Best bang for the buck charger? Anything on the horizon?

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ManTahsBright
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Best bang for the buck charger? Anything on the horizon?

Hey guys,

I just wanted to start off by saying thanks to all the members of this forum. I have been a lurker for literally 5-6 years now (eeks, I know!). There are so many great people here doing so many great things.

I wanted to ask, because I have gotten very behind on chargers (my Xtar-2 finally died on me) what the best charger was for a reasonable amount of money. I noticed some give things like battery health and a litany of other features and I looked at sooo many reviews of chargers where people were testing gear, but as far as I could tell there hadn’t been a ‘best charger for the dollar” thread in a good amount of time.

Id love to have something that told me something about cell condition(internal resistance, even if just a
good,okay,bad). I don’t really care if it tells me how far along the charge is anything like (green light good enough for me) but I am still running cells that are 6-7ish years old so battery health would be nice to know.

So, I turn to your great expertise. What are the top dogs on the market? Id say $50 or less preferably but if $60 buys a much better charger I will spring for it. My Xtar lasted me for at least 5 years so I got my ~$20 out of it. I know the Opus 3100 was popular but its been a year or two since it came out and was updated. Are any others in its league?

Oh yah, guess my Xtar grandpa spoiled me, I like to be able to output USB power and have it charge in the car but neither are a rule out.

Thanks!

Old Mate
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Best bang for your buck without doubt is the Liitokala Lii 500.

Old Mate

feralcomprehension
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Supposed to be a revised Opus available shortly.

flydiver
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Liitokala Lii 500

SoCalTiger
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Lii500 is definitely the most bang for your buck. Cheap and lots of features.

The Xtar VC4 is also only ~$20 on Amazon if you really liked your old Xtar but does not have nearly as many features.

ManTahsBright
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Dang, I ordered an opus 2.2 . I will go check out the Lii500 and maybe give the opus a try before I return it. Any reason the Lii500 is around $25 on ebay but not really available / $50 on amazon?

flydiver
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If you mean the Opus c3100 v2.2, it’s a good charger, and a bit more versatile. It will do +reasonable +internal resistance, not perfect. There is a lot of discussion about the fan, which I don’t find a big deal-just lube it occasionally. I DO use a better power supply.

I also have had 3x Lii500 (still have 2, gave 1 away). Those are a bit easier to use, maybe a bit more accurate, but none of them did internal resistance worth a damn. I consider that function useless on this charger. I thought maybe it was my original model until I got the other 2 and those acted exactly the same. Still, for the price hard to beat. I don’t know why Amazon is way more expensive. You can get it for $20-25 with a bit of shopping. http://us.gearbest.com/chargers/pp_228907.html?wid=24

HJK has excellent reviews on both. There are also LONG threads on both in the forum. The one on the Opus has gone pretty technical about the fan and power supply.

gauss163
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flydiver wrote:
[…] You can get it for $20-25 with a bit of shopping. http://us.gearbest.com/chargers/pp_228907.html?wid=24

The Lii-500 is often available for $13 shipped from Aliexpress (a few dollars more if you need a power supply). No competitor comes anywhere near close to that amazing price / performance ratio. So if you truly seek the best bang for the buck then that it is the unique answer (assuming it has all the features that you require).

flydiver
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Aliexpress is where I got my last 2 Lii500. I’m in WA. For some reason they don’t take Paypal from WA. I was VERY leery of putting a credit card to that site, but decided to risk it and it turned out OK….so far. I’ve had a credit card hacked from a battery charger site weeks after the purchase.
I’m assuming a new user to the battery/charger business would be similarly leery.
You can do almost as well from Gearbest ($17) and the coupon [http://budgetlightforum.com/node/52547] for the bare charger.

ChibiM
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 Is there any comparison done on the Opus vs the Liitokala? What are the pros and cons of both?

flydiver
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The biggest issue with the Opus is it does pulse charging. HJK doesn’t like that. The high pulses affect the power supply (possibly inadequate), and the capacity accuracy. It may be damaging to smaller batteries due to the high pulses. There is debate on that.
I’ve got a better 5A power supply, and find the accuracy ‘close enough’. It certainly is in the same ballpark as my Lii500, and 2 hobby chargers I have.
It has more settings, and is generally more versatile, at least I think so.
The IR works, mostly. It gives me a rough idea of what’s going on.
Some people hate the fan. I don’t find it a big deal. I also have the charger sitting on top of an 80mm computer cooling fan.

The Lii500 is cheaper/simpler, with less settings. It uses continuous charging which is more desirable and apparently more accurate.
No fan. You can see that as a plus or a minus.
The IR is useless. At least in 3 chargers I have not found one that works. It gives you ‘readings’ but these have no correlation to what I know the battery condition is actually like. Not even remotely close to the Opus readings.
Not quite as versatile. Having said that I use it most of the time for general charging and capacity testing. BUT for particular batteries or settings will go to the Opus. I trust both of them for charging and capacity.
The batteries go in ‘backwards’. No big deal but you have to get used to it.
Spaces are tighter. Once loaded with 4 cells it’s a minor pain to get them out.
But, for features:price ratio it pretty much does not have a peer.

gauss163
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flydiver wrote:
The biggest issue with the Opus is it does pulse charging. HJK doesn’t like that […] The Lii500 […] uses continuous charging which is more desirable .

To be sure, there is no scientific evidence proving that PWM-based chargers are generally worse than pure CC/CV chargers. However, they pose some orthogonal design challenges – some of which caused Opus to make some mistakes in their early versions. The worst of these have been (partially) rectified in later versions. As such, the latest version of the Opus should work fine for most users (except possibly if you frequently charge tiny cells, or if you do max power discharges and have the underpowered KYT power supply).

patmurris
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The Opus BT-C3100 has two nice features: you can see what’s going on on all four channels at a glance and it can charge at 2A on two slots – which is nice for 26650. I’ve been using two of them for more then a year with no issue. I also bought two spare fans just in case…

EasyB
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gauss163 wrote:
flydiver wrote:
The biggest issue with the Opus is it does pulse charging. HJK doesn’t like that […] The Lii500 […] uses continuous charging which is more desirable .

To be sure, there is no scientific evidence proving that PWM-based chargers are generally worse than pure CC/CV chargers. However, they pose some orthogonal design challenges – some of which caused Opus to make some mistakes in their early versions. The worst of these have been (partially) rectified in later versions. As such, the latest version of the Opus should work fine for most users (except possibly if you frequently charge tiny cells, or if you do max power discharges and have the underpowered KYT power supply).

The pulse charging would make me nervous with some cells. Cells like the GA degrade very fast when charged at 3.5A, tested here. The Opus charge pulses are around 2.5A. I think it’s reasonable to think there might be some additional degradation as a result of charging with 2.5A pulses.

gauss163
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Your’re comparing apples and oranges by attempting to compare A PWM pulse peak to a CC/CV charge of the same magnitude. That is not a valid comparison.

Because much remains unknown about the specifics of the various degradation processes of Li-ion cells, guesses about such are frequently incorrect. Even guesses made by experts have been wrong.

The web is littered by inaccurate or unfounded pseudo-scientific claims about Li-ion cells. We should strive to remedy that – not exacerbate it.

EasyB
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Well I didn’t claim anything as a fact. But without the relevant tests we have to make decisions about whether to use a 2.5A PWM charger on our cells. And for me, given the testing done I linked to, I choose to not use that charger.

gauss163
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As I emphasized, those tests concern pure CC/CV algorithms, not PWM-based algortihms such as used by the Opus. As such, it makes no sense to attempt to directly compare them.

Further, it is worth emphasis that there is no empirical evidence either here or on CPF that supports these guesses. No one has complained that the Opus is causing cells to degrade faster than competing pure CC/CV chargers.

feralcomprehension
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The Opus also can be set to run three successive discharge/charge cycles.  I like this feature for new batteries, as it allows you to give them a little exercise up front and also baseline their capacity.  I'll generally mark the purchase date and capacity right on the cell.

ManTahsBright
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This thread has been great. Ive been reading over in the Opus thread with all the overheating problems. A $50 charger shouldn’t have that. I will use it, do some tests on my cells, and send it back. Version 2.2 obviously isn’t perfect with people replacing fans and under powered power supplies. Really shocked me when I learned about all that with a $50 charger. It kinda seems like there is a gap in a solid, feature filled, charger? Maybe wait for the Opus 2.3 or 3xxx? I was only charging 3 cells and my 2.2 was chucking hot, hot, air out of its little fan in a 70 degree room. Just when I thought I found her, I had to read the thread Sad

gauss163
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^^^ Why send back a charger which you have not verified to have any issues? There are surely many of thousands of users but only a few reports of problems. Why assume the worst?

ManTahsBright
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I don’t assume the worst,I just want the best. I like its internal resistance feature. That is almost something that is a must have, not sure how accurate it is or if a separate tool does it better for cheaper (will research after post). But it said a brand new VTC6 was like 40 and a Samsung 25-R at 60. LG HG (brown) that have had a little use showing 100ish. I like the idea of bringing batteries back to life as well, got a bunch of laptop batteries that I run cheap lamps off that could probably use some TLC. I guess it knows how to charge and discharge it better than a regular cycle?

dekozn
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If you want the best then be ready to pay for it and get the skyrc MC3000 (around $90)
or a 4channel hobbycharger (around $200)

flydiver
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Read my posts again.
The IR works on the OPUS.
It does NOT work on the Lii500.
There is a non-charger process to find IR with voltmeters. Looks complicated to me, but probably more accurate. I find the IR for the OPUS to be a rough ‘measuring stick’. As long as you keep measuring the same thing with the same stick you get some sense of status and progress.

If anyone has figured out a way to get reasonable IR with the Lii500 I’d certainly like to know. Or was I unlucky and got 3 bad ones?

Frankly if I had to only have 1 charger it would probably be the Opus simply because I can do more with it.

chops728
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dekozn wrote:
If you want the best then be ready to pay for it and get the skyrc MC3000 (around $90) or a 4channel hobbycharger (around $200)

I have read of problems with the MC3000 in the reviews at Illumination Supply—If it’s a mass produced item in these times—I’m sure there’s a certain amount of failure—- On the top end of prices I might pay the extra for a dealer in the states with a good return policy

flydiver
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If you are looking for [perfect], you aren’t going to find it.
You did ask for [best bang for the buck]. In that category there are always trade-offs. You have to decide which are important for you. What you’ll get here is other people’s opinions. They may not be the same as yours. If you are like me, you’ll have to own and use an analyzing charger for awhile to even figure what is important to you. And, you may find that changes over time as you gain experience.

I’m in radio controlled planes so used lipo batteries and hobby chargers for years before I got into li-on. At first I used the hobby chargers. Works fine but it’s 1 battery at a time unless you cobble together some kind of holders. Then I got the Opus. I almost completely quit using the hobby charger. Opus was much easier, and faster. When I heard about the Lii500, and read the reviews I picked one up. I didn’t much like it at first. I’ve grown to appreciate it’s qualities and use it routinely now. It will do pretty much what most people want. The Opus will just do a few more things. Lube the fan, get a better power supply (cheap-I got a used laptop 12v/5A at a PC recycle store for $2), and most of the shortcomings are not an issue.

You can fix some of the issues with the OPUS, some you can’t. The shortcomings on the Lii500, you can’t fix those. They are just missing.

ManTahsBright
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So the Lii-500 doesn’t actually give an IR reading? Or just not one that is remotely accurate? That seems to be the only thing it lacks versus the opus?

I have no clue about pulse charging and how it effects the battery life; But it just seems like a constant charge would be better? Were the old TR-01 and Xtar chargers pulse or direct?

I have used the opus some now and I have some old batteries from a laptop battery (they still work for my cheap 18650 flashlights that don’t have any over-drain protection so I use them for those, (thats another topic, next flashlights I buy I really would like some that are cheap but won’t just run a battery seemingly until it has no voltage left). I decided to try and run refresh mode and 2 or 3 days later it looked like it was doing another charge cycle. Will it just indefinitely charge and discharge a bad or near bad battery or did it need like 5 days and I pulled it early? (had to pull it, was leaving and I don’t like leaving any charger unattended for long periods)

Really my old TR-01 does the job of charging the cells just fine. Really anything beyond a safe charge is just bells and whistles (which are k00). Seems like its a bit premature for really good IR readings and what-not at a decent price point. I gotta say I am leaning towards an Lii-500 alibaba style (I also like that it has USB output because sometimes on trips I like to know that I can pack extra cells and my charger and use it to charge a cell phone or something since I have plenty of cells around.

I think I have an old laptop charger around somewhere, are they the correct polarity for the opus (saw a warning in the manual)? Does it need more juice or is that just the Lii? Got a bit confused on that.

flydiver
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IMO the IR on the Lii500 is useless.
If you use the IR on the Opus, compare old tired cells to new good ones you will easily see the difference. Once you get a bit of a handle on that you can readily check the general ‘health’ of a cell. Do not compare AAA to AA to 18650, to 26650, etc. You can only compare the same size and chemistry and get meaningful information.

You can cycle Lion cells all you want, ain’t going to do much good. A full cycle is completely dependent on the cell capacity, charge rate, and discharge rate. NiMh…..may, but not necessarily, benefit from cycling. LSD cells don’t seem to be helped much by it.

Use the Opus for awhile. Learn. Come back after you play around awhile. You will have answered most of your own questions.

tatasal
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flydiver wrote:

You can cycle Lion cells all you want, ain’t going to do much good..

Yes, + 1.

Actually, the ‘refresh’ mode is designed for nimh and nicad cells, and they benefit immensely from this mode, especially those cells that are used in very low discharge amps, like remotes, or in lights that seldom get used.

I have never used the Refresh mode on my Li-ion cells, either in my Opus or iCharger, as it simply takes out another cycle from the cell, no benefit whatsoever.

ManTahsBright
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flydiver wrote:
IMO the IR on the Lii500 is useless.
If you use the IR on the Opus, compare old tired cells to new good ones you will easily see the difference. Once you get a bit of a handle on that you can readily check the general ‘health’ of a cell. Do not compare AAA to AA to 18650, to 26650, etc. You can only compare the same size and chemistry and get meaningful information.

You can cycle Lion cells all you want, ain’t going to do much good. A full cycle is completely dependent on the cell capacity, charge rate, and discharge rate. NiMh…..may, but not necessarily, benefit from cycling. LSD cells don’t seem to be helped much by it.

Use the Opus for awhile. Learn. Come back after you play around awhile. You will have answered most of your own questions.

Okay, so no refresh or discharge mode for lion cells. That is good to know. Probably just wasted some battery life, glad I tried it on old cells.

Oh I can definitely tell some stuff from the IR but it is like everyone says, it is a rough estimate. I think that technology needs a bit of time to develop. A brand new VTC6 that came in around 40, new Samsung25r around 50, used LG HE2s at around 60-70, used LG HE4s around 50. But the numbers change quite considerably on the same battery at different times, I would say +/- 20-40 if not a bit more. Which really leans me more towards a Lii-500 and waiting until opus or someone releases a new model that does a bit better job. So I think the answer for me is the best bang for the buck is the Lii-500 from alibaba if I can find an old laptop charger?

Side note, I have 4 Samsung 25R that came to me back before I had the opus and my xtar wouldn’t charge them (this is coincidentally when it died) and neither would my TR-01. I told the guys at illumnsupply to just ship me new batteries and I would send the old ones back because I needed them like yesterday but they wouldn’t do it even though I have been a customer for years, they didn’t want to believe they were bad and wanted me to send them in and wait for inspection blah blah blah, the opus is giving IR readings of like 4800 and 5000 for them (its too bad illumnsupply lost my business over that small $20ish transaction for a few cells) but this helped confirm they are definitely crap. Must have been meant for the D bin or recycle but got shipped out somehow. If stuck on a really cheap like single cell travel charger they will charge, kind of makes me concerned for anyone else who might have got them and not had a decent enough charger to detect they were bad and are using them…eck..or hopefully I got the only unlucky 4.

So…. how necessary is it to get a laptop charger for the Lii?

Bottom line for anyone that finds this thread for me I think the answer is the best bang for the buck is the Lii-500 from alibaba or gearbest. I am going to go ahead and place an order as soon as I find out if I need to order one with a power supply or if I can find that old laptop charger that was always in the way that I probably won’t be able to find now lol

flydiver
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I don’t understand. You have the Opus, it works, and does more than the Lii. It’ll cost you more to send the Opus back than the Lii costs most likely. Just use the Opus.

Were those Samsung 25R dead? Did you test that? You don’t say. Seems unlikely that Illumnsupply would send you dead cells. Some cheapo site, maybe. I have not measured IR on a dead cell but I would not be surprised if it was quite high.

IR is NOT simple or easy. If it was it would be on these chargers and be reliable. You are working with….very…..small differences. Even the way the cell is put in, or it’s temperature, or charge state all affect IR. There is a way to measure it without a charger. HJK showed a way once. Too complicated for me to bother with. I’m OK with a decently rough estimate.

The Lii does NOT need a better power supply. The Opus could use one IF you are going to push it. Not so necessary if you are not. You CANNOT push the Lii as hard as the Opus so it does not need more power. Ability to charge and discharge batteries at higher amp levels, up to 2A charge x2, and 1A discharge x4, is one of the advantages of the Opus.

What you need is a 12v charger with minimum of 3A, and 5A would be better. Do not use a higher voltage laptop charger. Chargers should have an icon showing the polarity of the connection. Make sure yours match.

Speed4goal
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I would keep the opus I’ve had one for awhile. And have charged over 1000 cells on it easily by now. Usually it’s charging something day and night. It discharges at 1 amp not 500mah like the li500. Old cells can sag underload I’d rather have the highest load. To be more inline with flashlight use. My wife even uses the opus. Its all around a great charger and would not hesitate to purchase another.

Someone mentioned worry about pulse charging ga cells. I’ve put around 250 cycles on a set charged in the opus almost exclusively and its not again any differwbtm I did unofficial test awhile back over the last year. Keeping a handful of marked cells that go into the xstar or liito. Same amount of cycles as the others just a cc vs pwm. And when discharged tested at certain intervals and even at 250 cycles you couldn’t tell them apart. They are aging exactly the same.

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