Saturday, June 29, 2013

Review: Ruinovo USB Power Pack

I have been on a quest to build the best battery pack possible with replaceable 18650 Lithium-ion batteries. There's lots of USB power packs out there. The trouble is that they are all mostly low capacity and don't allow you to replace the batteries. As a hobbyist, I already work with what is probably the most concentrated form of power money can buy: the 18650. I have lots of high end Panasonic and Sony cells lying around, so I should be able to build a power pack with ridiculous capacity for cheap!
Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries)
This review sample was purchased from Fasttech and took about 3 weeks to arrive with the USPS shipping.  So far I haven't come across a US seller of these.

The last pack I built worked well but it was a little flimsy, and didn't charge my ZTE phone. It also had a bright LED on the front that most of the time I don't want, and the wife complained that she couldn't use it in the dark until I put a small piece of electrical tape over it.

The Ruinovo solves the issues I had with the last power pack, but it costs almost four times more! That's really the only downside, though. Everything else about it is superior. First off, it's made of brushed
Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Front View
Aluminum, which gives it a solid, classy feel; not flimsy at all. Secondly, it charges my ZTE Engage smartphone! It also doesn't include an annoying light, though there is another version of this pack that has a bank of LEDs on the side.

For me personally, I wouldn't mind a well designed flashlight built into my power pack. There are several models out there which do that successfully. What I don't like is forcing that light on when I'm charging a device. It's not only annoying but wasteful if all you want to do is charge something. I'm also a "flasholic" so I don't need that superfluous LED.

Build Quality


The build quality on this model really stands out, and almost even feels high end. It uses brushed Aluminum for the entire unit, which is well machined and fairly well anodized. The connectors don't feel cheap and neither does the power button.

The screws are a different story. They are very low quality and will want to strip no matter what you do. Just be really careful and use a high quality screwdriver of the correct size. If I remember, it's a Philips #0. Luckily, they give you a little bag with 4 extra screws. Don't use the included screwdriver as it's basically just for decoration.

Batteries


The unit takes 4 x 18650 batteries. Since this unit has its own protection circuit, there is no need for the extra expense of putting protected batteries in it. They probably wouldn't fit anyway. Just to test the unit out, I put 4 Sony cells I had harvested from a laptop battery. I will most likely put some Panasonic cells in there at some point.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): With Sony Cells

Assembling The Power Pack


 Putting this thing together is a little tricky because you have to take both the front and back plates off. What I did was hold the front board toward the front with my thumb while the rear board dangling from the rear of the case. Then, while holding the front board, I slid the batteries in negative side first, until I had all 4 with the wire slinking down the middle. Then I put the rear board back in place, and slid the rear cover on. Then I attached the rear cover while I held the front board from falling out. Once the rear cover was on, I set the unit flat on the rear cover and held the front cover down while I attached the front plate.

In the course of playing around with it, I took it apart and reassembled it a few times. I found that putting the rear plate on first made it a little easier, and for whatever reason it seemed to make the rear plate seat a little better.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Front Panel Off

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Rear Panel Off

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Front Circuit Board

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Rear Circuit Board

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Both Circuit Boards

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Front Circuit Board Contact Springs


Testing The Power Pack


I like to hook any new USB charger to my digital multimeter just as a reality check the power pins on the USB port aren't shorted or reversed or anything. For this I use a cheap digital multimeter such as this one and a spliced USB cable to measure the voltage.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): On Digital Multimeter


Charging The Power Pack


The Ruinovo has two inputs and two outputs. For inputs it has a 1A micro USB, which is nice, and a 2A USB with a special plug, which is included with the unit. I like the 2A input because these 4 x 18650 power packs take forever to charge from USB.

Here's a shot of charging the battery pack from my laptop using the same micro USB cable I use to charge my phone.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging Through Micro USB Port

Here I'm charging the battery pack with the included 2 Amp cable.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging Through 2A Port


Charging A Device


For outputs, there's a 1A Android and a 2A Apple full size USB connector. I haven't tried it, but I assume that it could use both ports at once, and I thought I read somewhere that this model can charge and be charged at the same time.

To charge a device, plug it in and then press the power button. The blue lights will glow indicating that it is charging something. The great thing about this power pack is that it turns off automatically when the device it's charging stops drawing power.

Let's Charge Some Stuff!


As with every power pack I build, the first thing I want to know is: Does it charge my annoyingly-picky ZTE smartphone? In this case ... YES IT DOES!

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging A ZTE Engage


Pretty much anything with power and a USB plug will charge the wife's HTC One, so this works as expected.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging An HTC One


Charges the original Kindle Fire, again, as expected.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging An Original Kindle Fire


Bluetooth headphones? Check.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging Bluetooth Headphones


Here's where it gets interesting. Below you can see the power pack is charging another power pack.

Ruinovo USB Power Pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion Batteries): Charging Another USB Power Pack



Final Thoughts


This is the best power pack I've built so far. At about 15 bucks, it seems expensive compared to some of the other cheap Chinese DIY power packs. It's easy to lose perspective that this thing with 4 of the best batteries money can buy would come in around $50, which would make it superior to almost every commercially available power pack on the market. Not to mention the fact that you can easily replace the batteries. Also, you know what batteries went into it. I wonder what batteries those retail power packs have in them. Probably not the high end Panasonics we normally use.

So, while a little more pricey than some of the other DIY kits, this one is well worth it. I plan to build several more of these and probably give a few away as gifts.

5 comments:

  1. Nice Review! I just purchased the 3 battery Ruinovo and like it a lot. Being able to replace the batteries is one of the best selling points.

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  2. Hm, good review, thanks but I'm curious why you don't use 2A port to charge Android's device as Htc One ? I thought, if your device, iphone or android, whatever, is compatibility with ~2A, you can do it. Am I right ?

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    Replies
    1. The wife's HTC One is the previous generation and I don't believe it charges at 2 amps. I've tried my ZTE engage on the 2A port as well with no luck.

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  3. It's also possible set the limit in kernel if someone affraid of 2A.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info. But for me it's more that I don't seem to have any devices in my house that will charge at 2A.

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