Having been experimenting with some of the newer battery technology (LiFe PO4s etc) I was looking for a new toy that could handle a goodly number of these cells, as well as all my other existing stuff. My GT8 was fine on Li-Po and could handle up to 8 cells at 7A - but had a few issues with larger 8-cell LiFe PO4 packs. This new 1010B also had a nifty balance plug adaptor board capable of accepting a wide variety of balance plugs (JST XH format) from different series wired batteries. With up to 10A and 10-cell handling, integrated balancing, and 200-watt capacity, it looked to be a capable machine. I sourced mine from Foamy-Jets UK, for the reasonable sum of £96.00. Lets see how it pans out in the real world.

BITS AND BOBS

First off, it looks very neat and well made - both outside and within (I couldnt resist a sneaky peek at its innards). Its brushed aluminium case sports the now usual LCD information panel, along with four simple push buttons, and a decent sized cooling fan - which automatically engages/disengages as required. The input leads - thankfully for a change - are all at one end of the case, both an input jack for an external mains driven PSU (not supplied) and a hard wired flying lead of substantial silicon cables terminated with 4mm gold plugs.

Also supplied is a set of clever crocodile clips adapted to simply accept these plugs if a clip-on connection to your battery supply is preferred. Input voltage range is from 10V up to maximum 18V. If planning to use a mains PSU then note that the current limit for the input jack is 7-amp and 18V so it will not be possible to use the full 200-watt output capability of the unit unless using a large capable supply via the fixed leads. A small cut-out marked 'USB' is also visible in this end of the case - more on this later.

A straight-forward Li-Po charging set-up
At the opposite end is the output department. Two sturdy banana jacks accept the ready wired battery charging lead - terminated with two smaller croc clips; a strange decision this - useful in my opinion only for charging up PB batteries etc. I snipped these off and fitted suitable connectors for mating with my preferred battery terminals. Also on this end plate are the 11-pin socket for the balancing board ribbon cable and a further small 3-pin socket for the supplied temperature monitoring probe.

A CD Rom containing the instruction manual completes the line up of contents - I chose to print this off for easy reference. Whilst on the subject of manuals, this is a pretty good one, with plenty of information about programming the various parameters, and flow charts clearly indicating the button presses required. Thats not to say it is perfect - one or two errors have crept in (during translation no doubt) but a little common sense and experimentation should see you figure it out! Unit operation is fairly simple, and should be familiar to anyone who has experienced similar chargers before - one button selects a battery type, and other buttons then choose the function required such as a simple charge, balance charge, cycle, storage charge and so on. All fairly easy stuff once you've done it a few times!

The manual claims some pretty impressive features, including something called Synchronous Buck-Boost Dc/DC convertor technology.which simply speaking enables the unit to run more efficiently, reduce heat build up, and enable a smaller overall unit size. The output power can also be adjusted to match the available input power, preventing input power overload. This is just one of many very flexible user settings that can be adjusted.

The balance board accepts the JST XH plug type
SWITCH ON

In operation the unit worked well; I did my usual round of testing in the various modes for different batteries and rather than include a large set of results here, I will summarise them by saying it pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin.

Comparing displayed values on the units LCD screen with three separate DVMs proved that the unit was very accurate. Individual cell balancing was good, and all cells came out within +/- 10 mV of each other - usually a lot closer, indeed identical. Activity on cells that need it is displayed by the cell number(s) flashing during balancing. Scrolling through the various display screens during operation, one can see all sorts of useful information such as programmed terminal voltage, internal temperature of charger, temperature of battery under charge ( using the supplied probe ) input voltage, safety timer, over-temperature settings, capacity cut-off settings and so on. The unit can handle just about any type of cell/battery currently available, and also due to the flexibility of user programming available - most types likely to emerge in the near future too!

Lithium based cells are appearing which claim to have the capability of a higher than normal terminal charge voltage - Li-Po cells normally are set to stop at 4.2V LiIon @ 4.1V and LiFe @ 3.6V. However some cells can be pushed higher - for instance LiFe can go to 3.9V ( at the expense of overall longevity ) with some versions claiming as high as 4.2V - similar to Li-Po and other cells can likewise be pushed a little higher than normal. Of course, most authorities on cell charging will state that longer life can be expected if the cells are stopped a little short of absolutely full - and very little difference in performance will be noticed.

Two LiFe packs on charge
One thing I love about this unit is the flexibility of these parameters and much more besides. Once into the 'User settings' menu, a whole host of items can be fine tuned to suit your particular needs. Apart from the terminal voltages as mentioned above (changeable for instance on Li-Po from 4.V up to 4.3V in .01v steps) the dedicated anorak wearing, button pushing geek can alter such things as ( take a deep breath ).

Trickle charge voltage levels : Li-Po balance times: Wait times between cycling programmes: Lithium battery cell check times: Peak detect sensitivity and check periods: Temperature cut-off points: Capacity limits: Maximum charge time limits: Discharge currents: Charge currents: Conditioning cycles both number of and sequence order: Input power limitations;

And so the list goes on This is a very versatile charger! For those people who simply want to plug and play the designers have cleverly arranged all the default settings to be recalled at the touch of a button and these default to the safest possible settings.

IT DOESN'T STOP THERE

Amongst all the various programs available (another deep breath) it has Regular charge, Balance charge, Fast charge, Storage charge, Conditioning charge/ discharge, Forming charge, Discharge, Battery Monitor ( where individual cells can be monitored by the 1010B whilst being charged / discharged by another means if required ) Motor break-in ( for bedding in brushed motors - not a lot of demand these days but its there if you need it ) and perhaps more useful, and pretty unique - Hotwire Foam Cutter mode -

Thats right, you can even use it to power your foam cutting bow! Throw in the more usual settings of backlight brightness, key beeps, alarm tones, auto / manual cooling fan and so on and you begin to get the picture. Of course, as well as the newer Lithium based packs, the charger is also well equipped to handle NiMH / NiCd / and Pb (lead acid). As if all this was not enough, it also has the facility to store up to 10 different battery programs in memory, and even allows you to name the battery type stored in each of these memories, so charging any of your 10 favourite packs is simply a matter of recalling the correct one from memory and pushing the start button.

This is the end of charge screen - not much went into this pack of course
A goodly selection of potential error messages is on hand to warn you of such things as reverse polarity, connection break, shorted outputs, too low / high supply voltage, cell over-voltage, incorrect cell count entered / detected, and high temperatures and so on.

SO DO I LIKE IT?.....

.....you bet I do. There are one or two little things that could be better, such as the lack of a wired USB port for updating the firmware as improved features appear regularly. Currently one has to acquire a USB- TTL convertor board, open up the unit and perform open heart surgery to connect the gizmo and allow an interface with your PC.not terribly difficult for some people, but an absolute no-go for others. It does get quite hot in discharge mode and lacks any standoffs on the bottom of the case to aid cooling.

To summarise then.. whats good?

  • 10-cell and up to 10-amp capability.
  • Maximum output a very respectable 200-watts
  • Compact size
  • Handles all types of cells - including Li-on and LiFe PO4
  • Versatility of user customisable settings
  • High discharge rates available - up to 7A
  • Highly accurate integral balancer
  • 10 battery memories - name tag assignable
  • Extensive protection features against errors in setup and charging processes
  • Auto power supply settings
  • Versatile break out balancer board with multiple and popular JST XH ports
  • Temperature probe sensor supplied
  • Informative screen display during use
  • Logical four-button selection sequence for programs

    and not so good ?

     

  • No ready wired USB port for firmware updates
  • Poor selection of output leads / connectors
  • No feet to aid cooling and stability
  • Slightly clicky sounding buttons but now I am nitpicking!

    Would I recommend it ? - A resounding YES! The unit is available in the UK (if there are any left!) from www.foamyjets.co.uk UPDATE. The 1010b+ is now available ( as is a cheaper 106B+ ) and this new version comes already equipped with the usb socketry and lead + its now a whopping 300 Watt capable - UP 50% from the previously very good 200 Watt.Junsi are also now supplying small stand off feet to aid the cooling. Excellent :-)