Wednesday, September 08, 2010

AW RCR123A 3.0V 500 mAh LifePO4 - review

Although I was sent these requesting my thoughts on the product, as usual you will receive my total unbiased opinion on the product, or any other product I review.

When I purchased my Chameleon I had ordered Tenergy RCR123A 3.0V 900 mAh (protected LI-Ion batteries) to operate the Chameleon at 6 volts and AW RCR123A 3.7V 750 mAh for XHV vaping. The AW LifePO4s had not hit the street yet, or they might have been purchased as well. I say might because I do have a serious bias towards “protected” cells. The latter is just my personal preference and in no way shape or form should take away from the objectivity of this review.

I have trialled these batteries off and on for over a month know, and feel comfortable with offering my opinion wrt their performance.

The batteries were tested using SLB atomisers exclusively, with the exception of a short “carto” trial which I must admit I was not fond of. I prefer my cartos at 3.7V. The atomisers used were:
  • HV 801 @ 3.5 Ohms;
  • XHV 801 @ 5.2 Ohms;
  • HV 901 @ 3.3 Ohms (old stock);
  • XHV 901 @ 5.2 Ohms; and
  • HV 510 @ 3.5 Ohms
First Impression
Like all cells manufactured by AW, it is clearly evident that great care and quality control goes into each battery produced. They say never judge a book by its cover. Well, I believe that saying is very much passé. A good cover means a certain amount of pride was important went into the overall design. Unlike many batteries I have used, the sheathing of the AW batts is flawless, and components are in alignment. I have yet to have a battery fail (no autopsy), but I am sure that the great care on the outside, reassures me of the quality of the other components that form “the cell” and, that the same care was manifested there as well during assembly.

Trial data
I received the package and checked the voltage of the cells. They metered at 3.2 and 3.19V respectively. Expecting 3.6V I placed them on the charger. After about ten minutes, the lights were green and the cells measured 3.35 and 3.36V respectively. I numbered the batteries 1 & 2 (this will come into play later).

The first time I used them under moderate to heavy vaping I got 8-9hrs from the pack. On subsequent uses, 6-7 hrs (which in my case is to be expected), but the 7 hrs was a solid 7 hrs not 6 to 7. The remaider of the trial I would get a solid 6-7 hrs. I never enjoyed the luxury of a solid 8 hrs, but this has more to do with use than the batteries themselves I believe.

First use data:
  • battery 1 = 3.35V after use = 2.29V (position bottom)
  • battery 2 = 3.36V after use = 2.85V (position top)
Remainder of the trial...
  • battery 1 = 3.43V after use = 1.89V (position top)
  • battery 2 = 3.37V after use = 2.65V (position bottom)

  • battery 1 = 3.48V after use = 1.81V (position bottom)
  • battery 2 = 3.37V after use = 2.4V (position top)

  • battery 1 = 3.37V after use = 1.8V (position top)
  • battery 2 = 3.36V after use = 2.3V (position bottom)

  • battery 1 = 3.36V after use = 2.5V (position bottom)
  • battery 2 = 3.36V after use = 2.8V (position top)

  • battery 1 = 3.34V after use = 1.8V (battery top)
  • battery 2 = 3.34V after use = 2.6V (battery botom)
I used the batteries during my vacation in Montreal off and on and no data was recorded during that time frame (vacation). The above information is the collected data of the trial. A point to note – I am not an HV vaper per se and HV vaping is conducting only during the evenings or when chasing demons off.

The batteries performed more or less as expected. The more or less is because of battery #1 was discharging below the maximum recommended voltage of 2.0V, and as previously discussed (in other threads) was not commensurate with regards to its position in the tube.

On the other hand, regardless of which atomisers were used, I was getting 5.9 – 6.01/02V under load for 3 hours before performance started to drop. A caveat worthy of mention – I am not accustomed to vaping unprotected batteries and perhaps used them longer than i normally should have. I do not know.

Although, battery #1 went below its low voltage threshold, it never presented a problem when recharging. It behaved normally during the charge cycle, which led to the continued use of the cell for the duration of the trial. Both cells took approximately 2-2.5 hrs to recharge from depleted, of course #1 always taking just a bit longer (but within specified time frame). This led me to believe that the internal resistance of both cells were similar. Should the IR of cell #1 be significantly higher than cell #2 this would have materialised during the charge cycle where: cell #1 would have come to full charge sooner (less capacity to accept a “full” charge due to its rock content). The fact that #1 took longer was an indication that all was “normal”, as the cell was depleated further than its counterpart.

Comparative discussion
When compared to the Tenergys, the jury is still very much out wrt which one is better. Under load although the Tenergys only provided 5.5-5.7V, they seem to hit slightly harder. The latter may very well be subjective, but in all honesty I don't think so!

These particular cells are wierd cells. I am not sure of all that is going on wrt its PCB. Pulse modulation perhaps?

If we use a single 3.0V cell, in this case the AW's producing 3.2V, 2.9-3V under load, then why does it pale in comparison with the eGo and the Tenergy cell (2.9V under load). I don't have those answers and my data doesn't support my conclusions.

IMHO the Tenergys hit the same (battery design) until they cut off. Only the last couple of hits are faint, by the time you realize this, they simply cut off. There is no trailing per se when compared against the LifePO4s.

The Tenergys have not been receiving favourable reviews. This is understandable with their LifePO4s. Although many vendors do sell them, they are indeed underrated for use in our application with their maximum discharge rate of 0.5 Amps.

I believe their 3V LI-Ion cell more than adequately meets the job and further believe their discharge current to be 3A and not 3uA as on the site. I believe that the unit of measure was a remnant from the matrix used, but as always open to suggestions.

Protected vs non-protected
As voiced throughout Battery U although LiMn and LifePO4 use safer chemistry, protection is always recommended. Safer chemistry = will not vent with flames, not will not vent during a runaway. It is my understanding that a certain degree of internal protection does indeed exist for the AW LiMN and LifePO4 line. I do not have this information and will welcome anyone who has it to voice it in this thread so we can all benefit from it. I do know the ins and outs of the standard LI-Ion line however, and it doesn't get any better than that.

As stated at the beginning of the review, I am a proponent of protected batteries. I am also a proponent of buying the best batteries money can buy. It behoves me when I see folks skimping on batteries when they never blinked an eye at the continuous rise of cigarette prices, and paid them.

I had a near runaway on my P18 some weeks ago, the cause a faulty adapter. I believe the over-current protection might have prevented a dead runaway, but I was using the LifePO4s at the time. Because I recognized what was going on, I immediately unscrewed the top cap and removed the batteries from the tube and a potential situation was avoided.

The batteries were warm but not hot. After ensuring their state of health I used them in my Chameleon. The 5th set of numbers (under trial) are the result of that cycle.

In all honesty, I cannot form an intelligent conclusion at this time, for several reasons:
  • Although the batteries were received as a set, battery #1 might have been flawed from the start;
  • Regardless of position in the stack, battery one depleated quicker than battery #2;
  • Not having an extra set for comparison, leaves me litle room for objectivity.
That being said...

The quality of the AW battery is beyond reproach IMHO. The main point observed is that it continuously produced 6V under load until it started to fade. As mentioned, this was probably the time to take them out and re-charge them. I do not know, and welcome any comments wrt this. I always vape my batteries into the protection cut off, with the exception of the 18650 which I re-charge regardless on the third day.

What can be said if anything? Do not solely rely on protection or battery chemistry when using battery mods, especially when operating these mods in a stacked condition. Accidents happen quicker than we think. I thorough understanding of batteries, their capacities and intended use is key to safe operation. A serious incident was avoided, and that was the result of a good understanding what was taking place, nothing else. Was it the batteries fault? I do not believe so, the culprit was the adapter which found its way into the bin.

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