Blade MSR Battery

Blade MSR Battery upgrades can be tricky. Choosing a high quality battery is the key. I’ll show you which ones are the best and which should be avoided.

Battery specifications are complicated. But don’t worry. Because today I’m going to make this really easy for you. I’ll break it down into two sections. What you need to know about Lipo battery technology, and which batteries to consider. And in my usual style, I’ll follow it up with my best recommendation.

If you’re in a rush, here’s the direct link to the winner, otherwise, read on.

What you need to know about Lipo battery technology

I’m not going to bore you with all of the technical details about lipo batteries. Instead I’m going to go over a few key battery specs, and explain what they mean… In english. I’ll try and avoid the technical speak. Ready? lets go.

Voltage

This one’s pretty straight forward. The rated voltage for an MSR lipo is always 3.7V. Easy.

Capacity

Capacity is one of the main specs you will see published for batteries. It is rated in miliamp hours (mAH). More mAH = more capacity. If you consider the power in a battery as “juice”, the capacity tells you how much juice the battery can hold.

The stock e-flight battery that comes with the MSR is 120mAH. You can find replacement batteries for the MSR with capacities from 70 mAH all the way up to about 240 mAH. For the purposes of this article, lets not worry about what a mAH is. Instead just think of it in relative terms. 70 is small, 240 is very big and 120 is stock. You want something as big or bigger than stock without getting huge.  130-180mAH is a good range to shoot for.

What does battery capacity mean for your helicopter? In general, all else being equal, Larger capacity = longer flight time.

“C Rating”

The “C Rating” refers to the discharge rate. If capacity is how much juice the battery can hold, then the C Rating describes how much juice can be delivered at once.

Think of the battery as a juice box that holds a certain capacity of juice. The C rating would be the size of the hole at the the top of the box. The bigger the hole, the more juice can flow out of it.

The stock e-flight battery that comes with the MSR is 14C. You will find C ratings of anywhere between 10C and 45C for this class of battery. One important thing to note. The C rating is a multiplier of the capacity. So a higher C rating is not always better. For example the stock E-Flight battery is 14C X 120mAH = 1.68A. The Upgraded 150mAH E-Flight battery is 12C X 150mAH = 1.8A. So in this case the 150mAH batter has more jam, even though the C rating is less. In other words, when comparing C ratings between batteries, make sure they are all rated at the same capacity.

What does C Rating mean for your helicopter? The larger the C rating the more power you will have available when you need it. For example, say you run into trouble and need full throttle to avoid a crash. All else being equal (namely capacity), a battery with a larger C rating will be able to deliver more power on demand to get you out of trouble.

Charge Rate

Charge rate is one of those specifications that is not normally published. It is one that is very important though.

Remember how the C rating tells you how much juice you can pull out of the battery? Well the charge rate tells you how much juice you can push into it. Try to push it in too fast and the battery will over heat. Overheating a battery will reduce it’s lifespan at best, or melt the battery at worst. On the other hand, the slower you push the juice to the battery, the longer it will take to charge. Ideally you want a battery with a high charge rate so that you can charge it fast without shortening its life.

What does the charging rate mean for your helicopter? Nothing. but if you want your batteries to charge fast and last long, you need a battery with a high charging rate.

Cell Configuration

This one doesn’t really apply to micro helicopters and I’ll explain why in a second. Battery packs are made up of cells. Each cell could be a battery by itself but they are often combined to make a more powerful battery pack. You will often see a #S and/or #P specified on a battery. This tells you how many cells are in that pack and how they are wired together. In the case of micro helicopters like the MSR, things are pretty simple. All battery packs are 1S, meaning they contain only 1 cell. So, when you see a “1S” specification for an MSR battery, you know what it means.

What does the cell configuration mean for your Helicopter? Nothing, all MSR batteries will be 1S single cell batteries.

Weight

I don’t need to explain weight to you, you know what that is. It’s not always published for lipo batteries, but the stock MSR battery weighs 3.4g. In general, the higher the capacity the heavier the battery. More weight means the helicopter will have to work harder to keep it in the air. The advantage of a high capacity battery might be lost if the extra capacity is needed just to keep it in the air. Something to consider.

What does the charging rate mean for your helicopter? Heavy batteries can be a drag on performance. Selecting a battery is a trade off between capacity and weight. You want as much capacity as possible without going too much over the stock 3.4g. I don’t recommend going much over 4.5g, but if you put your value on keeping the MSR as light and “flickable” as possible, you may want to sacrifice some capacity in order to keep the weight as close to 3.4 grams as possible.

Which batteries to consider

There are tons and tons of small lipo batteries on the market that will work with the MSR. It’s a nightmare  trying to go through them all and compare specs. Especially because not all companies rate batteries the same, its a very subjective process. I’m going to try to make it easier for you by narrowing the field down to just a few. These are the most widely used and respected brands/models available.

There are two big names in RC Lipo batteries that we’re going to look at. Turnigy and Hyperion. We’ll add a 3rd to the mix, E-flight, since their battery is engineered by the same company that designed the MSR.

Lets just ignore the rest.  There may be a few others that are good, but most fail to live up to the claims in their specs. Lets look a little closer at each of the above brands.

E-flite

Of course, E-flite are the guys that make the MSR. These batteries work just fine and they do offer an upgraded 150mAH  alternative as compared to the 120mAH stock battery.  The 150mAH version weighs 4.3g which is  just 0.9g heavier than the stock battery. The C-Rating on the stock battery is 14C and the upgraded 150mAH battery from E-flight is 12C. The low C ratings leave a lot to be desired when it comes to on demand power.

I haven’t seen a published specification for charge rate on these batteries but most people believe that it is less than 1C. The problem with this is that the stock Celectra battery charger that comes with the MSR charges  at a higher rate (about 2.5C for the stock battery). Many people believe that this causes pre-mature battery wear.

You can reduce the charge rate on the Celectra which should make your batteries last longer. To do this you need to open your Celectra battery charger and locate the 4 potentiometers (metal components with a slotted top for screwdriver adjustment). Use a screw driver to rotate each one counter-clockwise. This will reduce the charging current to the batteries. One thing to note is that doing this will make the batteries take longer to charge.

Although the E-Flight batteries are fine, the 12-14C rating is not terribly impressive. One thing I will point out though, is that E-flights C ratings are probably the least exaggerated of all batteries in this class. So keep that in mind.The problems with battery life is also a concern. Even though there is a fix (modifying the charger), I’m not sure if it gets the charge current down low enough, and it will impact your charge times.

You can get replacement 120mAH E-Flights for about $3 or the 150mAH E-Flight for about $5.

Turnigy

The Turnigy brand is the house brand of HobbyKing. HobbyKing is a large E-tailer of RC hobby parts. I suspect what they do is select manufacturers in china to supply them with custom branded product in bulk. Turnigy batteries and other components, for the most part, work very well and are very popular in the RC Hobby world. However, there are differing opinions on the 1S battery packs.

First of all lets look at the specs. There is a 138mAH 10C version, and there is a 160mAH 30C option. There are also two other options from the Turnigy Nano-Tech series. The Nano-Tech batteries come with 130 or 160 mAh capacities. Both Nano-Tech batteries are rated at “25-40C”. This makes it sound like a range but what they really mean is 25/40C. 25C is the rating to worry about here. The 40C means “burst”, or how much current can be delivered for an instant. In my opinion the burst C rating is not very useful. Marketing people use it because they like to take advantage of the highest rating they can measure, even though it’s just a spike and doesn’t mean anything in practice.

Weight wise the Turnigy batteries are fairly close to the E-flight batteries. The Nano-Techs are slightly heavier since the 130s weigh 3.8g and the 160s weigh 4.5. The other two Turnigy batteries weight the same as the E-flights at 3.7g for the 138mAH and 4.3g for the 160mAH.

The real question, is how do they perform. The general consensus is that they perform very well out of the box. If you search the internet you will find many people raving about how well the Turnigy’s perform when new. Most say that it is much better than the E-flight batteries. Beyond initial comments, the sentiment begins to go down hill. The internet is littered with complaints about the longevity of all 4 of these Turnigy batteries. Many claiming that they will no longer hold a charge after just a few weeks of use. Personally, I wonder if these claims aren’t exaggerated. I also suspect that these longevity issues are due to the charge rate of the batteries. I found the following blurb on the Nano-Tech product pages at HobbyKing…

“Fast charge capable, up to 15C on some batteries”

First of all, what does “some batteries” mean? And second, a 15C charge rate is unheard of for this class of battery. On a table further down the page they indicate a max charge rate of 10C. 10C also sounds unreasonably high to me. Do they mean the battery can handle this charging at this rate without compromising longevity? Or do they simply mean it won’t cause a fire? These grand claims combined with the “25-40C ” spec leads me to believe that the specifications for this battery are somewhat far fetched. These ratings are very subjective, but it is the company’s responsibility to represent their products accurately for a fair “apples to apples” comparison with competing products. By using misleading ranges and limiting specifications to “some batteries” it is clear the published specifications are not a good representation of what can be expected from a typical battery. Anyway, I’ll stop ranting and just say this… I suspect the reason people are having trouble with Turnigy battery life is because of excessive charge current. To support my theory, here’s a quote I pulled from a forum. This is one Turnigy user’s experience with his batteries.

My Turnigy 160mAh 30C are great.
I made sure I only discharged 50% maximum for first 10 flights, same as I do with all my Lipo’s.
Only charged at 0.7C to start with.
Never run them until flat.
Log all uses, just a tick label on the battery. Each have 40 or more now.

I suspect most people aren’t so diligent with their batteries. If you have one of these batteries, try reducing the charge current on your Celectra charger as described in the E-flight section above and see if that helps battery life at all. I’d love to hear how that goes.

What I haven’t told you about the Turnigy batteries yet is the price. These things are cheap! The 138mAH is under $1 and the 160mAH is just 1.69. Nano-tech batteries are  $1.33 for the 130mAH and $1.47 for the 160mAH.

Hyperion

Hyperion is another popular name in the RC world. Hyperion positions themselves as a manufacturer of high end RC parts. The Hyperion G3 seems to be the darling child of micro-helicopter batteries, and there are a lot of people around the net raving about the G3 batteries for various reasons. I think the real reason that the G3 is so well received is because of its charge rate. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s look at the rest of the specs.

The G3 comes in 130 and 160mAH versions and both are rated at 25C. The 130mAH weighs 3.85g and the 160mAH weighs 4.55g. Both batteries offer an extra 10mAH over the E-flight offerings and are less than half a gram heavier. Like I said before, the main advantage of the G3 batteries is the charge rate. Hyperion rates these batteries at a charge rate of 5C. Interestingly enough though, this spec isn’t included in the data sheet. Instead these claims are listed in their marketing material. From the Hyperion website…

  • 5C Speed Charging OK
  • 4 x Longer Cycle Life

So what should you believe? We’ll here are just a few quotes of what people are saying in forums…

  • “I love the Hyperion batteries, never seen packs come down so cool”
  • “Hyperion 1S 130/150mAh completely brilliant! Rejuvinated a tired msr that was otherwise going to get retired”
  • “Ratings and specs aren’t always honest. When it comes down to true performance, peak headspeed, real-world flight time, and the ultimate power-to-weight ratio, it’s Hyperion G3 25C 130’s for me, hands-down”

It’s good to hear what people with practical experience are saying but I also like to see hard data. Below is a graph that was put together by John (JJ604) over at  RC Groups (you can check out the full thread here).

This comparison between the Hyperion G3, Turnigy, and Turnigy Nano-Tech batteries clearly shows that the G3 lasts longer and stays cooler than either of the Turnigy batteries.

It’s a bit hard to read the legend in the image. Black = Hyperion 3G, Red = Turnigy Nano-Tech, Green = Turnigy. The solid lines show voltage over time (while being discharged at 20C). The dashed lines show the temperature over time.

I hate leaving all positive reviews because nothing is perfect. The biggest flaw of the Hyperion G3 is the price. All the engineering that went into creating a battery that can produce the flat curve you see above doesn’t come free. You can find the 160mAH G3 for about $8 and the 130mAH for $7. While this is more expensive than the competition, I think these batteries will more than pay for themselves over the long run.

Conclusion

These batteries all come it at different price points. I strongly recommend you spend the extra money on the Hyperion G3 batteries. I’d go for the 160mAH version but if the extra 0.85 g over the stock battery weight worries you, try the 130mAH version. The Hyperions perform best of the bunch and charge faster than any of the others. Plus you can get insane life out of these batteries without having to modify your stock charger.

If the Hyperion batteries are too rich for your blood, you can always go the opposite direction and try the Turnigy batteries . If you go this direction I recommend sticking with the Nano-Tech version. They are all under $2 so you can justify buying more of them at a time. I do think it will cost you more over the long term though. Not to mention the reduced flight times you’ll get according to the graph above.

If you’re not convinced on the merits of either the Hyperion or the Turnigy batteries, there’s no shame in sticking with the E-flight batteries. Either the stock 120mAH or the upgraded 150mAH. They make an excellent battery that should last a decent amount of time. If you go this route, I’d recommend opening your charger to crank down the charge current as described in the E-flight section above. Personally though, I recommend just spending a couple extra bucks and going for the Hyperion G3s.



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