Optima 1200 Battery Charger Review
Optima 1200 digital battery charger takes guesswork out of maintenance; keeps some batteries from going to the scrap heap.
By Bruce W. Smith
A half-dozen batteries sit on a pallet on the shop floor of Spears Autobody & Repair headed for the recycler.
Spears’ shop, located just a few blocks from my Long Beach, Mississippi, office, does a lot of vehicle repairs and pickup upgrades for local contractors.
All six of the batteries he’d collected during the past month were considered “dead” by the normal standards because none would take a charge – or the shop’s battery charger wouldn’t even acknowledge there was a battery at the end of the battery clamps.
That all changed when the UPS driver strolled into my office with a box in his hands. It was an Optima 1200, a battery charger I’d seen at last year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Weighing in at a mere 4.8 pounds, this toaster-sized electronic marvel is said to enhance the performance of Optima’s own AGM batteries as well as recover deeply-discharged flooded or AGM batteries from other manufacturers.
While most shop battery chargers can only charge batteries that have 7-9 volts remaining, Optima’s Digital 1200 12V Performance Battery Charger ($200) can read battery voltage as low as 1.25 volts.
So it “sees” what would otherwise be considered a dead battery and tries to bring it back to life.
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.
There’s also has a soft-touch button on the right control panel that allows you to test the battery’s pre-charge condition. Nice.
PUT TO THE TEST
Curious to see it in action, I put Optima’s 1200 to the test on the batteries on the pallet as well as on several vehicles that came in to Spears’ shop with battery issues.
I even tried it out on zero-turn mower and ATV batteries. It worked as advertised.
It’s one of the easiest battery chargers I’ve used. Plug it in, connect the clamps to the battery posts and push the Battery Pre-Charge Status button.
Once the battery analyzing is done, which takes 1-2 minutes on the batteries I tested, you then select the type of battery you are charging by pushing the round gauge-like touch pad on the left side.
From that point on it’s automatic.
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 and the digital readout told me to read the owner’s manual.)
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 a great way for contractors to maintain their fleet’s 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. There’s no guess work involved.
BACK FROM THE DEAD
On deeply discharged 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 succeeds. Sometimes the battery really is junk.
The Optima 1200 saved two flooded-cell cranking batteries in my test through reconditioning. A third (non-Optima AGM) deep-cycle that read 2.5 volts before the charging process began was also brought back to life.
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 seldom-used 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!
For more information on the Optima Digital 1200: www.optimabatteries.com/us/en/shop/charger; (888) 867-8462