It's confusing, isn't it? The award winning XS3600 (soon to be renamed the MXS 3.6), the newer award winning XS4003 (soon to be discontinued), and now the MXS 5.0? They all recharge most peoples' motorbikes/cars/vans/campers with typical 12-volt batteries of average size and capacity, and they even all look much the same! Help!
I'm a long-term user of the XS3600, more recently the XS4003, and now the brand new MXS 5.0. CTEK is without doubt a market leader, selling many of their own chargers branded as genuine Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Porsche accessories (amongst many other makes - including Mercedes and Audi - and at premium prices!). It stands to reason then that product design, quality, and reliability of a CTEK charger is beyond question, and the claimed less than 2% returns of "defective" CTEK chargers is testament to that. But for us mere mortals in the real world with real cars, the choice of CTEK models at the lower end of the price spectrum is confusing. I say lower-end, but a CTEK charger still isn't cheap compared to many other makers' models of apparently similar capability... but the old adage of "you get what you pay for" remains never truer.
To understand what this new CTEK MXS 5.0 model offers, it helps to know what else CTEK offer at similar price levels: Here're my thoughts from a users perspective in helping to explain the differences:
CTEK MXS 3.6 / MX3600: The long-standing and multi-award winning CTEK XS3600 provides 3.6 amps output, and is capable of charging and maintaining a 12-volt car/van/camper or motorcycle battery of between 1.2 amps and 120 amps. Once charged, the XS3600 will maintain that battery by monitoring its' voltage, and topping it up as and when required: As such, the battery can be left connected to the charger indefinitely. The 4-step charging sequence is: 1) "desulphation" (a short initial pulse to shake off any deposits within the battery), 2) "bulk charge" (where most of the power is restored into the battery), 3) "absorption" (the power is then gently topped up to maximum capacity, but slowly to avoid overheating), and finally 4) "pulse maintenance" (the battery is monitored and topped up when the voltage falls through natural discharge - this exercises the battery). It also has a `cold weather' setting (a 14.7 volt charge rather than the usual 14.4 volts), for use on icy days or for certain AGM battery types. It soon will be renamed the MXS3.6, but it's identical to the XS3600 in all functional respects. This charger does the job, reliably and consistently well (better than most other brands I've tried), but without the additional frills. It's all most people will want or need for a city hatch-back up to a larger executive saloon or a workman's van. The slightly lower charging power means it'll take slightly longer than the others here to charge a fully flat battery, but a typical car battery can usually be charged adequately overnight (within 12-24 hours).
CTEK XS 4003: The later and similarly award winning CTEK XS4003 provides 4.0 amps output, making it marginally quicker when charging a fully flat battery, and it too is capable of maintaining a fully charged battery of similar (slightly higher) capacity. In addition to the XS3600/MXS3.6's four charging sequences, it adds an additional four functions staggered between them: 5) a `soft start' function (a flat battery must reach a certain voltage level within the set time, ensuring it's healthy enough to continue charging), 6) an `idle test' (to ensure the battery is retaining its' charge), 7) `recondition' (a short, timed charge at a slightly higher 15.8 volts to help mix the battery acid to revitalise it), and 8) a `float' maintenance mode (this option holds the battery at a constant 13.6 volts for up to 10 days to maximise performance before reverting to pulse maintenance). Visually, the XS4003 adds separate visual indicators for each of its 8 charging and conditioning phases - helpful in gauging how healthy or knackered your battery really is!
CTEK MXS 5.0: This is the latest `lower cost' addition to the CTEK range, and is identical visually, functionally, and in features to the XS4003 which it replaces: It is the same, except CTEK have increased its' power by 25% to give 5 amps rather than the XS4003's 4 amps output. However, this 25% increase in power affects the bulk charging phase only, and as the absorption phase can often take just as long as bulk charging, it doesn't make the MXS 5.0 25% faster overall (CTEK publish a graph on their own website which explains why). Whilst it helps differentiate between it and the retained cheaper XS3600/MXS 3.6 model, an average car battery is still likely to need at least an overnight charge if it's moderately flat. If you already own CTEK's XS4003, I personally see little real benefit in 'upgrading' to this latest MXS 5.0: They're both great chargers with virtually all the features of even CTEK's most expensive chargers... just with less overall power.
All these CTEK chargers provide sufficiently smooth charging current and can in most cases be connected directly via your cigarette lighter socket (provided the socket can be used even when the key is out of the ignition) - without disconnecting the battery from the car or even lifting the bonnet! The cars' sensitive electronics should remain unharmed in all charging states except when possibly using (choosing to use) the recondition function of the XS4003/MXS 5.0. An adaptor Ctek CTE-56263 Ctek Cigarette Lighter Connector Adaptor
is available for this purpose, and is well worth buying in my opinion if only to avoid the dirt under the bonnet! All these chargers also require a minimum voltage from the battery to be able to recognise it (usually about 2 volts - a car battery is already considered flat when it falls below 10.8 volts!). Whilst all these chargers are in my view superior to others in recovering even old and abused batteries, they can't perform miracles. If your battery is life-expired or has been seriously neglected, it'll likely need replacing. Also worth mentioning is that all these chargers will cope with batteries much bigger than the maximum capacity stated - it simply means it'll take proportionately longer to fully charge a really large flat battery... but they will get there! For battery maintenance purposes, you'll likely notice no difference between any of these and CTEK's much larger, more expensive models. However, for regular bulk charging of significantly bigger batteries, CTEK's 7 amp XS7000 (now renamed MXS 7.0), or the latest 10 amp MXS 10 are probably better choices (they add very little other than more charging power making a full charge of a large battery relatively quicker).
As for choice between these lower end models, only you can decide. Cost is a relevant factor balanced against performance and features, and in this respect the cheapest and sturdy long-surviving XS3600/MXS3.6 undermines the newer models by its sheer ability to meet most peoples' needs brilliantly. On the other hand, if cost is of lesser concern the latest MXS 5.0 will satisfy both the gadget-freak and those who simply want the best available - those separate LED charging indicators are really useful! Whatever you choose, the build quality and reliability of CTEK chargers has proven to me that any of these models will prove a sound investment and will likely last you a lifetime... at least until electrically powered cars become the norm!