GoPros do lots of things very well, but battery life isn’t one of them. You’re lucky if you get two hours of use out of battery, and in many cases it’s much less than that. So I’ve long relied on having spare batteries with me so that I can keep shooting rather than sit around twiddling my thumbs while the battery recharges.
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NiteCore sent me a NiteCore UGP3 to try out. It’s a cradle charger for GoPro HERO3 and HERO3+ batteries. It won’t work with HERO4 batteries–they’re a different design physically and have different power ratings. It’s also just a charger–it doesn’t come with batteries.
The Nitecore UGP3 can charge up to two batteries at once in the cradles. It also has a USB output on the side, so you can also charge another device simultaneously, such as a GoPro directly or a phone, etc.
There are two things I like about this one that area a bit different to most of its competitors. One is that it has an LCD display screen that gives you more detailed charging progress than a flashing LED light. I prefer having a percentage over a light system because it lets me better estimate how long it’s going to take and how close to ready they are.
The other is that it has the USB cable built in. It’s not long–it only gives about 4 inches of reach, but when you’re packing the charger away you can snap the USB plug into a small recessed area on the bottom of the charger. It’s one more thing you don’t have to worry about losing.
Basic Usage: Charging 1 or 2 GoPro Batteries
The NiteCore charger doesn’t come with any way to plug it into the wall power outlet, so you’ll need something to go from the wall to USB. That can be a single outlet charger like the one that comes with your phone, a car charger, or it can be a multi-port USB charger. The NiteCore takes USB DC 5V. You can plug the charger into your computer’s USB port and it will work, but it’ll charge only slowly because a computer’s USB port doesn’t provide as much current as a dedicated charger.
Because each battery cradle works independently, you don’t need to have both filled. You can use just one or have two batteries where each is at a different charged level.
The charger is able to detect when a battery is fully charged, and once the indicator reaches 100% it automatically stops the power from flowing to that dock. That protects the battery and reduces the risks that come with overcharging batteries. The vertical stack of five bars for each animates while it’s charging and is static when charging is complete and the flow of current is stopped.
The batteries don’t actually lock into place, but the fit is snug and the batteries are held quite securely. There’s no problem holding it upside down and little risk of batteries coming out even if you’re using it in a car on a bumpy dirt track unless you physically knock the batteries reasonably hard.
USB Output / Charging a 3rd Battery
In addition to the two battery cradles on top, on the side is a standard-sized USB port. When you connect a device by USB, a USB connector symbol shows up on the LCD screen and flashes.
You can use that for a few different things. You can use it for data transfer if you’ve connected the NiteCore to a computer or something similar. You can also use it as a third charging outlet by connecting a GoPro with a battery inside or your phone, etc.
There’s also a switch that allows you to choose to prioritize current to the batteries in the cradles or through the USB output. This really only comes into play if you’ve plugged the charger into a power source that’s not supplying the full current that the NiteCore is capable of handling. If you switch to the “battery” setting, it’ll charge the batteries first and then send current to the USB. The reverse happens if you switch it to “USB”.
The charger only works with battery model numbers AHDBT-301, AHDBT-302, and AHDBT-201 batteries. These are 3.7V 1200mAh 4.4Wh batteries specifically for the GoPro HERO3 and HERO3+. It will not work with HERO4 batteries or those from earlier GoPro models.
You can’t put a BacPac extended battery into the cradles directly, but you can use the USB output to charge.
I’ve tested it with GoPro-branded batteries and it’s worked well.
I’ve also tested it with third-party batteries and had no issues with batteries from Wasabi and Smatree (third-party manufacturers use the same model numbers as GoPro-branded ones).
If you’re getting an EE on the display screen, it’s likely because the battery was over discharged and the NiteCore has been unable to activate it. Under normal circumstances, the charger can activate over discharged batteries, but there are times it can’t.
Model Number: NiteCore UGP3
Input voltage: USB DC 5V
Output voltage: 4.2V ± 1% / 5V
Output current: AHDBT-302/301/201 500mA, USB 1500mA
Dimensions: 2.64 x 1.73 x 0.94 inches (67 x 44 x 24 mm)
Weight (without batteries): 1.56oz (44.2 g)
These days I use HERO4s more often than HERO3/3+s, but there’s a lot to like in the way NiteCore has tackled the problem. Here’s hoping they develop a version soon that’s compatible with the HERO4 batteries.
UPDATE: This model is now discontinued. You can find a newer version, the UGP4, at B&H Photo.