The charger multitasks – HITEC X2 AC Pro

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Introduction

Hitec just expanded its offering with a new battery charger, the X2 AC Pro. This new charger is packed with innovative functionality and features: 2 battery ports, integrated AC power supply, built-in soldering iron, and a USB port for an optional Wifi interface.

Battery chargers have clearly evolved over the years from simple devices to the multi-chemistry-capable feature-packed chargers we are using nowadays. The pressure is on for chargers to keep up with the constantly evolving batteries, that can both deliver higher power and be charged at a higher C rating. The demand in charger output power keeps increasing, with the goal of decreasing a pilot’s wait time between flights. Hitec certainly took this into account when they increased the power rating of their charger from 100W from the previous X2 AC Plus, to up to 300W on the X2 AC Pro, when using an external DC power supply. The internal power supply already delivers up to 200W, which is plenty and will satisfy most users.

Hitec didn’t stop at creating a powerful charger, they decided to add other beneficial features which clearly differentiate the X2 AC Pro from other chargers currently available on the market. These features include a soldering iron and an optional Wifi extension to connect the power supply to a smartphone! Both of these features are not required for charging a battery but are extremely convenient to have–both at the field and in the workshop.

Let’s see how this charger performs!

 

Specification

Manufacturer Hitec
Price $200
Power Source 100-240VAC with built-in power supply
11-18VDC (360W)
Ouputs 2 Channels
Max Power Port A: 200W
Max Power Port B: 100W
Max Power AC mode: 200W
Max Power DC mode: 300W
Charge current .1 to 10.0 Amps
Chemistry NiMH, NiCd, LiPo, LiHV, LiFe, Li-Ion, Lead Acid
Cell count LiPo, LiHV, LiFe, Li-Ion:1-6 cells
NiCd, NiMH: 1-15 cells
Pb: 2-20V
Memory 20 battery profile settings
Accessories 60W soldering iron
Accessories (optional) Wifi adapter with phone App
temperature sensor

First impression

The first impression is a very positive one: the charger is sturdy and compact for a device that incorporates its own power supply. The charger comes with a set of charging leads and balancing connectors that will work with most batteries on the market. Hitec even added two charging leads with no connector, for the user to solder his preferred type… which can be done with the X2 AC Pro included soldering iron! The iron that comes with the charger is of very good quality. Nice to see that Hitec didn’t compromise quality when adding this additional functionality.

The top panel features an LCD screen and 5 buttons to easily navigate through the menu.

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All charging ports are located in the front of the charger, including the USB port and the soldering iron connector.

 

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The device is as clean on the inside as on the outside. Hitec did a great job at keeping all the wires and connectors tight and protected from sharp edges or heat-dissipating components.

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Utilization

General

Navigating though the battery’s different menus is a very simple task. With a few clicks, a user can select the proper chemistry, the current, and the number of cells per battery to initiate the charge. The charger has 20 programmable profile settings, and a user can save the most commonly used battery-charging profiles to refer back to the them when starting a new charge. Accessing the saved profiles in the menu takes about the same time as manually entering the parameters for a new charge, so I am not sure if this functionality will be of very much use.

The charger was tested with LiPo, LiFe and NiMh batteries and worked as expected. The other chemistry-combinations the charger can handle are NiCd, Li-Ion, Lead-Acid and LiHV.

The default charging settings will work for most applications, and only the most experienced users will want to fiddle with the parameters. They will however be pleased to know that almost everything can be adjusted:

  • Terminal voltage – the voltage at which the charger stops the charge
  • Delta peak sensitivity for NiMh/NiCd
  • Charging current limit for NiMh/NiCd
  • Number of cycles of charging/decharging (up to 5)
  • Capacity limit
  • Processing time limit

The power can be shared between the two ports for a total of 200W on the integrated power supply and 300W with an external DC power supply. There is a dedicated menu for this function. Note: It seems that the charger self-adjusts if the power required by one port exceeds the power limit set per channel, as long as the power is not used by the other channel.

The charger has several functions for charging battery:

  • for all battery types:
    • Charge: standard mode for charging a battery
    • Discharge: discharge the battery to a set voltage
  • Lipo/LiIon/LiFe/LiHV only:
    • Storage: discharge or charge the battery to reach a desired voltage for storage
    • Fast charge: charge the battery in a shorter time, at the expense of a slightly reduced capacity
    • Balance charge: charge the battery while balancing the cells
  • NiMh/NiCd only:
    • auto chg: the charger detects the type and condition of the battery automatically and initiates the charge. Hitec warns the user that the upper limit of the charge current must be set to prevent damage to the battery.
    • Re-peak: the charger will peak charge the battery up to 3 times in a row to insure that the battery is fully charged.
    • Cycle: charge and discharge the battery up to 5 times to refresh the battery

The charger has the capability to verify the health of your battery by measuring the internal resistance of each cell individually. This is a great feature as it helps to verify that all cells are aging at the same rate. This function helped me with a relatively new 2s LiFe battery that was not holding as well as it should. One of the cell was measuring 1 Ohm and the other more than 20!

Soldering iron

The soldering iron is the one feature that I thought was nice but that I would most likely never use. Hitec proved me wrong! They provided a high-quality soldering iron with an excellent temperature control. The 60W enables the iron to reach the desired temperature almost instantly.

Having this amount of power available at the soldering tip is really helpful for soldering large gauge wires together or to a connector. With a lower wattage soldering iron, the heat has time to dissipate through the wire, and it takes a while to build enough heat for the solder to properly penetrate though the wire strands. With the high-power soldering iron of the X2 AC Pro, the temperature quickly rises at the location of the solder, and doesn’t have time to dissipate–resulting in a better quality solder.

This soldering iron quickly replaced my workshop iron for all heavy duty application–what a nice surprise!

The soldering iron takes its power from port A, so it is not possible to charge 2 batteries and solder at the same time.

The App

The optional WiFi expansion was too tempting not try! The device generates a WiFi network to which the user can connect his smart phone. The app starts communicating to the charger over WiFi.

This enables the user to do two main things:

  • initiating a new charge: the interface is very user friendly, and setting the parameters is a breeze.
  • monitoring the charge: the app shows the voltage, current and temperature in real time. It can even trace a plot of the voltage over time.

 

Setting the charger for a new charge is a very easy task on the charger itself and the App provides an alternative to make this task even more convenient. To use the App you must set your smartphone to the right WiFi network and launch the app which arguably takes longer than doing it on the interface directly so–a nice and modern touch but not crucial when setting the charger.

Where the App does come in handy is for monitoring as it is now possible to know if the charge is complete without being near the charger. Just a peek at the smartphone screen, and the user knows if the battery is ready.

The fact that the user must connect to the WiFi network generated by the dongle limits the usability. At the field, it is quite unlikely that the user’s smartphone would be connected to a local WiFi, but at home, most users would have their smartphone connected to the home wifi for internet access. In the home scenario, a user wanting to use the App would need to chose between being connected to their home internet or the App WiFi to be able to monitor the charge. It would be more convenient if the charger could communicate to a smartphone over Bluetooth, which can run at the same time as the WiFi, or other Bluetooth devices.

The WiFi and the App are definitely a cool feature, and it is convenient to have the option of controlling the charger from a distance. Now, the limitation of this system makes it more of gadget than a real value-added functionality. There are a few other recommended features I hope Hitec will include in the next revision of the App which would make the system much more beneficial:

  • An alarm! A simple vibration to notify the user that the charging is complete.
  • The capability to monitor voltage and charging current even if the phone is in sleep mode, or if the app is running in the background. As it is, the monitoring stops, and the plot resets whenever the phone goes to sleep.
  • The possibility to save a specific battery in the App, and monitor several parameters over the life of the battery, such as the capacity changes charge after charge, the internal resistance, the number of charges. This functionality would really add to the benefit of using the App over using the charger directly.

 

Conclusion

The Hitec X2 AC Pro is a multi-task charger which is very well built and easy to use–sure to satisfy even the most demanding user. Embedding its own power supply in a very compact design is a great feature on his own, as it is one thing less to bring to the field. The X2 AC Pro is a powerful charger, capable of charging all battery chemistry currently used in the hobby.

The soldering iron is definitely a great added feature and is sure to come in handy more than once at the field. The WiFi and App would benefit from being re-worked and should incorporate more features to justify the extra time it take to activate this functionality.

The Hitec X2 AC Pro is a great device and comes highly recommended.

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  • User Ratings (10 Votes) 7.6
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