A month ago, Maha (Powerex) offered to send me their new 8-bay MH-C980 charger. At first I didn’t want it.
There are hundreds of chargers on the market, and I don’t want to spend time looking at all of them. I focus primarily on the types of AA/AAA battery chargers that I believe are best for either:
- Average consumers
- Battery enthusiasts who want a high degree of control and knowledge about their batteries
The Powerex MH-C980 Turbo Charger Analyzer fits neither category. However, I decided to accept the charger after all, so I could explore what was for me, a new market category:
So how well does the Powerex MH-C980 address the professional market?
Some people go through 8+ batteries within hours, typically professional photographers or audio technicians, who may deplete over 50 batteries at one event. Each of these types of professionals uses AA or AAA battery-powered accessories at several large events per week.
The MH-C980 is a successor model to several other similar Powerex models that have attempted to address this professional market. Maha Energy provided me with a Powerex MH-C980, carrying case and 8 Powerex Pro AA batteries to try a few weeks before its release. I’ve been testing it since mid-April, 2019.
Note that temporarily, Maha is bundling 8 high capacity low self-discharge batteries with the charger. The Powerex Pro batteries are high quality, made-in-Japan batteries, though I found the actual capacity to be 2600-2650 mAh, not 2700 mAh as advertised on the batteries.
You can buy a bundle with case, charger, and batteries for under $100:
Or you can buy just the charger for about $25 less:
What does the Professional Market Want?
Before I get into any details, let me say straight out that this is not a model I would recommend for a typical consumer. It costs nearly twice as much and is far noisier than typical consumer models. However, for people who charge 8+ batteries per day, the higher cost is negligible and a noisy fan typically won’t matter.
People who go through 8+ batteries/day will want the following attributes in a charger:
- As covered by this site’s most recent annual battery guide, a quality charger must have independent charging channels and circuitry to insure that batteries stop charging at the appropriate cut off (negative delta-V has proven to work best with NiMH batteries). Chargers that do this insure best battery performance, both short-term and long-term.
- Inserting and removing batteries must be fast and easy
- The user interface should be very simple to use, and give feedback that is easy to read
- The batteries should charge quickly to be ready for their next use
- In support of charging quickly, the unit must have thermal management features. This means widely spaced bays and a fan. A simple test for this is that batteries should never be too hot to touch while charging.
I don’t ever go through 20+ batteries/month let alone 20+/day, so it’s possible I’ve missed something on this list—feel free to add additional needed attributes in the comments if you use many batteries per day.
Is the MH-C980 a Good Model for Professionals?
From my first impressions of the MH-C980, I think this model will please professionals. Specifically:
Like most Maha products, the charger has independent charging channels, negative delta-V circuitry, and high quality construction.
There is ample spacing between charging bays, which makes it easy to insert batteries. It’s slightly difficult to remove batteries when all 8 bays are occupied, but once the first battery is out it’s easy to remove the remaining 7 batteries.
Because the bays are independently controlled, it’s possible to insert any combination of AA and AAA batteries in any order. The manual recommends inserting the first battery inserted into bay 1 (after which you may choose to press one of the two buttons), 2nd to bay 2, 3rd to bay 3, etc., which is how I tested the unit.
The MH-C980 is very easy to use. Insert 1-8 batteries and it will be done charging in a 2 hours, or less if the batteries are only partially drained.
There are two options that can be chosen within the first few seconds of inserting the first battery:
- Turbo mode has batteries charge at double the normal rate. AA Batteries go from 1000mA default rate to 2000 mA Turbo, and AAA batteries go from 500Ah default rate to 1000 Ah turbo. For perspective, I recommend with typical consumer units to charge AA batteries at 500 mA and AAA at 200 mA, which prolongs long-term battery life in units that are typically cramped and without a fan.
- The other option is reconditioning which will not be needed for normal use. Perhaps once/year or so, running through the reconditioning function will restore batteries to the maximum charging capacity they’re currently capable of.
One button controls turbo mode, the other reconditioning mode. And that’s it. You don’t need to use either of these buttons in regular operation.
After inserting batteries, the display automatically rotates through all 8 batteries, showing how much mAh of charge has been added to the cell. Once a cell can accept no more charge, the word “full” appears and the mAh quantity stops changing for that one battery. But charging continues for all other inserted batteries, with the display showing mAh increasing. One by one, batteries get charged to capacity and change the display to indicate full.
The beauty of this interface is that it does everything you need, including providing information, without having to touch anything. It’s easy to read the LCD in a well-lit area but if you’re in a dim area, pushing either of the two buttons causes the LCD to become temporarily backlit and super easy to read.
All of this sounds great so far. But the most important attribute for a fast-charging charger like this is how cool the batteries remain. I never recommend battery chargers that cause batteries to become too hot to touch. It’s bad for the batteries, and if the batteries get hot enough it can cause them to melt or even cause a fire. So how did the MH-C980 do in operation?
At the default charge rate (1000 mA for AA, 500 mA), the batteries remained impressively cool. It takes over an hour for the batteries to become noticeably warm, and yet they are still cooler than some units I’ve used charging at half of these charging rates. This is accomplished because of the wide bay spacing and the vigorous fan.
You can feel the air moving over the batteries if you put your fingers close to the opening. Lending confidence to the cooling, the fan is quite loud. Given the settings these units are likely to be used in, the loud noise usually won’t matter, but this is certainly not a unit I would recommend to use in a room that is expected to remain quiet.
Though the default charge rate for this unit is already high, the Turbo rate is an extremely fast rate of charging. Personally, I recommend using Turbo very sparingly because it heats up the batteries more and it cuts off charging when the batteries are not quite fully charged (around 94% to 98% of capacity is what I found in my testing). The heat generated from Turbo charging will hurt the long-term life of the battery despite the wide spacing and fan. Better to just carry many additional batteries that can be swapped in while the unit takes a couple hours to recharge depleted batteries.
That being said, there’s no safety hazard in using turbo mode, as batteries are not too hot to touch (though internal temperature of the battery is higher than the outside of the cell you’re touching, because the outside is being cooled by the fan). Again, the higher temperature is sure to reduce the long-term battery life if Turbo mode is used often.
Of course, if you’re in a great rush, you’ll appreciate being able to charge your batteries in about an hour.
One last little thing I noticed in my testing. This charger may not charge some high self-discharge batteries that are at least a few years old. These high self-discharge batteries are lower quality, with higher internal resistance, less capacity, and lower voltage. As a professional, you’re best off removing these batteries from your collection anyway. Consumers may feel differently as some of these very same batteries can be charged and used in non-critical devices (i.e. toys) by a more forgiving charger.
As I already mentioned, this is not a model I’d recommend for a consumer. You don’t often need to charge 8 batteries at a time, so why get a model with a noisy fan that costs a bit more than any of my recommended AA/AAA chargers.
I do recommend the 8-bay MH-C980 charger model for professionals who frequently deplete 8 or more batteries at a time, especially if the usual work environment is noisy (so the loud fan isn’t noticed). Just plug in the batteries and pull them out 2 hours later, hardly warmer than room temperature.
If you’re in a rush, hit the Turbo button.
What more do you need?