Reviewed: December 14, 2008
Type: Rechargeable Battery Station
I am generally skeptical about third party accessories for my Xbox 360. This goes back to the big Intercooler scare of 2006, when an ingenious little device developed to help cool the notoriously warm console allegedly ended up frying a number of units – sparks, fireworks, and melted plastic. Allegedly, of course...
Additionally, unlike Sony, Microsoft has been pretty good at pricing the first party accessories affordably enough to justify most gamers staying in-house. This mean that these third party manufacturers either have to go the dirt-cheap route (mostly for video cables, as seen on eBay), or trump the first party fare with performance or reliability.
Now, we all know that most packaging claims have to be taken with a grain of salt – especially on third party accessories that are often manufactured by companies located in the Far East that may not necessarily need to back up their claims. Many of the claims are subjective and therefore debatable – like video cables that claim better visual quality, memory cards that are more secure, or DVD remote controls that somehow work better.
But every once in a while we get a real doozy of a product that claims an actual measurable property. In the case of the in TeknoCreations’ InCharge Rechargeable Battery, it is a claim of 25-hours of playtime on a single charge of its lithium-polymer battery. Better yet, the InCharge system claims to be 50% lighter than the first party packs, and have the unique ability to charge the battery without removing it from the controller.
As an Engineer by trade, claims like these come as a bit of a challenge that I see as my job to dispel. Since a rechargeable battery pack seem a bit less hazardous than a console-attached cooling system, if figured I would give it a go, and prove the people of TeknoCreations wrong in their absurd claims. Crazy thing is, these little wonders really do work like they say.
Until now, the Xbox 360 has had two methods for charging the wireless controller rechargeable battery packs – either tethered to the Xbox 360 unit with a USB-wired Play & Charge Kit (MSRP $19.99), or by swap-out using a two-station Quick Charge Kit (MSRP $29.99). Third parties have been making knockoffs of the Microsoft products, but few, if any, have come up with new technology.
TeknoCreations brings something new to the table with its exclusive no-contact charging system that allows their revolutionary lithium-polymer batteries to be charged in the InCharge charging cradle without being removed from the controller. As an Engineer, I would say that the system is inductive – as in the cradle emitting a field that induces a current in the batteries. Then again I am a Materials Engineer, not an Electrical Engineer, so what do I know? The point is, other than the AC plug in the wall, I did not need to connect my controller to the Xbox360, nor did I need to pull the battery out of the controller – and after the recommended six hour minimum initial charge, my controllers were running at 100% (a full four power bars).
So what is all of the fuss about non-contact charging? Well, aside from the obvious convenience factors, the fact that the batteries do not need to be removed means that the metallic battery-to-controller contacts remain protected from the outside elements that can cause the contacts to become dirty and corroded. This is a major contributor to the loss of life and reliability in rechargeable batteries, as the oils and grime effect the efficiency of both the battery and the charger – and ultimately the device itself.
Now, I jumped ahead of myself with the previous paragraphs, because I need to mention the weight of these batteries. I never really thought that the first party batteries were all that heavy to begin with – in fact, I never even thought about their weight at all. But, as the packaging touts, the InCharge batteries are noticeably lighter than the Microsoft branded packs – to the point that they almost seem hollow. This feeling of hollowness left me a bit skeptical about the batteries’ charging strength, but after about two weeks of gaming (probably 10hrs per week gaming on the Xbox360) the InCharge test battery has held up better than my Microsoft units – still showing a solid three bars from the initial charge. This is in stark contrast to my Microsoft batteries, which get a week at best before flashing the recharge rings.
At an MSRP of $34.99, it might be hard to rationalize the InCharge system over the Microsoft Quick Charge Kit, although the fact that the unit ships with two replacement batteries (the Quick Charge only includes one battery) makes the extra 5 bucks a bit easier to justify. The batteries do what they claim, and definitely impress with their amazing performance.
However, it must be understood that the InCharge system is a “system” requiring both the InCharge lithium-polymer batteries and the InCharge cradle in order to work correctly. Any first party rechargeable batteries and/or chargers would be unusable with the InCharge system, and should the InCharge unit fail down the road, it might be harder to find a replacement batteries and/or cradles than with the Microsoft products.