Teardown: CE01-IPO 2xAA USB Emergency Charger

While USB Power Banks based on Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer batteries offer a fairly large capacity for the weight and size, and are rechargeable, sometimes they take a long time to charge and you just can’t live with that. They might even be overkill for your application. Another cheap eBay “special” – a USB Emergency Charger that operates off two AA batteries for about $4.

CE01-IPO Battery ChargerThe charger itself is a little larger than two AA batteries, and is finished in glossy black plastic. There is a red LED power indicator, a USB A Female connector, and an LED for the “torch” functionality, which, being frankly honest, is a bit pointless.

SpecificationsThe bottom shell of the unit slides off to reveal the battery bay. Printed behind the bay are the specifications.

 

 

CE01-IPO Bay

It’s a charger, how hard can it be to operate?

CE01-IPO Output

You can easily fit this with two Sanyo Eneloop batteries for some emergency juice on the go – and it does work. The problem is that the two AA’s hardly match a decent single 16850 – say if you have two Eneloops, that’s a total of 2000mAh at 2.4v, whereas a decent 18650 can provide 2400mAh at 3.6v. Energy wise, that’s only 55%.

So you can’t expect too much out of it – mainly just for powering small Arduino projects and the like. A Raspberry Pi? Probably not.

Inside, it’s a fairly small PCB with very few components:

CE01-IPO PCB

There are two caps, nothing special, and the main switching inductor and diode on the top. The device actually outputs the battery voltage when the switch is off – and when it is on, the circuit “boosts” the voltage to 5v (roughly). This can be an issue if you plug something in before switching the switch to on, the device may malfunction. Also, the switch itself doesn’t seem like a very durable one – it’s got a bit of play in it and seems like the contact ratings might be a bit low for this application.

As the battery runs down, the voltage output on the USB port dips. This is visible through the dimming of the power LED – but many devices will continue to display “charging” while stagnating or sometimes, actually consuming charge from the battery. At that point, it’s futile to leave the device connected to the port …

CE01-IPO PCB Bottom

Unfortunately, the ICs are not identifiable. Interestingly R1-R4 appear to be used to configure the resistance over the D- and D+ lines to be able to “trick” the device to believe it’s been attached to a charger – this is likely configured for Apple devices.

The device does work in general – and it’s inexpensive, that’s for sure. But the practicality of charging with AA batteries is really not there compared to the power banks – unless you really have no other option and need that AA-buy-it-anywhere convenience. But it does mean that there’s really little good reason to build your own from a kit, given the price on these things …

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3 Responses to Teardown: CE01-IPO 2xAA USB Emergency Charger

  1. Joon says:

    Hello!

    I bought one of these off ebay, and used it to power my portable Fiio amp/iPhone for a while, but managed to kill this charger after I plugged it into my rechargable LED desk lamp (http://www.officeworks.com.au/retail/products/Furniture/Lighting/Desk-Lamps/SSSOD188BK).

    Mine was $2 off ebay, do you think I should just get another one, or shell out for a proper (like mintyboost) kit?

    Thanks in advance.

    /joon

    • lui_gough says:

      Dear Joon,

      I’ve noticed this charger does get quite warm under heavy loads, and might not be able to handle high power consuming devices properly. Furthermore, two AA cells doesn’t give you that much power overall – the Li-Ion rechargeable power banks are the ones to go for where you need significant amounts of energy (although, they themselves are prone to lies, as you will see elsewhere on this blog). I think the main allure was that it is $2, which is insanely cheap to the point of being disposable, and the convenience of AA’s being widely available.

      Technically, a MintyBoost doesn’t give you any more current (they’re both claiming 500mA output) and does pretty much the same job, but it offers you a little bit more educational value in being sold as a kit and is easy to modify to your liking. This could be taken as a downside as well – since you have to find/make an enclosure, and put more effort into it even though it was more expensive in the beginning.

      It really comes down to what you need and what you want. I’m not exactly sure why the desk lamp would have killed your Emergency Charger – if you get another one, I’m not sure you’d want to risk it again, it could also end up dying. Maybe you’d buy several? Likewise, a MintyBoost could prove to be an interesting adventure, but I wouldn’t fly with a homebuilt charger (just in case they mistake it for something else).

      – Gough

  2. Joon says:

    I have a few little projects planned which need small portable 5v (USB) power. Also got one of these : http://goo.gl/trqAzL which uses a 18650, but for some reason the one I have only manages to provide 80mA. (got another one in the mail which I will test tonight).

    If these fail, I will probably try this : https://www.adafruit.com/products/259 or this http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/LiPo-Rider-Pro-p-992.html

    But yes, I was enticed by the low price of this USB charger, and figured that in a pinch I could always get AA batteries at a 7-11 or something (if things were really that dire).

    Thanks for your reply!

    /joon

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