jump Start device, offering a neat balance of capability and price. Rated at a healthy 12Ah, it matched the MSC Best Buy’s starting and battery state results. The two USB sockets combined to offer 4A but, as with the power outlets, they were uncovered. Outputs of 5V, 12V and 19V were easily selected, the latter being for laptops, and eight adaptors for them were included. We liked the zip-up case that kept everything together with elasticated straps and included mains and car chargers. It was very close to picking up a win.
Clarke JSM400 2100mAH Jumpstarter
This Clarke model has a monster Ah rating and was the heaviest of our trio, at 930g. The hard, zip-up case contained mains and car charging plugs, eight adapters for the DC 19V outputs and a four-way connector for most phones. It’s clearly designed with daily practicality in mind, not just for emergencies.
It powered our discharged battery from just 3V to turning over rapidly for all five tests, and all five LEDs were still bright at the end. The LEDs on the Smart Cable were bright, too, although the leads were a touch short. If you need the extra Ah for a larger engine or diesel, or for powering many devices, this is the one for you.
Launch ESP-150 Car Jump Starter
This 15Ah-rated li-polymer battery should cope with most eventualities, but at 731g, this is at the expense of portability. It could charge portable devices via twin USB sockets (1A and 2A), and included mains and car-charging plugs plus a multi-USB lead that had nothing for Apple devices.
The digital display shows battery state, and there’s a booster button, which in effect is an on/off switch for the 32cm jump-start cables. All that ampere hour translated into five perfect scores, while losing only around 10 per cent off the total. Yet this impressive device is a bit pricey even with its spec.
Draper Expert Lithium Jump Starter 150667
Lots of things to like about this powerful 12Ah Draper, starting with the strong hard case, complete with USB and car charging connections. As with the MSC Plus, it features eight useful laptop adaptors, together with a four-in-one multipurpose charging lead which covers various permutations of Apple and USB fitments. It easily completed our tests, although the battery state lost an LED and a few points. We liked the long, 42cm leads and the option to charge at 12V, 16V or 19V, although an extra USB socket would be good. A great product and nearly a podium.
MSC Overland Plus Power Bank & Jump Starter
With a whopping 18Ah on tap, the Plus version of MSC’s winner barely flinched at our starting tests, finishing with the battery state still at 100 per cent. Presented in a hard, zipped case, it’s dust/waterproof to the IP65 standard and comes with chargers for mains, USB and car. In addition, it has eight adaptors for charging a laptop; one worked well on our HP. It seems mean to have just one USB, but it has a multi-way cable to make life easier. Massively capable, if heavy, at 919g, this device can do almost everything.
Energizer Lithium-Polymer Car Jump Starter 50805
Despite its lowly claimed 7.2Ah, this Energizer managed all our tests, albeit with less enthusiasm than some and with only three of four battery-state LEDs lit at the end. It’s the only charger not to feature a torch and doesn’t have a protective case or bag, either – both unusual in the current market. Charging is via USB only, with no direct mains option, although it does include a car charger. We liked the leads, the longest measuring 44cm. But while the jump start socket is covered, none of the others is, including the single 2.4A USB.
Halfords Advanced Lithium Jump Starter
- Price: Around £60
- Rating: 3.5 stars
- Contact: halfords.co.uk
We thought this was a neatly made product, although it came with just the Smart Connect and USB charging leads; there was no case, and the charging and USB sockets weren’t covered. The Smart socket had a rubber exterior cover plus a sliding plastic version inside, which was impressive, if a little fiddly when plugging in.
A torch was fitted in the end of the jump start, pointing directly at the clamps, although there were no flashing modes as on the MSC. Of the five attempts, it managed to turn the engine over four times, although they were all much slower and half-hearted than the Overland, a reflection of the lower capacity of 6Ah. On the fifth attempt, it failed altogether and at the end, there was around 60 per cent charge left. Not a terrible result, but we get the feeling that if there were any other engine troubles, it would struggle to start it.
Laser 7405 Jump Starter Multi-Function
The new offering from Laser did well on our starting tests, completing all five and keeping the four LEDs glowing at the end, despite its low Ah. It includes some unique touches, such as a clear, red LCD screen which obviously shows the state of play for starting. It has two USB sockets, one of which is QuickCharge 3.0, and in addition, it features a USB C socket for input or output – all cutting-edge stuff. Charging is via a micro USB, although mains and car chargers aren’t included. An impressive unit, light at 559g, but too new for us to get a keener price.
NOCO GB40 Genius Boost Plus 1000A Jump Starter
- Price: Around £90
- Rating: 3.5 stars
- Contact: no.co
This features top build quality and a tough, no-nonsense casing – a good job, with only a fibre bag for protection. It’s the smaller of the two NOCOs we tried and we liked the clear layout with large buttons for the light and on/off, and a simple LED set-up that made getting it wrong impossible. The heavy-duty croc clips connected via a large plug/socket and it turned the engine nicely. However, it had lost one of its LEDs at the end, is heavy, at 905g, features only one USB socket and isn’t cheap.
Ring RPPL250 Wireless Jump Starter
This Ring has 5V and 9V USB sockets and a built-in QI wireless charge panel. We had to use it on the battery at 11V, and although it turned the engine over, it was slower than its rivals. At the end, only three out of four LEDs were lit. It’s more of a power bank with some emergency function.
NOCO GB50 Boost XL 1500A Jump Starter
- Price: Around £125
- Rating: 3 stars
- Contact: no.co
As the name and price suggest, this is a step up from the GB40, in terms of power and size, but still with no hard case and just one covered USB socket. The design and quality remain the same, but at 1.1kg, it was the heaviest and priciest unit here. As with the smaller version, the instructions are good and it’s designed to start batteries down to 2V. Again, the twin, seven-mode LEDs shone usefully at the croc clips, towards the connections. The engine was turned over quickly and for all five tests, leaving three of four LEDs lit.