Product Review: Optima 1200 Battery Charger
State-of-the art digital battery charger takes guesswork out of battery maintenance; brings some back from the land of the dead
by Bruce W. Smith
A half-dozen batteries sit on a pallet on the shop floor headed for the recycler.
All six considered “dead” by the normal standards because none would take a charge — or the shop’s battery charger would’t even acknowledge there was a battery at the end of the terminal clamps.
That all changed when the UPS driver rolled in with a box in his hands. It was the Optima 1200.
Weighing in at a mere 4.8 pounds, this toaster-sized electronic marvel is said to actually enhance the performance of Optima’s own AGM batteries as well as recover deeply-discharged batteries be they any brand’s wet-cell or AGM.
Well, I put it to the test on the batteries on the pallet as well as on several vehicles that came in to the shop with battery issues over a month-long period.
While most shop battery chargers can only charge batteries that have 7-9 volts remaining, Digital 1200 12V Performance Battery Charger ($200) can read battery voltage as low as 1.25 volts.
It also automatically evaluates the battery when it’s first connected and shows the results on the bright center screen that resembles a retro dash gauge.
(It also has a soft-touch button on the right control panel that allows you to test the battery’s “pre-charge condition.”)
Once the battery analyzing is done, which take 1-2 minutes on the batteries I tested, you then select they type of battery you are charging (Optima starting or deep-cycle) or standard 12-volt flooded AGM motorcycle, auto/marine) by pushing the round gauge-like touch pad on the left side.
If you are not sure of the battery type, don’t worry – the 1200 is smart enough to set itself to the correct charge mode the moment you make a selection.
(I tried fooling the charger by hooking it up to rechargeable 12V overhead door opener batteries and alarm backup batteries. It knew better.)
From that point forward you just monitor the center gauge’s digital readout that features a full text LCD display for charging, maintaining and fault mode indication.
“The charger will determine the best-possible rate of charge, and works completely automatically to charge (and then maintain) the battery,” says Optima’s Scott Parkhurst when asked about the new digital technology.
“The 1200 has a real ‘set it and forget it’ level of intelligence. But, the gauge design and constant feedback it provides lets the technician ‘feel’ they’re interacting on some level,” says Parkhurst.
” The way the 1200 automatically checks a battery out, determines what it needs, delivers the best-possible charging algorithm, and then maintains that charge at the highest level is simply the best-possible way for consumers to maintain their 12-volt batteries.”
I liked the way it shows the battery’s state of charge from 0-100 percent and how many amps the 1200 is putting in to it (0-12 amps.)
The Optima 1200 will also show fault messages, which it did on two of the six batteries that had internal shorts where the cells had failed.
On deeply discharged or batteries (several of the ones I played with had pre-charge voltages down in the 2-3V range) it will try to recondition them. Sometimes it works, sometime the battery really is junk.
The Optima 1200 saved two (wet-cell) batteries in my test through reconditioning and a third (non-Optima AGM) that read 8-volts before the charging process began.
Not a bad deal when you consider a decent wet-cell cranking pickup battery costs upwards of $125 and a deep-cycle AGM closer to $200.
Saving just one battery from the scrap heap a year means the Optima 1200 will pay for itself in short order.
Oh, it can also be used to automatically maintain a battery on a piece of equipment. It goes through a 30-day, 3-hour check/charge cycle when left attached.
Need a quick boost for your iPad or smartphone? No worries. It has plug-ins on it to accommodate those as well!