Here's a text and video review of the little Smart 6 charger that has popped up on the hobbyking website. It's a 6-cell charger with up to 80W charging and 5W discharge rating, at a max of 7A for charging and 1.5A for discharging respectively. The biggest eyecatcher is of course the graphical display, showing the charge curve just like the much more expensive models by graupner, robbe or schulze. Is that charger a winner? Does chinese quality control get things right with this one? Will it blend?
VIDEO REVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob3Vp33IHD8
I won't bore you with the basic specs, aside from mentioning that a 80W balance charger for 50 bucks is not bad, and one with a nice graphical display on top is even better. The case is solid metal just like the Turnigy Accucel6, it looks and feels like a much more expensive device.
Software is extremely solid. There's a comprehensive set of options to change if you want to, while basic operation is still very simple. It works just like any other 4-button charger, with the addition of a proper settings menu that is both easy to use and self-describing. You won't need much of a manual for this one. The larger screen is put to good use here, and as an added bonus you can have the charger display individual cell voltages even before starting the charge operation. With most other chargers of this type you need to start to charge to be able to bring up the cell voltage display. It's little details like this one that make this charger stand out from the crowd.
The graphical display looks nice, but frankly it is not really necessary. But hey, it adds to the coolness factor
Charge performance is good, and the integrated balancer (rated at 300mA balance current) is excellent: Cells were within 0.002V after balancing, even with the charge speed set to "fast". I was surprised by this accuracy. Balance current doesn't match the 750mA of the Pulsar balancer, or the 1000mA of the balancer by Orbit, but it's definitely better than the 150-200mA you get from other cheap balancers.
A note about the fan: It never even starts up while charging small to mid-size batteries, and is only blowing while discharging. That's excellent and a welcome change from some of the very noisy chargers Turnigy has been producing lately.
There's some points for criticism though: While the case is very solid and sturdy, the buttons are completely flat and without any tactile feedback. You need to press them quite hard and if you disable the key buzzer (like I did, because it's really uncomfortably loud) then it's hard to judge when you pressed hard enough for it to register.
After opening the unit I found that the fan cable was being squashed between the PCB edge and the case. Why they didn't route the fan connection to the top side is beyond me.
What's worse, the connector for the keys is bent sideways! It is wedged between the piezo buzzer and the top of the case. Not good at all. What's even more puzzling is that there's obviously spots on the PCB for regular push-type microswitches. Why did they not use those instead of the hard to press foil-type keyboard?
It should be noted that the wedged connector probably doesn't mean too much for the long term because the case and the PCB is fastened so solidly, it's never gonna rub the cable apart. Still, I'd feel so much better if they had used a proper connector for the flat cable coming from the keyboard.
Despite the issues mentioned, this charger is something I can recommend without hesitation. The software is easy to use, you can charge up to 7A max (80W), discharge performance is a little mediocre but then again this is not the device you'll use to quickly discharge a 5000mA battery pack. This is an excellent charger for the enthusiast park flyer who wants a little more than the Accucel6, both in power and in coolness. It's the same size too, so it's not like it takes up more space in your backpack.
If you're deciding on whether to buy some other 4-button charger or this one, I can really recommend you go for the Smart 6. It's the best $50 charger AND the best 80W charger you can buy at the moment, and the only annoying thing are the buttons and the keybuzzer - which you can turn off, or cover with something to make it less loud.
My verdict: Two thumbs up!
To HK: Maybe next time we can have some nice solid mechanical push-buttons?