Review: SysMax/NiteCore Intellicharger i4 V2 Charger

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HKJ
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Charger SysMax/NiteCore Intellicharger i4 V2

This review is about the V2 version of the Sysmax/NiteCore/JetBeam i4 charger. To see the difference between V1 and V2 follow this link

DSC_1583 DSC_1562

SysMax is the parent company of NiteCore and JetBeam, i.e. they are behind some good products. This charger looks impressive when reading the specifications, it can charge nearly all types of round cells and do up to four cells at a time. The current version is an updated version of the i4 charger I first reviewed, where most of my issues is supposed to be fixed.

DSC_1554 DSC_1555 DSC_1591

The charger comes in a cardboard box with a view to the charger and a feature list on the front. On the side is printed a list of supported batteries.

DSC_1593

The charger is powered from either 110/220 VAC 50/60Hz or 12 VDC. Only a mains cable is included on the version I got.

DSC_1564 DSC_1565

The charger has 3 yellow leds for each battery, they will show the actual charge state when charging:
None: no battery detected
1 flashing, 1 steady + 1 flashing, 2 steady + 1 flashing: Charging, number of leds is a rough guide to actual charge level.
3 steady: Battery is full.
3 flashing: Fail.
The charger also has a blue led to show "power connected".

DSC_1595

The cradles in the charger can handle from 16340 to 18700 size, but they do not slide completely smooth. When pressing at the top of the slider it may lock.

DSC_1563

On the V2 charger the connection to the plus pole on the battery is longer, this makes the charger better for use with 26xx0 and C batteries, but not perfect (I have some C batteries with a small button top, they need a coin in front of them to connect).
Remember that with 26xx0 and C batteries, the charger has only space for max two at a time.

supportedBatteryTypes

supportedBatterySizes DSC_1574 DSC_1573
DSC_1575 DSC_1572 DSC_1576 DSC_1577 DSC_1581

The charger can handle 70 mm long batteries, including flat top cells. (See my 18650 LiIon comparison for length of different brands).

With 26650/26500/C cells there can be a problem, if they have a small button top, but the problem is much less than the V1 charger.

With 10440 LiIon cells the charge current is too high and Sysmax/NiteCore recommend always to charge two batteries together, to reduce the current.



Measurements

The charger has two charger channels, one channel is handling slot #1 and #3, the other channel is handling slot #2 and #4. When charging cells in both slots for a channel, time division is used to distribute the charge (See scope traces).

Below 0.74 volt the charger will report error (all 3 yellow leds are flashing), but a small current will flow (about 500uA), this is enough to reset a LiIon protection circuit.
Between 0.74 volt and 2.2 volt charger will use the NiMH charge algorithm (See curve below).
Between 2.2 volt and 4.2 volt the charger will use the LiIon charge algorithm (See curve below).
There is no trickle charging on either NiMH or LiIon.
The charge stops LiIon charging when the current is below 44 mA, when the charger is finishes the current goes below 120uA (This is a nearly insignificant current).
The charger will not restart charging when the cell voltage drops.
When a battery is put into the charger, it will start charging and first stop when final charge condition is reached.
When power is connected the charger will start charging and first stop when final charge condition is reached.
When charger is disconnected from power, but with a battery in, it will draw less than 220 uA from a LiIon battery and less than 50uA with NiMH, current draw from each battery will be reduced when there are more batteries in the charger.



Test with LiIon cells

NiteCore%20i4%20(IO18650-31)

The charge curve shows a very good CC/CV charge curve, the termination current is perfect for many 18650 at 44 mA and very useable for smaller batteries. The charge time is 6 hours.

NiteCore%20i4%20(AW16340-IMR)

My old 16340 IMR cell. Due to the high impedance of the old cell, the charger goes into CV phase nearly immediately.
This curve starts the CV phase at a lower voltage than above, this is strange and probably means that the CC/CV curve is computer controlled and not implemented as a current limited constant voltage generator.

NiteCore%20i4%20%232%20(IO18650-31)

Channel #2

NiteCore%20i4%20%233%20(IO18650-31)

Channel #3
Note: The oscillations in the average current is probably due to my measuring setup and not present on the charger.

NiteCore%20i4%20%234%20(IO18650-31)

Channel #4

NiteCore%20i4%20(4xIO18650-31)

All four slots at the same time. The charge time is longer because the two charge channels need to share current between the four slots. The charge time is 11 hours.
Notice the bump in charge current just before the charger stops. This is because the second slot for that charge channel finished first and the full current is directed to the first slot where the measuring equipment is connected.

NiteCore%20i4%20(4xIO18650-31)%20115VAC

Doing the same with a 115 VAC 50Hz supply does also work perfect.

NiteCore%20i4%20(4xIO18650-31)%20105VAC

I also tested with 105 VAC 50Hz and there the charger did reset a couple of times during the charge (The "average current" jumps up and down), but the end result was the same, i.e. a good CC/CV charge curve.
Note: 50Hz will provoke problems at higher voltage than 60Hz, i.e. at 60Hz it might have worked fine at 105 VAC.

TemperatureLiIon1
M1: 35,7°C, M2: 37,3°C, M3: 37,6°C, M4: 36,5°C, HS1: 50,9°C

The batteries are heated by the charger, but not above the maximum allowable temperature.

TemperatureLiIon2
M1:37,1°C, M2: 49,9°C, HS1: 76,8°C

Inside the charger there is some warm electronic, as long as the electronic and box is designed for this temperature, it is not a problem.

NiteCore%20i4%201xLiIon

The full charge curve does not show how the charge current looks. For this a oscilloscope trace is needed, it shows a pulsing current. The charging circuits stops every two second to check the other slot.
The charging current is off 10% of the time.

NiteCore%20i4%202xLiIon

With a LiIon in two slots, shared by the same charging channel, the charging is two seconds for each slot.



Test with NiMH

For testing I uses eneloop AA cells, these are a very good quality NiMH batteries with about 1950 mAh in capacity from new, mine is probably lower because they are more than a year old.

NiteCore%20i4%20(eneloop)

The NiMH AA cell does charge with a constant current until the charger terminates. But the termination is not a -dv/dt terminations. The charge time is 2.8 hours.

NiteCore%20i4%20(eneloop)%20-%20tail

Here is a close look at the last few minutes of the above trace. With a -dv/dt the voltage is supposed to stay constant or drop slightly, before the charger terminates.

NiteCore%20i4%20(eneloopXX)

A new Eneloop XX cell.

NiteCore%20i4%20(NiMH)

This test was with a old non LSD NiMH battery.

NiteCore%20i4%20%232%20(eneloop)

Slot #2

NiteCore%20i4%20(4xeneloop)

With 4 eneloop the charge current goes down, but everything else works as before. The charge time is 5.4 hours.

TemperatureNiMH1
M1: 48,4°C, M2: 37,7°C, M3: 38,9°C, M4: 39,0°C, M5: 38,1°C, HS1: 49,4°C

NiMH batteries gets warmer than LiIon.

TemperatureNiMH2
M1: 50,8°C, M2: 38,4°C, HS1: 60,4°C

I did probably not hit the right angle to get the hottest part (See LiIon images), but it is still fairly warm.

NiteCore%20i4%201xNiMH

Charging is with pulsing current (Exactly like LiIon).

NiteCore%20i4%202xNiMH

With a eneloop in all slots, the charging is two seconds for each slot.



Test with NiMH and LiIon and the same time

The specification says it can handle both types of batteries and does not include any limits on this.

NiteCore%20i4%20(IO18650-31%20+%20eneloop)

First charge curve is measured on a LiIon with a NiMH in the other slot. This works perfectly, after 5½ hours the eneloop is finished and the LiIon battery gets the full charge current, until it is full after 8 hours.

NiteCore%20i4%20(eneloop%20+%20IO18650-31)

This curve is measured on a eneloop with a LiIon in the other slot. This looks exactly like the 4xeneloop chart.

The problem in the V1 with charging different chemistries at the same time is completely solved.



Summary

A short list of the good and the bad things with the charger. I uses ++ for the really good things. things.
++ The charger uses a CC/CV algorithm.
++ The slots are long enough, all protected 18650 will fit.
+ The charger can be used on 12 volt.
+ Good indicator lights with estimation of charge in cells.
+ Can reset a LiIon protection circuit.
+ The slider has good connection with anything from 16340 to 18650 cells.
+ The charger is universal voltage, i.e. it can work on both 110/115/220/230 VAC.
- The charge current is too high for 10440 cells.
- The NiMH charge mode prevents correct handling of over discharged LiIon (This is unavoidable in a multi chemistry charger with automatic selection).
- The slider does not always move easily, when putting long cells in the charger.
- The NiMH charging algorithm does not use -dv/dt termination.



Conclusion

This charger uses a CC/CV charging profile, this is the recommended way to charge LiIon batteries. The charge current is a good compromise for handling many battery sizes with only one current setting.
The charger also does a good job on NiMH batteries, but I wonder about the termination.
I will call it a good universal charger.



Notes

Thermo images has been added later and is not including in the general evaluation of the charger.

The charger was supplied by SysMax for a review.

All tests are done at 230 VAC mains supply, except when otherwise specified.

In the V1 review there was a pattern in the current, this was because my sample rate was exactly 1 second and made interference with the 2 second pulsing. In this test I have changed the sample rate to 0.9 second and mostly avoided the interference (It does show up in the "average current" as oscillations).

Here is an explanation on how I did the above charge curves: How do I test a charger
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kreisler
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Thank you very much HKJ!!!

Thank you very much HKJ!!! Great review, great product. i want to buy for 20$ shipped or less! i have asked Summer for a groub buy!

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Nice review HKJ. Glad to seee

Nice review HKJ. Glad to seee someone other than me review it. So now I know I can trust this charger. Smile

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Got mine off Ebay.. $25 free

Got mine off Ebay.. $25 free shipping.. It is charging two Keygos 26650s right now..Wink

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Yeah, if it they'll really
Yeah, if it they'll really send v2 I may also think of getting one.
Chicago X
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Excellent review, as

Excellent review, as usual.

Would you consider this a good charger to gift to Li-Ion newbies?

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Lensman
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Thanks HKJ, as always. I've

Thanks HKJ, as always. I've already ordered my i4 V2 from HKE, and it's reassuring to know that you give it a thumbs-up Smile

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Chicago X wrote:Would you

Chicago X wrote:

Would you consider this a good charger to gift to Li-Ion newbies?

Interesting questions.

The automatic selection of LiIon/NiMH makes it a good charger for newbies and it looks like it does a good job charging LiIon. The 3 status leds for each battery also makes it easier to accept the charge time, you can see something is happening.

I believe it is a good charger for a newbie.

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thanks HKJ,I've been looking

thanks HKJ,I've been looking for a 4 bay 18650 charger and this seems to fit the bill.Great review,based on this I will definitely get one,at this price point it can't be beat.

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Awesome review, seems to be

Awesome review, seems to be as good as the Xtar WPII but with 4  bays.

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Sweet review, HKJ!

Sweet review, HKJ!

This charger looks like a real winner.   Wink

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my9221
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Good reviews!

Thanks for such detailed reviews. Just placed an order to HK Equipment. No more from DD even price down!

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Battery Voltage coming off the charger?

Thanks for another great review.  Thank you for doing this for us.  I am not sure if I missed it or not, but did you by any chance test the 18650's with a DMM upon completion of the charge?  It looks as if they terminated at or around 4.22v? 

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ri chevy wrote:I am not sure

ri chevy wrote:

I am not sure if I missed it or not, but did you by any chance test the 18650's with a DMM upon completion of the charge?  It looks as if they terminated at or around 4.22v?

The logging is with a high precision DMM and yes it terminated at a bit above 4.2 volt, is is between 4.212 and 4.215. This value will vary between individual copies of the charger.

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As usual, outstanding

As usual, outstanding explanation of features, benefits and performance.  As for the charger itself . . .

 

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Thanks for the excellent

Thanks for the excellent review HKJ!

Looking forward to a group buy Laughing

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I've seen enough positive

I've seen enough positive reports (thanks to HKJ, selfbuilt and scaru) and have ordered this charger. To this point I've been using the unimpresssive wf139 which terminates voltage between 4.12-4.15 (and basically stopped working a couple of weeks ago).

I think $25 is a really good deal for a solid 4 bay charger. I also ordered my 1st 3100 mah 18650 battery (eagletac) as I've been using 2400 mah batteries for over a year. I'm excited to get the additional runtime in my favorite single cell light.

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Thank you.

The logging is with a high precision DMM and yes it terminated at a bit above 4.2 volt, is is between 2.212 and 4.215. This value will vary between individual copies of the charger.

Thank you.

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Ordered one also. Thanks
Ordered one also. Thanks again.
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Awesome review HKJ! I can't

Awesome review HKJ! 

I can't wait to hear from the members who bought one because I'm very interested in this charger. 

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Awesome review HKJ,

Awesome review HKJ, thanks!
Would you say this is the best universal Li-Ni battery charger out there for the money?
 

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vēer wrote:Would you say this

vēer wrote:
Would you say this is the best universal Li-Ni battery charger out there for the money?

I have only tested the i4 V1 and V2, no other universal chargers, this makes it impossible to say if it is the best.

But it is good value for the money.

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Stiffness of spings driving me nuts

The one major downside of these units is the stiffness of the spring negative arm.  I've done finger nails trying to get these apart and get a battery in.  I've heard some 18650s are coming out with a foil like bottom instead of a metal plate.  I'd steer these away from the i4.  They could, if your not careful, wreak the foil.

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Great review,

Laughing out loud

Group Purchase, I am in.

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So can someone clearly

So can someone clearly explain what it going on with charge currents and slots?  Lithium-Ion for example (although it seems nearly identical for NiMh except for voltage).  Seems from the graph that it's charging at 750mA (until end of charge - just ignore the end for my explanation).  Is this 750mA per each of 4 slots?  In other words with all 4 slots loaded each cell gets 750mA charge rate?  Or (as it sounds to me) that 750mA gets split in half and divided between the channels (channel 1 being slots 1&3 and channel 2 being slots 2&4 - so with 4 cells loaded, they'd each be charging at 375mA?  So if I'd want to charge two cells at 750mA I'd have to load a cell into slot 1 (channel 1) and then use slot 2 or 4 so I have the second cell on channel 2?  If I'd load 3 cells in using slots 1,2,&3 than the cells in slots 1&3 will charge at 375mA and the cell in slot 2 will charge at 750mA?  Am I correct in my understanding? 

This does sound like a nice universal charger.  I only wish the charge rate were higher for 26650 cells.

-Garry

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garrybunk wrote:So can

garrybunk wrote:

So can someone clearly explain what it going on with charge currents and slots?  Lithium-Ion for example (although it seems nearly identical for NiMh except for voltage).  Seems from the graph that it's charging at 750mA (until end of charge - just ignore the end for my explanation).  Is this 750mA per each of 4 slots?  In other words with all 4 slots loaded each cell gets 750mA charge rate?  Or (as it sounds to me) that 750mA gets split in half and divided between the channels (channel 1 being slots 1&3 and channel 2 being slots 2&4 - so with 4 cells loaded, they'd each be charging at 375mA?  So if I'd want to charge two cells at 750mA I'd have to load a cell into slot 1 (channel 1) and then use slot 2 or 4 so I have the second cell on channel 2?  If I'd load 3 cells in using slots 1,2,&3 than the cells in slots 1&3 will charge at 375mA and the cell in slot 2 will charge at 750mA?  Am I correct in my understanding? 

This does sound like a nice universal charger.  I only wish the charge rate were higher for 26650 cells.

The green text is basically correct. Basically because the current is still 750mA, but only half the time, with LiIon this makes the charge time slightly longer, compared to a real 375 mA charger.

It is not the fastest charger around, if you look at the text under the chart with 4 batteries, it says 11 hours.

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TadpolePilot wrote: Group

TadpolePilot wrote:

Laughing out loud

Group Purchase, I am in.

How much is the group purchase for??????

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This is a great charger

This charger will fully charge my 16340's, 14500's and 18650's quickly to 4.22v

I like to use this versus a hobby charger, its just quick and easy.

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kreisler wrote:do we know

kreisler wrote:

do we know other universal chargers? maybe the 4$ single bay charger from ebay? btw ive talked to Summer. she said that at the moment DD cannot offer a lower price than the current one. no group buy sorry!!

Its a pitty that DD cant offer any group buys anymore, except for regular coupon coudes :/

 

HKJ, thank you very much for clarifications!

Tempted to buy this charger even tho I dont use Li batteries at all, but seeing this priced at less than 25$ is rather big temptation to pull the trigger on universal charger Laughing out loud!

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One question to add, sorry

One question to add, sorry for spamming this thread Tongue Out

Can I add some conductive piece of metal between + on charger and + on cell and charge D sized batteries?
Will it stop when they are full at for example 8000mAh or 10'000mAh or will it stop at 5000mAh because that is the currently highest 26650 capacity available and charger might not recognise higher cell capacity as safe?
 

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Well mine just charged my
Well mine just charged my 18650s to 4.27 volts. Luckily nothing happened since men are supposed to be charged to 4.35. So I'm not sure I would trust.

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