The HTRC T240 Duo is a 150W/240W AC/DC battery charger with two independent charging channels for lithium batteries and other battery chemistries. In recent years, battery chargers have become smaller, cheaper, and more powerful. Chargers have also acquired touchscreen interfaces that promise much better ease of use over traditional “4-button” chargers. HTRC brings us a budget option that packs a pretty big punch, but can it beat out brand-name competitors?
Features and Specs
- Two independent charge channels and controllers
- On AC: 150W total power, user-distributable between channels
- On DC: 240W total power, 120W per channel
- 3.2” touchscreen interface
- Automatic cell count detection
- LiPo, LiHV, LiFe, Lilo, NiCd, NiMh, Lead-acid, DJI Smart battery types I–IV
- Charges lithium batteries from 1–6S
- Programs for charge, discharge, storage, balance, cycle, and trickle
- 6 user-defined charge program shortcuts
- 4mm bullet connectors, JST-XH balance connectors, USB-mini data connectors
- Input voltage: AC 100–240V or DC 11–18V
- Voltage check and Internal resistance test (2–6S)
- Terminal voltage control
- User calibration
- Firmware upgrade ports
Included in the box is the charger, an AC cable (ours was an EU plug, but Banggood included a US adapter outside the box,) two bullet to Deans/T-plug cables, two Deans/T-plug to XT60 cables, two JST-XH balance-plug boards with connecting wire harnesses, an alligator to XT60 cable for DC input, and the charger manual.
Since the SkyRC D100 review a few years ago, chargers have evolved. Many chargers have XT60 connectors, but the T240 uses the older 4mm bullet connectors. I don’t mind this at all; I have plenty of adapters made up for bullets, including the extension cables that allow charging within a BAT-SAFE.
An internal fan helps keep the unit cool without making a lot of noise. At 470g, it’s fairly light as far as AC-capable chargers go. Though many chargers do the same, the XT60 port for feeding DC power in has the same side of the plug as that of a battery. This means you’ll need to buy or build an adapter to connect your existing XT60 batteries to power the charger in the field.
Using the charger is about as simple as it gets. The T240 has a 3.2” touchscreen. I was skeptical that this was necessary, but this is a huge improvement over “4-button” chargers. The T240 is completely worth the price difference between this and the HTRC C240 Duo; essentially the same charger without the touchscreen.
The main screen offers a choice of battery types or device setup options. Choose a battery type and then an action; punch in any additional parameters, and go. All battery types can Charge and Discharge, but each of the supported battery types has different actions:
- Lithium types (LiPo, LiFe, Lilo, and LiHV) have Storage and Balance Charge
- NiMH/NiCD has Cycle
- Lead-acid has Trickle
A “Smart battery” option is also provided for DJI batteries types I–IV. To charge DJI batteries, you’ll need an adapter that’s not included.
One thing I don’t like is that once you’ve selected a battery type, it’s not displayed on the program selection. It would be better to have visual confirmation at all times. The battery type and cell count reappears as soon as you begin a charge program. It’s nice that the end voltage is so easy to adjust along with other parameters, but this also conceals the risks of doing so.
While this interface is much improved over a 32-character LCD screen, the touchscreen is just a little less responsive than one would hope. You need to slow down and be deliberate when making choices in order for it to register each touch—you can’t simply punch in commands as quickly as you’re used to on your smartphone. Even with this limitation, getting a charge going is still much faster than a 4-button charger that requires navigating a number of menus and long-press sequences.
During a charge, the charger displays a graph of the voltage over time. The graph is a bit of a gimmick as there are no units displayed, no way to inspect data, and on occasion I found the lines to be drawing incorrectly. Fortunately, it displays no critical information and can be safely ignored. You can review individual cell voltages on an alternate view.
Operation and Capabilities
For lithium batteries, selecting the “balance” type will auto-select the number of cells based on a connected battery pack. You have to set the number of cells manually in the charge, discharge, or storage programs. In some cases, you can arrive at these pages with the number of cells listed as “auto.” If this happens, you’ll get an error if you try to start the program without changing it. One trick I discovered is to select the “Balance” type first. Switching from there to another program carries over the auto-selected number of cells.
This charger supports 1S, even in LiHV. A surprising number of chargers actually can’t do this and have a 2S minimum. While I’m not likely to charge many 1S batteries, it’s nice to be able to set them to storage—a program most 1S chargers lack. However, only the balance port has voltage sensors that you can review in the “measurement” section. If you plug in a 1S battery to the main port, you can’t check it’s voltage unless a charge program is running. Another important side effect is that the charger is basically incapable of checking internal resistance for 1S batteries.
Buried inside the “Smart battery” option is a section that provides an arbitrary output of user-selected voltage and maximum amperage. This allows the T240 to be used as a very basic bench power supply—though the voltage isn’t held perfectly stable, so it shouldn’t be used in any sensitive applications.
Some pilots buy a single high-wattage charger and parallel charge many batteries at once, but I still prefer to charge individually—I have read too many stories of batteries catching on fire and causing a lot of damage, and I’ve seen first-hand what a LiPo fire can look like. Getting a charger with multiple outputs allows me to charge faster without sacrificing safety. Four-channel chargers also exist, but a BAT-SAFE won’t really handle more than two at once.
Like most, the T240 has built-in safety checks. These include input voltage maximum, reversed battery polarity, battery disconnect, battery maximum or minimum voltage, wrong cell count (if specified), and individual cell minimum and maximum voltage. Beyond these automatic checks, user-settable checks can limit the minimum input voltage, charge current, total charged capacity, amount of time it takes to run a program, and maximum temperature internal to the charger.
Another safety feature I appreciate having are external temperature sensors. These are inexpensive and can cancel a charge gone wrong before it ends in spectacular battery failure. The sensors themselves are sold separately. There are a surprising number of modern chargers that don’t provide ports for temperature sensors at all. To enable external temperature sensing on the T240, simply plug the sensors in.
With all of that said, you do still need to know how to operate a charger correctly. There are ways to set up the charger that will set a battery on fire if you’re not following proper precautions, and automated safety checks can fail. If you are new to charging, be sure to read our Battery Charging Guide and get familiar with the T240’s product manual. You may also be interested in our LiPo Battery Container Testing so you can set up your charging area safely.
The big question on the HTRC will be reliability. While the unit we reviewed seems to work perfectly and had all the advertised components, there are a number of reviews about broken chargers or missing parts. The usual lack of polish in budget goods applies: the JST-XH balance board is mislabeled as “HX Adaptor” and one of my board’s connector pins wasn’t fully engaged so I had to press it back in. Those that get fully functioning units seem to really like them. For those that don’t, getting in touch with HTRC or Banggood isn’t known to be a simple or straightforward process.
But the HTRC T240 Duo has a great feature set at a good price; currently $65. It costs more than a lot of chargers, but the HTRC brings two independent channels and supports AC power. Once those two are factored in, the total cost is pretty competitive. It’s quiet, easy to use, runs quickly, and has all of the capabilities that I need. I prefer multiple channels over the perils of parallel charging, and the T240’s quirks are learned quickly. All together, it’s a good, functional unit that I’ll be placing into service as my primary charger this season.