NOCO ChargeLight : first impressions

idleprocess

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Overview
The ChargeLight is a combination USB battery bank and flashlight. The battery bank function will recharge almost any USB-powered device (such as cell phones). The flashlight offers 3 modes and strobe, thankfully omitting a SOS mode.

Manufacturer Specifications
Battery
  • Battery Capacity: 2600mAH
  • Battery Watt-Hours: 9.62Wh
  • Battery Chemistry : Premium Grade Lithium Iion
  • Battery Lifecycle: 1,000+ cycles
  • Micro USB (input): 5V @ 1A
  • USB (output): 5V @ 1A

Flashlight
  • 100%: 250 lumens ... 4 hrs
  • 50%: 125 lumens ... 8 hours
  • 10%: 25 lumens ... 72 hours
  • Strobe: 250 lumens ... 120 hours
  • Off: 1 yr standby

If you want weight, dimensions, etc, you can find them on Amazon ... chargelight.com also redirects to the Amazon listing.


The Box



Fairly standard Apple-style packaging with nice presentation of the contents. They are certainly trying to position it as a premium product when you un-box it.


The Contents

  • The ChargeLight itself
  • Charging cradle
  • USB adaptor - 10W (5V x 2A)
  • Micro-USB cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Exhaustive instructions in 4 languages

The Light itself





It features an attractive-if-utilitarian housing with two buttons whose functions are pretty intuitive - the one near the light controls the flashlight functions, the other controls the power bank functions.

The rectangular shape makes the light easy to maintain consistent orientation and the flashlight switch seems to be at a convenient location to actuate with the thumb in the classic flashlight hold. The switch has an embossed on/off logo along with a rougher texture on the switch that can be easily felt by touch. I find that I can also register orientation by feeling for the cradle alignment groove with my pinkie finger, although this may not be convenient for those with smaller hands.

The light tailstands well on flat surfaces and is a little steadier than round flashlights (the rectangular shape makes it only likely to tip in 4 directions). It obviously lies flat on level surfaces, although on smooth surfaces with a slight tilt it will slide readily.

Lacking a scale, I can't make a definitive statement about weight, but it seems lighter than another comparably-sized light that I have handy - a Fenix PD35. With 123A cells in the PD35, the distinction is harder to make, but with an 18650 I suspect the ChargeLight is definitely lighter.

The mode sequence is fairly intuitive: High, medium, low, strobe, off (wash rinse repeat). You have perhaps a second to select each mode, after which the next click will simply turn the light off. Operation is centered around utility - there is no momentary and you need to press and release the switch to move between modes.

The optics appear to be a reflector/lens hybrid, which results in a very wide beam with a bit of fade at the edges and a bit of ring-y, artifact-y spill. It's excellent for task work, navigating in a dark room, and ceiling-bounce room illumination works quite well. It is not going to brightly illuminate objects more than about 20 paces distant.

Here's my somewhat bumbling attempt at a video field test with a rather disinterested test subject:


The defect on medium/low is not as apparent in the video as it is to the eyes - it visibly blinks for a fraction of a second down to a fraction of the current output on a semi-random delay of about a quarter of a second to one second. A little further testing has shown that this only manifests itself if the light is cycled through all modes then turned back on again in <5 seconds or so - pointing to some minor bug in the programming rather than the battery voltage monitor I speculate about in the video. It also appears not to use PWM for medium/low brightness based on swinging the light rapidly across my field of view, although I don't make a definitive claim on this and they may simply use much faster PWM than other manufacturers.


The power bank

See those two round copper contacts either side of the USB ports? Those mate with pogo pins in the charging cradle for ease of charging with zero-force insertion and removal - reducing wear on the input port. Unlike most power banks I've seen on the market, the USB charging port is micro-USB rather than mini-USB, so most will only need a micro USB cable for both device recharging and recharging the ChargeLight whenever away from the cradle.

Hold the powerbank switch for about 2 seconds to enable USB power; hold it for another 2 seconds to disable it. Per the documentation, it can simultaneously recharge itself and a connected device with an external source of USB power. There is also a lockout function - press and hold both power buttons for about 3 seconds to lock; repeat to unlock. The status LED also shows 3 charge states; green for full, red for partially discharged, and flashing red for empty.

I only have two phones to test the battery bank with - a Moto X and a (decidedly long-in-the-tooth) HTC Thunderbolt. Both took a charge from the ChargeLight like they would any of the USB chargers I have scattered about without issue. DC-DC circuitry is pretty much never 100% efficient, so combined with standby losses and charging losses in the remote device, I assume that there will be loss transferring energy from the ChargeLight to a phone:
  • Moto X: 2100mAH battery; 1 full charge over a bit more than 2 hours
  • Thunderbolt: 1400mAH battery; 1 full charge over about 90 minutes (and another ~75% charge over about an hour)

The cradle deserves some mention. The ChargeLight slides in and out of it effortlessly. It also has a USB connector on the front so that you can also charge another USB device at the same time - really handy since I've set it on my nightstand and am using it to charge my phone at night as well. Because the pack-in USB power adaptor is a 10W unit, it has the Wheaties to power both devices handily.


The Verdict
I personally like it, but I also accept its limitations as a combination device. I look at it as a well-built power bank first that also happens to have a reasonably well-designed flashlight built in. It's hardly a high-speed/low-drag flashlight with a cutting-edge UI, but it does a decent job for what most of us need a flashlight for - utility stuff like walking in the dark, lighting up a dark room, or lighting up a work area. And given the average person's propensity to flatten their cell phone's battery all too often, it can serve its primary task well.

I think the brightness defect is manageable - just pick your desired mode the first time, wait a few seconds to re-select, or just deal with the blink.

A minor nitpick: the charge status LED when in the cradle is a wee bit too bright on the night stand and I'm obligated to angle it away from my face.

Compared to most power banks (especially on Amazon and eBay), the ChargeLight is expensive ... but it's also built much better than the cheaper power banks and the flashlight is immensely better than any other integrated flashlight I've come across (most implement it as an afterthought with low-power LED's). When I first came across these on Amazon, they were pretty uniformly $70. The blue saw a $5 price drop and I put it in my cart then forgot to place the order ... a few days later it was $55 and I bought. Now the black is $50 and some of the other colors have dropped in price as well. With a decent flashlight mated to a quality power bank, I felt it was worth the price. Somewhat concerning, however, is the fact that their product registration page fails to load, NOCO's main site makes no mention of ChargeLight, and the one social media link that still works mentions an unrelated car charger exclusively ... leading one to conclude that they are experiencing hard times and/or abandoning their tentative venture outside of their primary automotive market.

I'm pleased with the product and assuming it keeps working will enjoy it, however I am not sure if the manufacturer will be standing behind it any longer.
 
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idleprocess

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NOCO also offers a ruggedized flashlight/power bank with such similar specifications (11 W-H vs 9.62 W-H and lack of a charging dock being the main differences) that I believe it's just version 1.1 of this product. It features an over-molded rubber cover with similar proportions - model XGB3L under their XGrid line (which includes some large battery banks and solar panels).

Looks like NewEgg has the ChargeLights on sale for $30 now.

Great reviwe!Poor cat! OOPS! Looks like a good light though!

Thanks. The cat was undamaged and actually remained in place, unlike the first attempt where he departed 5 seconds after I started.
 
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CyclingSalmon14

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Ah no not accusing you of anything or harming the cat, sorry about that if it came across so, just meant as in whoops unexpected strobe, i doubt it was to botherd or as you said it would have moved.

Looks like a look light though! Great way to combine two gadgets.
 

oKtosiTe

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Wonder how this compares to the Powertac E8.
Seems like this one looks prettier, the E8 looks more comfortable, and neither is rated for outdoors use.
 
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idleprocess

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Wonder how this compares to the Powertac E8.
Seems like this one looks prettier, the E8 looks more comfortable, and neither is rated for outdoors use.

The "ruggedized" XGrid version looks like it can handle casual outdoors exposure, although the rubber armor will trap heat in the higher operating modes.

It's worth noting that I returned this product - the flickering on low modes was getting progressively worse and the apparent lack of interest on the manufacturer's part were not confidence inspiring.
 
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oKtosiTe

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The "ruggedized" XGrid version looks like it can handle casual outdoors exposure, although the rubber armor will trap heat in the higher operating modes.

It's worth noting that I returned this product - the flickering on low modes was getting progressively worse and the apparent lack of interest on the manufacturer's part were not confidence inspiring.
Considering that I haven't even managed to locate this product on NOCO's own website, that doesn't surprise me, but it's a shame nonetheless.
 

idleprocess

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Considering that I haven't even managed to locate this product on NOCO's own website, that doesn't surprise me, but it's a shame nonetheless.

I'm going to speculate that their kickstarter campaign (read: marketing stunt) failed to catch fire, and most of their prospective customers experienced a sticker shock that had them snapping their wallets shut.

Guessing that the company also didn't want to diversify their main brand image, so they inexplicably kept these alternate product lines off the radar. This is really confusing since any company that invests in such an initiative would be foolish not to market it, but I have no way of knowing what's going on behind the scenes.

The $30 price on newegg is a steal ... so long as the units work properly and the company will stand behind the product!
 

AardvarkSagus

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This actually looked like a pretty cool product to me. Definitely not the best of both worlds, but a good compromise that gives a decent presentation of each. I'm surprised we don't see more products like it.
 

idleprocess

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This actually looked like a pretty cool product to me. Definitely not the best of both worlds, but a good compromise that gives a decent presentation of each. I'm surprised we don't see more products like it.
While the flashlight is middle of the road by CPF standards, I would say that it's in the top tier of external USB batteries on the market.
 

Chrontius

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Just discovered this thing less than a month ago.

It's the first time I've felt that itch in a very long time - a Fivemega single cell C-body with a Nichia triple covereth a multitude of sins and even more use cases for me. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for cradle charging, going back to cell phones around the turn of the millennium. If I have to think about what has batteries in it this week, and their state of charge, I'm just going to grab something that runs on power tool packs more often than not. Those have stupendous safety circuits in them, and often have charge indicators on their side, and most certainly have enough runtime that I'm not going to destroy another li-ion cell.

A solidly engineered, floody flashlight that's always at 100% when I reach for it? I'm game.

I just hope the next version has a user-replaceable battery and uses waterproof USB plugs.
 

idleprocess

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Just discovered this thing less than a month ago.

It's the first time I've felt that itch in a very long time - a Fivemega single cell C-body with a Nichia triple covereth a multitude of sins and even more use cases for me. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for cradle charging, going back to cell phones around the turn of the millennium. If I have to think about what has batteries in it this week, and their state of charge, I'm just going to grab something that runs on power tool packs more often than not. Those have stupendous safety circuits in them, and often have charge indicators on their side, and most certainly have enough runtime that I'm not going to destroy another li-ion cell.

A solidly engineered, floody flashlight that's always at 100% when I reach for it? I'm game.

I just hope the next version has a user-replaceable battery and uses waterproof USB plugs.
The concept makes for a great around-the-house or work light - grab it from the cradle and go. The cradle was simple, idiot-proof, and - unlike using the micro-USB connection - produced almost zero wear. I was always a bit torn between leaving it on the nightstand in its cradle most of the time and just keeping it in the backpack that goes to work every day and that was driven by the convenience of that cradle vs the inconvenience of having to futz with a micro-USB connection in the field. I think that NOCO might have been able to turn a nice trade selling additional cradle/charger combos for these things, priced correctly.

I hope yours performs solidly.

I doubt you're ever going to see anything other than the most basic of USB power banks with replaceable cells. Ruggedized options exist - some from the same manufacturer, albeit without the charging cradle.
 

Chrontius

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A year on, and this wall-o-light is still often the first thing I reach for, if I'm not wearing a holstered light, and it still goes with me everywhere in case of a flat phone battery.

+1 Underrated.

Edit: Posting this because I forgot I plugged this thing in exactly the same way last year. :p

I know the ChargeLight is a polarizing item, but it fits my needs nicely and is still pretty ideal for going jogging with. Still a sucker for cradle charging, and I've bought a dock for syncing my iPhone to supplement the charging cradle built into my alarm clock. Maybe we should make a list of cradle-charging lights in current production?
 
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Chrontius

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2022, so ... seven years on. Still like this thing, and found a niche for it. Pogo charging doesn't work any more.

Anybody know if they still make these? A source for new-old-stock replacements?
 
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