XTAR VC8 Plus Review – Pretty Good 8-Bay Charger

Contents

The Boring Stuff

Xtar sent me this charger in exchange for a honest review. Here is the official product page. The only place I can find it for sale right now is Aliexpress, where it’s going for just over $40 at the time of writing. It’s virtually identical to their popular VC8 model, just with a DC power supply included. Below are the official specs.

What comes in the box?

The box is a fairly standard white retail box, with a photo of the charger and some information about it. Inside there’s a thin molded plastic insert that holds the charger and power supply. I think this box will sufficiently protect the contents from all but the most egregious shipping mishandling. The following items are included:

  • The charger itself
  • DC power supply
  • User manual

Size & Measurements

It’s 192mm wide, 137mm deep, and 33mm thick (not including several small rubber feet). The charger itself weighs 372g, and the power supply weighs 132g.

User Interface

I always thought these advanced chargers looked a little daunting to use, especially XTAR’s 2 & 4-bay models with the circular dial displays. VC8 Plus surprised me with its simplicity though. Some functions are identical on both sides of the charger, and others are exclusive to the left side, so I’ll break it down as such.

Both sides: Both sides have two buttons, a left “mode” or “display” button, and a right “curr.” button. I’ll refer to them as the left button and the right button to make it simple. Pressing any button will wake the charger from sleep. Pressing the left button cycles through the three display modes: “Cur.” (displays the current charging speed), “Cap.” (displays how many mah have been put into the cell in that session), and “IR” (displays the cell’s internal resistance while charging). Pressing the right button always cycles through the available charging currents: 250, 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000 milliamps.

Left side only: The left side of the charger has two extra functions: grading and storing. To cycle functions, hold down the left button. Grading will charge, discharge, and then recharge the cell(s) and tell you their actual capacity in MAH once it’s done discharging. Storage mode will charge or discharge the cell(s) to 3.6V, for storage.

Note: When discharging, the current is always 300ma. That’s fine for small cells, but I would like the option to increase that to 1000ma for larger cells. Grading a high capacity 26650 cell can take more than 24 hours depending on how much charge it has when you start.

Display

Here’s what all the different readouts on the display show. It’s the same on both sides, you just don’t get the “Store” and “Grad” modes on the right side.

The displays never turn off, but after about a minute of inactivity they will dim to about 1/3 brightness.

Design & Construction

VC8 Plus has a fairly simple design. It’s not trying to look flashy or gaudy like some chargers, and I appreciate that. It almost seems like two 4-bay chargers sandwiched together in the middle.

Build quality seems fine to me. There’s no rattling or creaking. The plastic seems thick and high quality. All of the sliders are reasonably smooth. It’s even got a little bit of heft to it. The power supply cable seems a little bit flimsy though.

Battery Compatibility & Charging

VC8 Plus is primarily designed for Lithium-Ion and Ni-MH cells. The maximum cell length it can fit is 78.3mm (long enough for protected 21700 cells with USB recharging). The shortest cell length it can fit is 31.3mm (16340’s will fit, but nothing much shorter). As far as diameter, you can fill each bay with a 21mm diameter cell and they’ll all fit. You can squeeze a 26mm diameter cell in, but it’ll prevent you from putting large diameter cells in the adjacent bays.

It can also charge LiFeP04 cells, but only if you put it into storage mode first. Otherwise it will think they are li-ion cells and will overcharge them.

I charged a variety of cells during my testing: Samsung 30Q, Molicel P42A, Acebeam USB Protected 21700, Sofirn unprotected button top 16340, Sofirn unprotected flat top 21700, and some white Eneloop AAA’s. They all fit and charged just fine.

I found during my testing that it terminates charging of li-ion cells a little high, ranging from 4.2 to 4.25V, with most cells ending at 4.22-4.23V. That’s not necessarily dangerous, but its a little on the high side. I would prefer each bay to terminate at exactly 4.2V. Even better would be the ability to manually set your preferred termination voltage.

Power

VC8 Plus includes a 12V 3A DC power supply, but can also be powered by USB-C. It works with any USB power source, but you’ll want a QC3.0 power source to get maximum charging current. The included 12V supply provides the most power the charger can handle. Plugging in both the 12V supply and the a USB power source appears to result in the charger defaulting to 12V and ignoring the USB. It would have been cool to have USB-C output while the charger is powered by the 12V adapter.

12V 3A is better than QC3.0 for charging current, but it would have been nice to see 12V 6A so this thing could really stretch its legs and charge all 8 bays at 2A. I also think switching from the QC3.0 standard to usb-PD would be wise, since QC3.0 is technically outside the official USB spec, and USB-PD is more common for higher-powered devices like laptops. Imagine being able to use your USB-PD laptop power supply to give this thing enough juice to charge eight cells at 2A!

Some thoughts on XTAR

I don’t really understand why this product exists. The only difference between VC8 and VC8 Plus is the addition of a 12V power input and the inclusion of a power supply. That’s fine, but it doesn’t justify the release of a new product in my opinion.

XTAR seems to have a habit of releasing a new product version every time they have a new feature idea, and it makes it really hard to make sense of their product lineup. Take VC4 for instance, there are five versions of it, all with very minor differences: VC4, VC4H, VC4S, VC4L, and VC4SL. VC4H and VC4SL were both just released within the last month, and as far as I can tell the only difference is the color of the display.

If you go to the chargers section of their website, there are fifty two different products! I think it would be smart of XTAR to simplify their product line significantly, and wait until they have several new features to add before releasing a new product version. Then they should discontinue the old version of that product instead of just adding another version to their catalog.

Conclusion

Overall this is a pretty good charger if you need 8 bays. The addition of a higher current power supply in the box is nice. It doesn’t have any features that blow me away, but the features it does have are reasonably well executed. If I were in the marker for an 8-bay charger, this is the one I would buy.

Thanks to XTAR for sending me this charger for review!

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