Turnigy Reaktor Dual 300W 20A Lipo Charger – What A Beast

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Turnigy is HobbyKing’s best-selling electric power brand, encompassing the Nanotech battery sub-brand and the well-known Trackstar motors and ESCs among other electric power related offerings. Today we’re taking a look at one of their lipo chargers. Not just any charger though, this is a Titan of a charger, a dual battery, 300W/20A per channel monster. It’s certainly not the cheapest item in the Turnigy lineup, but the specs are outrageous, and it is effectively TWO monster chargers in one.

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Features

Input voltage range:  10~28.0VDC
Charging current range: channel 1/2 0.05~20.0A
Discharging current range: channel 1/2 0.05~20.0A
Maximum charge power capacity: 300W@input voltage >18V (Per Channel)
Maximum discharge power capacity: 20W
Maximum regenerative discharge power capacity: 300W
Maximum external discharge power capacity: 500W@25V/20A
Current drain for balancing: < 350mA
Balance accuracy:  < 10mV
Lithium (LiPo/Lilo/Life) battery cell count: 1~6 series (In non-balance mode, Life cell count can be expanded to 8S)
NiCd/NiMH battery cell count: 1~17 series
Pb battery cell count:  1~12series (2~24V)
Battery setup memories: 10
Weight: 820g
Dimension: 152x170x60mm

Included:
Turnigy Reaktor 2 x 300W 20A balance charger
DC input wire with 4mm gold-plated plug
Wires with alligator clips
Charging leads

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Pretty comprehensive, with the usual caveat that these types of chargers have; you can’t max it out on both channels, 2 6S packs charging at 20A would be 1000W!! Don’t be disheartened though, the performance is still awesome. To take it to the full extreme, you could theoretically charge 5000mAh 2S to 3S (maybe 4S at a stretch) packs in pairs with an average charge time for each battery from flat to full of 8-10 minutes (charging pairs in 15-20 minutes), which is mind-blowing.

To think that charge times have now come down to close to run times and for this little money is really something, and testament to how far battery and charger technologies have come. In many applications, you could cycle a small number of batteries all day using this charger, easily charging batteries faster than you can discharge them, provided you have a suitable power source. And that’s the only kicker with this charger; it needs ridiculous amounts of power to do what it does.

While in the field I wouldn’t have to charge more than one pack at a time and could therefore use a field power source, such as my car’s battery, even for 6S at 20A if I have a big car. At home when I do my batch charging, which requires far more juice (maybe I want to discharge, then storage charge my 4 6S packs at 12A), I don’t have a power source that can do that.

To charge 2 6S 5000mAh packs in less than half an hour, something this charger is just about capable of, you’d need to feed it at least 25A at 24V or equivalent distribution of around 600W. A 700W power supply would be a safe minimum. What it really wants is a monster power station, like the Turnigy 1080W.

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Almost everything required is included, although the HobbyKing page for this says that there are “an array of charging wires and plugs, suitable for most of the batteries on the market today” I couldn’t find them, or space in the box for them for that matter.

However, two sets of very cleanly soldered and tinned wires are included, one pair for each channel, with pre-installed gold plated banana plugs so you can solder whatever plug you prefer. Let me reiterate that no plugs were included. Don’t expect one of those rather swish super multi plug adaptor things that they sell either, which would have been really nice (hint, hint, HK).

After assembling the included items on the table, and being someone used to external balance boards flopping around the place, my heart had initially dropped when I didn’t see any. At first I thought they’d forgotten them, lucky I have spares, I thought to myself.

A few moments later, while snapping the photos, I realized that the balance board is included internally. There is a port for each type of battery from 2S to 6S right next to the main charge leads. This is pure genius! Those of you who already take this for granted, please excuse my enthusiasm, but not having balance boards to worry about is a great weight off the mind. All chargers should be made this way, good job!

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For me, the aesthetics of the charger itself are pretty average, the orange of the alloy sides doesn’t do it for me personally, it clashes with the red badly, though the lettering and markings are clear and the construction and overall look and feel of the charger are good. What is really impressive about the overall package though, is the compact size of it. For a unit that can handle sustained periods of 600W consumption, it is definitely compact.

The LCD interface is the same one we must surely all be used to by now. For anyone for whom this will be a first lipo charger, welcome to the most common user interface in the world of lipo chargers, love it or hate it you’re going to have to get used to it, as the Reaktor is supplied with yet another variation on the same exact 4 button interface seen on almost all lipo chargers in production and certainly all coming out of China.

The interface itself is neither good nor bad, there isn’t a lot you can do with 4 buttons after all. Doing anything complex with so few controls is never going to be intuitive or fun, so its lucky that nobody expects it to be. Should we be asking for more in this respect? It’s decently functional, but it’s hardly user friendly, it’s almost reminiscent of the old days when programming RC equipment involved Morse code and witchery, though not quite as bad.

Out of the box, there is a loud beep for every press of a button. Thankfully, it wasn’t tough to locate the menu option, perform the requisite witchery and turn it off. I’ve decided that this must be someone’s idea of a joke, since even if one did want a positive, audible button press (I don’t, thanks), they would not want it at that pitch or volume, it’s so piercing and loud! Plus it takes at least 10 (maybe more? lol) grating beeping button presses to turn off. My wife assumed I was pressing the wrong button all the time it was so loud. No, someone thinks that’s hilarious and fair play to them, I would as well.

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s far as I can tell there are no logical interfaces between the two channels, they function entirely separately as two independent chargers sharing a power supply. Evident also by the fact that you have to turn that button beeping off on both channels separately too, there are no common settings. That standard firmware means the expected battery choices are available; almost all chemistries are there, as well as the expected charge, discharge, balance, storage etc. modes, as well as some special modes for relevant battery types.

Also included are a motor break-in function for brushed motors and a tire truer program. I wasn’t able to test either of these during the review, and I must say I’m not sure how useful the tire cutter program could be, since if you have a power supply for the charger, then you also have one for the tire truer…am I missing something here? Anyway, more features can’t be a bad thing.

I won’t go into dry detail about peak optimizations and other such deep features that this and almost all other chargers like it have, there are a wealth of resources online for that kind of thing, suffice it to say once again that this is a charger with a very decent feature set for customizing charge modes while offering no significant innovations.

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One feature that seems to have been introduced to this firmware since the last time I was shopping for chargers is a function that does a cell check intermittently, pausing charging momentarily to ‘inspect’ the battery. If it detects any anomalies, it flashes messages on the screen and alerts the user. Since I didn’t have any battery issues while using the charger, I was not able to observe this feature in action, but it’s a useful and reassuring addition, going some way toward negating the lack of temperature sensors.

Notably absent are a USB port and the aforementioned temperature sensors. Although I can count on one hand the number of times I used the temperature sensor that came with my current charger, I’m still disappointed that the option has been taken away from me. I had previously used it on occasions where I had to be somewhere else nearby while charging, so that I would hear an alarm. This is a very picky gripe though, as I say, I hardly ever used it. The USB socket I used more often, but I’m not going to miss it all that much either if I’m honest.

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Verdict

In most people’s regular usage, charging pairs of 2S to 4S packs, this charger will be overkill for almost every requirement you may have and still without making too many demands of your power infrastructure. However, if you have a suitable power supply, the massive overkill power levels available give you the ability to perform some pretty wild charging feats. It’s a powerhouse that will see you through the next decade or more in terms of its power handling, but despite its great value, the main negative is still cost… Not the cost of the unit itself, but the cost of the power supply needed to get the best use out of it as well. The Turnigy 1080W is an ideal choice and despite being one of the better value power supplies available that can drive this charger at full tilt, it’ll still run you a cool ton and a half ($150) plus expensive delivery depending where you are in the world.

I found the charger to be flawless in use for my needs and since its power handling and versatility far outstrip my current charger, I’m adopting it (awwww) as my new personal charger without any hesitation. When I charged a pack at 20A I actually giggled when I saw the mAh counter going up more than twice as fast as I’d ever seen before, the fans came on of course, but the unit never felt hot.

I also simultaneously charged a pair of 2S 5000mAh packs at 10A each (the limit of my current power supply I’m afraid), some discharging, a fast charge, a 6S balance charge (can’t say this is balancing any faster than my current charger, but then why would it? Its software is the same) and a storage charge.

Of course it goes without saying that it performed these functions perfectly. One Hobbyking board user complains that the peak detection isn’t what it should be, but I’m getting the same discharge data from the same batteries as I was getting from my previous charger, so I’d say this thing is performing as expected. It’s not a piece of precision electrical engineering, it’s a beastly field charger, only the most pedantic are going to have cause for complaint.

I love the integrated balance board; I’m a tiny teensy bit disappointed by the lack of a temperature sensor and a USB port. I wish the visuals were a little more understated and the user interface more refined, but these issues are common to the entire market segment, so it’s hard to take marks off the review for it, it simply goes with the territory.

Hobbyking should run a deal on the charger and power supply as a pair, as it’s unlikely that many hobbyists, even those who already use field chargers with external power supplies (such as I), are currently equipped to do this dual channel version of the Reaktor the justice it deserves. $250 for the combo would be very attractive indeed.

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Availability

HOBBYKING.COM

 

A final word

With great power comes great responsibility (corny I know, but nevertheless true). Always, ALWAYS check that your batteries can accept a charge at the amperage you set. Both of the batteries pictured above can be charged at over 20A, I verified it via the Hobbyking page for the specific batteries and you should verify your charging capacities with your battery manufacturers if they do not publish this information. A cheap lipo that can only be charged at 1C (see my battery article if you’d like to learn what ‘C’ means) will become a fire hazard if you feed it 20A. With this charger you get access to seriously high charging rates. Use high power charging settings at your own risk, responsibly, and safely. We all know never to leave a charger unattended, but that goes quadruple for when you are charging at 10A plus. With kilowatts of power being exchanged, things can escalate real fast, so unless you charge in a place where the surroundings cannot catch fire (concrete garage floor), use a lipo bag as well. OK, done playing Dad now, you’re free to go. 😉

Foxy out…

 

 

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