RCU Review: Duratrax Intellipeak Ice

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    Contributed by: Eric Hege | Published: March 2005 | Views: 121147 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Duratrax IntelliPeak Ice


    Distributed Exclusively By
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021 USA

    Phone: (800) 637-7660
    Website: www.duratrax.com

    Highly Configurable
    Diverse Charging Methods
    Motor Break-in Function
    Will Power Comm Lathe
    Lithium Capability

    Needs Higher Discharge Rates
    DC-Only May Be Drawback

    Battery chargers are one of those necessary evils in the hobby. At first some may think that they're only important for the electric crowd, but even the nitro guys still need a charger most of the time due to receiver and starter packs. When it comes to electric R/C vehicles, there are certainly many benefits to a good professional-level charger. On the other hand, while most nitro guys can get by with a low-end charger, there are also some benefits to having access to a good charger in that situation as well.

    I'm sure you're sitting there now thinking I'm doing nothing more than blowing smoke. In some circumstances you may have a valid point to argue, as a low end charger will work just fine if you are on a budget and running budget packs as well. However, if you're running some good quality cells, such as Sanyos or GP's you could easily be doing them a disservice by using that $25 charger the owner of your local hobby store pulled off the shelf for you. That grade of charger simply isn't going to keep the batteries operating at their peak performance, and may shorten their life on top of that.

    Over in the nitro world, a basic charger will normally work just fine. A simple $10 overnight wall charger will work well for most people in regards to receiver packs unless you are racing and need something that charges faster. Most electric starters tend to be powered by cheap battery packs, so a budget charger makes sense in that aspect as well. However, if you're using a lithium-based receiver pack, or are considering it, a budget charger isn't going to cut it. That's aside from the fact you could be creating a fire hazard, as cheap NiCad and NiMH chargers were never intended for lithium batteries. So there are certainly times a good charger can come in handy for the nitro crowd as well.

    The Duratrax Ice is aimed towards those looking for, or needing, more versatility than a basic charger. With features such as cycling, motor-break-in, and lithium compatibility, it packs a lot of features into a small package. So what all does it offer, and how easy is it to use? That's what we're about to find out. So as warm weather isn't too far away let's keep things cool, with a little Ice.

    Before I start getting into the specifics of the Duratrax Ice, I should go ahead and clear up one fact right away. That is the fact that the Ice is a DC charger only and if you want to use it on AC power, such as a household outlet, you'll need to use an AC-to-DC power supply. Obviously, depending upon what side of the fence you reside on this may be a drawback or a benefit. For the racer, who wants a lightweight charger for the track, it's probably going to be a huge benefit. However for the basher, who may do a lot of charging in close proximity to an electrical outlet, it may be a drawback. So you'll certainly want to weigh this information into any decision you make regarding a charger purchase.

    The Ice is Duratrax's answer to the charger needs of the competition level hobbyists. However its long list of features will have some usefulness outside of that target audience as well. So with that in mind we'll jump into some of the areas that will prove the most useful across the board. That would involve basic charging of NiCad and NiMH batteries.


    NiCad and NiMH compatible (1-10 cells)
    Li-Ion and Li-Po compatible (1-4 cells)
    Graphs charging and discharging curves
    Pack cycling option for NiCad and NiMH
    Battery settings can be stored for easy recall

    Battery Compatibility
    NiCad1-10 Cells/1.2-12.0V
    NiMH1-10 Cells/1.2-12.0V
    Li-Ion1-4 Cells/3.6-14.8V
    Li-Po1-4 Cells/3.6-14.8V
    Technical Specifications
    Input Voltage11-15V DC
    Capacity Range100-9900mAh
    Fast Charge Current0.1-8.0A (1C max for Li-lon/Po)
    Fast Charge MethodsLinear, reflex, impulse and 4-step
    Fast Charge TerminationPeak detection for NiCad and NiMH "constant current / constant voltage" for Li-lon / Li-Po optional thermal cutoff for all battery types
    Peak SensitivityAdjustable 0-25mV
    Trickle Charge Current0-500mA (n/a for Li-lon / Li-Po)
    Discharge CurrentAdjustable 0.1-10.0A
    Discharge Cut-Off Voltage0.1-1.1V per cell NiCad & NiMH 2.5-3.7V per cell Li-lon / Li-Po
    Temperature Cutoff Range 50-132°F (10-56°C)
    Cycle CountOne to ten cycles (n/a for Li-lon / Li-Po)
    Cycle Cooloff DelayAdjustable 1-30 minutes
    Battery Memories10
    Display Type8 line, 21-character LCD (168 characters max)
    Graphical DisplaysCharge and discharge voltage curves
    Output ConnectorsBanana jacks (two adapter leads included)
    Motor Break-in1.0-8.0V selectable, 1-120 minutes, 10A constant
    Case Size5.5 x 1.8 x 5.9" (140 x 45 x 150mm)
    Weight21 oz. (605g)

    By default the Duratrax Ice has all the memory slots filled with various battery types and charging schemes that you can utilize. Keep in mind that any, or all, of these can be modified or removed allowing you to customize the default memory banks to suit your particular situation. One example of this would be to remove any lithium battery presets, if you do not use them. Simply delete the data and use the slot to store a charging setup for a battery you do have on hand. You are given a total of 10 memory slots to use as you wish. I found it useful to remove a lithium battery preset, and substitute a setting tailored to my receiver packs.

    When it comes to charging your packs, you have the ability to alter about everything you can imagine in regards to the charging parameters. In addition, you'll also find that there are a couple of safety parameters you can set as well. This safety measures will prevent you from damaging the pack, the charger, or even the surrounding area in some cases, by preventing the pack from being overcharged.

    User Setup
    Pack Memory Slot
    Charging Data

    Many general options of the charger have the ability to be customized. You can alter whether the fan is allowed to work automatically or not, as well as control whether button presses make any sound. You can also adjust the sound used when a battery is finished charging, as well as how long this notification will last. One other nice touch is the ability to configure your name so it displays on the LCD screen, which could come in handy should you ever pit next to some else with a Duratrax Ice.

    On the charging setup screen, you are given several options to control the charging process. The first of these measures is the cell count, which gives the charger an idea of what to base a maximum voltage on. If the pack doesn't peak noticeably, for whatever reason, the charger will stop charging once it determines the voltage is beyond acceptable levels for the settings provided. The same idea applies behind the capacity settings, as the charger will monitor the total capacity sent to the battery as well. Also, if you purchase the optional temperature monitor, you can set a maximum allowable temperature reading for the battery. If the pack's temperature exceeds this setting, charging will stop.

    Other charging settings allow you to tailor the charging current, as different packs may differ in how much current can safely be sent to them. The peak sensitivity setting is adjustable for both NiCad and NiMH packs, allowing you to adjust it if a certain pack tends to false peak. Along with the peak sensitivity adjustment, you can tell the charger to disregard peaking for the first 1-10 minutes of the charging session. This prevents any false peaks from occurring during the early charging stages.

    The trickle charge current, which is applied after a pack has finished fast charging, is adjustable as well. This helps you keep the pack in an optimum state until its ready to be run. For NiMH packs, you also have the option of using a top-off charge applied to the pack. This will fill the pack to capacity faster than a trickle charge, and ensure you receive as much out of your pack as you can.

    I performed several charges of some of my packs, and used the cycling features several times to restore the vitality of a couple of my packs back to their original condition. While cycling won't cure all ills, a pack that has been stored for a while will definitely show some benefit as I saw after using the procedure. After I cycled the pack several times, and allowed the Duratrax Ice to discharge it fully to a safe level for comparison, I ended up bringing both pack capacity and voltage back up considerably from where that had been previously. This amounted to around 200 MaH, and another .3 volts on the worst of the packs I cycled.

    The charger's discharging function is used in conjunction with the cycling option. The discharge function is one area I do see a small need for improvement, and involves the 10 amp discharge rate. I would have like to seen this rate have a greater range of adjustability. You generally want to discharge packs at levels similar to what they experience under use. In short, you're generally going to want to be able to discharge at a minimum of 20 amps and sometimes even in the 30 amp range. The Duratrax Ice's limit of 10 amps is a little low in this regard.

    Another useful charging mode is the reflex option. Thanks to the 80's, and Duran Duran, every time I saw this mentioned in the manual a voice in the back of my head kept saying "Reflex...flex…flex…flex… flex…flex"! However a reflex charge has nothing to do with pop radio of the 80's, but rather providing small discharge periods during the charge process. According to Duratrax, their reflex charge provides a normal charging current for 99.6% of each second, but the remaining .4% of each second the battery is hit with a deep discharge current. I utilized the reflex charging method with the packs I cycled.

    The reflex method of charging should help to remove any oxidizing gas bubbles from the cell plates, providing a more efficient charge. This is normally targeted towards NiCad batteries that have had a long life span As a general rule, most pack manufacturers don't recommend this charging method with their NiMH packs. For those times when advanced charging methods aren't wanted, the Ice also offers a standard linear rate as well.

    The Ice utilizes provides several other charging-related features as well. These include the ability to specify a top-off charge with NiMH packs, so that they are completely charged before you use them. Even if some time has passed after the actual charging process was complete. While this feature is targeted more towards a racer, who wants a perfectly full pack for their race, others may still find this feature very useful. In addition to the top-off function, the Duratrax Ice provides adjustable trickle charging as well. In case you seek a "kinder and gentler" approach for keeping your packs full between the time they are charged and the time they are used.

    Four-Step Charging
    Motor Break-in Functions

    In addition to cycling, the Ice also supports four-step charging as well. Four-step charging is usually either praised, or seen as something akin to voodoo. However, it follows a theory that at different periods of the charging process, a certain amount of charge can increase power output of the pack when it's being used. In the right hands four-step charging can be something that's very useful, especially in the racing scene. However it should only be used by those familiar with the process, and for safety reasons, is only permitted in NiCad and NiMH packs.

    While in the four-step charging process, you are offered another charging option as well. This option is called impulse charging, and briefly hits the pack with slightly higher charging currents to help clear the packs plates. Impulse mode can be configured to be used in any of the first three steps of the charging process, but cannot be used in step four. As a side note, reflex charging can also be used with the four-stop charge process. In fact, both impulse and reflex charging can be used in conjunction with the four-step charging process at the same time.

    At anytime you are shown the status screen while working with the battery, you can pull up a graph of exactly what is occurring with the charging and discharging process. The graph parameters can be adjusted automatically, or the charger can set them for you automatically. In addition the graph itself can be zoomed into or out of as necessary. Important data such as elapsed time, charging rate, and graph zoom factor, are shown above and below the graph.

    The Duratrax Ice also provides the ability to break a motor in, giving you the ability to save wear and tear on the brushes and armature comm. You are provided the ability to choose between 1.0 and 8.0 volts to power the motor with during break-in, as well as the ability to specify a length of time to run the procedure. The time is adjustable between 0-180 minutes. The exact same feature can also be utilized to power a lathe to cut the comm of an electric motor as well, when it's needed.

    While I haven't touched much on the issue, the Ice is capable of charging Li-Ion and Li-Po batteries as well. While I could not test this function, as I have no lithium batteries, the procedures for using them with the charger are similar to what we've already discussed. Some of the options and settings may be slightly different than with NiCad and NiMH batteries, due to the differences that lithium batteries have in regards to their use. Keep in mind that lithium batteries can pose a much greater risk of fire or injury if handled improperly. You should certainly familiarize yourself with the sections in the manual that address this subject before you use the Duratrax Ice with these types of batteries.

    I found the manual to be very informative and useful. If you want to learn to use the charger, and utilize everything it offers, the manual will easily walk you through what you need to do in regards to properly setting it up. However expect to become pretty disoriented if you don't read the manual, as there's a ton of features packed into this charger. So I consider allowing yourself some time to read the manual mandatory before you even power the charger up. You'll also find it handy as a reference for any questions you may have later on as you use the charger.

    The Duratrax Ice is certainly an impressive charger. While some people may have preferred that Duratrax facilitate AC power as an option, that and the low discharge rate are about the only things anyone can gripe about. The Ice packs a lot of features into a very lightweight package. It's also very easy to use, once you become familiar with it. I would recommend that you also research the thoughts and reasoning behind some of the advanced charging methods before you use them however.

    If you are in the mood to replace an aging or cheap charger, or you just starting out and need a good charger, the Duratrax Ice will certainly serve you well and provide you about anything you would ever want in a charger. Just make sure you factor a power supply in your budget if you plan on using the charger on household AC current at times. Even with a purchase of a power supply, you'll likely find that the Duratrax Ice is just as attractive of an option as the high end offerings that currently dominate the upper-end of the charger market.

    Comments on RCU Review: Duratrax Intellipeak Ice

    Posted by: RZielin on 11/21/2011
    It should be mentioned that this charger does NOT have lipo balancing capabilities.
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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