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Electrifly PowerMatch Power Meter Balancer Review

The PowerMatch Power Meter gives us three tools in one, a battery checking mode for viewing voltage (including individual cells on lithium packs), a balancing mode for bringing lithium cells into balance with each other, and a power checking mode for viewing crucial data from your power setup.

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Introduction


Voltage Measurement Range:4-8 NiCd or NiMH cells; 2-7 LiPo, LiFe, LiFe, or Li-Ion cells
Maximum Range:4.0 - 30.0V
Lithium Balancing Accuracy:10mV per cell
Lithium Balancing Connection:ElectriFly compatible FlightPower adapters included
Lithium Max. Node Current:180mA max
Maximum Rated Current:80A instantaneous
Maximum Capacity Displayed:65,000mAh (65.0 Ah)
Protection Systems:Reverse polarity; low LiPo voltage alert w/auto shut-down
Case Size:3.9 x 2.6 x 1.0" (100 x 65 x 25mm)
Weight:4.5oz (127.8g)
Price:$44.99
Manufactured by:ElectriFly
Available From:Hobby retailers

Keeping a close eye on how your battery packs are performing is crucial to keeping your packs in tip top shape. Whether we are balancing cells, checking voltage, or wondering what the best motor/esc combo is for a particular model, Electrifly now has us covered. The PowerMatch Power Meter gives us three tools in one, a battery checking mode for viewing voltage (including individual cells on lithium packs), a balancing mode for bringing lithium cells into balance with each other, and a power checking mode for viewing crucial data from your power setup.
I'd like to preface this review by telling you that I am not an electronics genius, and there are times when all of the numbers associated with electric flight have spun my head around! Having something with which to present me the data that I need can only be a good thing, and my goal here is to show you what the PowerMatch can do, leaving it up to you to decide what you can apply that to. With audible prompts and simple three button navigation, the PowerMatch looks to be an easy to use meter with a nice 2x16 LCD screen to display all the relevant data. Read on below for a closer look and some practical examples.

In The Box

The PowerMatch comes in a box not much bigger than the unit. The box contains the PowerMatch, a FlightPower/Thunder Power balance board adapter, and the instruction manual. The whole package is compact enough to keep in your flight box, which is where mine now resides.
The fifteen page instruction manual goes into great depth on the features of the PowerMatch, and even includes a glossary of terms that educate the user on exactly what Amps, Milli-amps, and capacity actually are.

A Closer Look

The PowerMatch has a large 2x16 character LCD display which is easy to read both indoors and out in the sun. Underneath the screen is the control panel that contains the three menu navigation buttons and a small speaker on the left. On the right side is the output lead, which has a Deans Ultra plug on the end, and the standard 7 cell balance port. On the left side is the input lead, again with a Deans Ultra plug, as well as a port for plugging in a Futaba style connector that is usually found on most nicad/nimh battery packs (the same plug that is on any servo). The bottom of the PowerMatch is vented, and while there doesn't appear to be a fan, there is a large heat sink, presumably for dissipating heat when discharge balancing lipo/life/liIon packs.
The PowerMatch can handle up to 80 amps instantaneously, and measure accurately up to 65 amps. The instruction manual says that passing 50 amps through the meter for longer than two minutes will generate heat causing the readings to become less accurate. The meter will also go into a sleep mode after 30 seconds if no input is given, though it will still be powered.

A FlightPower/Thunder Power balance board adapter is also included, and between this and the built in Electrifly balance port, we should be covered for a wide variety of batteries. Connecting a battery to the PowerMatch is simple enough, depending on what you want to do you plug in one or both of the connectors on the battery pack (obviously just a single plug on nicad/nimh).

Menu Features

When you first plug a battery into the PowerMatch meter, you are greeted with three menu options that you can cycle through using the "Mode" button. The options are "Battery Checker" mode, "Cell Balancer" mode, and "Power Checker" mode. Holding the "Esc" button for three seconds will take you to a fourth menu item; "Set Low Volt", which allows you to set the lowest cell voltage that will trigger the "Cell Volt Low" warning on the screen.

Battery Checker Mode

Using Lipo, Life, and Li-Ion batteries in battery checker mode presents you with a number of useful figures. Immediately shown is the battery type (which you can also cycle through using the mode button), the number of cells, battery voltage, estimated capacity remaining, as well as a ramp gauge to indicate capacity (same style as your cell phone signal strength indicator).

Pressing the enter button cycles through to the next screen, which displays at a glance the highest cell voltage (along with which cell it is) and the lowest cell voltage (also with the cell number). Next to this on the right is the gap voltage. This is handy for quickly determining if you have any cells that are way out of balance, indicating a possible problem.

The following two screens display individual cell voltage for up to seven cells, before cycling back to the first screen. When testing a Nimh/Nicad battery, only the first screen is displayed, showing the battery type, voltage, cell count, and estimated capacity remaining.

Cell Balance Mode

These days, most of us are familiar with working with Lipos, and the term "balancing" has become part of our R/C nomenclature. Keeping individual Lithium cells in balance with each other helps a battery pack live a long and useful life, and the cell balancer mode on the PowerMatch helps us with just that. Upon selecting cell balance mode, I was shown the battery type (which again you can cycle through), the cell count, and voltage on the first line of the LCD. On the second line in big bold letters was the word "Unbalanced". (the screen shot below shows a battery being balanced).

Pressing the enter key takes us to the next screen, which displays the voltage of all the individual cells in one place. TO start balancing a battery, you simply hold down the enter button for a couple of seconds, and the PowerMatch begins to balance the battery. The way the PowerMatch balances the battery, is by discharging individual cells to the lowest cell count, at a maximum of 180mA. This can be seen visually on the individual cell voltage screen, as indicated by a small square icon next to each cell, which will flash if that cell is being discharged. Once balancing is complete, the PowerMatch will display "Balanced", and will enter sleep mode in fifteen seconds.

Power Checker Mode

Power check mode is an interesting feature of the PowerMatch unit. By hooking up PowerMatch inline between your battery and ESC, you can get real time data in the form of current in amps, voltage, capacity in amp-hours, and consumed power in watts. This can be useful for determining the kind of power draw your system has on your battery, and help you decide if your current configuration is producing the kind of power you want.
As a practical example, I have always been curious as to how much power the light setup on my night flying 2M Wanderer was consuming. By using the power check mode I was able to see that my receiver with servos at neutral were pulling 0.16A, and when I ramped up the lights it went up to 2.47 amps, or 0.02Ah (also displayed). It also displays the power in watts, which in this case was 29W. This got me curious about how much power was being used at full throttle, which ended up being 24.38 amps, or 264.8w.
The screen you start on is real time data, pressing the enter key will give you three additional screens. It displays the same data, but as Average, Maximum, and Minimum. On the average screen, you can freeze data by pressing the mode button. On the maximum screen, the data displayed is the maximum measured (duh!) and will only update when that measurement is exceeded. The same applies to the minimum screen, only in reverse.

One More Feature

Although I haven't used this feature, the instruction manual shows how you can use the PowerMatch meter inline between your battery and your charger in order to monitor the charge (or discharge). The example given shows a basic charger that has no data display, so in this respect it would be a great way to see what your battery is doing during the charge/discharge cycle. The screen used on the PowerMatch during this process is the power checker screen.

Conclusion

The PowerMatch is definitely a useful tool to have with you when working with batteries. Mine has found a permanent home in my flight box, and I find myself regularly using the balance feature to balance my packs before charging while waiting for other packs to charge. It's a great all in one meter, that not only tells you the current state of your packs, but can also tell you what kind of power your model is using. There are only two small nitpicks that I have on an otherwise great device, and that is that the screen is not backlit (night flying!) and I don't see any visible reason why it couldn't have been made to handle eight cell packs. That being said, I do feel that you get a lot of bang for your buck, and I won't be heading to the flying field without it! Bringing this article back around to my preface, it became apparent to me that with the correct info provided (as it is with PowerMatch) you do not need to be an electronics genius to make the correct choices for your model!

Pros
Great Multi Function Meter
Sturdy and Compact
Wide Range of Data Available
Cons
No Backlight
Would have been nice to use 8 cell packs

Last edited by Angela H; Feb 06, 2012 at 05:02 AM..

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Old Feb 06, 2012, 06:34 AM
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Matt Gunn's Avatar
United States, OH, Parma
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nice that it came with a thunderpower adapter! Some of the other brands dont...
Nice review as always Chris.
Matt
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Old Feb 06, 2012, 09:17 AM
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CSpaced's Avatar
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Originally Posted by webdr View Post
nice that it came with a thunderpower adapter! Some of the other brands dont...
Nice review as always Chris.
Matt
Thanks Matt, yeah it's nice to get that TP adapter. No matter how much I try to standardize my connectors I always seem to have a few odd TP plugs on some batteries .
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Old Feb 07, 2012, 08:18 AM
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It is refreshing to see a reviewer who isn't afraid to say up front that he isn't an expert in the area and is just a typical user rather than trying to pretend to be an expert in all matters.

I would be interested to see how accurate and useful the battery checker mode is for NiXX packs. The reason being that some manufacturers have said that it is impossible to judge the charge remaining in an NiXX pack based in its voltage and correctly detecting the cell count would be critical as well. Similarly, LiFe/A123 packs can be difficult to estimate properly due to their nearly constant voltage over most of their capacity.
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Old Feb 07, 2012, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by SteveM732 View Post
It is refreshing to see a reviewer who isn't afraid to say up front that he isn't an expert in the area and is just a typical user rather than trying to pretend to be an expert in all matters.
Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM732 View Post
I would be interested to see how accurate and useful the battery checker mode is for NiXX packs. The reason being that some manufacturers have said that it is impossible to judge the charge remaining in an NiXX pack based in its voltage and correctly detecting the cell count would be critical as well. Similarly, LiFe/A123 packs can be difficult to estimate properly due to their nearly constant voltage over most of their capacity.
The cool thing is that as well as showing the estimated capacity remaining for the NiXX packs, it also shows you the pack voltage. Traditionally the actual voltage is what I would use to estimate how many flights I've got left, and I don't see that changing. It will be interesting to see how the estimated capacity stacks up against how much I think I have remaining based on voltage.

As for LiFe/A123, I'll always track those packs manually as I have done before, but again it will be interesting to see what the PowerMatch meter is telling me and how it compares to my estimations.
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Old Feb 07, 2012, 09:19 PM
A Day @ a Time - Matt. 6:25-34
ruff1's Avatar
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Chris, great review.

I was just telling one of my flying buddies at the field today that I needed a meter. I have a balancing charger, but it only shows percentages and I know it is wrong sometimes (0% on some cells - I think it isn't accurate under 45-50%). I'm sort of in the blind on my batteries right now, and it is time for one!

Another flying buddy gave me a Thunder Power 3s 2200 mah battery (perfect for my Sensei). The included adapter solves that problem for me!

I think I'll pull the trigger on this one.

Kevin
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Old Feb 07, 2012, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ruff1 View Post
Chris, great review.

I was just telling one of my flying buddies at the field today that I needed a meter. I have a balancing charger, but it only shows percentages and I know it is wrong sometimes (0% on some cells - I think it isn't accurate under 45-50%). I'm sort of in the blind on my batteries right now, and it is time for one!

Another flying buddy gave me a Thunder Power 3s 2200 mah battery (perfect for my Sensei). The included adapter solves that problem for me!

I think I'll pull the trigger on this one.

Kevin
Thanks Kevin, glad you found the review useful. It's definitely a great tool to keep in your flight box! Sounds like it would be perfect for your needs, as you can use it with your charger when you are charging to accurately see what your cell voltages are.
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Old Feb 07, 2012, 11:08 PM
A Day @ a Time - Matt. 6:25-34
ruff1's Avatar
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Originally Posted by CSpaced View Post
Thanks Kevin, glad you found the review useful. It's definitely a great tool to keep in your flight box! Sounds like it would be perfect for your needs, as you can use it with your charger when you are charging to accurately see what your cell voltages are.
Unfortunately, my charger uses the balance port and doesn't have a Deans Ultra connector. So, I'll just have to unplug and check periodically. I'm not all that concerned about checking while charging though, I have been using the charger for a couple of years without any issue. I mainly want to know what is "in the tank" when I land and get a better idea of the battery health by doing some power draw tests. I'll probably step up to the life batteries in a couple of years.
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ruff1 View Post
Unfortunately, my charger uses the balance port and doesn't have a Deans Ultra connector. So, I'll just have to unplug and check periodically. I'm not all that concerned about checking while charging though, I have been using the charger for a couple of years without any issue. I mainly want to know what is "in the tank" when I land and get a better idea of the battery health by doing some power draw tests. I'll probably step up to the life batteries in a couple of years.
Now I'm curious which charger you have?
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 09:28 AM
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Would that work for the NiCd's and the NiMH's and the SLA Batteries?
Nikki
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 10:04 AM
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Yep! it has a nicad/nimh battery port on the side (standard servo plug). So if you are using big Nimh packs with different plugs, you can make an adapter quite easily. SLA...I dont think so.
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 03:23 PM
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So this isn't a Charger, right?? its just a power meter???
Nikki
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 04:45 PM
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So this isn't a Charger, right?? its just a power meter???
Nikki
Correct, but it will balance your lithium batteries.
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 04:51 PM
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OK, were is the best place to find a good charger for NiCd's/NiMH's batteries!!
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Old Feb 08, 2012, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by NASAFAN101 View Post
OK, were is the best place to find a good charger for NiCd's/NiMH's batteries!!
Nikki
Have you checked out your local hobby shop? Just about every online hobby store carries chargers that can handle Nicd/Nimh.
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