Monthly Science: USB Current Testers vs. NP-BX1 Batteries

Having some interest in my Sony HDR-AS30 helmet camera’s NP-BX1 battery runtime, I’ve been measuring and plotting recharge versus runtime after each ride:

USB Testers - Charge vs Runtime
USB Testers – Charge vs Runtime

The vertical axis is the total charge in mA·h, the horizontal axis is the discharge time = recorded video duration. Because 1 A = 1 coulomb/s, 1 mA·h = 3.6 C.

The data points fall neatly on two lines corresponding to a pair of cheap USB testers:

USB Testers
USB Testers

When you have one tester, you know the USB current. When you have two testers, you’re … uncertain.

The upper tester is completely anonymous, helpfully displaying USB Tester while starting up. The lower one is labeled “Keweisi” to distinguish it from the myriad others on eBay with identical hardware; its display doesn’t provide any identifying information.

The back sides reveal the current sense resistors:

USB Testers - sense resistors
USB Testers – sense resistors

Even the 25 mΩ resistor drops enough voltage that the charger’s blue LED dims appreciably during each current pulse. The 50 mΩ resistor seems somewhat worse in that regard, but eyeballs are notoriously uncalibrated optical sensors.

The upper line (from the anonymous tester) has a slope of 11.8 mA·h/minute of discharge time, the lower (from the Keweisi tester) works out to 8.5 mA·h/minute. There’s no way to reconcile the difference, so at some point I should measure the actual current and compare it with their displays.

Earlier testing suggested the camera uses 2.2 W = 600 mA at 3.7 V. Each minute of runtime consumes 10 mA·h of charge:

10 mA·h = 600 mA × 60 s / (3600 s/hour)

Which is in pretty good agreement with neither of the testers, but at least it’s in the right ballpark. If you boldly average the two slopes, it’s dead on at 10.1 mA·h/min; numerology can produce any answer you need if you try hard enough.

Actually, I’d believe the anonymous meter’s results are closer to the truth, because recharging a lithium battery requires 10% to 20% more energy than the battery delivered to the device, so 11.8 mA·h/min sounds about right.

Memo to Self: Trust, but verify.

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