Right from the start, we'll make this clear: this is NOT a technical review comparing specs, heat ranges, etc. ... this is a real world review looking at how easy the charger it to use, how it provides feedback, how quickly it charges batteries, and how it handles multiple batteries (and multiple sizes). This is not about how "pretty" they are, power consumption, etc.
In this series of tests and review, we'll be looking at the Nitecore Intelligent Charger I4, the Nitecore Digital Charger D4 (from Canvape), the Efest LUC Smart Charger V4 (from Canvape) and the Efest LUC Smart Charger S2 (from Canvape).
While satisfied with the Nitecore I4, it is a strain to use it with longer batteries. All of the sliders get hard to move, particularly when nearing its capacity and mostly with 18650 and 26650 batteries. It does require two hands to insert batteries. It also seems to take a long time to charge, roughly the same as a cheap $4.95 charger that came with a flashlight that included an 18650 battery and charger. The Nitecore I4 originally cost $42.95 (today available for about $23.95).
The Nitecore I4 has four battery bays. According to the manual and marketing literature, it supports Ni-MH, NiCd, and LI-Ion batteries in a variety of sizes: AA, AAA, AAAA, C, 10440, 14500, 16340 (RCR123), 18350, 18490, 17500, 18500, 18650, 22650, and 26650. We originally purchased it primarily for 14500, 18350, 18500, and 18650 batteries. It also handled 26650 when we started using that battery size too.
There are two "sets" of LCDs with this unit. The first one, blue, indicates power to the unit. Each battery bay also has its own LCDs, a row of three orange to indicate the charge level of that bay's battery. The charging circuitry is optimized for iMR batteries.
All four of these chargers feature the same or very similar security features (overload protection, etc.) so we won't go into those.
We were prompted to do these tests and review based on the release of the Nitecore D4. The features and specifications are similar to the Nitecore I4, but the feedback system is all digital. None of the critical specifications have changed between the two and charging time is the same.
The Nitecore D4 display is a nice touch. I'm still not sure whether I prefer that or the LED lights, though. There is an advantage to the LED lights. They are plainly visible, even from across the room. With the D4 display, you have to look at it close up. Gotta get up from my chair, you say?
A manager at one of Canvape's locations (thanks, Lady Sue-Ellen Edwards) suggested the Efest LUC V4 was a distinct improvement over the Nitecore featuring a much faster charge time. We decided to include that in our tests, thankfully. The Efest LUC V4 has a digital display and four battery bays so it is a direct comparison to the Nitecore I4 and D4. While at it, we decided to also include the new Efest LUC S2 expecting it to be more portable, especially since it includes a car charger.
The Efest LUC V4 receives excellent feedback from users. Construction of the unit is solid and the battery holders (the sliders) move nicely.
The person that recommended we look at this pointed out one feature that we have come to appreciate ... the ability to change the charging power level from 0.5 to 1.0 to 2.0 milliamps. At 0.5, you are essentially getting a trickle charge, at 1.0 you are getting the average charge power of the vast majority of chargers, and at 2.0 you are getting double the power and much faster charging times. Efest do not recommend that you use this 2.0 setting all the time – it does reduce the life span of your battery. But in a pinch when you forgot to charge your batteries and you need them, a quick charge comes in handy.
First thing I noticed is that the Efest LUC V4 seems to be a much sturdier model. There just is a heft or sense about it that suggests better construction and greater attention to detail. Second thing I noticed is that the sliders glide smoothly, you can actually insert a battery one-handed.
I thought I would be able to setup the Efest LUC V4 and end up with a "charging station", that is an area of my office where I could charge all the different batteries that I have – including the eGo and EVOD style. I'll still do that, but it isn't quite as simple as i though. My idea was that I could plug in the eGo USB charger into the Efest LUC V4 USB port and only need one wall power plug. Unfortunately, the Efest LUC V4 USB port will not output while it is plugged into the wall. If you have a battery in port 2 and the Efest LUC V4 unplugged, it will charge anything through the USB port.
I did like the display of the Efest LUC V4 ... better than the display of the Nitecore D4. If you search for images that show the display of the D4, some of them show a display that is partly blue and partly white – they look easy to read. The one I received is all white and not that great a contrast. Don't get me wrong, it's easy enough to see, but when compared to the Efest LUC V4 and its bright orange display, the Efest LUC V4 wins hands down.
In both the Nitecore D4 and Efest LUC V4, I used an IMR Efest 18350 battery to test each charger's ability to detect charge levels and response times. The D4 took about 6 seconds to cycle through and decide the battery was charged enough. The Efest LUC V4 was nearly instantaneous.
That pretty much did it for me in deciding clearly that the Efest LUC V4 was the charger to stick with. One other point ... the Efest LUC V4 has selectable charge power levels. I don't expect I will use this often, but I do know it will come in handy – and also note that at 2.0 amp charge power, you can only charge two batteries at a time. At 0.5 and 1 amp, you can charge four.
One more charger to consider, that is the Efest LUC S2.
When I originally was looking for a two bay charger, I expected it to be about half the size of a four bay charger, or just a bit larger than half the size. I did not expect a two bay charger to be the same size.
The Efest LUC V4 is 134.8 mm x 111.5 mm x 32.3 mm.
The Efest LUC S2 is 111.7 mm x 96.9 mm x 37.5 mm. Not a whole lot diffferent than the four bay. So, what makes this 2 bay charger different to warranty such a size? The S2 has one charge channel per battery bay whereas the V4 has one charge channel for each pair of batteries. Both have selectable charge power of 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 amps. In theory, at least, it should be able to charge batteries twice as fast as the V4 when loading all battery bays – but that's theory. In practice, with the V4 you are charging four batteries at the same time, with the S2 only two. So, it takes just about as long with either one.
The Efest LUC S2 is charging a bit faster than the Efest LUC V4 ... not by a lot, but it is noticeable. I do occasionally charge four batteries at a time – it's usually no more than two at a time, though.
When you upgrade your vaping gear and start using regulated advanced personal vaporizers or mechanical mods, you'll likely need batteries and a charger. You will end up with a lot of advice, including some from this site, that talks about what is most important in your decision. Some will tell you it it the atomizer/clearomizer and the eLiquid. That is true, those two items impact the flavor and smoking alternative sensations that you experience on a regular basis. Some will tell you it's the battery device itself that is the most important. That is true too, without a well designed system and solid electronics, you could end up with power – but good circuitry can make the difference between a smooth and a harsh vape.
Consider this: unless you have safe batteries, you could end up with over-heating, or worse. For the few extra dollars they cost, get the best quality IMR batteries you can find. IMR batteries are protected and high-drain. They are one of the safest battery technologies you can get. Do not get ICR batteries (they may sound like higher amperage, but they are not high drain and do not have the chemistry to protect you). The only other technology worth considering is INR. INR batteries are hard to find, but they offer the ultimate in safety to the vaper. To charge all of these batteries, get a quality charger. Over the years, I've had several lithium-ion chargers. One I used quite a bit was a cheap two-bay charger that I found extremely convenient: it had the wall plug built in as a side-slide mechanism. I could put that in my briefcase and it didn't take much room at all. I ended up with this charger as part of a flashlight purchase through Ebay. The package included the flashlight, two 5100 mAh 18650 battery and this charger. I thought I had struck gold ... huge capacity batteries. They turned out to be ICR batteries that are usually quoted way over their "real" capacity. And the charger didn't last, actually it took one of the batteries with it when it decided to fail. I left it plugged in for about three hours without checking on the charge progress. When I came in to look at it, the battery was in melt-down. The shrink wrapping was nearly all melted off. Needless to say, the battery and charger went to the deep six file (garbage).
And, I bought the Nitecore I4. There are several brands that you can trust to not burn your house down, protect you, and do a good job charging your batteries. The two tested in this article are among the best: Nitecore and Efest. The Efest chargers are made by Efestpower. The Nitecore chargers are made by SysMax. SysMax is the parent company of Nitecore and make chargers under the brands SysMax, Nitecore, and JetBeam. There are other more expensive chargers available – the extra price does not equal a better charger.
So, what's the verdict? Not the usual question, the portion missing is "Is it worth it?" We are looking at four different products in this review. The Nicore I4, Nitecore D4, Efest LUC V4 and Efest LUC S2. All four are the best of the best and provide outstanding value. Any one of these four will provide you safety in charging your batteries and excellent feedback while charging. I am going to make a few recommendations that depend on your circumstances:
- I would recommend the Nitecore I4 – if you have mobility or eyesight issues. The reason for this is pretty simple. The Nitecore I4 is a good charger, even though it is one of the slowest to get your battery up to full charge. It does have bright LEDs that indicate charging status where the other three have graphical displays. The LED's are easier to view while sitting and at a distance from the charger. There's no need to get up and get closer to figure out if the charge cycle is complete.
Nitecore I4, $23.95
Nitecore D4, $39.95
- If you regularly charge four batteries at a time, we recommend the Efest LUC V4. The Efest LUC V4 has an excellent digital display that has an orange hue. It's easy to see. More importantly, it has the ability to trickle charge with its 0.5 amp setting, do a regular charge at 1.0 amp setting, and a rapid charge at 2.0 amp setting. Although the package does not include a car charger, this is powered by a 12 volt power source: it's a good add on to get.
Efest LUC V4, $34.95
- For all other circumstances, we highly recommend the Efest LUC S2. The digital display is a bright blue and is on the vertical side of the charger ... it may not be visible at great distances, but it is easier to see than the other displays that are all at the top. It handles multiple charge powers the same as the Efest LUC V4. And the two bays are better shaped for larger batteries. I like the idea of one charge circuit for each charge bay. The package includes the car charger, so this covers every possible charging situation you might run into.
Efest LUC S2, $24.95
My thanks to Canvape for three of these chargers: Nitecore D4, Efest LUC V4 and Efest LUC S2. Canvape provide some of the finest vaping products available in Canada. Their prices rival the asian vendors and they feature excellent support and fast delivery.