An FPV quadcopter's battery has a tough job. A racing drone or freestyle quadcopter demands a huge amount of power. The best batteries can deliver this power without damaging themselves in the process.
Batteries come in different voltages, indicated by their S-rating. 4S batteries are the standard for mini quads. Some beginners choose to start on 3S because the slight reduction in power makes it easier to learn. Personally, I think this is a waste, because most beginners quickly outgrow the 3S batteries. Spend an extra few hours practicing on a simulator instead of buying 3S batteries. That's why there are only 4S batteries on this list.
It's impossible to tell from marketing which batteries are the best. C-rating is supposed to indicate a battery's ability to deliver current, but there is no standard way of determining C-rating, so many manufacturers basically make it up. Capacity, measured in milliamp-hours (mAh) is like the size of a car's gas tank. But bigger batteries don't always mean longer flight times, because they're also heavier. And heavier batteries make the quad handle worse. The good news is, I've done a lot of real-world testing, so I know which of batteries are worth having. Here they are!
My personal value-choice
infinity 4S 1500 mAh 70C
Some time back, I received ten of these batteries for a long-term test. I'm still flying a few of them! So I feel 100% comfortable recommending this battery to you, even though I think there are a few newer ones that are probably better performers at a better price.
If you're flying an ultra-powerful quad, you should pick one of the higher-end batteries on this list. If you're a starting pilot, looking for a solid battery at a value price, that I personally have put through the wringer, the Infinity 4S 1500 mAh is the one you'll buy.
CNHL batteries offer top-tier performance and reliability with budget pricing. The tradeoff is that they run a little large. Compared to a similar mAh battery from another vendor, the CNHL will be a little larger and heavier. That's the tradeoff for getting great performance at such a low price.
Thunderpower and Tattu make some of the best batteries for FPV drone racing and freestyle, period. Everybody puts "95C" discharge rating on their label. Thunderpower Adrenaline and Tattu R-Line batteries come as close as anybody to actually achieving it. That's one reason why these batteries are the only two that were selected for the elite MultiGP spec-racing class.
These batteries cost more than twice as much as the budget batteries in this list. But if you fly the fastest and most powerful mini quads, then buying a lesser battery is literally throwing money away. Not just because the cheap battery will disappoint you, but because it will literally destroy itself trying (and failing) to deliver the massive power that the high-end quad demands.
There are two basic schools of thought about chargers. One approach is to use a parallel charge board to combine your batteries into one big array, then use a single, big charger to charge them all at once. This is the most cost-effective way of charging batteries, but it carries a lot of risks. If you don't follow safety precautions EXACTLY, your batteries can burst into flames and burn your house down. Many people safely parallel charge, but many people--especially beginners--prefer to avoid it. The second approach to charging is to get a few small chargers, or one big multi-channel charger. Of course, you could also charge one battery at a time. It'll take a while, but it'll get the job done.
Most people who start out in RC are going to charge one battery a a time. Even a low-end charger like the iMax B6 can charge a mini quad battery as fast as is safe. In this case, a cheap charger like the iMax B6 has no down-side. And if you want to charge more than one battery at a time? JUST BUY SEVERAL. At this low price, you can afford it.
PLEASE NOTE: There is a fake/clone version of the iMax B6 that you can buy from Banggood for only about $20. This version has had serious quality issues in the past and I don't recommend it. The link above is to the genuine SkyRC iMax B6.
10 amps / 250 watts
The vast majority of cheap chargers today, including the iMax B6, are unauthorized clones of the original iCharger. This is the original "four-button" design. iCharger makes premium devices, at a premium price point. If you want the best reliability and you want to support original developers, this is the one you'll buy.
The iCharger 106B+ has double the output power of the iMax B6. But if you're not charging large batteries (say, 5000 mAh or larger) or using a parallel charge board, you won't use that additional capacity anyway.
If what you're looking for is a single, huge charger, to push lots of amps into your batteries, the ISDT T8 is it. I know I said that the Q6 Plus was "all you'll ever need," but if you're one of the rare exceptions who needs MORE POWER, here's your answer. The person who'll buy the ISDT T8 is someone who parallel charges more than 10 typical mini quad batteries at once or someone who charges 6S to 8S packs, where a smaller charger will hit its output power limit.
Be aware that this charger requires higher input voltage to reach its full rated power. So you'll want to look for a 24 volt, 1000 watt power supply if you intend to get the most out of it.
Here's why this is "all you'll ever need". At 14 amps output, it can charge nine typical mini-quad batteries simultaneously, in about an hour. If you want to charge more than nine batteries at once, just buy two of this charger. If you comparison-price against other chargers 300 watts or bigger, you'll see why the iSDT Q6 Plus is the one to buy.
Be careful! The above example assumes you're using a parallel charge board to let you charge nine batteries at once. If you don't intend to use a parallel charge board because of safety concerns, then you can only charge one battery at a time, and a smaller, cheaper charger would be right for you.
CHARGERS WITH INTEGRATED POWER SUPPLY
The battery chargers above all require a separate power supply (PSU). They don't plug into the wall. The PSU plugs into the wall and the charger plugs into the PSU. The advantage of this is that you save a bit of money (especially if you're buying larger chargers). Another advantage is that if you upgrade your charger, you aren't forced to pay for a new PSU at the same time. You can run your new charger off the old PSU.
On the other hand, having a separate PSU is a bit more cumbersome and complicated than buying a charger with an integrated power supply. If you don't want to buy a separate PSU... if you want your battery charger to plug directly into the wall, the ones in this section are for you.
The SkyRC iMax B6AC is exactly like the iMax B6 above, but it includes an integrated PSU. Be aware that the Banggood listing above includes a European-style power plug, so you'll need to get your own U.S. style plug if that's where you're located. The Amazon listing above includes a US-style plug.
The power cable you want is commonly known as a "Mickey Mouse" plug because the three prongs look kind of like Mickey's ears and head. Here's an Amazon listing for a U.S. style cord that will work with this adapter.
The iSDT D2 has the convenient, modern user-interface that iSDT is known for, plus a built in PSU. The best part is, the D2 has two separate charging channels, so it's basically two chargers in one. Normally, you can only charge a single battery at a time; the iSDT D2 can charge two at once!
The SkyRC Q200 can charge four batteries at once, which makes it the choice for people who don't want to parallel charge, but who still want to charge batteries quickly. In addition, it's got unbelievable bonus features, such as being controlled by a smartphone app and connecting to a PC for storing and analyzing charging data.
The watt rating of this charger is tricky to pin down. When it is plugged in to mains power, its internal power supply can provide up to 100 watts per "side". Each side has 2 channels. Since that's the way you're most likely to use this charger, that's the number we're going with.
This charger solves one of the major annoyances of LiPo batteries: all the hassle that goes into actually charging them. Instead of fussing about with menus and buttons, the B3 charger simply plugs into the balance port of the battery.
Then it charges up the battery.
The place where this charger really shines is when charging up accessory packs like FatShark goggle batteries or a LiPo that you installed in your Taranis. These batteries usually don't have the XT60 connector that your charger expects. With the B3 charger, you don't have to dig around to find a lost adapter. Just plug it in to the battery's balance plug and let it sit for a while.
I also love the B3 charger because it lets me top off my accessory packs without taking up an channel on my main charger. So I don't have to wait for my Fatshark battery to finish charging before I start charging my flight packs.
The tradeoff of this convenience is that the B3 only works with 2S and 3S batteries, and it charges pretty slowly. At 800 mA charge rate, it would take about 2 hours to charge just one typical mini-quad battery.
Buy the B3 charger if you are looking for an inexpensive way to charge 2S and 3S LiPos--especially ones with non-XT60 connectors.
If you're buying a charger that comes with a built-in power supply (PSU), then you can skip this section. If you need a PSU to power your charger, it's in this section. Here's the bottom line when it comes to power supplies: you have to get a power supply that is as big or bigger than the watt rating of your charger. So if you have a 150-watt charger, you need a power supply rated at least 150 watts. If you buy a bigger power supply, there's not much advantage except for future-proofing. Frankly, these are so reasonably priced that you should consider getting something in the 300 watt range even if you're only buying a small charger today.
120 WattS w/ XT60 ADAPTER
This is a great power supply for the iMax B6 or the iSDT SC608. It includes an adapter plug for the iSDT charger. It comes with a U.S. style plug. In case it's not obvious, it does not come with the charger that's in the photo. That's just for illustration.
360 Watts w/ XT60 ADAPTER
This power supply can power all of the chargers on this list. It includes an adapter plug for the iSDT charger. The photo shows a European-style plug, but the PSU comes with a plug adapter for the country of delivery, so no worries there.
1000 Watts, If You're Able
This power supply was originally designed for a rack-mount server, not a LiPo charger. But hey! 12 volts is 12 volts, right?
Here's why it's awesome:
- It puts out 1000 watts. Way more than most of us are ever going to need.
- It's not some cheap POS slapped together in China for pennies. This PSU is legitimately intended to run in a production environment. It's got top-quality hardware and engineering. It's got short-circuit protection. It's got thermal protection. It's the best.
- It costs about $30 to $35. You can easily pay more than this for a "cheap" PSU with half the capacity.
So what's the catch then? The catch is that you need to do a tiny bit of soldering on this PSU to get it to hook up to your charger. First, you need to solder a resistor in a certain place, to trick it into turning on (here's how). Second, you need to solder a connector to its output pads, to connect it to your charger. You should be able to figure out with a multimeter which ones the output pads are, and if you can't, maybe this isn't the power supply for you.
Here's a complete list of parts you need to turn this into an amazing power supply.
The advantage of parallel charging is that it lets you charge many small batteries quickly. Since mini quad pilots use a lot of small batteries, parallel charging is a big help. But parallel charging carries significant risks, and you should absolutely not use a parallel charging board unless you understand the risks and are capable of following the safety procedures. Here's a video showing my safety procedures, but you must do your own research and not just rely on this one video.
The main risk of using a parallel charge board is that you can cause a battery to explode. Watch this video. This is no joke. A secondary risk is that if you have one damaged battery, it can damage other healthy batteries if they are plugged in together on a parallel charge board.
The Best For 4S
sTRIX "jb sIGNATURE lINE", V2
I worked with ReadyMadeRC to design this parallel charge board to my specifications. I think it's the best value parallel charge board available--as long as you use 4S batteries. The advantage of this board is that, since we included only 4S balance ports, we could fit 10 plugs on the board. Other boards include only 4 or 6.
The biggest mistake people make with parallel charge boards is to plug in two batteries with too much voltage difference between them. This causes massive current to flow between them and typically destroys the parallel charge board or even causes the battery to blow up! This board protects against this by including fuses on both the XT60 connectors and the balance plugs. The XT60 fuses are automotive-style; the balance plug fuses are auto-resetting polyfuses.
For more, check out my video review of this board.
Cheapest Worth Having
XT60 Plug PARALLEL Board
Until I came out with the "JB Signature Line" board, this was all I used. Although this board seems cheaper at first, the "JB Signature Line" board has 10 ports compared to this one's 6. The "JB" board also has fuses for additional safety. But if you need to save every last dollar, this board does come in at a lower dollar amount.
The main reason you would choose this board is if you need to charge a variety of cell voltages other than 4S. This board can take any balance plug from 2S up to 6S.
The product linked above has an XT60 connector on it, which makes it compatible with the iSDT chargers above. The other chargers take banana plugs, in which case this is the one you want.
A battery checker is more than just a convenience, it's an essential safety tool. The number one way you can damage a LiPo is by discharging it too much. You can even lose your quad if you accidentally try to fly on a battery that you already discharged. If you use a parallel charge board, it's absolutely mandatory to check the state-of-charge of every battery before you plug it in.
This has been my go-to battery checker for about 2 years now. The great thing about it is that it shows individual cell voltages and main pack voltage on the same screen. This makes it easy to find packs with damaged cells, and to know if a battery is safe to plug into a parallel charging board. This charger also has plugs for a servo connector and a JST connector, so it can check all types of batteries, not just LiPos with balance plugs.
With its full-color OLED screen, the BG-8S is the prettiest battery checker you ever saw. But it's way more than that. Plug in a LiPo, and it'll double as a USB charger. (And it supports Qualcom Quick-charge too!) As if that's not enough, it's an RC signal analyzer.
Let me tell you why that's so cool. Imagine your flight controller isn't receiving signals from your receiver. In the old days, you would just plug a servo into the receiver and the position of the servo would indicate what signal was coming out. Modern receivers output PPM or serial protocols, and those don't work with servos. That's where the BG-8S comes in! Its built-in signal analyzer will show you what your PPM or SBUS receiver is outputting so you can troubleshoot why your flight controller isn't working properly.