In my average-size hand, for a size reference.
|Length:||4 5/8 (118 mm)|
|Width:||3 5/8" (92 mm)|
|Thickness:||1 3/32" (30 mm)|
|Weight:||12.7 oz. (362 g)|
|Display Size:||2 1/2" x 9/16" (62.7 mm x 14.3 mm)|
|Input Voltage: :||10-15V DC|
|Battery Types, # of cells|
|LiPo or Li-Ion:||1-4
(3.6 or 3.7V cells)
|Pb:||2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12V|
|Fast Charge Current:|
(0.1A step, 63W max.)
|LiPo/Li-Ion:||1C rating (63W max)|
|Peak delay at start:||3 minutes fixed|
(0.01 step, 5W max.)
|Cycle count:||1 to 5|
|Available Online From:||Tower Hobbies|
When it comes to DC chargers and cyclers, for the longest time, the Triton has been the standard, but its typical $125-130 price point was a bit high for many modelers' budgets. There is a demand for a compact but full-featured all-in-one charger similar to the popular Triton, but at a lower price point.
This year, Electrifly has added another member to the family tree, the Triton Jr. It is smaller than the Triton, but retains the most-valued features.
Lets take a look at this full-featured charger, which will easily fit in your field box, or would make a good backup charger so that you can charge more than one battery at a time.
After I had read the manual and charged a few batteries (of different types) with the Triton Jr., I found that I didn't need to keep the manual on hand any more. This is perhaps one of the strongest things I can say in favor of the logical operation of a computer charger.
I thought the blue backlight was a little too bright. It is actually so bright that it washes out the LCD segments to some degree. I would have liked to see either a way to reduce the intensity of the backlight or to increase the contrast of the LCD segments themselves. As it is, I had to look at the display a smidge longer than I would have liked to to see what was going on. It's not hard to read, by any means, but it could be easier. (I have 20/20 vision, for the record.)
There is a safety timer built into this charger. For nickel-based batteries, fast-charge time is limited to 1.5 hours. For Lithium types, it's limited to 2 hours. I don't mind the timer for lithium type batteries, as there is no advantage to slow-charging them. I was irritated that I could not set a low charge current and charge my NiMH packs at very low rates without having to continually restart the charger or let it go to trickle charge from a higher setting. (Slow charging is how the cells in nickel-based backs balance.)
The bright side of this programming is that if you plug in your LiPo battery pack, but forget to switch the charger to LiPo mode, it can only charge 1.5 hours. This will probably be enough to puff up the battery pack and ruin it, but probably won't be enough to make it burst into flames and burn down your car/house/garage/shop.
Before I used the charger for the first time, I read the instruction manual, cover to cover. I have two other chargers from two other makers, and neither of them has a manual to rival this one. Great Planes/Electrifly has a well-earned reputation for writing clear manuals. I could also tell right away that it was not translated from any other language, but written in English as its first language. This is refreshing in this day and age.
What's so great about it? A fair question. Knowing full well that many of the users will not want to read the whole manual before using the charger, Electrifly put a Quick Reference Guide as the first item after the introduction. Additionally, two double-sided "menu maps" are provided that cover quickly and visually show the user how to navigate the menu for each battery type.
What I recommend is learning enough about the charger to get your first pack charging, discharging or cycling. While that is going, grab yourself a beverage, sit down in a comfortable spot, and enjoy this manual. I'm not kidding, either. The manual not only tells you how to accomplish things, but it gives background information on battery and charging theory.
On the page that tells about discharging NiCd and NiMH batteries, there is a five-step process that is outlined. But off to the side is the nice little notes section.
One of the notes says: "To determine the condition of a battery, compare the final capacity measurement the battery delivered during discharge to the capacity rating listed on the battery's label. If a battery provides less than 70% of its rated capacity it may need to be replaced. Additional cycles can be attempted to try and revive the battery, but if capacity measurements fail to improve, the battery should be replaced."
There are lots of other nuggets of useful information packed into this manual. It's worth keeping, as it's like a Cliffs Notes version battery & charging theory. Maybe I am stressing this a little too much, but such good manuals are extremely rare these days, and it is one feature that you cannot get an idea about by reading the specs.
I was impressed with the build quality of this charger from the get-go. There are a lot of nice little details.
There's really nothing significant here to point out. As a UL employee, I'm fussier than most about electronic design.
These were my two minor nitpicks...
To be fair, I'm sure there are a great many chargers that have either or both of these slight deficiencies. Probably all of mine, hehehe.
I found the accuracy of the built-in meter to be very good. The voltage, current, and mAh readings were right on the money, when checked with my professional-grade Fluke 79 multimeter.
For the record, I conducted all testing alternating through the following battery packs:
The only real discrepancies between the actual value as measured by my Fluke 79 and the displayed value as shown by the Jr. were due to truncating and rounding errors. The Triton Jr. didn't care what type of cell chemistry it was working with, it was equally accurate between each type that I tried. (I tried every type except Lithium Ion and NiCd, as I don't have any of either type of battery)
Note: The basic DC accuracy of my Fluke 79 DMM is 0.3%.
|Mode:||Value displayed by Triton Jr.||Value as measured with Fluke 79 DMM||Percent Error|
|Discharge:||0.4 A||0.488 A||22% (truncated decimal/rounding)|
|Discharge:||10.48 VDC||10.50 VDC||0.19%|
|Charge:||5.0 A||4.93 A||1.4 % (bad rounding)|
|Charge:||10.53 VDC||10.51 VDC||0.19%|
The mAh readings are calculated from the time and current measurements. I suspect it uses more decimal places than are displayed on the screen. The truncating and rounding errors noted above are probably only because the display only has enough room for so many characters. It's preferable to truncate the precision of certain readings in order to show more readings.
I found that after charging about 3 batteries of different types & sizes, I had the operation of the charger and its menus memorized. The menus are laid out in an intuitive manner, and I suspect most users will find this to be true. Especially noteworthy is the fact that in order to start charging or discharging, the user has to hold the ENTER/START button down for a full second. What this means to the user is that he can fiddle around and push buttons until he has taught himself how it works. As long as he doesn't hold the ENTER/START button down or reverse the polarity of the input leads, no damage can be done. There was no need for me to run and get the manual every time I forgot a key sequence. I could just fiddle a bit until I "remembered" how it was done. I suspect many of us do our best learning in this manner.
The charge or discharge settings are all shown on the screen before operation can begin. If one makes a habit of double-checking this information before pressing and holding the ENTER/START button, one will never damage any battery packs. (Watch the video attached below, and you will see what I mean. There were a couple times during its making that I was talking too long, and it saved a setting I didn't want. It was only a matter of a second or two before I was back in the menu, fixing everything for the example.)
The other day, I was flying my planes while I had two other batteries charging back at the car, some 40 paces away. When the battery on the Triton Jr. was done, I could hear the beeps. This is no small feat on a flying field with lots of glow planes! My other charger, (a Multiplex LN-5014) though it sounds loud enough at home, could not be head at this field.
This is really an ideal field charger. It does everything that's needed, in one small package.
One of the things that makes this charger lighter and more compact than its bigger brother is the fact that it does its job without a cooling fan. So naturally, I was curious as to how well the little aluminum chassis would dissipate the heat, and how hot to the touch it would get. The worst-case scenario is when the charger is set to charge at more than 63 W or discharge at more than 5 W. (Yes, 5 W; this is not a fast discharger, just a fast charger!) In either case, the charger's microcontroller will limit the power by reducing the current until the power is at its maximum. Also in either case, the charger body got hot enough that you quickly notice that its on the hot side of warm. I measured it to be 113°F (45°C). At first, I was a little surprised at this, but then I realized that the designers of this charger chose the power limits based on how hot the chassis would get. It is warm enough that I noticed, but not even close to warm enough to burn me. If you're really in a hurry to discharge, an experienced RC modeler can surely think of non-harmful ways to discharge batteries quickly, right?
This is the main reason that the Triton or Triton 2 will charge and discharge to higher power levels. The cooling fan makes the difference. However, they are bigger, heavier, louder, and more complex, so choose your charger based on your own priorities.
I cycled my two big 8 cell, 3600 mAh NiMH packs for a couple hours at a time, to see how the charger would stand up to continuous operation at its power limit. It didn't miss a beat. It sat there, nice & warm, but never shut down.
The Triton Jr. will detect a reverse polarity battery pack plugged into its output. It will then warn you by of very loud beeps and a text message on the display. (see video)
If the circuit is opened during charging, either because a cell went bad, a connection was broken, or a balancer opened the circuit, the Triton Jr. will let you know.
If the input is hooked to its 12 V source in reverse polarity, the automotive cartridge fuse will blow; there is no electronic polarity protection for the input. These fuses are easily found at hardware and auto parts stores for cheap. I don't consider this a drawback, since it is typically a mistake that is only made once.
|Triton Jr.||Triton 2|
|Input Voltage:||11-15 VDC||10-15 VDC|
|Input Connections:||-||Banana plugs w/ mating alligator clips|
|Number of Outputs:||1||1|
|Battery Types, No. of Cells:||1-14 NiCd/MH, 1-4 LiPo/Io, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 V Pb||1-24 NiCd/MH, 1-5 LiPo/Io, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 V Pb|
|Fast Charge Current:||0.1 - 5.0 A NiCd/MH (63 W max); 1C rating for LiPo/Io (63 W max)||0.1 - 7.0 A linear NiCd/MH; 1C rating for LiPo/Io; 0.1 - 7.0 A for Pb (90W max)|
|Fast Charge Termination:||"Zero DeltaV" peak detection (NiCd/MH), "CC/CV" for LiPo, LiIo, Pb||"Zero DeltaV" peak detection (NiCd/MH), "CC/CV" for LiPo, LiIo, Pb, optional thermal cutoff for all battery types|
|Peak Sensitivity:||NiCd: 8 mV fixed, NiMH: 5 mV fixed||NiCd: 5-20 mV, NiMH: 3-15 mV|
|Peak Delay at Start:||-||0-60 minutes|
|Trickle Charge Current:||Charge Current / 20 (NiCd/MH only)||0-250 mA (NiCd/MH only)|
|Fast Charge Safety Timer:||NiCd/MH: 1.5 hours, LiPo: 2 hours||0-990 minutes|
|NiCd/NiMH Max Charge Capacity:||100 - 5000 mAh||100 - 9900 mAh|
|NiMH Top-off Charge:||-||0 - 1000 mAh|
|Thermal Cutoff:||-||50 - 150 °F w/ optional thermal probe|
|Discharge Current:||0.1 - 1.0 A (5 W max)||0.1 - 3.0 A|
|Cycle Count:||1 - 5 cycles (NiCd/MH only)||1 - 10 cycles (NiCd/MH only)|
|Cycle Time Delay:||0||1 - 60 minutes|
|Programming Controls:||4 membrane pushbuttons||modified job dial, 2 pushbuttons|
|Display Type:||2 x 16 LCD w/ blue backlight||2 x 16 LCD w/ blue backlight|
|Displayed Info:||Output voltage, charge & discharge capacity, currents & time, errors||Input & output voltage, peak voltage, average discharge voltage, charge & discharge capacity, currents & time, data for 10 cycles, errors|
|Audible Indicators:||Beeper||10 melodies, on/off|
|Output Connections:||banana jacks||banana jacks|
|Case Material:||extruded aluminum||extruded aluminum|
|Cooling System:||chassis as heatsink||built-in cooling fan|
|Case Size:||4.7 x 3.6 x 1.2" (118 x 92 x 30 mm)||6.2 x 4.0 x 2.0" (157 x 102 x 51 mm)|
|Weight:||13.1 oz. (371 g)||16.4 oz. (466 g)|
|Street Price (as of October 16, 2006):||$90||$125|
|Display||Meaning, if not obvious|
|Pb Charge||Charges Lead-acid type batteries, such as field batteries|
|NiCd Discharge||This menu is reached by pressing the 'DEC' key from the NiCd Charge screen|
|NiCd CHG to DSCH||Cycles the pack, finishing in the discharged state. The number of cycles, charge, and discharge currents are also selected on this screen. Press the 'DEC' key from the NiCd Discharge screen to get here.|
|NiCd DSCH to CHG||Cycles the pack, finishing in the charged state. The number of cycles, charge, and discharge currents are also selected on this screen. Press the 'DEC' key from the 'CHG to DSCH' Discharge screen to get here.|
|NiMH CHG to DSCH||same as is described in the NiCd row above|
|NiMH DSCH to CHG||same as is described in the NiCd row above|
|LiPo Charge||Press the 'DEC' key from here to get to 'LiPo Discharge' and 'Lithium Type' screens|
|Lithium Type||Once here, press 'ENTER' then 'INC' or 'DEC' to choose the type of lithium cell you'll be charging. Most of us will just leave it on LiPo and never look at this menu again.|
This is a full-featured computer charger in a pint-sized package. It is truly a portable size and will fit in most small field boxes. It seems about 50% thinner than the original Triton. Note that the original Triton has a cooling fan, so it will support faster discharge rates than the Triton Jr. The trade-off is that it's bigger, noisier, heavier, and has moving parts that can eventually fail. This is a solid little computer charger, which is easy to use. It should be quite reliable.
Editor's Note: For safety reasons, it is ALWAYS best to stay near your batteries while charging, to watch for problems that could arise.Last edited by AMCross; Nov 15, 2006 at 01:18 PM..
The Hyperion clone of this charger doesn't support LiIo batteries; not a huge deal for most of us, but worth noting. I don't know if it has the charge timers.
Great job on the review, one of the best I've seen. I wish someone would do an honest one on the MRC 989 just out. The one in RC Flyer (Jan-07) is nothing more than a rewrite of the manufacturer's promo material. Nothing of any technical substance.
Thanks for the review and ESPECIALLY for the internal pictures on its construction/board layout!
Given the CE marking, can you tell if this unit is RoHS compliant? (since Europe is ahead of us in this area)
Edit: Just looked at the HobbyLobby website and they have another charger that looks the same as this one. Scroll down to the Simprop
Some previous MRC chargers had gotten a reputation for not being suitable for charging LiPos. I'd like to see if they've got that problem licked.
On the "weakness" issues, concerning internal bananna jack soldering:
The one thing that always gets me, is when they won't twist the wires before tinning and/or slodering to the connector. They always miss this with voltmeter leads too. A little bit of repeated motion, and all the wire strands eventually break.
I guess it adds a second or so of manual effort to the assembly process, after stripping wires.
As for "what they mean by, but not obvious", I found that when I was working in technical writing, that I had to proof my material a day or so later, and attempt to "dumb down" my mind, as If I had no prior knowledge of the product. Amazing how you can actually fail to understand your oun literature, when looking at it in this light. Helps a lot in the editing process.
Like giving directions to folks, 90% of people are simply telling themselves how to get there, which they already know.
As for Electrifly:
I finally used my GP balancer with my Power Series 3s-2100. Seems to work fine in conjunction with my vintage Kokam charger.
I didn't see the SJ on the board but a lot of these chargers (Simprop Intellicharge, FMA SuperNova, Graupner Lipo4, Polycharge, Ripmax, Swallow, ...) are made by Sung Ji in Korea so they share similar features. I assume this one is too.
Joined Oct 2006
How do people use this charger when indoors? Do you hook the clips to the ends of the transformer wires? That seems sort of cludgy and potentially dangerous, so I’m thinking about adding a connector between the clips and the charger so I can switch between the clips and transformer.
Has anyone done this? Any reason not to use a transformer as input?
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