Sunday, October 14, 2012

Choosing a Battery Charger: CTEK or Noco Genius

Note: I  posted a new review of Lithium battery chargers here:
Lithium (LiFePO4) Battery Charger Review and Comparison: OptiMate vs CTEK vs NOCO Genius
The original review of lead acid battery chargers continues below.

This is a review and comparison of the CTEK Multi US 7002 and NOCO Genius G7200 battery chargers. Both are chargers for 12V car or truck batteries and provide up to roughly 7 amps. Note that these chargers are too powerful for use with motorcycle batteries.
Some background:
I have a bunch of "Battery Tender Plus" 12V 1.25A chargers that I use on my modern motorcycles. And I have a 6V UC800 CTEK charger I use for my vintage 6V bike batteries.
I've always used the "Battery Tender Plus" on my truck or car when they needed to be topped off. But if the big truck battery is low, it takes the little Battery Tender a LONG time to bring it back up to full charge.
I do have a big old Sears charger, but that this is a bit old school in design, and I wanted something with all the smart charging electronics.
First I tried a Schumacher SC1200A charger that I found very cheap on Amazon.... and it worked VERY poorly. It did not recognize when the battery was fully charged and started boiling it away. No good. I returned that thing immediately.
While I've loved my Deltran Battery Tenders, the design of those seem rather old and out of date. Battery charger tech has moved forward and Deltran just hasn't kept pace. For instance, it is known the the Battery Tender Plus charger really shouldn't be left on a motorcycle battery long term as it will burn off the acid.

Looking at the new smart chargers available it seems there are two main contenders available here in the USA: CTEK and the newer NOCO Genius. I wanted the largest ones I could get for a reasonable price, and the 7 Amp versions where available from both manufacturers for about $100 each.

So I ordered one of each: a CTEK Multi US 7002 and a NOCO Genius G7200.


Unfortunately I don't have the equipment or the time to fully test these chargers electronically. So this review and comparison is all about the details on the websites and in the manuals for the units.
Frankly, the specs on these 12V battery chargers are very similar. The two big differences are that the NOCO also works with 24V batteries and the NOCO also claims 12 charging steps compared to 8 for the CTEK.

Step Chart Side-by-Side Comparison:
The CTEK steps are on the white upper box and the NOCO'S are on the black lower box:


  CTEK                             NOCO                            Comment
   -                                     Diagnostics                       Diagnostics is a step?
   Desulphation                   Recovery                          Different name same function.
   Soft Start                        Soft Start
   Bulk                                Bulk
   -                                     Bulk                                 Are these extra steps or just LEDS?
   -                                     Bulk                                 Are these extra steps or just LEDS?
   -                                     Bulk                                 Are these extra steps or just LEDS?
   Absorption                     Absorption
   Analyze                           -                                      Is Analyze a step?
   Recondition                     -                                      Like NOCO 16V Boost
   Float                              Trickle                              Different name same function.
   Pulse                              Maintenance                     Different name same function.
   -                                    13.6 Supply                      This is a mode, not a step.
   -                                    16V Boost                        This is a mode, not a step


The biggest difference I could find is that NOCO claims to do 4 bulk steps where CTEK just does one. But it's not clear that the "4 steps" are significantly different from CTEK's one bulk charging step. And some of the other "steps" NOCO claims are a bit dubious. 

I mean, if you compare the charts, the extra steps NOCO claims are 3 extra bulk stages, diagnostics and then the 12.6 volt supply and 16 boost modes. The first Diagnostics step isn't really a charging step and the last two are separate modes, not part of the charging cycle! Of course, CTEK claims an analyze stage as well. So the only significant difference might be with the bulk charging...

On Bulk Charging differences:
Here is what NOCO says about it's bulk stages:
Step 4-7: Bulk
The Bulk charging process continues using Max Rate, High Rate, Medium 
Rate and Low Rate charges and returns 80% of battery capacity, indicated by 
the 25%, 50% and 75% CHARGE LEDs.

And here is what CTEK says abut it's bulk stage:
Bulk
Primary charging where approximately 80% of the charging happens. The charger delivers maximum voltage until the terminal voltage has risen the the preset level. After a number of hours, the charger goes to the next phase, even if maximum voltage is not reached. Bulk is indicated by lamp 2.

Now the above descriptions of bulk make the NOCO and CTEK sound different... but I'm not sure. Frankly, if you hold the battery at a constant voltage, the current delivered decreases as the batteries charge increases by basic rules of physics. So while NOCO claims 4 specific rates as distinct stages, they don't say enough to verify that claim. But they DO have different indicator LEDS. So maybe NOCO has something useful with the claimed 4 steps of Bulk charging, but I don't know for sure.  On the flip side, I'm wary because they claim 12 step charging, when 2 of those steps are clearly completely different modes. So they aren't seeming very credible on the # of steps issue.

On NOCO's Recovery, Trickle and Maintenance and CTEK's Desulphation, Float and Pulse Steps
There might also be some differences here, but it's hard to tell if there is. There just isn't enough info in the manuals to tell any difference between the two devices in these modes.

CTEK's Recondition 'step'
CTEk shows this as a step, but I think it only happens in "Recond" mode. In Recond mode, the CTEK follows all the usual steps and then adds the Recond mode. So in normal operation this "step is skipped.

The real "Step" count.
This is what I think the step count is for each charger set in the mode for a normal battery. I'm omitting modes that are skipped for a good battery and analysis/diagnostic steps.
CTEK: 5 (Soft Start, Bulk, Absorption, Float, Pulse)
NOCO: 5 (or possibly 9)  (Soft Start, Bulk...., Absorption, Trickle, Maintenance) If Noco really does something besides light LEDS for the other Bulk steps they list, the 9 steps might be credible. I just don't have the information to judge that.

LEDS
I must admit to liking NOCO's LEDs.


Bulk charging takes much of the process time and I like that NOCO clearly shows you the 25%, 50%, and 75% charging marks during that part of the process. After the Absorption phase the NOCO goes to trickle and Lights the 100% LED.
The CTEK's first lamp is to indicate Desulphation (blinking) or Start (lower voltage charging), the second lamp indicates Bulk charging, the 3rd lamp is Absorption and 4th is Float/Maintenance. This is a nice clear indication of the separate charging steps, but I would like to see the progress in the bulk charging. (Maybe someday CTEK could add a few more LEDs to cover that too.)
Both chargers also have an error LED and LEDs to indicate their various modes as selected by a button.

Side View

Bottom View



Mode Button
Both chargers feature a "Mode" button to select what mode the charger is in. Both chargers feature  modes for a normal batteries, cold weather or AGM batteries, a supply mode at 13.6 volts and a recondition mode at 15.7V (CTEK) or 16V (NOCO).
Additionally the NOCO features modes for 24V batteries (For RVs and motorhomes, etc.).

Connectors, clips and accessories
In my opinion, these were about the same for the two charges.

Construction
Frankly, I'm disappointed with the construction of both of these. When I saw the pictures I thought the NOCO might be a heavier duty unit, seeing the ribbing on the top surface. But I was disappointed to see the bottom was just a plain flat bottom and in my hand it doesn't feel any sturdier than the CTEK. These are units that are going to be put on a garage floor, and could be dragged around or stepped on. I'm not sure either of these units would survive falling off my workbench onto the cement garage floor. It would be nice if they were made more solidly and had some rubber protective edges.

Summary
CTEK
 + Only 12V, simpler if you only have regular vehicle batteries 
 + Smaller
+ LEDS indicate the charging steps of Start, Bulk, Absorption and Maintenance
 - No 24V mode.

NOCO
+ 24V mode if you need it
+ Possibly more bulk charging steps (unclear if this is a real advantage)
+ LEDs indicate 25% 50% and 75% of bulk charging and then trickle (100%)
- bigger

My choice
I chose the CTEK Multi US 7002. I liked the simpler interface as I only need 12V. Additionally, I have experienced great support when I had questions about my other CTEK charger. Their forum and emailing them generated immediate helpful responses. (NOCO may have good support, but I haven't tried it and they don't have a forum.)




29 comments:

  1. I'm trying to decide between these now too. Great write up by the way. The other difference appears to be CTEK's claim that it is waterproof, whereas NOCO does not claim to be waterproof. I have a car port, so there is a mild chance mine will get wet.

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  2. great review, i'm trying to determine which one to buy as well...must say that i'm also just a tad suspicious about Noco's info. Like you said, if they're claiming modes as charging steps that doesn't reflect very well on their overall trustworthiness.

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  3. great review, just want to point out that the Noco is waterproof and has the same ip65 rating as the ctek in case thats a deal breaker for anyone. ctek.

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    1. Noco case is rated at ip65, but Noco warns against using the unit if wet. Apparently, one would have to reason that no matter what the specifications are, should the manufacturer request its product's use should be discontinued if wet, then that unit is not waterproof. This was very annoying to me since I use the Noco on a dock to charge marine batteries. Apparently, vendors are somewhat confused on this point as well and some claim the 7200 to be waterproof. The work around was for me to keep a plastic box up side down (with ventilated openings on its side) over the 7200. Would I defy the manufacturers warning about keeping the unit dry and use it outside with out a protective cover, the answer is "No".

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  4. I tried both chargers and the Noco did a better job on recovering a batter for me. It's the supply mode that did the trick for me. My battery was very low in volts and the Ctek wouldn't charge it up at all as it was too low in volt however, the Noco charged it in supply mode and then I was able to switch modes. Also the Noco has quick clamp connectors and eyelet terminals.

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  5. Really helpful . I have heard rave reviews about Noco genius but was totally in the dark regarding the CTEK. Going by the review it isn't that bad either. A bit of a tough choice of battery chargers on the cards for everyone i guess.

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  6. Thanks for the review, can someone please tell me where the NOCO is made?

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  7. I bought the CTEK 7002 and the NOCO G3500. I mainly wanted the NOCO for smaller batteries. I had an Optima Red Top that was giving me problems. I put the CTEK on it and after 8.5 hours, it showed finish. It worked!!! I drove it a month put it back on and after 30 minutes it was through. I couldn't believe that it could restore this 5.5 year old battery, but it did! The battery lasted another year, but began to faulter again, despite using the CTEK and NOCO regularly on it. At the end, a curious difference between the two showed up. The NOCO would never finish charging the battery, even after 48+ hours. It just kept blinking. The CTEK would finish the battery everytime, after more than 8 hours though. I began to believe the NOCO was detecting something was wrong, and couldn't overcome it. They both appear to be excellent chargers with their own strong points. Another curious thing about the two companies, their headquarters are located only a short distance from one another. I can recommend either of them, as superior to any of the old, non-smart chargers. They definitely work!!!

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  8. Thank you Carl. These were the two battery chargers I had independently arrived at as being the final choice for me. I too have several (four) different chargers and although some are ‘intelligent’, their permanent mounting in my small RV was not going to be a particularly pleasant or easy project.
    I was struck by the lack of technical information with the NOCO advertisements. Their ‘mantra’ was all about “wicked smart” with little substance and any internet search only yielded more blather.
    In contrast the CTEK advertisement was forthright and displayed everywhere, even on the charger itself.
    Having some experience with pulsed charging, I was impressed with CTEK’s use of this technology. I also liked the smaller size and ease of mounting in the RV.
    With suitable switching the CTEK will work with my two banks of Yellow Top Optimas and MPPT controlled 190 Watt rooftop solar panel.
    So, thanks to your investment and subsequent blog, I’ll buy the CTEK unit, despite being more expensive.Thank you again and keep up the great work.
    David Etter (82 AAZ Wesfalia)
    F.Y.I. note to RV’ers, don’t mix battery types on a single circuit.

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  9. Nice blog. You do say you didn't have either the equipment or the time to test these chargers electronically, and that is a shame.

    The main difference between these two chargers is the charging algorithm – and it’s a very important difference:

    The Ctek applies full current until the optimum voltage is reached, and then continuously reduces current whilst the battery is locked at that optimum voltage. This stretches the battery, as it is kept at its optimum voltage throughout pretty much the entire charging cycle (Bulk, Absorption and Float).

    In sharp contrast, the Genius uses an inferior methodology of simply stepping the current down as soon as the battery achieves its’ maximum at that cycle (purporting to be additional steps!); as a consequence the voltage also drops and the battery is rarely ever kept at its’ optimum state during the charge cycle. In fact, the charging algorithm used by Genius chargers is almost identical to some of the very cheap supermarket own-brand smart chargers, and there’s nothing “Wicked Smart” about that!

    You can see these differences most vividly if you take a semi-depleted/semi-sulfated (old!) battery and attach each charger in turn, keeping a voltmeter across the terminals throughout the charge cycle: The Ctek will give you a more highly charged battery every time. Note especially Ctek’s “Float” step; the battery is locked at a constant 13.4 volts throughout – the Genius simply “Trickles” an arbitrary low current so that the battery is hardly ever at anything approaching the ideal 13.4 volts (Float and Trickle are NOT the same!).

    Note also that with a severely flat battery, a Ctek will begin charging at 2-volts – The Genius won’t even recognise the battery at that low a voltage, requiring a minimum of 7-volts.

    In real work applications, a Ctek beats a Genius every time – although it comes at a price premium.

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    Replies
    1. You just helped me out a great deal. CTEK it is . Thanks.

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  10. I just bought the noco 3500.v2 charger. My comments will be only of this model even if the above is of the G7200.
    Regarding the charging LEDS, here are its states that will determine the charging step:

    -solid red 25%, blinking red 50% and blinking amber 75% : Bulk charging
    -solid red 25%, solid red 50% and blinking amber 75% : Bulk charging
    -solid red 25%, solid red 50%, solid amber 75% and blinking green 100% led : Absorption
    -all 3 LEDS off but with a solid green LED : Optimization
    -Once the solid green 100% green becomes a blinking one, it becomes Maintenance

    I used it with a voltmeter connected during the whole charging cycle. Starting from 12.33V the charging voltage increased until 14.6V and when the green LED becomes solid, voltage went down to 13.61V in an instant until it stabled at 13.41V. I think during this time it's on trickle mode (after 2 hours while charger still connected). Then I removed the charger on the 10th hour and the charging voltage reads 13.49V.

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    1. So this morning I checked the battery and it read 12.64V. This is the fully-charged voltage and I was happy to know that this 2.5 years battery is able to hold the charge. I rotate this car with my other vehicle like every couple of weeks and I have short drive daile for home-work-home. I think this is only the first time if one once in a blue moon that this battery has ever received a full-charge. So far I'm satisfied with the performance of this NOCO G3500.V2. My first charger was a motomaster 100A electrical charger with engine boost, but since it's not plug-and-forget, I just decided to return it and bought this wicked smart charger.

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  11. I have a Noco Genius and I like it has a choice of 6 or 12 volt as half my fleet of classic motorcycles are 6 volt. It has dropped on the concrete floor a few times with no ill effects. I notice that it gets to blinking green (almost charged) in a decent time but takes hours after that to reach solid green (fully charged)and based on what I read above this may (repeat "may") be a problem.
    I could not figure out how to work the MODE selection on my Genius (Duh, Obviously I am not one as admittedly it is obvious AFTER one is told to push the Mode button and not the various mode indicators, the instruction book was not very clear) and phoned them and got prompt and good real person support.
    Also see:
    Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bczwt1Ug2zU

    For Americans, he is ranting against Canadian Tire Corp., our version of Pep Boys, Advance Auto parts, Auto Zone etc. before he literally rips apart a Genius. Frankly this guy tries so hard to be funny it is hard to follow and I can't tell if he is a real electronics whiz or just some anti-Canadian Tire, racist (anti-Chinese made stuff) nut. But he sure dumps on the Genius. But from some of the comments there he has misread the package and some of his own beefs he later retracts. Can anyone interpret this would-be comedian cum electrical engineer into plain English?
    Anyway I will keep the Genius for my 6 volts bikes and buy a CTEK for my 12 volters. (I wanted a Deltran Battery Tender but seems they do not offer 6 volts even tho' from my limited knowledge it would be very simple to do.

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  12. I forgot to mention that with my Genius I noticed with the 6 V lead acid batteries in my old British bikes(new Yuasa batteries) it was boiling the liquid even though it indicated less than full charge, making me think it was over charging.

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  13. I'm having trouble finding a ctek 12v outlet lead locally. I found a noco one though and the connectors look pretty close but I haven't bought it to try. Could you (or anyone who has both) try swapping accessories and see if they fit each other's chargers?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I have both noco and ctek chargers. Their leads are not interchangeable.

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  14. Sorry, I returned the other chargers, so I cannot test this for you.

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  15. I have 1 ctek no problems after 3 years. I bought 4 nocos at the same time,they have replaced 3 under warranty. I was on their website today 10-22-2016 and found my registered products were not listed there. I do not know why since the warranty is still in effect I bought them in 2013. I e-mailed them , waiting for a response. By the way in their instructions they are not to be used below 32 deg.

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  16. I have both of these chargers and both do seem to be very well made chargers. Neither are miracle workers and cannot bring a totally screwed battery back to full capacity and when I mean full capacity I mean the cold cranking amps and not voltage. I was testing the reconditioning/desulfation modes on an old Neverstart battery from Walmart that's been sitting for years. My goal was to get the CCA's back up to the 525 it's rated for or higher. So far I've got it up to 460 CCA testing with a Midtronics battery tester that's very accurate. I will have to say that the CTEK is the one that brought it up the highest. The NOCO brought it up to about 430ish but it's still not 100% restored even after the run on the CTEK. The battery is just probably done and I'm not blaming either charger for that. My conclusion that either one, the CTEK or the NOCO, works just fine and I'm happy with both.

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  17. The new Noco's have a lithium mode, you have to buy a separate CTEK for that.

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    1. I'm not convinced Noco's "Lithium mode" does anything significant.
      The Noco site says: "12V Lithium Mode Designed for charging lithium-ion batteries that include a battery maintenance system (BMS), including lithium iron phosphate batteries."
      Typically you can use any normal charger on a Lithium battery that has a BMS. That is what the BMS is for!

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    2. If I needed a lithium charger, I will still buy a separate one from CTEK. They are incredible chargers. I have the MUS4400 and my 5 year old battery was very bad holding a charge when it reached 100%. After regularly using this, it has greatly improved storing a charge. I have seen this from the LED behaviours from CTEK. It's not something I was able to see on NOCOs (G3500) as the LED was just a solid (green/white) after fully charged. I sold the NOCO and is a very satisfied CTEK-fan!

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    3. The main purpose of a BMS when charging a lithium battery is to support individual cell balancing. Without a BMS the charger would have to be capable of this. And chargers with desulfating modes will damage lithium batteries, unless it can be turned off.

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    4. Dan, You are correct, but I think the BMS also protects agains over or under voltage conditions and over charging. You can just hook a BMS Li Ion battery to a steady voltage, like your vehicle's regulator provides, and it will charge fine. So I suspect NOCO's Lithium mode is just that, a steady voltage supply mode. Given what I consider NOCO's previous lack of integrity in describing their "modes", until they say exactly what Lithium mode does, I'd assume it is just a steady supply voltage. I also note that the NOCO manual expressly says to consult the battery manufacturer to see if the charger is appropriate https://noco-thenococompany.netdna-ssl.com/media/nocodownloads/format/g/1/g1100-smart-battery-charger-user-guide.pdf . Hey, it is quite possible the NOCO does great things when used with a Lithium Ion battery, but you cannot tell from their manual and it appears to only be appropriate for batteries with a BMS. If it does more, it would be to their benefit to upgrade their marketing materials and manual. On the other hand, CTEK makes a special charger for Lithium Ion batteries, that appears OK for batteries without a BMS and clearly claims to do something besides apply a straight voltage. http://smartercharger.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/manual-lithium-us.pdf
      Personally, I have several vehicles with Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries, and if there is no parasitic drain, the batteries can go a very long time without charging, at least 6 months. So I just disconnect the battery terminals in those vehicles if they are going to sit for a long period. On the few times I have needed to charge one, I just put it on an old fashioned non-intelligent charger for a couple hours.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. I have the CTEK Multi US 4.3..

    My 2005 Chevy silverado has a block heater that does not work..

    I plug in my charger every night if is below -20 Celsius..It has let me start the truck at even -40....

    I have an Odyssey battery and run synthetic oil..

    Best battery charger I have ever owned...

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  20. Glad to hear good things about the 4.3
    I just bought it last December and still maintaining my 5 year old Honda civic battery. Just with regular chargings. No plans of doing recondition (although this unit doesn't have that functionality).
    I was using NOCO 3500 before and sold it for this better one. And I noticed you won't find a pre-owned CTEK for sale here in Canada. Well, the NOCO's are all out there.

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  21. I have a Noco Genesis G7200 V2 and a CTEK MXS 5.0

    I agree with this review and nothing much has changed in 5 years.
    The Noco now have LIthium

    Noco as a company remind me a 7 blade razor, just more hype but nothing new is actually happening.

    Pulling both units apart. I've done this and i can assure everyone, the CTEK build quality and parts used are miles ahead of Nocos
    Noco use very cheap Caps and have Poor 110-240V separation from the Low Voltage side.
    Noco has a very basic single sided PCB board, with no water proof coating at CTEK does.

    In the Real World, you connect the CTEK to any Battery, and it will quickly sense the Batteries state, climb through the stages and always run the final 2 stages
    Do that with the Noco and it will just sense the Batteries state and show 100%?
    What does that mean? I mean, you cant even tell what the Noco is actually doing?
    At least the CTEK has 9 LEDs explaining where its at and what it is doing.

    Also, i have contacted both companys regarding thier product
    CTEK were prompt and helpful
    Noco took 3 days and just gave a Generic BS response
    When i pressed Noco to further explain, they gave me some total BS about it being sensitive information blah blah blah.
    Which is of NO help when you are trying to match a Charger to a Battery Manufactures Charging Specs.

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