Articles

Team Orion Advantage Touch Pro Review

4/1/2013 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2013 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

Print This Article Bookmark This Article
Share This Article

     When we first saw the Team Orion Advantage Touch charger we were intrigued. Here was a totally new way to interact with your charger that, while totally new to the RC world, made total sense thanks to the influence and adaptation of smartphones and tablets. We loved how intuitive the menu system was, how easy it was to program and, on top of it, how it provided a great charge for our batteries. Now Team Orion is back with a DC-only version of the Advantage Touch with the Advantage Touch Pro. While it looks similar to its AC/DC cousin, this version has some key differences and improvements that warrant a closer look. We grabbed both the charger and some batteries and hit the bench to see how well it performed

Speed Specs
Vehicle: Advantage Touch Pro Charger
Manufacturer: Team Orion
Part Number: ORI30205
Charger Class/Type: Multi-Chemical DC-only
Target Audience: Fans of the original Advantage Touch who require higher amperage





Bench Notes
Just like the original Advantage Touch, the Pro version has a very small footprint and doesn’t take up much room on the bench at-all. While it looks the same, there are some internal tweaks to the Pro over the original beyond the added current capabilities and the removal of an AC-power supply. The case has been modified to include three cooling fans instead of the two found on the original. This allows the Pro to keep its cool, including the huge heat sink that has been added to dissipate the potential 100W discharge current that can flow through it. The overall fit, feel and build quality feels just as good as the original, simply swathed in black instead of the white case.

Getting the Advantage Touch Pro setup and ready to go was just as easy as the original Advantage Touch with a twist in the need for an external power supply. I’ve really come to like the Dynamite® Passport™ 250W Power Station and it was the perfect solution for this application. Once plugged in and powered on, I was greeted with the same familiar menu system I had gotten accustomed to with the Advantage Touch. Across the top I could see battery type, cell count, capacity, charge rate, discharge rate and the + that took me into more menu settings.  Below that there are six options to charge, discharge, cycle, balance, activate storage mode or view the data of the last charge and discharge. Final setup consisted of connecting the balancing board, one of the best I have ever seen or used, into the side of the charger along with selecting the correct charge adapter.

Assistant
If you’ve never used the Advantage Touch before, you’ll really appreciate the Assistant setup feature. What the Assistant does is walk you through your initial setup quickly and easily. Within the Assistant screen you’ll be asked to set your battery type, cell count and capacity. From here you’ll be kicked back to the main screen where you can begin using the Touch Pro. Few if any chargers help you get up and working as quickly and easily as the Assistant software on the Advantage and now the Advantage Pro.  Once these initial settings have been programmed, you do have the option to override any of the settings the Assistant configures. For example, you can increase the discharge voltage in .1a increments, same with the charging amperage. The capacity can be adjusted in 50mAh increments.

Software Tweaks
While the Advantage Touch Pro feels very much like the original Advantage Touch, there are some important tweaks to the software that makes it feel more fluid, faster and overall better. The graphics engine has been improved on the Touch Pro, allowing the charger to “draw” on-screen faster and more efficiently. One such area where you can notice this is when changing the capacity. It is much quicker to change the capacity on the Pro than the original. There’s also a very good auto zoom function now too. Another feature of the Touch Pro is that, when charging, discharging or cycling, it calculates the maximum current depending on the number of cells in your pack and alters the available amp rates based on this. You can also compare battery charge/discharge curves, another new feature developed for the Pro. That being said, the Touch Pro will allow you to discharge at up to 20A! That’s a big improvement over the original Touch’s 2.0A max discharge to say the least.

Testing
Testing occurred over the course of multiple days at many locations. I used the Advantage Touch Pro in my pits while racing at Hot Slots RC Raceway in Urbana, Illinois and also on the workbench. I planned on using my Team Orion® 90C Carbon Li-Po batteries to test the Touch Pro, from the 4000mAh WTS versions up to the 6500mAh versions. I also tested several Dynamite Speedpack™ batteries in Silver and Gold versions, and some Ni-MH packs too. While I could use 1–6S Li-Po packs, I stayed with 2S Li-Pos, the most common configuration and what I have most of. For maximum safety, I made sure that my packs were always charged, cycled or discharged in a Li-Po charging sack.

Charging
One of my only quibbles about the original Advantage Touch was the fact that the charging output topped out at 6A. If I ran 6000mAh batteries and under, this was a non-issue; however, if I used their own Team Orion 6500mAh 90C Carbon Li-Po batteries, I couldn’t even charge them at 1C. That is not a concern on the Advantage Touch Pro, as I had the option to charge those packs at upwards of 12A. While I don’t advocate charging over 1C knowing that I could turn up the output if need be is useful information for packs that are rated at a charge rate of higher than 1C. Whether I was using the 4000mAh, 5000mAh or 6500mAh, I was able to change the capacity really quickly (thanks to the improved graphics engine mentioned earlier), which also changed my charge rate. On the track my packs felt just as good as with the original Advantage Touch, but now my 6500mAh packs charged in less time.

One big convenience of the Advantage Touch Pro, like the original, is that you can change some settings on the fly. Say, for example, you are charging a battery at 5A. Suddenly you discover that you need to be ready earlier than expected and you need to change the charge output. The menu buttons in the charge screen that you can interact with will be the same color as your theme color so, if you're using the default red theme, the charge amperage will be red and the battery type, cell count, capacity and discharge rate will all be greyed out and inactive. This lets you know what you can and can't interact with all at a glance.

Discharging
Along with the increased charge amperage, the discharge feature has been improved too. You can discharge your batteries from .1 to 20A, all depending on the cell count and configuration. 1S Li-Po maxes out at a full 20A, 2S at 14A, 9A for 3S and 7A for 4S. For Ni-MH, 1- to 15-cell batteries can be discharged at 20A. While 20A would be preferred for 2S LiPo, 14A is very useful and puts an adequate load on your batteries to simulate the amp draw from a sealed endbell brushed motor, 25.5T brushless or 21.5T brushless motors. For me, since I was testing with my Tamiya TA-05 Version 2 in Vintage Trans Am (VTA) trim, this was similar to what my Novak 25.5T motor draws in the car.

Balancing
I know I have stated this before, but I am going to state it one more time—if your battery pack and charger both accommodate balancing, there is no good reason not to balance charge each and every time you charge your batteries! Whew, with that being said, the Touch Pro has a very nice balance option on it that allows you to balance separate from a charge or discharge cycle. I started off experimenting with the balance feature as I had feared several of my batteries had been quite abused and needed to be rebalanced. While a majority of my packs were ok, there was one pack that, in an 8-minute VTA A-Main, just laid down on me and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought perhaps I had a motor go south, however the motor checked out. The next possible source was my battery, and once I connected the battery and started the balance mode, I discovered quickly that my battery had let me down. In fact, I discovered through the balance function that cell 1 was reading at 3.26V while cell 2 was reading at 3.81V. The balance option on the Touch Pro did balance everything out after over 2 hours. From here it was time to determine if this pack was good to go or needed to be disposed of, so I started the cycling mode.

Cycling
Much like the original Advantage Touch, the Touch Pro can charge then discharge, discharge then charge or discharge, charge and discharge. I prefer using the discharge/charge/discharge mode myself, as it ensures that a battery is fully discharged before recharging, especially when using NiMH or NiCad batteries. I set the Touch Pro up to charge at 6.5A with a charge end voltage of 4.20V and a discharge rate of 14A with a discharge end voltage of 3.20v. With everything set, it was time to test.

One thing that the increased discharge rate improves is the value of the cycling process. If you don't properly load a battery, you can't get an accurate reading and you may have false results. For example, the battery that showed it was 0.55V out of balance didn't have much of a variance when discharging at the 2A rate of the original Advantage Touch. Yes there was an eventual gap that developed between the two cell's voltage, but it didn't happen nearly as quickly or dramatically as when I cycled the battery on the Pro. While I was disappointed to determine that I had overly abused my suspect pack and it needed to be safely disposed of, it was good to have the tools on the Advantage Touch Pro to know the root cause of my loss of power on-track in my race.

Conclusion
The best way to sum up the Advantage Touch Pro is that the best just keeps getting better. The Advantage Touch had become my favorite charger and the Advantage Touch Pro has now earned its spot as the main charger on my bench. It has every single feature I loved about the original, but now the higher charge and discharge amperages makes it that much more useful. Another benefit of the Touch line, be it the original or the Touch Pro, is the capability to update the software and firmware via free updates on the web. This extends the overall lifespan of a charger, as it allows manufacturers to provide updates to existing product versus having to release a totally new version or require you to send a charger in for an update. I have personally found the Team Orion Advantage Touch Pro to be an invaluable tool in not only charging my batteries, but in maintaining and evaluating them as well. The Advantage Touch Pro has earned its place as my go-to charger and, if you gave it a try, I am sure you’ll discover the same thing.