Xtar MC4S Review (USB-C Inexpensive 4 bay simple battery charger)

Xtar has updated version of the MC4 charger out with the new MC4s. It’s a basic 4 bay charger, utilizing USB-C for input power for charging various lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries. Thanks to Xtar for sending this out to take a look at. 

 

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Physically

The package it comes in is small retail style box with specs and battery sizes it supports listed on it. In the box is the charger itself, a simple manual, and a USB-A (Blue  to USB-C cable. 

 

The MC4S is a simple black flame retardant black plastic charger. It features 4 bays with spring loaded clips and a pad for the positive contact. This allows it to expand to fit most battery sizes. 10440-21700 (Non protected). For Ni-Mh and Ni-CD batteries it can do AAAA through C sized batteries. The outside 2 bays are designed for the larger diameter batteries like 26650’s and C sized cells. 

The MC4s features 4 LED’s on the front, one for each bay that tells you what’s going on. When you plug the charger in at first get a self check and each bay will show green for standby. They go when charging, and then turn green when charged. 

The back features a small vent for heat control, a large sticker showing input/Output power, as well as what all cells it supports. 

I measured the charger at 100mm x 97mm by 26mm. Empty weight is 95.2g.

 

Charging

This is a simple charger, and there isn’t anything to do or options to set. The LED status on each bay tells you what you need to know if the battery is charging (red) or if it’s charged (Green). I tested 4 LG HG2 batteries that started at 2.95V and put them into all 4 bays, and started charging. Terminal voltage was 4.125V and it did this is in 6.8 hours with the maximum charge rate combined at 1.8A or roughly 0.45A per bay. For smaller batteries like 10440 which this charger officially supports this may be a bit high of charge rate but for larger cells it’s just fine. It’s worth noting that slots 1 & 4 have faster charging rates of 1A each, if used by themselves, while inner 2 & 3 have slower rates at 0.5A if used by themselves.

I also tested some AA eneloop batteries across all 4 bays, starting at 1.12V and charging to completion at 1.46V. Charge rate here started off slow but gained in speed. This wan’t a constant current charge and seemed a little spiky on my equipment but ok overall. 

Lastly this charge will charge via USB-C to C cable and charger. I used my Aukey BA-B4 I recently reviewed and had no complaints. I have seen some people suggest this doesn’t have real PD triggering but it doesn’t really need it with these power level draws. 

 

Pro’s

  • Inexpensive with current prices being around $12
  • Basic, safe, get’s the job done.
  • USB-C to C support

 

Con’s

  • A bit agressive for the smaller sized cells it technically supports such as 10440, AAAA, etc. 
  • Not going to win any speed races for your larger cells.

 

Conclusion

What you see is what you get here, this is a dead simple battery charger that does what it says in a simple yet effective manner. If your new to the flashlight hobby and want a simple charger to get you going that will support the most common sizes of batteries you will see in most lights, for a low price, the MC4s does the job. 

 

This isn’t going to be the most appropriate charge for everyone but it’s a good place to get started for many. It’s nice to see USB-C here as the primary power input but in this case it’s all about the cable and connector of convenience if your life revolves around USB-C. It’s not taking advantage of the larger amount of power that could be delivered to speed charging times.

 

Overall the MC4s is a good basic, safe, and affordable charger. I can recommend it for your basic charging needs. 

 

Full Image Gallery https://imgur.com/a/toH1zXv

Pickup the Xtar MC4S 4 bay charger on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2RfdpFY 

Xtar VC4S Review (4 Bay, QC3, Capacity Testing & Storage Mode)

Xtar has an updated 4 bay charger on the market the VC4s. This is a do it all charger, with the ability to charge a wide variety of battery chemistries and sizes. The VC4s has QC3 input that allows for a maximum of 3A charging speed on one bay and the ability to do capacity testing, resistance testing while charging and also a storage mode. Thanks to Xtar for sending this to me to take a look at. 

 

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/PDOTR7L

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Packaging

Packaging is a nicely done retail style white box, with full color photos on front and back of the charger. On the sides it shows the types of batteries it supports and on the back is a more technical details. Inside the charger is surrounded by a clear plastic mold. Accessories are limited to the manual and a MicroUSB cable capable of QC3, and a nice silk style bag to put everything in. No AC charger is included here and it’s up to the owner to supply their own (Preferably with QC3).

https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/kuSFGMZ.jpg?resize=525%2C295&ssl=1

Construction

The Xtar VC4s is a well built charter. It’s solid in the hand with no molding issues, creeks or cracks. On the top side it has only one input, a microUSB connector labeled QC3. On the bottom it has vents for the internal electronics. It also has a placard molded into the plastic with the input, output voltages, along with all the different sizes of cells and chemistries it supports. 

The top side features the spring loaded battery holders that expand to fit the different sizes of cells (too numerous to list). These are smooth and glide well, but provide enough tension to keep a cell in place. The most common sizes of batteries will fit this charger up to unprotected 21700 lithium batteries. The outside two slots are designed for batteries with larger diameters then 18mm. The inner two slots will fit a 21700 as long as it’s with a smaller battery next to it. 

 

The screen is 75mm by 32mm and a white and blue LCD on a black background. It’s clear and reasonably bright with a backlight that does dim after a minute or so. Each slot has a dial that shows the battery voltage, charging speed in the 3 to 6 oclock position, and then capacity at the bottom, this changes to full when finished. It’s enough information to get a good idea of what’s going on but not any more. 

Below the screen are two buttons that control the charger. On the left between slots 1 and 2 is the DISP button. This changes what the display is showing during the different modes. The choices are Cap (Capacity), Cur (Current), and IR (Resistance). The button on the right between slots 3 and 4 operate the different modes of the charger. Grad (Grading), Store (Storage).

 

I did take the charger apart and I will put up a few pictures of what I found inside. I didn’t see anything that concerned me, if you see something worth mentioning please make sure to comment about it. 

Recharging

The Xtar VC4s is capable of recharging Li-ion, IMR, INR, ICR, and Ni-MH batteries so this will cover the most common cells found today in your flashlights, vape pens, and other electronics. Let me run through some of the details here on the charging side of things. The charger does have 0 volt activation, and reverse polarity protection to keep things safe. I measured Li-ion Terminal Voltage at 4.161V and Ni-HM Terminal Voltage at 1.422V. 

Speed

Recharging speed is not manually configurable on this charger with a button but there are some things you can do to influence things. First the charger is capable of charging at up to 3A on one bay, if using a battery that is large enough (and low enough resistance), only having one cell connected at a time, and using a QC3 power source. As you start adding more batteries in the charger, speed slows down as current is shared between charging cells. I did observe 4 Eneloops charging all at 1A each as they were about half full. The charger can charge at 0.5a for smaller cells, 1A, 2A, and 3A. The only thing I dislike is that if charging 1 Ni-MH AA battery, I was able to charge it at an indicated 3A if no other batteries were in the charger at the start of charging. It eventually went to 2A as the cell came up in voltage. This is quicker then I would normally be comfortable charging this type of battery at. A dirty solution to fix this would be to insert another battery into the charger even if it’s fully charged. While QC3 is not required, I would strongly recommend using a charger that supports that so you can take advantage of the speed. 

Capacity Test

The Xtar VC4s has a nice additional feature of a capacity tester. I did some informal tests and compared it to my ISDT C4 tester which has a similar feature. On ISDT C4 charger with my Samsung 30Q battery, it tested capacity at 2788mAh, so very close. The Xtar VC4s tested the exact same battery at capacity of 2763mAh. I did the same thing with an Eneloop AA that I have had for several years and got 1906mAh on the VC4s, and 2109mAh on the ISDT C4. So a bit of a difference in results here. 

Storage Mode

In storage mode, the charger will charge or discharge cells accordingly to be at the optimal value for long term storage. This is a nice feature if you have a lot of batteries, or plan to put a cell in a light you intend to put away for a long time. Terminal voltage on a Samsung 30Q for the VC4s was 3.67V and you can do 4 at a time. 

It will even do storage on a NiHM cell but there isn’t as much reason to do this as there is on lithium chemistry cells.

Resistance

It’s an added feature to be able to toggle to view the resistance of a cell during charging. More information to know what’s going on is always nice. 

Pro

  • Nice to see some chargers start to use QC3 for power input.
  • I like the additional features here that allow you to charge, do a storage charge, and capacity testing as well as measure the cells resistance.
  • Wide range of battery support in size and battery chemistry, and faster then previous versions.
  • Affordable

 

Con

  • I would love to see information about the incoming power source on the display, at least the protocol thats being used.
  • MicroUSB for the power connection vs USB-C
  • Too fast of start charge for my taste if charging 1 AA Ni-MH cell.
  • No manual control over charging speed, the charger is pretty conservative so you should be safe.

 

Conclusion

The Xtar VC4s is a nice affordable upgrade over the VC4. The original VC4 was my main charger for the longest time because it was dead simple, safe, I liked the display and it was reliable. That said as time went on it was a bit slow, especially charging 4 cells at once. The VC4s improves these issues by adding QC3 which allows for more incoming voltage and thus faster charging. By modern standards this still isn’t a fast charger but I typically don’t need to charge batteries fast, and it’s actually better to charge them slower. I like the added features of testing capacity, and measure resistance during the charging cycle. These are things I will use as I test batteries. It’s a little disappointed to see USB-C not make the difference here and really give this a power boost but maybe that will be coming in a future model (hint hint). Overall this is a good charger and one I will be using to keep my cells full. I recommend it, as long as you have a QC3 power source (or purchase one) as well.

 

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