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Charge-N-Run

PalmInfoCenter.com Bottom Line:

The Price:
  • $40
The Pros:
  • Provides owners of older PalmOS PDAs with the convenience of a rechargeable Handheld.

The Cons:
  • Not yet available for Handspring or Palm m10x PDAs

PalmInfoCenter.com Ratings*:
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Cost/benefit:
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*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



Charge-N-Run Review
By Brooke A. Wheeler
11/05/2001


Overview
The Charge-n-Run is a conversion kit for Palm III and VII-series, IBM Workpad c5 and Symbol SPT1500 PDAs that allows you to turn your PDA into a rechargeable unit like the Palm V, Visor Prism and some of the other newer ones on the market.

Hardware
The kit consists of three pieces: a snap-on attachment with a power supply that turns your HotSync cradle into a charging base, a NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) battery pack, and a replacement battery door with holes for the charger to make contact with the charging unit.

The unit I tested was a "pre-production" model but seemed well constructed and operated just like I expected. Included with the unit were several pages of photocopied instructions which, while brief, were complete and easy-to-understand.

Installation
When I unpacked the Charge-N-Run from the shipping box, I didnít even have to refer to the instructions to figure out how it worked. The Charging attachment slid easily over the top of my Palm IIIxís HotSync cradle and snapped firmly in place. I then plugged in the attached "wall-wart" power supply and I had a charging station.

Next I took out the AAA batteries from my Palm and replaced them with the NiMH pack supplied by the manufacturer. I removed the original battery door and snapped in the replacement one provided. I was worried that it would be loose and rattle but it was actually a better fit than my original battery cover. Once I installed the battery pack, I powered the unit on just to make sure everything was OK. It powered up and indicated a partial charge.

I placed the unit in the cradle to charge and proceeded to browse the manual to figure out how to read the charge-indicator light correctly. The Charge-N-Run is equipped with a single, green LED that glows solid green when the unit is powered and the PDA is not in the cradle. When the unit is charging, the LED flashes rapidly, and once itís fully charged, the LED blinks more slowly. This may sound a bit ambiguous, but itís really very easy to tell what the charger is doing at a glance once youíve watched it a couple of times.

The manual also provided instructions for calibrating the battery-charge indicator in the launcher so it will correctly detect the charge level of the battery pack. Iím not sure if Palm OS v3.3 has settings for NiMH but on my unit with Palm OS 3.5 I was able to set it to NiMH and the battery meter seemed to be fairly accurate after that.

Battery Life
I ran the PDA until I received the first low-battery warning. It took me about 9.5 hours to do this. That works out to about 2 weeks normal usage for me, but then I read a lot of e-books on my PDA. The unit takes about 6.5 hours to charge the batteries when they have been discharged to the low-battery warning but under normal conditions an hour or two in the cradle once a day should keep your PDA "topped off".

The battery pack canít match my m505, which gives me about 10 hours when I donít use the backlight, but under normal usage conditions youíll most likely never encounter the low battery warning. On the plus side, if you do run into a situation where the battery pack is depleted, you can always remove it and slap in a pair of regular old AAA batteries. In fact, if you plan on taking your PDA on a vacation or business trip, thatís probably the most convenient solution.

Conclusion
In short, the Charge-n-Run provides the user with a lot of flexibility for a very reasonable price: $40 is about what youíd pay for a charger and a set of rechargeable batteries. Furthermore, unlike rechargeable-only PDAs, you can swap out the NiMH pack for regular batteries if you want to travel light.

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Wow

sub_tex @ 11/6/2001 10:05:45 AM #
Looks like an excellent product. I would have killed for one when i owned my IIIxe.

Price looks good too. Would make a great gift for my family members running my old IIIe/xe's.

RE: Wow
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/6/2001 11:19:23 AM #
If Sub_Tex thinks it's a 'Wow', then so do I. I think I'll buy one asap. Signed, The Boss

chargers like this

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/6/2001 11:39:05 AM #
I have a similar charger to this one but my problem is that the battery door sticks out too far that you cannot slip a Palm IIIXE onto a minstrel III or something like that, which is when I would love to have more battery life than standard AAA's. The Minstrel III will snap on but will be raised just slightly enough to not allow a connection.

RE: chargers like this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/6/2001 11:45:36 AM #
No worries with this on Charge-N-Run since there is nothing that sticks out beyond the standard door surface. Works great with my StreetFinder GPS and Palm IIIx.

A couple of things

ktran @ 11/6/2001 12:46:43 PM #
Thanks for the review. Any idea whether this will fit on the old Palm Pilot style cradles? I have an older model, "slightly" modified IBM Workpad with the 2Mb upgrade running OS 3.5.). It looks like it'll only fit in the III-series cradles, though.

Some minor points:

- Did you mean "Nickel Metal Hydride" batteries?
- OS 3.3 does have a facility to cycle through different battery voltage settings. it's the still the .7 shortcut.

rgds,

K. Tran

RE: A couple of things
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/6/2001 1:27:13 PM #
Unfortunately this version fits only the Palm III style of cradle. We've not touched a true IBM Workpad but believe the c5 model is a rebranded Palm III and if so, Charge-N-Run will work with it on a Palm III style of cradle. (Charge-N-Run works with the TRGpro too)

The reviewer did mean NiMH batteries as you mention.
Regarding the .7 shortcut, even PalmOS v3.1 has that facility though NiCAD should be used since NiMH is missing. Check our websites "EXTRA" section and you'll find a nice little PalmOS application. It hooks the Pref-Panel Menu and is called Battery Panel. This will let you see the digital voltage of your batteries, set the battery type from a drop-down list, and let you change the threshold settings. The Critical/Power-off threshold is a must for rechargable users since they roll-off much quicker then alkalines do. The same webpage gives instructions on the .7 shortcut too.

Thanks for the excellent questions.

Support
Pellico Systems

Not as useful as FullCharge

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/27/2001 12:33:39 AM #
I'm using FullCharge by eXtend Computer & Instrument, www.eXtendComputer.com I believe. It costs less than this product and allows me to charge while my Palm IIIe is in the cradle or out. Since I travel, taking the charger with me is a big advantage. An auto charger is also available for "Road Warriors". I've had mine for almost two years without a hitch. Oh yeh, they already have a unit for Visors too.

RE: Not as useful as FullCharge
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/6/2001 5:01:09 PM #
Yes, not many products solve EVERYBODIES needs. As a matter of fact,
the REAL "Road Warrior" will use Revolve Designs UniMount system. It too
will charge your PDA but it'll hold your PDA too.

The hands-off nature of the Charge-N-Run design does work well
when a desktop charging system is all you need.

It's good to have a choice. :)

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