ElectriFlyTRITON PRODUCT REVIEW
BY Red Scholefield
– Red’s R/C Battery Clinic
Great Planes raises the ante in the $100-200 charger range with their introduction of the
Triton. Behind the distinctive red plastic bezel the extruded aluminum case contains some innovative features. As the hobby
standard Ni-Cds are being challenged by newer technology offered by Ni-MH and now Lithium-Ion/polymer systems, the Triton
presents a battery maintenance system that addresses these new offerings.Item Tested -
Charger, Discharger, Cycler
Purpose – Battery Maintenance System
Manufacturer – Great Planes
Suggested Retail Price – $129.99
Warranty – One yearInput Power
-10-15V DCCharge Range – 1- 24 Ni-Cd or Ni-MH, 1-4 Lithium
Ion/polymer, 3-12 Pb (lead acid)Fast Charge Rate – 100 mA to 5A - 90 watts
max (2.5A max. for Li-Ion/polymer) Trickle Charge Rate –
30 to 250 mA – automatic (n/a
for Li-Ion and Pb) Discharge Current - 100 mA to 3A - 20 watts max (2.5A max. for
Li-Ion) Discharge Cut-Off - 0.5-1.16V/cell NiCd & NiMH, Li-Ion/polymer
2.8V/cell, Pb 1.8V/cell Cycle Count - One to ten cycles (n/a for Li-Ion/polymer
and Pb) Battery Memories - 10 Dimensions –
6.2 x 4.0 x 2.0 in (157 x 102 x 51mm) Weight - 16.4 oz (466g)
–19 6 X 8 ½ pages – plus 5 program flow charts.Tested
On – Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Pb (lead acid), Lithium Ion/PolymerCHEERS
– The broadest range of battery types served. Programmable voltage cut off, peak sensitivity, topping charge and safety
features. Banana plug connections on the SIDE of the charger where they belong so as to not obstruct the display or controls.
Once you are over the initial learning curve, which is about the same as other units, the Triton is faster to program.
JEERS – Programmable trickle charge and an on-off switch would
Lithium charge rates based on very conservative protocol may not fully charge lithium packs.When
in doubt, read the directions!
For a preview of the details of how this unit works, the instruction manual may be
downloaded from: http://www.electrifly.com/manuals/gpmm3150-manual-v1_1.pdf
For reasons known only to the instruction book authors, charger purveyors feel bound to comment on the “Nickel
Cadmium memory problem” and what their unit does to address it and well as perpetuating other popular battery myths.
The Triton instruction manual is no exception. Just ignore it in that regard, you won’t buy the Triton for the literary
value of the instruction book, but rather to maintain your battery packs. This is accomplished quite nicely with the aid of
the five programming flow charts that were thoughtfully included with the product.Once you have the basics down these programming
charts are all you need for future reference.
Instruction book states that the Triton will shut down if
internal temperatures exceed 100°
F. This is in error and should read 100° C.
technical people have clarified the fan operation: The fan does not turn on until needed, which occurs in the following circumstances:
1. During discharge once needed.
2. During charge:
if the temp of the charger exceeds 50 degrees centigrade
b. if the charge output power is over 30W
c. if the charge current is over 2.5A
d. if charging 1cell, or packs containing
2 or 3 cells
3. During charge or discharge, if the temp of the charger itself exceeds
100 degrees C the charger will stop all charge or discharge functions unitl the temp of the charger becomes below than 70
degrees C. The fan should continue to run unitl the temp of the charger drops below 45 degrees C. (We cover this in the manual)
In addition, once the fan turns on it should work until the charge or discharge function is finished.
If the temp of the charger still exceeds 45 degrees C after a function is completed the fan should continue to work until
the temp drops below 45 degrees C."
We ran the usual performance tests on this unit using a digital multimeter with an RS232 port connecting to a laptop.
Old as well as new packs ranging from single cells to the maximum of 24 were tested. Dozens of charge/discharge curves covering
all the settings were accumulated. Charge and discharge curves (Figure 1) obtained from a well used 7 cell Cs electric flight
pack are typical.Figure 1. As the curves indicate, the Triton employs voltage-sampling techniques that are pretty well standard
in chargers of this type. Suffice it to say that the testing verified the manufacturer’s claims and found them to be
an honest representation of the unit’s performance and capability. Voltage and current readings were within 1% of those
indicated by the unit.Based on time and discharge currents the capacity readings were also well within reasonable limits for
a unit of this type. Neat Features:
The people at Great Planes tried to cover all the
bases and did a pretty good job.
If the buzzer annoys you it can be turned off – or set to
any of 10 different melodies.
But they considered
some serious things also. Two backups are provided in case the charge termination scheme doesn’t do its job. You can
set a Safety Timer and the Max Charge Input (in Ni-MH mode). If you are still timid, a Thermal Sensor is available
as an accessory, which allows you to program the Temperature at which you would like the charge to terminate. This reflects
an understanding of the real world of batteries rather than distrust of the system’s ability to terminate charge. To
address the problem of early or premature peak shut down they give you a programmable Peak Delay as well as the ability to set the Peak Sensitivity. If you can’t
get enough flying in to wear out your batteries the Triton lets you cycle them up to10 times automatically and keeps the capacity
in/out readings for each cycle. You have the option of Charge then Discharge
or Discharge then Charge. Many peak detector chargers don’t provide the
needed trickle or topping charge needed to balance out the pack after it peaks. The Triton has taken care of this with a default Trickle
Charge based on the charge rate selected and for Ni-MH, 20 minutes of programmable Topping
Charge. There are 10 Battery Memories available
to store your favorite set up. And for those that don’t have a clue there is an Auto function for most settings that has the Triton making all the decisions – and quite conservative ones. Per
the instructions, auto mode is not recommended for smaller capacity packs. I don’t recommend the auto mode for any packs.
With all the programming functions at your disposal why let the charger have all the fun making decisions? When used, the
auto charge was very conservative and did not set up charge rates that would be satisfactory for electric flight (or your
transmitter/receiver packs) field charging where a fast turn around is required.Pushing buttons
– when and when not to.
The first thing that strikes you on this unit is that it has two buttons and a
combination rotary dial/push button, unlike the 4/6 button arrangements seen on competitive units.I would have to temper the
marketing hype, “amazingly easy programming in almost no time”, to “it took me about as long to get comfortable
programming this unit as it did others I have tested”. Thanks to another modeler, Darral Teeples <firstname.lastname@example.org>
that was also working his way through the amazingly easy programming, we collaborated, comparing notes on the Triton’s
operation secrets – when our notes did not agree we isolated the problem to a slow switch (unit immediately replaced
by Great Planes) or in another instance to a low battery in a DVM (that’s what that little flashing battery symbol means).When
you first connect the Triton to a 12 volt source you get a few seconds of“GREAT PLANES ELECTRIFLY” then it goes
to the charge mode and rate of the last battery type you used with all of the settings you had programmed for it.If this is
what you want to do you simply depress the rotary button for a few seconds and the charge process begins.If you want to change
any of the setup, depress the MENU button and rotate dial to what you want to set, press the dial momentarily and then rotate
to the setting you want, pressing the dial once more to the setup where you can rotate to move to the next item. Once you
have made the any changes to the setup press the MENU button again to go to the charge mode. Five battery types (Ni-Cd, Ni-MH,
Pb-lead acid, Lithium or one of 10 battery memory setups) are selected by the BATT TYPE button, where you can then set one
of the 4 routines (charge, discharge, charge then discharge, or discharge then charge) with the rotary button. Individual
settings with these charge rates, discharge rate etc. are set by pushing the rotary button momentarily and then dialing the
rate you want. It is actually simpler to do than describe. Just follow the Programming Flow Charts. Once you get use to it,
the Triton is easier to program and is certainly faster with the rotary dial feature to scan back and forth in the various
Fooling the “Smart Charger”
While they tell you some of the features are available in
the Ni-MH mode only, you can cheat a little. Just set up for Ni-MH (set the peak sensitivity for 10 mv) and then connect your
Ni-Cd battery and start the process. The Triton, smart as it is, cannot tell it is charging a Ni-Cd and will allow you to
use all the Ni-MH features.Screw up protection.
Both input and output have reverse polarity protection and
in the case of the output connection gives you an error reading to inform you of your sin. It also features an internal thermal
protection that shuts the unit down with an Overheating
display if the unit internal temperature exceeds
a 100 degrees F. I didn’t check this out but heard one user complained that where he flew it frequently got over 100
degrees – maybe Triton had the good sense to warn the user as well as protect itself. Overcoming the DC only
Many chargers are being offered that operate on DC only, while limiting them to 12 volts overcomes the onerous
UL certification process, many find that this restricts the utility of the product. One does wonder how many people actually
use the full features and capability while the unit is connected to their car battery.The thought of having to purchase a
separate DC supply at $40 or more to use the cycler in your shop is not appealing either.There is an inexpensive solution.
It is found in the power supply of your old PC, or if you don’t have an old one laying around you should have trashed,
you can get one at most any PC repair shop just for carting it off. Once you have rescued the power supply drop by the Battery
Clinic where you will find a link to Pat Harvey’s excellent article on the conversion details hosted by the Minnesota
Area R/C Electric Flight Enthusiasts. The Triton may not be the ultimate in chargers in
this category, but it comes as close as the reviewer has seen to date.
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