Nitecore SC4 4-Bay Charger Review

Preface

A new 4-bay charger by Nitecore!  My main and most-used charger is a Nitecore (d4), which I’m very satisfied with.  I was hoping this would be a replacement/upgrade to my old d4; let’s see how it fares!


Official Specs

Key Features

  • Input Voltage:
    • AC 100-240V 50/60Hz
    • 1A (MAX) 40W
    • DC 12V 3A
  • Output Voltage:
    • Battery: 4.35V±1% / 4.2V ±1% / 3.7V ±1% / 1.48V ±1%
    • USB: 5V±5% 2.1A MAX
  • Output current: 3A*2 MAX 1.5A*4
  • Compatible with:
    • Li-ion/IMR/LiFePO4: 10340, 10350, 10440, 10500, 12340, 12500, 12650, 13450, 13500, 13650, 14350, 14430, 14500, 14650, 16500, 16340 (RCR123), 16650, 17350, 17500, 17650, 17670, 18350, 18490, 18500, 18650, 18700, 20700, 21700, 22500, 22650, 25500, 26500, 26650
    • Ni-MH(NiCd): AA,AAA,AAAA,C,D
  • Size: 165mm×110mm×45mm

Short Review

I absolutely love the display on this device.  Zero complaints about the charging, too.  There’s a known noise when the bays are empty or the charging is complete that bothers me a little but this will still probably move to “main charger” duty in my house.

Long Review

Manual and Packaging

Nitecore has consistent packaging, and this one is no different.  Black and yellow, with a lot of printing and specs and the like.

I think the manual is actually a step up from normal though (at least in the pdf version, which you can see here).  There are a still a bunch of languages included, but it’s more of a booklet, and easier to see all the info you want in one place.

The SC4 is a versatile charger, and the manual is worth a read just to see all the settings available, and how to use them.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 9.36.43 PM.png

What’s Included

  • Nitecore SC4
  • Wall plug
  • Manual
  • Warranty card

20170917-IMG_4301.jpg

Build Quality

The SC4 is built as I would expect, and as I hoped it would be.  It’s definitely a step up from the D4, and also better quality build than other chargers I’ve handled recently.

The top side has a usb out, a barrel connector, and the wall plug connector.  Note that while there is a barrel plug connector, there is not a cigarette plug power cable included.  Both sides have the SC4 branding formed into the plastic.

The terminals are metal.  I think the non-mobile part is stainless, but the moving (negative) terminal seems to just be steel (it’s magnetic).  The slides are a good combination of tight enough and easy to use, with no slop.  The slides are also made a little differently than most I’ve seen.  Mostly when the slides are extended, a spring can be seen in the housing.  On this SC4, there’s a little rectangle (of plastic) and the slide moves over this – the slide seems to be it’s own piece, and must be connected on the sides.  I like this a lot for one reason I mention often:  Dust can’t get in the guts.  If dust or debris gets into these little rectangles, it should just dump right out (since it can’t go further than you can see.)

The back includes the compatibility list, and a few other specs.  Very nice to have the list included on the back.

20170920-IMG_4377.jpg

And here’s another thing I love over my D4 charger:  The buttons are on the top!  One thing I haven’t mentioned yet but is a huge thing about this charger: The LCD display, which we’ll see more of later, is ridiculously great.  The battery bays have cell orientation molded in, too (and also there’s reverse cell protection anyway.)

Power

The only provided means to power this unit is the wall plug.  It provides the unit with 100-240V @1A.  There’s a barrel plug on the device, likely for use in an auto.  A barrel plug cord isn’t included, however. (You’d need a 12V 3A adapter for this.)

One of the main draws of this charger is the 3A capability.  I can’t measure actual current supplied, but I can measure charge times.  I tested 3A and also 2A and I can report (as seen below) that the 3A is actually 1/3 or more faster than the 2A charging.  Both get the cell to 4.2V (ish), with the 2A topping out at 4.2V exactly, and the 3A speed topping out at about 4.18V.

Charge_test.png

Note that this charger does not provide a trickle charge on the cells once the charge has reached completion.  Essentially, the bay just shuts off when the charging is finished.

There’s also a USB-out.  I don’t have a load, so I can’t test if it measures up to the 2.1A claimed.  And I know it’s simply a passthrough, so I didn’t actually test anything about the USB-out at all.  Here’s why.  The charger, like the i8, actually gives complete priority to cells.  If there are no cells or the cells are fully charged, the USB-out is active.  If the USB-out is active and you place a cell into the unit (charged or not!) the unit will give priority to the cell to check it’s state.  If the cell is charged, the USB-out will be active again. If the cell is not charged, the unit will give priority to the cell and the USB-out will be off.  I didn’t find a way around this.

Also, the SC4 is not a powerbank, it offers only passthrough for the USB-out.  This may be a downside for some, but not a problem for me personally.

Not really sure where else to mention this but it’s absolutely worth noting.  When the unit is plugged in and there is either no cell or all cells are charged, the SC4 is a bit noisy.  Most people will probably either not notice this at all, or tune it out.  I tend to notice it quite a bit, quite often.  I won’t say I’m annoyed by it, but I do find annoying when I notice it.

User Interface and Operation

There are two buttons on the SC4.  The left button is the “C” button, and the right is the “V” button.

The unit has some reasonable defaults, which can’t be changed.  Greater than 1200mAh Li-ions are charged at 2000mAh.  Less than 1200mAh are charged at 500mAh.  The decision about whether a cell is low or high capacity is based on length.  Over 60mm, a cell is assumed to be >1200mAh, and charged at 2000mAh.  NiMH are charged at 500mAh.

Li-ion and NiMH are detected automatically, but LiFePO4 and 3.8V Li-ion cells must be manipulated manually for proper charging.  (Not setting the LiFePO4 manually will result in overcharging!)

A few more notes up front about this unit before actual operative instructions.  Upon entering a cell, the unit will evaluate the cell and report a few things.  It will:

  • Tell you if the Battery Quality is Good or Poor
  • Tell the cell voltage
  • Tell the internal resistance
  • Indicate the charging current

And will begin to count the charge time, and count the charged volume.

Below you can see the brightness of the display when active (left) and inactive (right).  The inactive is much dimmer than it appears in the photo.  This happens always, and automatically, after about 30 seconds.  (This is a great improvement over past models!).

There’s a close up of the C and V switches.  Also I’ve tried to display most of the settings for a cell during use.  In the example below, only the center cell is being charged, and the right and left cells are at capacity.

Now how to use the unit.  When a cell is input, the defaults are selected per cell size and chemistry.  Pressing C will change the bay, in a 1 – 4 direction.  Pressing V will display all the facts about whatever bay you’ve selected (the same things mentioned above).

Holding C will enter “manual” mode.  While in manual mode, pressing C will switch between Charge Voltage, and Charge Current. When in manual mode, V can be pressed (or held) to select the charge current desired.  By hundres of mAh, starting at 300mAh, going to 3000mAh.  This is quite specific (possibly needlessly so) (that’s what, 18 charging choices?)

Holding V will prioritize Ch1 and Ch2.  Prioritizing these two channels mean all the current will be devoted to one or both (your choice, by pressing V), and then Ch3 and Ch4 will begin charging.  That’s a nice feature, and also confirms that the unit can’t charge all bays at 3A, as we would already expect.

The unit will certainly do more than just what I’ve mentioned.  That’s why I advise having a read of the manual.  However, the SC4 is capable with just default settings, and one may use it without utilizing these advanced features.

Size

The Nitecore SC4 isn’t really the smallest charger available.  However it has two 26650-sized bays, and a large high resolution LCD display, and buttons on front.  So it may be “not small” but based on what it offers, I’d hardly call it “large”.

I measure it at 16cm long x 10.5cm wide x 4.5cm tall.

With the 26650 sized bays, one can put 2×26650 and 2×18650 concurrently.  (But not 4×26650.)

20170920-IMG_4379.jpg

Conclusion

What I like

  • The LCD display is great
  • Cell chemistry versatility
  • Capability of 3A charging (but selectable in 100mA increments)
  • Bay priority

What I don’t like

  • The noise
  • Passthrough only (no powerbank features)
  • Cell priority over USB-out (not split, not both at the same time, etc).

Coupon

Notes:

  • This item was provided by Nitecore for review.  I was not paid to write this review.
  • This content originally appeared at zeroair.wordpress.com. Have a look there for the best experience!
  • Whether or not I have a coupon for this charger, I do have a bunch of coupons!!  Have a look at my spreadsheet for those coupons.

One thought on “Nitecore SC4 4-Bay Charger Review

Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: