Celebrating its tenth birthday this year, our preferred purveyor of peripherals has come a long way since founder Steven Yang quit his job at Google and started flogging after-market batteries for laptops.
Some 50 million sales and counting, the Californian brand has massively expanded operations with a host of sub-brands including Eufy for smart home tech, Soundcore for audio and Nebula projectors as well as some of the very best battery packs and wireless charging solutions. But with no less than 542 options available, where to begin, and what really deserves your cash?
Let’s start with the bottomless barrel of chargers, plugs and peripherals. Despite it being one of the most irritating items you would ever wish to spend money on, the Anker Nano (£14) iPhone USB-C plug socket, is as good as it gets, offering 20W output for rapid charging of the iPhone 12, Samsung Galaxy S20 or equivalent. It’s three times as fast as the standard 5W charger and half the size of most 20W chargers. Not bad for £14, although, bring your own cable.
Despite bigger and better phone batteries, power banks remain a necessary evil, but no matter how stylish, cheap or pocket-friendly they might be we’re dismissing anything smaller than 5,000mAh. One charge for an iPhone 6 isn’t good enough. The PowerCore Essential 20000 (£30) ticks all the boxes for a bag-friendly battery pack, boasting juice-a-plenty to charge an iPhone X, five times, Galaxy S10, 4.8 times and an iPad Mini more than twice. There’s no love for your laptop, but it does have Anker’s PowerIQ technology, which adjusts the voltage automatically depending on what you’re charging, and can even trickle-charge low-power tech such as wireless earbuds.
Spend a little more and the £40 Anker Power Bank, PowerCore 26,800mAh charger has even more output across three USB as well as dual inputs, but if you need office-grade oomph head straight to the Anker Powerhouse II (£300). It has 388Wh capacity that can charge eight devices simultaneously across 300W AC outlet, 60W USB-C port, 3 USB-A ports, a car socket, and 2 DC ports, meaning you can charge laptops, phones and cameras galore. It’s a brute, but we have one charged and packed ready for all the camping ‘holidays’ we’ve been forced to book.
Another necessary evil, executed impressively by Anker, is the USB-C hub. Your laptop looks great and weighs feathers but has naff-all ports, which is why you’ll need the future proof, fast and flexible Anker USB-C Hub (£38). It has 7-in-1 expansion via your laptop’s USB-C port, with high-speed Ethernet (5 Gbps data speeds), 4k 30Hz HDMI, SD/TF card readers, and two USB-A data ports, as well as rapid pass-through charging.
Anker’s portable projector division has done wonders for mobile movie nights, and the original Nebula Capsule (£340) was a bit of a game changer – and we don’t use that phrase lightly. Hyped relentlessly on Kickstarter, the standard definition, manual-focused, single speaker, soda can-sized projector’s tech feels underwhelming now, especially as the Nebula Capsule II (£549) has 720p resolution (16:9), 8W of audio and Android TV 9.0 built-in, with Google Assistant voice control and all the usability that affords. We’ve used it camping (plugged into a laptop via HDMI), in the bath and all over the house, and while it needs darkness to thrive, it’s undeniably entertaining.
The Nebula Mars II Pro (£480) is the Capsule’s corpulent cousin, but another entertaining option around the house and garden thanks to the significantly brighter 500 ANSI-lumen and fan-noise-masking 10W stereo speakers.
To date, we’ve not tested the impressively specified 4K UHD streaming Dolby Digital Plus toting Cosmos Max (£1,399) projector, but our gut feeling says – for now at any rate – buy a great 4K TV instead. This isn’t one for cinephiles.
Moving on to audio gear, if you want a cheap Bluetooth speaker, WIRED recommends the Anker SoundCore 2 (£40). It’s a compact little speaker with 24 hours of battery that sounds far better than a speaker under £50 should. It comes in a choice of cheerful colours and should survive a little rough treatment.
Things can get a little hit-and-miss with Anker’s headphone offerings, but if you accept the limitations that sub £50 buys you, you’ll rarely feel cheated.
We don’t really recommend buying cheap headphones with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), but the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 (£49) deserve a mention for getting the basics right. They’re not award worthy, but the feature list is admirable, with 40mm drivers, Hi-Res audio certification, Active Noise Cancellation and an excellent 40 hours battery life.
The same goes for the Soundcore Life P2 True Wireless Earbuds (£40) that, while never likely to command the sort of aural devotion found for the likes of Sony and Grado, are perfectly good if you really need true wireless headphones and can’t find a penny more than £40. They outperform the majority of budget true wireless designs with 40-Hour Playtime, fast charging (something Anker does brilliantly) and decent fit.
As a rule, our buy-in for decent wireless headphones starts at £80 and for that the sport-orientated Spirit Dot 2 (£80) tick plenty of boxes. They’re super light, fit securely, are IPX7-rated and treated to resist sweat damage. They also have thumping bass and plenty of volume to cut through the din in a gym. They’re not a refined listen, but they’re great for working out.
Anker’s home-tech sub-brand Eufy now boasts a suite of smart-home cameras, video doorbells and sensors including the well priced, feature packed and, importantly, subscription free EufyCam 2 Wireless Home Security System (£249). It’s not at the bleeding edge of smart-home security, and still requires a smart hub plugged into the router, but performance is reliable, and expansion easy.
And, admittedly something of a left-field recommendation, the Eufy Smart Scales C1 (£26), despite costing the same as a basic set of digital scales, offer semi-pro levels of health and fitness tracking. These Bluetooth connected, Google, Apple and Fitbit compatible smart scales can measure your weight, body fat, BMI, water, muscle, bone and basal metabolic rate (BMR) and visceral fat.
And finally, robot vacuums. Amazon is positively swarming with cheap Roomba-lite robotic cleaners, but the RoboVax G30 Edge (£339) is superb value, quiet and efficient. It’s a dinky little cleaner that does a good job around the house, and while it doesn’t offer advanced navigation it does have a respectable 2000Pa of methodical suction, long sweeper arms to get into corners and a roller brush that’ll keep the dust balls at bay.
The app makes it easy to create cleaning schedules and map your home and about the only thing it lacks is the ability to create virtual barriers. Two boundary strips are included though, for a more hands-on (OK, old-fashioned) approach to no-go zones.