DuraTrax IntelliPeak ICE
(Reviewed by futureal)
street price: $130 availability: December 2004 web: www.duratrax.com
nobody really wants to admit it, but we're all somewhat prejudiced in this industry. When we are first exposed to a new product, we almost always judge it before we ever actually use it or see it in action. Whether it's a kit, a radio, a battery charger, or just about anything else, we take one look and suddenly know everything about it. In fact, those of you who are watching see this happen every day in our forums. So why is this relevant? Well, when I first saw the DuraTrax IntelliPeak ICE, it was on the show floor at the 2004 iHobbyExpo last October, and I heard the same thing from nearly everybody who looked at it: "Wow, is that really from DuraTrax?" Well it is, and it's here, and it goes a long way towards proving that an old company really can learn new tricks.
the new duratrax ice is billed as a competition-quality battery maintenance system, and its feature list does not disappoint in the least. It can charge 1-10 NiCad or NiMH cells, and better yet, supports 1-4 Lithium-Ion (LiIon) or Lithium-Polymer (LiPoly) cells, meaning it can do double-duty for both your race packs and your micro packs. The ICE can perform cycles, holds ten different battery charging profiles in its memory, discharges at up to 10A, and (Anton, drum roll, please) features a motor break-in mode that can pump up to 8V @ 10A to run your motor or lathe.
The ICE also features a programmable multi-step charge mode, a feature we in the US first came across in Competition Electronics' Pitbull X3. It allows you to adjust the charge current at different steps of the charge, which, in theory, can lead to better performance on the track (a few drivers swear by it, while others are less enthused; typical of the "voodoo science" that battery matching can become). If you're after loads of data about your packs, the ICE has you covered there as well. The charger displays a multitude of data on its 8-line, 21-character LCD, including a voltage curve for both the charge and discharge portions of a cycle. If all of that isn't enough, an optional temperature probe can be purchased separately to track the battery's temperature throughout its cycle.
working with the ice is about as easy a task as I could imagine. Other companies have tried scroll-wheel stuff in the past, and although they have been successful for the most part, none has been as well thought out as this (except, perhaps, Apple's iPod). The wheel lets you move from item to item within a menu, while pushing down on it selects that item, allowing you to adjust it by again moving the wheel. The two directional buttons let you move between screens, and that's pretty much all there is to it. It only took me a couple of minutes to get comfortable with the ICE's menus, and from there I was rocking.
|The scroll wheel controls just about all of the functions on the ICE. It makes operating the charger very easy.|
Backing up for a moment, I should talk about a minor feature that was actually the first thing I noticed when I pulled the charger from the box: the wires come with banana plugs pre-installed! Are you kidding me? Awesome! I don't know how many of you out there do this, but since I use a variety of chargers and other devices, I rigged my power supply with banana jacks and all my equipment with plugs, making the whole system modular. Normally whenever I get a new charger I have to hit up Radio Shack and solder some new plugs on. But not this time. What DuraTrax actually did is include alligator clips that accept banana plugs, so you if you're not a plug-geek like me, you can still use the clips as you normally would. I know this is a minor detail, but when you've used ten different chargers (like most of us who have been racing for years have), the details are the things that really stand out.
|The charging leads connect to the ICE via banana plugs, and the power leads end in banana plugs. An optional temperature probe can also be attached.|
As far as charging performance goes, I couldn't find anything to complain about. The ICE arrived, it saw my packs, it charged them--veni, vidi, vici! I used an Eagle Racing SHE 28A power supply to drive the charger (available through Team Integy here in the USA), and never had a power delivery problem. The ICE had no problem running my Hudy lathe, nor did it hiccup as I used it for motor break-in. The only real problem in any of this is that the ICE has a maximum discharge current of 10A, which also applies to motor break-in. Those of you used to running your motors at 2V on a Turbo 35 will see the amp draw quickly spike over 10A, sending you back to square one. The charger's small footprint is a probable cause for the low discharge rate, since a larger (or more expensive) resistor would solve it. If they could find a way to work that into a future version of this thing, though...I know more than a few who would hop on board in a jiffy.
so, has duratrax made a believer out of me? Absolutely. The IntelliPeak ICE does almost everything that I could want, and it's significantly smaller than what I have been using. Sadly, the 10A discharge means that I can't use the ICE as my main charger, but nearly everybody I race with carries at least two pro-level chargers, and this should be one of them. There are small, cheap 20-30A dischargers out there, and when combined with the ICE, you will have a potent combo. The ICE has a street price of around $130 here in the USA, which is almost unheard of for a charger that can do Lithium cells and motor break-in. The low discharge and lack of a backlit display keep the ICE from being a 10, but don't let that turn you away from it. The ICE is here to stay, and DuraTrax won't be known as an entry-level company for much longer. With products like this, I can't wait to see what's next.
Have a comment about this review, or want to know something else about it? Check out the official DuraTrax IntelliPeak ICE thread in the R/C Tech Forums.