Review: XTAR VC2 USB Charger

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Racer
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Review: XTAR VC2 USB Charger

Review: XTAR VC2 USB Charger

More power bricks. That’s usually what charging my lithium-ion batteries means on the road. All these power bricks just to give me 5V and 12V packaged in different, incompatible ways. This is why I prefer to carry as many of my devices in USB format as possible and practical. This is why I’m a big fan of USB power packs, chargers and lanterns. And this is why I am always more than thrilled to receive these kinds of products for review. This sample was provided by XTAR, who seem to be very passionate about their work, judging by the number of emails with them. The full review can be found here on my blog, and for this version I’m going to mainly be pointing out the prominent features and limitations.



USB Powered


The VC2 is powered entirely by its micro USB port. It comes with a micro USB cable and a pouch, and that’s it. It does not come with a USB AC wall charger—just like the last Android tablet I purchased. Which means this charger can be powered from power packs and all maner of wall and solar chargers.




Features


  • USB Powered
  • 0V Cell "Activation"
  • Automotive Style LCD Instrument Panel
  • 2 Separate Charging Channels
  • Basic Capacity Measurement
  • Real time "speedometer" voltage display-one for each channel
  • Real time "speedometer" current display-one for both channels
  • Flashes entire display when one or both cells are full
  • Auto-senses bad cells and cells of the wrong chemistry
  • Three stages of charging (TC-CC-CV)


Official Specs




 


Initial Impressions


I like how smoothly the spring-loaded contacts slide back and forth, and the overall impression of quality and finish. The Nitecore I4 is probably my most-used charger, but I silently curse it each time I have to put a battery in because those sliding contacts are just atrocious. I have a couple other similar chargers and they aren’t much better in this department. So, it’s refreshing to see a company, you know, actually care about the end user experience. The only that made me frown unboxing it was the tiny but deep nick in the display portion, right over the charge current indicator.

Usability


To try to simulate conditions on a road trip, I only used other USB power banks to power the VC2. The included cable wasn’t tested because under real world conditions, I would throw it in a drawer and use the cables I already use. The charger is idiot-proof; you plug it into a power source and it powers on just like you’d expect, and gets right to work charging any cells that are in it when the unit is powered on.


The charger performed well for my usability tests, aside from only having a 500 mA charging current. For my mobile office, this charger is more likely to be charging a 10440 or 14500 than a larger cell. For larger cells, I guess the compact size and lack of AC power brick is a fair trade for having to wait 7 hours for my Panasonic 18650 cells to charge.



"0V Activation"


XTAR wanted me to point out this feature, and I did my best to test it not being an electronics engineer. A few of my eFest, AW and Nitecore cells took one for the team, and the charger seems to have no problem bringing them back to life. How good will they continue to be after being abused like that? I guess that I’ll find out. They claim that if a cell cannot be revived, or if you put a cell in with an unsupported chemistry, like NiMH, then the charger will read "null" for that channel.


Also notice below that the scratch on the display almost makes it look like two different readings on the charge indicator because of the way the back light reflects off the scratch.



Current Indicator


There’s a single, real-time charge current indicator for both channels, which I’ve only ever seen point to .5A. I was unable to get a photo of it, but once I measured the current at .03A on my USB meter and it was still reading .5A on the display. So I’m not sure how useful this display is, or if you would ever genuinely want it to charge at less than .5A.



Voltage Indicator


There is a voltage incator for each channel, giving you a real-time voltage reading. Like the current indicator, it has a few fixed measurement points arranged like an automotive speedometer. It seems to be accurate and I really like the way it’s laid out. It’s crisp and easy to read at a glance. It would be nice if the bottom display would cycle through the actual voltage reading as well, but this style of voltage guage is plenty sufficient to see the approximate voltage level at a glance.


Capacity Indicator


The VC2 will start measuring the capacity as soon as it starts charging a cell, which means you will want to completely discharge the cell yourself to get the most accurate measurement. Also keep in mind that it’s usually measuring based on a 500 mA charge rate, which may or may not be useful to your particular usage scenarios, so it’s best to just consider this a rough idea of your capacities and not a concrete, scientific measurement. What it should be good at is showing you cells that are probably not worth keeping, as well as showing you how your cells are holding up over time. This capcity indicator can also show other status messages, such as "Full" or "Null" when appropriate. Otherwise it will continue to blink and update the capacity. I wish it wouldn’t blink. It’s distracting, not to mention a real pain to photograph.


Conclusions


The VC2 is a well built charger with a well balanced set of features for what it is: a mobile charger. I don’t really have much to nit pick about it other than a few minor grievances. It would be nice to have an option to at least run a single channel at one amp. It is acceptable the way it is as a mobile charger, but I would use it more around the house even with a slightly higher charge rate. It would also be nice to have a full-fledged charge test with a charge-discharge-charge cycle.


This unit won’t replace the larger chargers I have plugged into the wall, or the Miller charger that’s in my emergency bag. But there was a third bag hungry for a charger exactly like this because none were light or compact enough: the mobile office bag. This bag places a premium on computing space. It has a laptop, 10 inch tablet, 7 inch tablet, point-and-shoot camera with all manner of input devices, gadgets and office supplies—all in one SwissGear backpack. Space is at an absolute premium and it seems like every business trip I regret not packing a clunky lithium-ion charger along for the trip like I do for camping and the outdoors. So, I think XTAR might have hit some sweet spot in the mobile charger market.


Gallery



Edited by: sb56637 on 06/25/2015 - 14:28
toad118
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Hi Guys,
Today i bought the Xtar VC2 from a vendor on Ebay. I charged a couple an Efest batterys, no problems. According to the instruction manual once the battery is fully charged the display should flash on and off every 10 seconds, this unit doesnt, it stays on continually. this caused concern so i tried to verify that i had a genuine unit. The silver scratch off panel on the label which hides the unique number didnt scratch off it just smudged, further attempts started to rip the label, now im even more concerned. To look at the charger it looks solid, very well built, looks exactly the same as the ones ive seen on youtube even down to the labelling, words all spelt correct, came in a decent box with warranty card. Really does look like the real thing.’‘’‘’ display not flashing indicating charged battery’‘’‘’, ‘’‘‘scratch off label duff’‘’‘’, anyone else have the same issues? thanks in advance.

marcolopes
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I have the annoying “digital hiss” from this charger, with or without batteries charging

Any users have this? I use to return all the electronics that make “hiss”, as it’s a sign of “bad design” or at least bad electronics…

I bought it from the XTAR OFFICIAL store on ALI Express: https://pt.aliexpress.com/item/32830649369.html

anonymous_user
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Would you please stop posting in all these old threads?

raccoon city
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anonymous_user wrote:

Would you please stop posting in all these old threads?

Yeah, no kidding.  :BEER:

marcolopes
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anonymous_user wrote:
Would you please stop posting in all these old threads?

Why not? They are all related to the same product!

raccoon city
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Spamming the same message five times all over BLF is not cool.

I marked those five messages as spam, because that's what it is:

annoying spam.