The ISDT AIR8 charger is a DC powered battery charger made by ISDT. It is capable of charging lipos and batteries of all chemistry at up to 500W (up to 20a) using an industry leading user interface with multiple idiot-proofed systems. This is the first charger that supports BATTAIR - a new technology that allows you to retain battery specs and charge history with a lightweight and low cost balance connector that connect to a phone app via blue tooth
For this review I will start out with the charger itself first before I cover off the BATTAIR TECH and how it allows the battery to interface with the app
Hardware. The Air8 charger itself is a very compact 80mm x 80mm x 34mm charger. With a simple 3 (touch) button interface. Most of the front is taken up by a large colour LCD screen which displays information very clearly even in bright light. So important is this screen is that it even comes with a screen protector. Unfortunately this charger takes only DC power meaning you'll need a DC adapter like this one or an old laptop charger will do... that includes a converter to XT60 male as a power input. Alternatively you can use a large capacity battery that output 10V or more (like a big 3s lipo or old car batter) which makes it an excellent field charger.
Output is by way of XT60 and balance connector with support to up to 8s - something we are starting to see more of now on larger scale RC cars and quadcopters and no doubt other craft.
The Air8 charger comes with a BATTAIR dongle for 3-4s and one for 5-6s as a sample. It also includes a well written manual (in English as well), a screen protector and the charger itself
Interface and operation. I don't think anyone would disagree that ISDT have the best user interface in the business (one of the reasons Spektrum got ISDT to make their chargers). It is simple and intuitive but hugely powerful with the ability to adjust many settings and display a lot of useful information at a glance. By contrast my first charger was a SKYRC Imax b6 which was clunky and and absolute dinosaur by comparison. Probably the best way for me to explain the quality of the interface is to show you rather than tell you:
BATTAIR technology - making your battery smart
Smart battery tech. ISDT have long been interested in making smart batteries but since battery buyers are largely cost sensitive, manufacturers have been reluctant to include this additional cost in their batteries. BATTAIR offers and advantage here in that this is a reusable dongle that connects in series with the battery balance lead. This powers the module and bluetooth which allows it to interface with a bluetooth-connected app on your phone and a BATTAIR capable charger like the AIR8 reviewed here. The best news however is that these dongles are not expensive - 2 are included with this chargers but you can buy more for $5 a less each. This makes a lot of sense for larger batteries which are more expensive and deserve more care - $5 on top or a $50 or more battery is not a big premium for the information these provide.
ISDT BATTAIR App interface. What information do these give and how do I access? I'll answer the second part first. ISDT have a surprisingly good app that is available android, IOS and windows. Once your BATTAIR dongle is plugged into your battery you can easily connect to the app. From here I'll let the screen grabs to the talk with captions to give more information...
Interface with charger. Presently the interface with the app is the main selling point with current firmware. When you plug it into the charger with the dongle in line, the charger recognises the battery parameters. I was hoping it would default to charging or storage charging at a default current to a default endpoint but this functionality isn't there at present - something they may add in future? Bottom line is most of the benefit of this technology is in the dongle itself, the tech in the charger isn't a big deal... yet.
You can see the information supplied by the BATTAIR dongle as soon as you plug in and the charger recognises with an audible beep. Showing how many cycles (and errors) this has been through is very handy, obviously you would want this on your battery from new.
Summary, Recommendations and Future Work
In summary the ISDT AIR8 charger is a typical ISDT fare; which is not do damn it with faint praise but I find the models with built in AC supply (which allow you to plug in to the wall) like the ISDT 608AC (my review here) and the ISDT D2 to be much more practical. Still this is a good charger if you are looking for a DC powered unit - it is reliable, has a fantastically intuitive user interface and it is safe.
More impressive perhaps are the BATTAIR dongles that allows you to retain information on the battery specs and keep charge history. The low cost of $5 for a reusable bluetooth dongle makes this much more accesible than relying on a battery maker to include at their cost. They are most use if you include on your battery from new. I don't believe they are suitable for small batteries (500mah) because of the weight and bulk they add. Nor are they probably practical for regualar quadcopters because of the size the dongle adds and risk of getting it caught in props. However for the bug quads and RC cars I think these are a great idea for helping you protect the investment you have made in your batteries.
I'm looking forward to more chargers being released with this tech but for now I plan to try my ISDT which has smart battery technology - my guess is this is compatible too which I think will be important to quick update for the new tech - we may well be geared up for it already.
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