So recently eLeaf introduced a brand new product to their line of iStick battery range called the iStick 50W… This one offered some improvements of the previous models including a wider range of output voltage, user settable from 2V to 10V, power settings from 5W-50W with an advertised 4400 mAh battery capacity. a spring loaded battery connector making it universally usable with all 510 tanks, wear-resistant stainless steel thread and a wide range of operating temperatures from 0ºC (32ºF) to 70ºC (158ºF).
Battery safety features were added making sub-ohming safer, preventing over heating, leading to possible explosions… and believe me you don’t want lithium ion batteries exploding in your hands or anywhere near you!!
After much prompting from a mate, I decided to dive in and buy one of those puppies. This way my Kangar Mini sub-tank would fit on perfectly without that ugly over-hang I’ll get otherwise have from my other devices.
A couple of days ago, mine arrived. So excited..
Instead of powering her up or making a product reviews like everyone else (no names mentioned), to test the power and features she had to offer; I went directly to ripping her apart. Out came the precision screwdriver set and digital camera.. Admittedly I was curious what made this device special enough to warrant the £55 price tag, most local retailers were asking – not the price I paid however. Surely a couple of 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable battery isn’t worth this much, is it?
For those of you who know me, this will come to no surprise. I love my technology and there’s nothing more satisfying than ripping shit apart to explore what makes them tick, or in this case checkout the build quality. Something most people will never see since this device is assembled with tiny torx screws..
Upon removing the end caps and pulling the unit out, I notice the battery assembly was held together with nothing more than kapton tape and sticky foam. Peeling back the kapton tape and removing the foam backing; probably there to prevent battery rattle but more importantly, a short circuit. I learnt they’ve used two single batteries instead of a pre-made pack like those you often find in laptop batteries, soldered together in parallel to increase the power capacity instead of increasing the voltage. They’ve used a pretty coarse wire, though it’s insulation is pretty thin.
On my unit the OLED display is held down by more double-sided tape, directly to the display board, worst, it wasn’t what I call ‘straight’. It’s mounted too far a away from the controller and at an slight angle. Making it appear slight wonky when viewed through the window, with the far right of the battery indicator covered.
There’s an easy fix to this, just a matter of reposition the display and creating a gentle bend in the flexible flat cable (as shown), or better yet, de-solder, reposition and re-solder the unit – not for the faint hearted as those flexible flat cables are easily damaged.
Now with the display cover placed over the OLED, everything looks near perfect.
The inner build quality could have been better considering the selling price – I guess when most users don’t have the tools to open this device, the manufacturers can be as sloppy as they wish, it’s more cost effective after-all; assembling all the components together with double-sided sticky foam and high temperature kapton tape. Their main concern is to make sure the device operates within their safety requirements and it appears to perform fine.
There are several over-sized blobs of solder on each solder tags both on the battery and on the PCB with more then enough tinned wire shown than necessary. Thankfully everything is neatly insulated with more sticky foam and kapton tape – seems to be the only material holding the inner parts together! It’s gotta be said, it’s not the neatest bit of engineering I’ve seen. Even if it’s assembled by a line of Chinese labourers on minimum pay.
For that extra human touch, there’s even a big fat partial fingerprint sandwiched between the clear and tinted plexiglass – did someone assemble this device with their bare hands? Saving money on gloves are we??
In future revision of this product I would like to see eLeaf making the display fully view-able through the display window. as the window is physically large enough. In it’s current state, I’d imagine there will be some people finding the imperfection rather annoying but it’s an easy fix to correct if you have the tools and patience.
The 4400mAh this device offers already packs a punch for most users, I’d still like to see a higher capacity batteries being used as Cytac, RediLast, Samsung, Panasonic and various other brands offer 2950 to 3400 mAh batteries. That said, with the power boost, how about a discreet USB past through for charging mobile devices?
Was it worth it? Hell YES.
For the money I paid it was a bloody bargain!! In total, after discounts and everything my iStick cost me £17.00 inc. postage or for those reading this from across the pond. That’s US$25.56. However, locally I’ve seen them advertised elsewhere upto £55 and they want postage and packaging on top!!
Fuck sakes man! That’s daylight robbery – You’d have to be one egg short of a dozen to buy from them.
Here’s a few thing I’ve discovered…
To turn the device on/off, tap the fire button five times.
To switch between voltage and watts, tap the fire button three times.
Whilst the battery is OFF:
Press and hold both arrow keys for 3 seconds and the display will rotate 180º. Making the display usable for left and right handed users.
Whilst the battery is ON:
Press and hold both arrow keys for 3 seconds and it’ll lock the arrow keys, disabling you from changing the settings. The device will still fire!
For safety: Firing the battery for 10 seconds or more will trigger it’s safety feature, cutting off the unit till the fire is depressed.