The LiPro Balance Charger (or rather, a clone as we will see later) is pocket sized and has an input socket on the left… it takes from 11v to 18v input… and trust me it objects loudly if you put in a higher voltage as I did – beeps like crazy – but then that’s better than blowing up, any day.
I have lots of Lithium and other types of batteries lying around and some of the claims for them are bordering on the ridiculous – and I’ve always thought, wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able to CHECK the claims – and of course another battery charger never goes to waste. Read on…
The LiPro Balance charger can not only charge single Lithium batteries but also 2,3,4,5 or 6 at one time. The lead for multi-cell charging includes a temperature sensor. Not only that but the unit charges NiCD and NiMH as well. It even charges what they call Acid-Lead batteries though from what I can see this is limited to 6v. I did find the lead fittings a bit odd – maybe meant for radio control – but hey – that’s what SNIPS are for!!!
Instructions come in perfectly good English and it took me, what, 3 minutes to figure out how to charge a Lithium battery and start the ball rolling. There’s a flow chart that makes it all look surprisingly simple. I wish others would do that.
You do need external power and external connectors for the battery or batteries. This unit doesn’t open up or anything.
I plugged in a pretty charged Lithium battery and about 15 minute later there was a loud beep and the 2-line LCD (blue background, white text) reported that the battery was fully charged (it was pretty full to start with). The unit will charge from 0.1 to 6 amps (well, if your power supply is up to it) and discharge at up to 2 amps.
I decided to put a handy Ultrafire 3,000maH fully charged battery to the test.
For discharging, at least in the case of a Lithium Ion battery you have full control over the point at which you STOP discharging – I chose 3v and for the discharge current – I chose 1 amp because life is short. Again you can select how many cells etc. All very simple really, but then that’s how it should be.
The unit has a backlight which turns LOW after a while. Personally, given that this may well be using a reasonable amount of electricity – and thinking about the current that entails – I’m not sure I see why they felt the need to dim the backlight… could get annoying…. there are some settings but according to the chart, backlight timeout isn’t one of them.
Sure enough I pressed start and the Ultrafire battery started to discharge at 1 amp. If the fully charged (and pre-used) battery had the capacity claimed – I would expect it to be complete in three hours.
The experiment was short-lived as the battery voltage quickly began to go downhill. After 15 minutes at 1 amp, the battery was down to 3 volts and the charger cut out- beeping in the process. The battery then recovered to 3.6v
After recharging again (didn’t take too long – I don’t think it is charge that is the problem I think it is more like the battery impedance) I tried again at 0.5 amps. Well, this time it lasted longer but not THAT much longer – and certainly no-where near an hour never mind 3 hours (or 6 hours at 0.5 amps).
The question we have to ask is – is the charger falsely reporting the problem – or is the battery utter rubbish. Given the comments I’ve seen about Ultrafire batteries in the past and given that I’ve seen this charger unit used ALL OVER the place… I think I know where I’d put my money in a bet. I’m going to do some more testing before putting this battery up against the wall to be shot at dawn.
Oh, ignore the settings in the photo – I took that before I actually started testing – I set the unit to LiIO (Lithium Ion)… I LIKE IT!!!
In the coming days I will try other batteries and report back. Right now – this is my second eye-opener of the week. It really is simple to use – and my wife who is CONSTANTLY on at me to get rechargeables and complaining they don’t last enough – well, I think she is going to LOVE this.
In response to a request from reader ROY I checked this unit – apparently the originals have a hologram on the bottom – so this is not an original (well, at least, there’s no hologram on the bottom) which of course may raise questions about accuracy. Well, I’ve checked with my best meter – and at 3v, the accuracy is only 1.73% out… whether that is at the charger end or my meter end will have to wait for my precision reference board to turn up to resolve. Assuming it is the charger, I would have thought that is well within acceptable limits
After wasting a lot of time with that Ultrafire battery, I decided to try a fully charged battery from an old laptop – one I know works just fine. The picture here is very different.
I plugged in the LiPro clone (as we will now call it as it does not have the apparently necessary hologram on the underside) and set to discharge at 1 amp. I also set the cut-off voltage to 3v3 as, reading up on the subject it would appear there is not THAT much to be gained by going all the way down to 3v3. Fair enough. I set the unit to discharge and set it running.
The battery voltage very rapidly went down from 4.1v to 3.9v – but then stayed pretty much static for several minutes – THAT’S more like it. As I was sitting at my desk anyway, I figured I’d leave it running. The display backlight went off as discussed earlier but I realised you can press ENTER once and it will come back on without actually affecting anything.
6 minutes in and the battery was sitting at 3.88v. The battery was cold and the charge unit was…. almost cold.
By 15 minutes – the battery was at 3.77v and almost cold while the unit itself warm-ish (sorry, left my IR temperature meter in Spain).
At 30 minutes – the battery was 3.63v and again still almost cold, so no worries there. I would describe the unit as being warm, not hot, but based on this – I would not want to set twice that current without a fan - bearing in mind I’m in an office at 21c – and not in Spain at 29c! But 1 amp is just fine for discharge testing IMHO.
At 60 minutes – the battery was at 3.44v, still almost cold, the unit temperature was holding.
At 90 minutes – the alarm sounded. 3.3v had been reached and charging stopped. At this point the battery had recovered to 3.57 – but then – it would.
But the story doesn’t end there - At this point, just for the sake of it I wondered how much extra I could get if the unit was just discharging at 0.5A. And of course this is the beauty of such a unit -you can do ALL sorts of experiments if you are that way inclined. I set the discharge to 0.5A and started – sure enough the battery voltage dropped almost immediately to 3.44v but seemed to hold. I left it running while I got on with other stuff. After 40 minutes it gave up but it does show you get extra capacity just by discharging at a lower rate. Interesting!!!
If you’ve used this unit before – please COMMENT. If you’ve used Ultrafire batteries before – please COMMENT.
For other chargers and related see this…