XTAR VC4 Charger Review

Preface
Official Specs
Price
Short Review
Long Review  
  Key Features
  Manual and Packaging
  What's Included
  Build Quality and Durability
  Size
  Power
  User Interface and Operation
Conclusion
  What I like
  What I don't like
Up Next
Notes

Preface

GearBest has been sending out these VC4 chargers lately, an I was on the receiving end.  I’m pleased with that, since I typically like XTAR goods.  This charger isn’t new, and is quite simple, so could be a good standard.  Read on to see how it tests!


Official Specs

Price

This charger goes for $16.99 on GearBest

Short Review

This is a nice little charger, with plenty of size for two 26650s and two 18650s (at one time).  Billed as “four chargers in one,” this charger should be able to do 3A total.  Based on my testing, I can say that’s at least close.  I don’t care for the barrel plug, but otherwise, this is a good charger.  I like that this supports Li-Ion and NiMH.

Long Review

Key Features

Clearly see what’s going on with the batteries.
• Tachometer-style LCD display shows detailed charging status
• Powered by any 5V USB power
• Intelligently chooses charging currents from 0.1A to 1A
• Wide adaptability, adapts from 10440 to 32650, from Li-ion to Ni-MH
• Energy-saving LCD backlight, can be turned off at your will.

Manual and Packaging

XTAR uses their standard white package with blue text.  The box has a nice photo, and some general specs.  There’s also a scratch-off proof of authenticity sticker (bottom right in the right photo below).

Also included (and in use inside the package) is a leather(ish) XTAR branded bag with a draw string.

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Here’s a link to a pdf manual.  I’d call it a good manual.  In reality the product is fairly uncomplicated, so the manual isn’t all that needed.

What’s Included

  • XTAR VC4 Charger
  • Power plug (USB to barrel)
  • Manual

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Build Quality and Durability

XTAR has great build quality, both on their chargers and their lights.  I like the plastic used here – it ends up feeling solid and doesn’t have any hollow ring or tone to it.  The display is (ridiculously?) crisp and bright, and works very well.

Each bay is labeled with a max current and cell pole orientation markings, which is a nice touch.

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These posts on the negative end are stiff and never bent or felt soft in my use.

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Size

Officially 149mm x 115 x 35, and weighing 210g.

This is not a large charger, but thankfully has two larger bays (large enough for 32650 cells).  The two inner bays (Channel 2 and 3) are sized for 18650 cells.

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The bay depth is around 18 or 19mm, so anything thicker in diameter will stick out of the charger.

Power

The VC4 is powered by USB.  Strangely, the cable has USB on one end, and a barrel plug on the other.  I find this very strange, since micro-USB seems to be a better choice.  I suppose this eliminates any possible confusion about there being USB-out?  I’m not sure, but it certainly means you better keep up with that cable.  Another possibility would be to use a barrel plug, but have it be a more standard 12V, and not the 5V USB.  (A normal 12V plug will not connect to this opening.)

That said, power works fine and as long as you have the cable, it’s nice that it can be plugged in practically anywhere.

I tested the charger three ways.  One cell in a 0.5A bay (CH2 or CH3).  One cell in a 1A bay (CH1 or CH4).  And charging of two cells (only one logged) with cells in CH1 and CH4.  That should test the max current of the device.  It’s good to note that in the last case (with two cells charging) the charger still hits its target of 1A per bay.

And otherwise, the charge curves look great (a little bit of shenanigans on that 2 cell test, but that’s because of my setup, not the charger, I believe.)  All the currents are accurate – 1A charges at 1A, and 0.5A charges at 0.5A.

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Honestly I can’t find the manual or product listing saying what’s the max current possible on this charger, but knowing that it’s receiving only 5V 2.1A in, it can’t be much more than the max listed per bay (1, 0.5, 0.5, 1).  That’s a max possible of 3A, but according to this chart in the manual, it’s not possible to hit 3A (which we’d expect).

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Basically at the point you have cell in that might use more than 2A, the charger steps any >0.5A bay down to 0.5A.  So if all 4 bays are charging, the charge rate is 0.5A.

User Interface and Operation

The VC4 auto detects just about everything, and there’s not much to do.  As a difference from the Nitecore charger I just reviewed (the Q6), there is a button which allow current selection.  The bays default to their highest setting, but clicking the channel button will change the current (of course this is only true for CH1 and CH4, since the middle two bays are max 0.5A anyway).

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The display is bright and interesting.  The “fuel gauge” seems important to the marketing, but I’d just as soon have had something easier to read.  But it does work just fine.

This charger can restore 0V cells, charge Li-Ion, and charge NiMH.  All the settings for all of those things, the charger handles automatically.

When charging is active, the LED above the bay is red.  Once complete, that light turns green, and the display reads “FULL” for that bay.  The display only shows two bays at one time, and they’re always grouped – 1 and 4 together, and 2 and 3 together.  Clicking the channel button switches between the channels being displayed.  (If a channel doesn’t have a cell, the gauge just displays nothing, as seen above.)  Channel 1 and 4 being displayed together, and 2 and 3 being displayed together is likely because the bays share the same charge rate characteristics, and the current display (center fuel gauge) can only display one current.  As such, these sets of bays will always be at the same current (1 and 4 will be at the same current, and 2 and 3 will be at the same current.)

Conclusion

What I like

  • Nice charge curves
  • Charge rates meet their specificiation
  • Crisp display
  • Very good build quality.

What I don’t like

  • USB to barrel plug cable.
  • Fuel gauge display is a little extra.
  • Would like to be able to charge 4 cells at max current per bay (3A total)
  • Would like one button per bay.

Up Next

I have a Sofirn light on deck, and I’m undecided about the rest of the week.  Stay tuned!

Notes:

  • This item was provided by GearBest 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.  Note I’ve upgraded that sheet so that now, you may subscribe and get notifications when the sheet is edited!!

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