The ProductXTAR sent me their new PB2 for review. This is a two bay 18650 charger with an LCD readout for percentage charged that supports use as a power bank. The version sent to me for review is black, but their website shows that it will be released in red, orange, and blue as well.
This review might be a bit boring, but that’s a good thing! The charger does what it says on the box, and it does it very well. Exciting charger reviews are usually bad news.
Build and Form FactorThe charger is made entirely of a soft-touch plastic. The soft, rounded shape reminds me vaguely of the old Motorola Pebl - which is a good thing! It’s nice to see a charger that doesn’t adopt the ‘aggressive’ profile of the others on the market.
There’s a removable cover for the two cell bays that attaches with two strong magnets. The magnets are strong enough that the cover won’t pop off during use, and will even hold the charger door to the side of the unit opened in a hinge-like fashion.
Charging UseCharging cells with this charger is dead simple. Toss them into the bays, and plug the charger into the wall. The LCD will show the percent charge of a single cell or, if multiple cells are present, the average of the two. Charging stops when the cells are topped off or when the charger is unplugged. In my testing, this worked as expected and I had no issues whatsoever.
Power Bank UsePower out from the charger works similarly to power in - just insert some cells, plug in a device you need charged, and voila. One cell in the charger will provide a charge current of up to 1 A, and 2 cells can provide up to 2 A. Testing with my cell phone and my camera worked as expected.
The charger also supports pass-through charging - if cells are charging in the device, and a load is connected to the USB port, both will charge simultaneously.
DisplayThe display is a segmented LED with a blue backlight. At some angles the backlight can bleed and fill unused segments, but this isn’t an issue when viewing head on. This screen displays the percent charge in the cell or cells loaded into the charger. The screen uses PWM, but it is not visible to the naked eye.
When the charger is in use, the display is always on. When the charger is not in use, pressing the button on the side of the charger will light up the display to show the remaining charge. This is the only function of the button. I wish the button could do more - switching to a voltage display (this would require a few more characters on the display), switching charge speeds, or turning off the display while charging is ongoing would all be nice features. In its current state, the button is my only gripe with the charger - it doesn’t serve much function at all.
- Great form factor
- Keeps cells secured and covered in a bag
- Well built and sturdy
- Works well as a power bank
- Foolproof design and usability
- Picky with cell types
- Button doesn’t serve much purpose
- No way to turn off backlight