X100 100W Balancing Charger Review

April 3, 2014 20:51 | By | 5 Comments

The HK X100 balancing LiPo charger, actually a rebranded IMAX unit, is the smaller brother of the X200. According to HobbyKing, the “new X100 Charger is the latest and most innovative battery charger, with its super cool aesthetics and full color touch screen”, and has become the “must have charger”. But is it really? And is it worth getting at the $50 that HK asks for? Let’s find out in our in-depth review after the break.

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Specifications

Touch Screen: 3.0-inch 400 x 240 px
Operating Voltage Range: 11.0~28.0V
AC Input: 11~240V
Circuit Power: Max 100W (charging) and Max 10W (discharging)
Charge Current Range: 0.1~8A
Discharge Current Range: 0.1~3A
Current Drain For Balancing LiPo: 300mAh / Cell
Lithium Battery Cell Count: 1~6 series
NiCd / NiMh Battery Cell Count: 1~16 Cells
Pb Battery Voltage: 2 to 24V
Dimension: 148 x 140 x 48mm
Weight: 560g

The X100 comes standard with 110V power cord, 12V power cable, crocodile clips, one XT60 battery charge lead, and… a stylus. It is perfectly usable with fingers however.

Connectors

Where the X200 failed in our opinion, requiring a special connector box that just expanded the needed real estate of the charger while doing very little about the cabling mess, the X100 is a pleasant surprise: regular banana plugs, balancer connectors, and an extra USB plug offering up to 2.1A to charge your RC toys and phone. A separate mini-USB plug offers firmware upgradeability.

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Power comes either from 110-240V or a special 12V connector on the back. All the needed cables are included, though the power cord was a US type, which doesn’t get you far in Europe.

Overall Impressions

Compared to the SkyRC T6200 we reviewed last year, the x100 is a bit larger, but less thick. It is also considerably lighter, though it still has a solid feel to it.

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The added color and slightly brighter screen do help, though the screen size is a bit smaller. However, button sizes are generally a bit bigger, with a few exceptions, making the X100 feel a bit easier to operate.

Software

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Much like the SkyRC T6200, the X100 is operated entirely via touchscreen, which is both a blessing and a course. While the display is a bit brighter than on the SkyRC, it’s still not fit for direct sunlight. However the user interface – while reminiscent of Windows 8 – is much more user friendly and indeed one of the best we’ve seen on a Lipo charger to date.

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Now four-button chargers are absolutely fine and in fact many RC modelers will probably prefer those, but for new users it’s not readily apparent that you have to press and hold a button to start charging – that’s where the X100 definitely has its greatest advantage.

Everything is laid out logically, loading and saving battery presets or setting your cell count and charge current is super quick and easy.IMG31633

Surprisingly, almost everything was perfectly usable without stylus. Arrow buttons are enlarged so they are easy to hit, and only certain configuration dialogs in the settings menu require some fiddling  – or the stylus.

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The charging screen is the best we’ve seen to date.Not only are the graphs scaled in a useful manner unlike on the SkyRC charger, but vital information like the individual cell voltage are always visible without needing any second page. If you want you can disable individual graphs. A label on some of the stats would’ve been nice, but it’s no big problem.

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Battery type support is as good as one can expect in such a unit. Even LiFe and the soon-to-be-gone NiCd are supported.

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Charge modes include the usual fare, with some useful modes like Storage charge (charges each cell to 3.8V for long-term storage), and a battery checker.

Charge Performance

The little 100W charger can’t compete with beefier competition. That said, this charger easily covers 80% of the typical RC hobbyist needs: Up to 8A charge current, 3A discharge current, balance current is a slightly better-than-average 300mA, which is no match for the likes of Yunsi or Pulsar, but still a bit better than most cheap chargers.

How precise is the balancer?

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…precise enough. We also checked with a precision voltmeter and the voltages were actually 4.2015V, 4.2006V, and 4.1958V. In short, it’s pretty damn good.

 

Build Quality

With such an excellent user interface and charge performance, we were expecting no surprises on the inside. Boy were we wrong…

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There’s a reason why the focus is not on the main board. Check out that heat sink! To make it easier to see what’s going on, here’s a different perspective:

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Basically, that MOSFET is hanging on a servo extension cable. And it’s not even gunked down to prevent the connector from falling off. The heatsink is adventurous, the electrolytic capacitors are in the path of the hot air being sucked out by a tiny cooling fan…

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The CPU is a STM32F103, so definitely beefy enough for this application, and the PCBs are well laid out. There’s gunk on most heavy components to keep them from rattling loose, except for the biggest capacitor on the power supply PCB, which hangs loose.

Manual

Yes, there is a manual. And it’s not even half bad:

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Interestingly enough, this charger is so easy to use, that the more than adequate manual feels like a waste. But it’s there if you need it.

Verdict

The X100 is a pleasure to use, and not too expensive at 50 bucks, but there are several drawbacks. The build quality is questionable and raises the issue of how long this device will work reliably. Also, for ten bucks less you can get a 200W charger with a more solid build quality, albeit lacking a color graphics display. It’s awesome that the X100 ditches the useless cable box of the X200, the software is actually really good, the charge display is gorgeous and informative, and it’s a real shame that they skimped on the build quality.

What we liked:

  • Excellent user interface
  • Exact balancer
  • Integrated 220V power supply
  • Lightweight and portable
  • All cables included
  • Integrated 2.1A 5V USB power output

What we didn’t like:

  • Questionable build quality
  • Color TFT screen not readable in direct sunlight

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Comments (5)

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  1. Joe says:

    I’m going to guess this was a type?? “We also checked with a precision voltmeter and the voltages were actually 4.2015V, 4.2006V, and 3.1958V. In short, it’s pretty damn good.” <- the third cell was a whole volt short? Or did you mean 4.2958?

    Also did anyone else notice the "Present Seting" on the screen of the charger? Settings has 2 T's in it…

    • fpvcentral says:

      You are right, that was a typo, it was 4.195.

      And yes, that typo on the charger actually exists in all their models, even the x200 which came out ages ago has it.

  2. aria says:

    hello,
    I ordered this charger and I ask you if it still works today ?

    I work in electronics and i think welded directly the sons on the MOSFET with sheaths thermorétractable
    Also, i think move the capacitors rearwardly in son welded with the sheaths thermorétractable .

  3. Domien says:

    i have the same charger, works wel til its smooks. Mosfet burnet and back site of the print on the black output it burnet too. Can you tell me type of this piece, i can read this not more. It looks a mosfet too.
    Thanks Domien

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