Author Topic: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II  (Read 5855 times)

Danneaux

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Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« on: December 30, 2014, 04:21:35 AM »
Hi All!

Earlier this year, I was offered the opportunity to do an extended field test of Tout Terrain/Cinq5's Smart Power Pack II buffer battery.

Because buffer batteries are a topic of continuing interest that is also often misunderstood, I have taken pains to expand this review into a fuller explanation of what they do and how they can help cyclists power their electronic gadgets while stopped or going slowly without having to do a manual reset. The Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II is one example I found to work well.

The review appears in two parts to fit within the Forum's 20,000 character/post limitation.

Best,

Dan.

=======================
PART ONE

Full disclosure: Tout Terrain/Cinq5 provided me with their Smart Power Pack II for testing at no charge to myself.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Cinq5 Smart Power Pack is a small rechargeable battery that can be replenished by a bicycle dynamo-charger, solar power, a computer USB connection, a smartphone charger, or other USB power sources. It can power or extend the battery life of a number of USB devices on its own, or serve as a "buffer battery" to prevent a bicycle-powered device from shutting down at a stop or when speeds drop too low. It includes white and red LED lighting that can be used on- or off-bike.

While not perfect, in my testing the Cinq5 Smart Power Pack proved to be a very good buffer battery that can be adjusted to itself charge from even low-power sources, unlike most others of this capacity. It proved durable and reliable in demanding real-world touring use during my testing. It offers a number of value-added features and serves as a standalone battery booster-extender for a variety of USB-powered devices, including high-demand smartphones and GPS units. The wealth of options can be confusing, but reading the manual and keeping a copy close to hand for reference pays hefty rewards unavailable in other buffer batteries.

BACKGROUND
Headquartered in Gundelfingen Germany, Tout Terrain has developed a number of touring-specific products over the last 7 years, ranging from bicycles and trailers to a growing line of accessories. Their accessory division has now spun off into a separate entity, marketed under the Cinq5 label and currently includes products devoted to on-bike charging solutions, lighting, and ratcheting thumbshifters for Rohloff internally-geared hubs equipped with the external shift connection.

I recently received one of Cing5's newest products for testing and review: The Smart Power Pack, subject of this report.

THE NEED
I've long used various means to keep my gadgets charged for expeditions away from on-grid power. My wearable LED headlamps and bicycle lighting, SteriPen UV water purifier, smartphone, GPS and other electronics all require power and the best way to get it off-grid is from batteries that can be recharged while traveling. This is typical for most modern tourists who have at least a smartphone to keep charged as they travel.

I use a mix of solar and bike-based means for charging, including a dynohub and chargers fitted to my Thorn Nomad (SON28 New, Tout Terrain The Plug 2+) and my ExtraWheel trailer (SON28 Klassik, Bush+Muller e-Werk), with the current rectified from AC to DC and output regulated to USB 2.0 standard so I can simply plug-in my devices and charge them as I would from a mains adapter or my computer's USB port.

ON-BIKE DEVICE POWER/CHARGING: THE PROBLEM
The problem with on-bike charging is not much power can be made. Most bike-based USB chargers are limited to producing 5vdc at 500mA -- the USB 2.0 standard. This is often fine for charging devices when they are off, but increasingly proves inadequate for powering high-demand, high-draw devices like smartphones or GPS units which can require more current when powered on and in-use. As a result, a smartphone or GPS may switch off when bike-supplied power drops too low, say while waiting at a stop light or while climbing a hill or negotiating a poor road at slow speed, all resulting in reduced output from the dyno source. There are a couple problems with this. First, it is annoying to have to restart the gadget each time. Second, if the power remains inadequate to trigger charging (as when riding slowly up a hill), the device will be powered only by its own batteries and will soon run down.

To help address this problem, Tout Terrain (through their Cinq5 accesory division) have developed various refinements of their The Plug USB charger that have allowed full-power USB 2.0 charging at ever lower speeds. The Plug replaces the top-cap on threadless headsets to provide an integrated, theft-resistant, weatherproof and convenient solution to using a dynohub or dynamo for charging.

BUFFER BATTERY AS SOLUTION
Even so, the problem remains how to keep devices drawing more than 5vdc @ 500mA from switching off or switching out of charging mode when speed drops too low or the bicycle is stopped briefly. Here is where a buffer battery enters the picture. Either pre-charged or charged by the dynamo, the buffer battery continues to supply power at a constant rate when the bicycle-mounted charger alone cannot. This keeps devices operating during stops or when power would otherwise be inadequate.

Like many other adventure cyclists, I made my own effort to supply a buffer battery, using an inexpensive external battery intended to extend battery life in a smartphone. It worked well enough, but had a number of limitations that made it a far from ideal solution:
No means to mount it solidly to the bike, so it had to ride inside my handlebar bag only.
No weatherproofing of any kind, so it could not be used in mist or spray.
Limited to 500mA/0.5A output.
No idea how much power remains in the pile.
Limited charging sources and inability to charge itself at low speeds or direct from solar panels.
A problem of needing a battery small enough in capacity to actually (re)charge it by bike, yet powerful enough to adequately power a device during times of low or no power. The result can be a buffer battery that either can't provide the energy needed for the task (lacks capacity)...or runs down quickly while trying because itself cannot be charged by the bicycle dynamo (draws too much current for the bike to supply/charge). This last limitation is crucial, because bicycle dynamos have a difficult time producing enough power to overcome the charging threshold on high-capacity batteries.

This last problem also presents a dilemma for owners of some older Apple products that require a special signal be received before the battery will accept a charge. Some chargers can only supply this through a special cable to the Apple device. This is true for my homemade solution as well when used with some Apple products.

The Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II seeks to address these problems in one unit and goes beyond that basic task to provide some white and red LED lighting. Each and both can be set for emergency/location blinking as well and can serve as flashlight, head/taillight or emergency signal lighting.

IMPRESSIONS AND REVIEW
Beautifully machined from anodized aluminum and serially numbered, the build quality of the Cinq5 Smart Power Pack (SPP) is high, typical of Tout Terrain's other Cinq5 accessories. It feels and looks like a quality device and is guaranteed aganst defects for 12 months. My sample measured 96x28.5mm and weighed in at just under 85 grams on my scale. The device can't be opened by the user or submerged and has an upper temperature limit of 60C/140F with an ideal operating range of 10-60C/50-140F.

My test unit included a clever tool-free rubber universal mount (X-Mount) for securing the SPP to handlebars, frame, or seatpost. It proved to be secure and unaffected by vibration on the roughest roads in my testing and did not harm or scratch my paint. It deployed and removed quickly and did not stretch-out during my testing.

There is a micro-USB port for charging the SPP and a standard USB port for powering other devices from it. When not in use, both ports can be covered with a captive transluscent white cover. The unit may be exposed to spray while riding, but TT/Cinq5 caution against exposing the unit to heavy rain because water can enter via the USB ports on the SPP and the device being charged. I found capping my The Plug2+ charger with a rain hood and mounting the SPP vertically so the USB outlets pointed down allowed me to continue charging a device in my handlebar bag without interruption in the heaviest of rainstorms, though I could also have used the SPP while stored under cover in my handlebar bag; location is limited only by length of the USB cord powering it and the device it attaches to and how well the connections are shielded from weather (rain). The SPP also charged nicely from my B+M e-Werk and passed-through current as a buffer battery provided all connections were shielded.

The SPP also worked to extend the battery life of my GPS when operating on a bicycle that has no dyno-charger.

While the switch logic is straightforward, getting the most from the SPP requires reading the manual, as the switch sequence and indicators can be confusing initially and especially so for the charging settings. I would suggest TT/Cinq5 include a self-adhesive label to paste on the unit as a crib sheet to remind owners who don't use it constantly. Here are the options available from the single rear-mounted switch:

General Use:

(Charge and Discharge)
Short press > Power level displayed* > When charging complete, unplug; ready > Short press > LED/SPP = off.

*Power level:
Green = 70-100% charged
Yellow = 40-70% charged
Red = 0-40% charged

(Smart Functions)
Short press 2x > Recall of last used smart function** > Short press changes function > Short press 2x = Off.

** Smart Functions
White flashlight with or without diffuser captive cover
SOS blinking of white and red LEDs together; 3 short, 3 long
Red LEDs only flash
Red LEDs only solid

(Programming)
[Reset]
8sec press > Factory settings > Reset

[Adjust Charging of the SPP]
Press till Red LED flashes once > Adjust charging current*** > Short press > Charging current adjusted.

***Charging current (the green charging light blinks slow, medium, or fast to match the setting while charging)
Charge with 100mA for charging with low-power sources, like The Plug @ <~8kph or direct from solar panels in low light. [90mA measured]
Charge with 400mA (most appropriate for standard USB2.0 sources where ~500mA is supplied). [390mA measured]
Charge with 900mA source (as from a smartphone charger, also known as "fast-charging"). [950mA measured]

This was the hardest setting for me to get right. When I remembered to set charging appropriate to the source, all worked brilliantly. When I did not (user error/forgetfulness due to fatigue) it appeared the unit was malfunctioning when in fact it was not. This is where a stick-on guide would really help as a reminder when changing between charging sources. Remember, these are the settings for charging the SPP itself, not for it to power other devices.

In my real-world testing, I found the settings worked as promised; the trick was in selecting the ones appropriate to need, especially for riding conditions. When grinding up steep hills at low speed, the 100mA setting worked well to ensure the SPP accepted a charge. Of course, charging was much slower and took longer as a result, but it did still charge when otherwise my speed would have been too low. For most of my testing at normal touring speeds of 13-30kph/8-18mph, I found the middle 400mA setting most appropriate since my dyno-powered sources (The Plug 2+, B+M e-Werk) output a constant ~500mA/0.5A at that speed. The same is true when using my Joos Orange solar panels as a charging source, since they contain a 5400mAh accumulator battery and also output a nominal 5vdc @ 500mA. I used the high (900mA) setting when charging the SPP with my Samsung Galaxy S4 charger, which is rated for 2.0A. As noted above, the SPP drew 950mA while charging from the phone charger. Using the wrong setting will simply result in slow charging times.

The flashlight is a single white LED, available pre-focused or diffused through a transluscent cover. It is too dim to see by while riding, but is much better than nothing for being seen. It is fine for camp chores, cooking, in-tent use and for midnight toilet journeys, but has limited range. For use on the bicycle, I found it best to use solid-on, as there was too much "dark-time" between the SOS cycles to work well as a forward flasher in traffic. Similarly, the two red LEDs work much better than a simple reflector for rearward visibility, and there is a choice between solid-on and flashing. I think both the white and red LEDs are ideal as an emergency backup for visibility while riding, but neither is bright enough to make the SPP my primary choice for "be seen" lighting, especially in traffic or urban settings. Each is more effective on dark rural roads or in tunnels, as would be expected, and are a backup if you forget your primary lights. I did find the solid white LED to be a real benefit for repairing a puncture at night on an unlit rural road. The SPP was the only light I had with me and proved most welcome for this task, allowing me to find and patch the puncture in near-complete darkness. The nice thing is the lighting is very efficient and puts almost no drain on the battery.

I used the SPP in a variety of temperatures. The same anodized aluminum case that makes it so attractive and durable is an excellent thermal conductor. As a result, I found the SPP could become very hot or cold to the touch, depending on temperature and exposure. A thin silicone coating over it would correct this, as proven by sleeving it with a finger cut from a nitrile glove. However, in practice this wasn't much of a problem. At temperature extremes, I simply did what I usually did in heavy rain -- placed the SPP in my waterproof handlebar bag, where it was shielded from the environment.

The SPP fits nicely in a pocket and holds well in the hand, but the comfortable round shape is a liability on unlevel surfaces, where it wants to roll away. The solution is to open the weather cap to prevent rolling if you lay it down. Placing it on its removable mount as a cradle also addresses this problem when off the bike. I found the best solution was to put it away in my bags when not using it on the bike to prevent loss or theft. Its easy removal is very convenient for shopping stops while touring solo.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 04:40:06 AM by Danneaux »

Danneaux

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2014, 04:24:08 AM »
PART TWO: EXTENDED FIELD TEST, Cinq5 SMart Power Pack II

AS A POWER SUPPLY
While the SPP is primarily intended as a buffer battery to take up the slack in supplying power while stopped briefly or riding at slow speeds, it also works as an external battery capable of powering or extending the life of gadgets plugged into it.

When used this way, it is important to remember to turn the unit on, or no power will be supplied! This is different from my other sources that start as soon as they are plugged in. The SPP is truly on or off depending on switch position, and this aids self-charging while wired as a buffer battery, independent of its powering other devices.

The power source is a Lithium-ion pile rated at >3,000mAh. In drain-down _tests_, I was consistently able to confirm 2,950mAh. Though the battery has circuitry to prevent damage from over-charging and deep-discharging, I decided not to risk going further. In _touring_ as a buffer battery, I generally used the SPP conservatively -- until the LED battery indicator first showed "red", meaning between 0-40% charge remaining. This left some remaining capacity for use as a supplemental battery in camp use. I never used it to the point where it shut down.

My Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone's OEM battery is rated at 2600mAh capacity. I had no trouble recharging it from 15% remaining charge (the point at which a warning to charge appears on the phone) to full using the SPP. It is fair to think of the SPP as a "doubler" for my phone's battery. As for directly powering the phone, the SPP had no trouble meeting the phone's variable current demands, all of which fell well within its 1500mA capacity. It will also recharge a tablet of this capacity. I was able to confirm in testing: No special cable is needed to recharge an iPhone 5. The SPP will charge a 5.0vdc USB-powered device so long as the power draw doesn't exceed 1.5A or 7.5W (7.5Watts = 1.5A x 5.0vdc).

Serving as a standalone power supply/external battery/booster battery is a happy byproduct, but where the SPP really shines is as a buffer battery, supplying intermittent power to a bicycle-powered device during those brief times the bicycle is going too slowly to charge the device or is stopped, as at a traffic signal or when taking photos and drinking, snacking, or resting. For long-term standalone power of my gadgets in camp, I prefer to use either the 5,400mAh accumulator batteries in my solar panels or my mains-chargeable 22,000mAh external battery, simply because they offer greater capacity and longer run-times/more charges.

AS A BUFFER BATTERY
In use, I found the SPP to work well as a buffer battery, supplying constant power to my devices as my speed dropped or while stopped at traffic lights and it did prevent those devices from turning off or going under-voltage. I avoided the annoyance of having to manually turn devices back on after stopping -- they continued to run because they had a constant power supply whether I was riding or stopped.

This is a key point valid for all buffer batteries: They can serve as buffer batteries only as long as they are charged and so long as they can supply the needed current. The good news is, most devices meeting USB 2.0 standards (~5vdc @ ~500mAh within defined tolerances) are powered diectly from the bicycle dyno-powered charger except when power goes too low or when stopped. That's when the battery kicks in to serve as a buffer against loss and keeps the device going. This use is intermittent and short-term, so the battery can be expected to last a reasonable amount of time between charges in this sort of use unless one stops for an extended period of time. If the device doesn't draw too much current, the buffer battery can also charge as current passes through it.

Of course, even high-draw devices can be charged more readily if they are off, drawing minimal power. When running, a device may not draw a constant load, and its demands will be much greater than when off or in an idle state. For example, a cellphone running a GPS app and recalculating the route with the screen set at full brightness for daytime use will draw more current than when it is off. Some charging profiles are non-linear as well, with the device initially drawing more current then easing off in its demands as the battery nears full capacity.

The problem comes when the device to be charged draws more energy to charge or in use than what the bicycle charger alone can supply. In this situation the buffer battery -- if it has the capacity -- will make up the difference for as long as it contains a charge. In other words, if the device being powered has power requirements exceeding what the bicycle charger can supply, the buffer battery becomes a power supply to the extent it can make up the difference.

At the other end, power from the dynohub passes through the SPP, so if the demand on it is not high or continuous -- and it is set for low-current charging -- it can maintain a charge longer or even gain a charge itself.

CAPACITY
So, how large is the SPP's battery capacity, and will it power your device? Cinq5 literature rates it at more than 3,000mAh, capable of providing about 4 watt-hours of discharging at USB specification (5vdc @ 500mA).

I was able to check and verify this claim.

We know lithium-ion batteries have a cell voltage of 3.7volts. Working backward, if the lithium ion battery has a _cell capacity_ of = 3000mAh at a nominal voltage of 3.7V, then it should have a capacity of 3A*3.7v=11.1W (batteries used three in a series) -- and it does, as confirmed by TT/Cinq5. A standard USB specification would result in 0.5A*5.0v=2.5W, so even just 10Wh would indeed result in 4 hours of operation for a USB 2.0-spec device drawing 2.5W. TT/Cinq5 have simply rated the SPP conservatively to avoid disappointment and to ensure it will provide at least the full promised power.

To see how long your device can be powered by the SPP, just convert mAh (milliamp-hours) to watts. The reason for the conversion is the commonly-used amp-hour rating just measures the current available for an hour and is therefore a measure of *current capacity*, not *energy capacity*, as watts is. Different battery technologies provide different levels of energy capacity. Two batteries rated for different amp-hours may supply different amounts of energy, so amp-hour conversions only work for charging between the same types of batteries. Converting to watts makes for a direct comparison. To figure power, the equation is Watts = amps*volts. For energy, Watt-hours = amp-hours*volts. To convert from amp-hour or milliamp-hour ratings to watt-hours, simply multiply Amp-hours by the voltage of the power pack (Ah*v=Wh). Compare the result to the TT/Cinq5 SPP watt-hour figures and you'll know how long it alone can power your device. The SPP will of course last much longer as a buffer battery because the demand on it is not continuous.

The most common batteries you'll likely be charging are:

Li-ion (Lithium-ion) @ 3.7v/cell, typically ganged in packs of 3 in series for a total of 11.1v.
Li-po (lithium-ion iron phosphate) @ 3.2v/cell, typically packed 4 cells in series totaling 12.8v.
NiMH (Nickel-metal Hydride) and NiCad (Nickel-cadmium) as individual cells, but you can count how many are used or charged at a time (typically in pairs). The voltage for these is 1.2v each. The Amp-hour ratings will usually be on the label.

I was left with some remaining questions I could not answer in testing, so I put them to ToutTerrain/Cinq5:

Q. How many charges is the SPP rated for before the battery is permanently exhausted or won't take a charge?
A. Minimum 500 total charge/discharge cycles from total empty to full. For example, two half charges are one total cycles.....!?
Over the time, the cell will shade continuous some capacity, but we are using high quality cells from Panasonic, so this effect will be very slow.

Q. Can it/must it be stored with a charge?
A. Should be stored with 75% charged.

Q. If it is stored in a discharged state, can it be damaged?
A. Yes it can, but it depends on the time the battery is not used.

Q. Does the battery have LSD (Low Self-Discharge) characteristics? How long will it hold a charge?
A. Yes, the battery has LSD. The battery can be not used for a year if it is fully or nearly fully charged.

Q. In use the battery is in a constant state of charge/discharge, depending on the speed of the bicycle. Do these dis/charge cycles ultimately affect battery life?
A. This does affect the battery life in the same way as a normal use like charging and discharging (no memory effect at the Li-ion Cells) The thing is you are charging and discharging every time in the same level depending on the charging/discharging mode. 100 mA/400mA/900mA constantly

IS THE SPP PERFECT? NO, BUT MUCH CLOSER THAN OTHER OPTIONS AT PRESENT
In my tests and opinion, the SPP as the best available buffer battery of those I've tried to date, primarily due to its adjustable self-charging rate and its capacity to charge high-draw devices, but I would like to see some improvements for the next version:

A user-replaceable battery. Given the quality of the aluminum housing and the price, it would be nice to have the device continue beyond the original battery service life. As an alternative, perhaps a mail-in reconditoning service or trade-in program could be introduced to reduce cost and environmental impact and extend service life.
Weather sealing for all the USB connector plugs via a flexible rubber bellows or boots so charging/power supplying to gadgets can continue in foul weather without need to place them under cover and without inerruption due to weather. Inverting the SPP in its mount so the connections aim downward aids this goal.
Development and availability of an elastic headband so the unit can be worn as a hands-free LED headamp for easier use in camp.
A brighter, perhaps dimmable/boosted white LED for more versatile lighting on and off the bike at the expense of ultimate battery life.
A square form-factor instead of a cylinder to reduce the tendency to roll when laid on a flat surface.
Twist-cap, gasketed shielding of the USB ports allowing for extended splash resistace and perhaps even IPX7 submersion when not charging.
Development of a larger-capacity version with the same low/adjustable charging thresholds for greater versatility as a standalone external battery. Perhaps this could be accomplished by buying two units so they could be charged individually from bicycle dynopower and in multiples when charged by mains power.
Greater temperature isolation between the black-anodized housing and the battery/circuitry or as a sleeve to allow operation in a wider temperature range. Unfortunately, this would result in a larger and heavier unit. Black-anodized aluminum is beautiful and durable, but also a great temperature conductor, making the unit hot to touch after sitting in sunshine and cold on cold days, so perhaps a thin outer sleeve or dip-coating would be better.
Clear labeling of the charge rates/LED displays on the case so a separate reader card is not required...or printing the information on a sticker that can be placed on each unit, or even laser-etching it on the unit itself.

CONCLUSION
I have now used the Cinq5 Smart Power Pack for just over 2 months in a variety of real-world touring conditions, from desert sandstorms to rain and freezing rain in temperatures as low as -8C/17F, and warmed to 51C/124F. It held up well and fulfilled its promise as a practical buffer battery for my gadgets. For my use, The Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II addresses the shortcomings present in most buffer batteries and is unique in being one of only a few buffer/external batteries on the market that are bicycle-specific and is supplied with mounting solutons for that use. It offers flexible charging programs to charge itself with low-power inputs common when riding slowly with a bicycle dyno-charger or direct from solar power.

At the same time, it has sufficient capacity to directly power or serve as a buffer for high-demand devices like smartphones and GPS units. Like all external and buffer batteries, it won't power devices indefinitely, but has sufficient capacity to work throughout a typical touring day and can then be recharged from a variety of sources ranging from solar power to bicycle dynopower, computer USB ports and smartphone chargers.

As an added value, it includes convenient camp and emergency/signal lighting in the same unit and a compact, easily de/mountable form. Though costly as befits a premium product, I found it worked well and reliably in demanding use and it proved durable in rough conditions. It is best suited for those who need charging/powering of devices at slower speeds and need to power high-drain devices like smartphones and GPS units continuously while cycling.

The Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II is available from the Cinq5 online store for 99.00 incl. VAT plus delivery.
See: http://shop.cinq5.de/epages/es984127.sf/en_GB/?ViewObjectPath=%2FShops%2Fes984127

The X-mount is a recommended accessory available separately for 9.90 incl. VAT plus delivery.
See: http://shop.cinq5.de/epages/es984127.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es984127/Products/%22Smart%20Power%20Pack%20Halterung%20x-Mount%22

The Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II is available from St John's Street Cyclery for 106.71
See: http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/cinq5-smart-power-pack-ii-prod32694/?currency=eur&geoc=us

The X-mount is available from St John's Street Cyclery for 11.29
See: http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/cinq5-smart-power-pack-universal-h-handlebar-mount-prod32696/?currency=eur&geoc=us
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 08:23:46 AM by Danneaux »

Danneaux

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2014, 04:28:32 AM »
Additional Photos

As you can see, my handlebars can become crowded with test gear.

While testing the Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II, I preferred to mount it vertically with the USB ports facing down to increase weather protection for the USB connections while maximizing hand space on the handlebar tops; it fit just left of the computer. Otherwise, it rode in my waterproof Ortlieb handlebar bag, along with the gadget being charged. However, vertical positioning didn't show very well in photographs, so I pictured it horizontally. The X-mount allows positioning on almost any rounded tube of the bike, including on the seatpost for use as a red LED blinky or solid taillight.

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 04:54:57 AM by Danneaux »

Danneaux

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2014, 07:45:42 PM »
Brilliant sunshine and some deliberate overexposure shows the black Cinq5 SPPII in my preferred mounting position on my all-black Thorn Nomad Mk2. Inverting the unit on its X-mount frees more space on the handlebars and shields the USB connections for charging in damp weather. For use in rain, I place it inside my handlebar bag, next to the gadget being charged.

Best,

Dan.

fossala

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2014, 08:05:55 PM »
Why not link to SJS's site? Reading this it seems a bit like an advert.

Danneaux

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2014, 08:25:46 PM »
Quote
Why not link to SJS's site? Reading this it seems a bit like an advert.
Not intended to, Fossala. Here's why.

The SPPII worked better in practice than I had expected and better than my less-expensive homegrown solution for the reasons listed. It is a plug-and-play solution in a market where that is presently rare. It rose or fell on its own merit in my review, which was based on actual use rather than the fact it was provided me for testing with full disclosure of that. In that way, not too different from people reporting their experiences with, say, the Hebie Chainglider, Ergon handgrips, the Rohloff drivetran or the n'Lock. It is a device that requires some learning to use properly. Used without some research or knowledge would lead to disappointment due to mismatched charging rates.

I linked to both sites for a reason. SJS Cycles is a little more costly (depending on the day's exchange rates, comparing the price Euro-for-Euro), but shipping will be less for UK residents. However, the sale of the item is restricted by country, and the Forum is international in scope, so linking to the factory store allows one possibility for purchase or a way to inquire for a list of distributors in one's home country. Here in the US, the sole distributor is Peter White Cycles, but the unit is not listed on his website at this time. Purchase links were provided because prior to posting the review, people asked me a) how much it might cost and b) where they could get it if they decided it was worth the money for their needs.

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 08:32:52 PM by Danneaux »

fossala

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2014, 08:52:54 PM »
It wasn't a hostile comment. Just seemed a bit biased. I don't have one but I do have a plug III in a box that I need to wire up, hence reading the review.
EDIT: for future reference my names Dave  :D
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 08:54:30 PM by fossala »

Danneaux

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2014, 09:15:04 PM »
Hi Dave! (and thanks). I always try to refer to members by the names used openly on the Forum to respect their privacy, hence Fossala till now.  :)

The SPPII is not perfect, as noted in a separate section above. Those limitations are something to be weighed against benefits along with price if deciding to buy. Like nearly all gadgets with embedded batteries and many electronics it is a consumable item, meaning it won't last forever but will do the job for awhile, in this case likely longer than others. The same can be said of my Garmin Oregon 400T GPS. Loved it, but the power button cover has ruptured from use and sun exposure and after four years, it is no longer supported and parts are not available. It is no longer waterproof and as I discovered mid-tour, can now only be turned on and off by poking it with a stick. :P Another good reason I still carry a real compass, a backup compass and paper maps "just in case".

I was really eager to find out more about the SPPII when it hit the market, but firsthand reports online were generally lacking beyond a repeat of the press release. I learned a lot actually using it, and figured it might be worth sharing in some depth so others could better judge if it fit their needs.

All the best,

Dan. (...who is hoping for a really good sale on a new Garmin)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2014, 05:30:23 AM by Danneaux »

silverdorking

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2014, 09:57:02 PM »
I for one found this review extremely informative, dispelling a lot of confusion regarding 'power on the move', not at all commercially compromised Dave!
I count us lucky to be able to access peer reviews of items for which scant information is usually available.

Andre Jute

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2014, 04:35:15 AM »
I too read the review with interest. The problem with a thorough technical review is that it will always in the end sound like an advertisement, because it is essential to say what the thing does well, what it does better than all other products, and whether it is good value, and conversely what it does badly, and which products are recommended. Without the recommendation by either an expert or a trusted fellow, half the value of review is lost. I'd rather a commercial-sounding review than a uselessly reticent waste of time spent reading it!

I grasp that Dave was not making a hostile comment. But I don't remember anyone ever expressing the slightest disquiet at the thorough reviews which are the norm here, and a very large part of this forum's continuing utility.

John Saxby

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2014, 08:20:06 PM »
Thanks for this, Dan.  Looks like a good read for some of my flying & layover time in the next few days!

rifraf

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2015, 07:10:58 AM »
Fantastic review Dan.

Appreciate all the time it must have taken to write up your extensive usage and testing.

Good to have yet another item we can buy safe in the knowledge that it does work as intended with the caveat of your forewarned limitations.

Great to be able to consider purchase decisions of items without the limitation of a no real life knowledge of usage outcome.

Thanks heaps for the well written and presented dialogue where we have the ability to ask further questions to clarify and narrow details to make informed decisions.

I'm sure you've saved some of us much reading and research

Much appreciated ;D

DaveHughes

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2016, 11:05:35 AM »
Has anyone used one of these power packs with an iPhone 6+ ?  The reason for asking is that when I connect it to mine whilst cycling, it starts to charge and then stops a couple of seconds later (i.e. the little lighting bolt comes on and then off on the phone),  It is a similar behaviour to when you have a phone plugged into a dynamo but are going too slowly to charge it so it starts up and then stops.

I'm just wondering whether there is a minimum power requirement for a phone like the 6+ and perhaps the Power Pack doesn't put out enough.  Or I have a faulty Power Pack?

Cheers

Dave

Danneaux

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2016, 03:51:46 PM »
Hi Dave,

Unfortunately, while I could confirm my Cinq5 Power Pack II worked with an iPhone 5, I did not have an iPhone 6 Plus to test with, so I can't confirm where the problem lies for you.

It sure sounds as if the phone either is not getting enough juice from the battery or thinks it is not or if the battery itself cannot supply enough juice long enough to meet requirements.

I presume your phone charges fine from its mains adapter. Does it charge through its cable from a computer USB port? Do you have a friend or relative with the same phone you could plug into your PPII battery to try?

After plugging in and trying to charge unsuccessfully, does the PPII's battery charging indicator indicate a loss? That could mean insufficient reserves of power are available and the battery might be faulty.

It could be the 6 Plus's voltage/current charging threshold is different, so the PPII is not triggering the phone's battery to charge (it has a fast-charging option), or it could be a faulty cell or charging circuit in the PPII or it could be one or more batteries in it have failed and it will not take or hold a charge sufficient to trigger or maintain charging on the phone. It could also be a software or hardware problem with the phone, since the charging circuit's behavior is determined in large part by a software bridge on Apple's products. Published specs indicate the iPhone 6 Plus came with a battery rated at 3.82 V, 11.1 Whr (2915 mAh).

Unfortunately, this is the chicken-and-egg problem of device charging with a bicycle dynamo or through buffer batteries. If they can be confirmed to work with a specific device (i.e. my Samsung Galaxy-series phone or the iPhone 5 I borrowed from a friend), there is no guarantee they will work with later versions or other models. The best one can do is compare specs to see.

If all specs are met and the product "should" work, it may not because of variations in the products being charged, or the phone, cable, or battery might be faulty in some way. The only way I know to determine where the fault lies is in testing actual output at each connection.

If the phone's charging requirements are within the battery's published specs -- *and* the battery is putting out the required voltage and current , then the problem can sometimes be  the phone's software or charging implementation. Plug-in USB testers are a huge advantage in diagnosing charging problems and are available inexpensively from eBay -- I paid about USD$1.50 including shipping of each of the three I bought. I sometimes use all three between connections to diagnose problems.

Apple products do sometimes differ from competing products in their charging protocols and this also holds true with iPhones. This article might prove helpful in your troubleshooting:
http://www.payetteforward.com/my-iphone-wont-charge-heres-the-real-reason-why/

Charging cables can be a source of problems when charging from a bicycle power supply, buffer battery, or any external battery. If you have another cable available, try it. Generally, the shorter the cable the better. I've found most of my Android charging problems were addressed by changing cables. I found considerable variance between even well-regarded brands.

Unfortunately, I can't offer more suggestions because I don't have a phone like yours to test. I can surely understand the frustration and puzzlement involved, as I have been through it myself as I have tested various phones with a number of buffer batteries and dyno-chargers.

Hopefully, someone will be along shortly who has tried an iPhone 6 Plus with a Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II and can confirm basic compatibility.

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2016, 05:48:38 PM by Danneaux »

DaveHughes

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Re: Extended field test: Cinq5 Smart Power Pack II
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2016, 05:35:39 PM »
Hi Dan,

Thanks for the reply.  I will just go through the good old testing routine of changing all the bits one by one until I find out what isn't working.  There are other iPhones in our house (along with enough cables to knit a jumper) so should have enough options!

Will keep you posted

Dave