Once in a generation or so, a product is offered to the market that is so good that consumers doubt if even the manufacturer can replicate such an awesome product again or beat itself with a worthy successor.
Usually, there is either no successor at all; or the company fails woefully when it attempts to create a successor. This is the underlying basis of the philosophy of if it isn’t broken, don’t bother fixing it!
Lexus achieved this status in late 2010 when the first LFA went into production and was presented to the enthusiastic world of car racers and racing. When it debuted (and right up till now), the LFA remains the best sports vehicle ever made. So good was it that its engine and exhaust note actually produced music!
Unfortunately, just two years after, the last one rolled off the assembly lines and since then, it is touted that Lexus has completely forgotten the art and science of making a successor, worthy of the original LFA 🙂
This appears to be the case with Noco as regards the GB vs GBX debate.
However, unlike Lexus, Noco has actually gone ahead and made a successor to the GB series of portable jumpstarters (which I have held elsewhere are the greatest ever to come out of the industry – just like the Lexus LFA).
The only difference here is that Noco isn’t calling the GBX series ‘successor’ per se. Rather, it says the GBX series is a completely novel line of rugged and ‘xtreme’ series.
The thrust of the matter now is: how good is the GBX series when compared to the original GB series? Importantly, should you buy the GBX series when presented with an option to choose from either of the product lines?
These and many more are some of the questions I’ll be answering with this article. I’ll also be highlighting and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each of the model lines with a view of suggesting the best options for each reality you may find yourself in (that is if you need to ‘upgrade’ in the first place).
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Noco GB Vs GBX: Should You ‘Upgrade’ To The Newer ‘X’ Series?
In my considered and carefully thought out opinion, you should not bother ‘upgrading’ from the older GB series to the newer GBX series as the effort and money isn’t worth it. Almost all the ‘advantages’ the newer line is touted to have been partially or totally eclipsed by a disadvantage that you must of necessity face if you ignore the older GB model line and queue into the newer GBX line.
An ‘upgrade’ here is more or less tantamount to ignoring a traditional 5.7 liter V8 engine for a twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6 engine all in the name of MPGs. If you’re so cautious about MPGs or care about the environment, why not go electric, go hydrogen fuel cell, or buy a hybrid 1.2 liter i3 ICE?
Thus, to properly understand this position and importantly, make any sense of it, we need to, first of all, understand what these products are, what they stand for, and importantly what features/punch each of them packs – or fails to pack.
First things first: let’s take a look at the older GB series and see what it has that rendered it the very best in its class when it was first released.
The Features That Make The Noco GB Series Stand Out
When Noco released the GB series (the GB20, GB40, GB50, GB70, and GB150) just at the corner of the end of the immediate past decade, the whole automotive world changed. Like I love to say and have said elsewhere, the shock the market experienced was akin to the one Lexus caused Mercedes, Audi, and BMW at the turn of the 90s (great things, it appears, have a way of coming up right at the ‘turn’ of time).
For users, this was an excellent option, however. For the other mediocre brands that were nothing but sources of frustration and sorrow for drivers on the road, this was bad news, decreased revenues, and ultimately, meant a major shaking up or losing the little the market was willing to compensate for efforts expended.
Since then, the GB series has been the best seller when it comes to the business of portable jumping – and options available served small motorcycles with a single cylinder and displacements that are well less than 50cc to monster trucks with twelve (12) or more cylinders with displacements spanning north of ten thousand (10,000).
However, it isn’t the raw ability of this jumper series that made them so loved and an instant bestseller/hit; rather, it was the numerous features and benefits they espoused as evidenced in their specs and features list.
What are these features?
1. A Lithium Ion Battery With A Shelf Life Of A Year (Or More)
When the Noco GB series debuted in 2019 (or thereabouts), it was bold in design and offered something truly amazing; while most of the competition was very comfortable offering similar portable jumper units with lead acid batteries or at best, lithium polymer batteries, the lithium-ion battery in the GB series was as revolutionary as it was a breath of complete fresh air.
First, it made certain longer shelf life was completely attainable when using the product.
For the first time in forever, this was a jumper that could stay either in the glove box or trunk or a vehicle for a whole year without needing a basic (or even booster) charge and still be able to perform its fundamental duty when called upon even in the most demanding times and climes.
This was the game changer – and this fact completely redefined the concept of a portable jumper and what it meant to have one around.
Second, the lithium-ion battery could offer much more power for lesser weight, overall.
This made it possible to truly enjoy the portable jumper in its near-weightless state, suitable for being perpetually in the vehicle and for use during emergencies through the rigors of driving and navigating an automobile.
With the new featherweight reality, the GB series assumed the flexibility and grace of the dove when compared to the hitherto existing options that were bloated and base, just like the dinosaurs of old!
Third, this game-changing lithium-ion battery in a portable jumper did not only ensure a longer shelf life and overall, lighter weight, but it also completely changed how frequently the battery in the unit needed to be charged.
Linked directly to the overall longer shelf life capability of the battery type, users could now safely stay away from the charging ports for longer than how they did with units still deploying the conventional lead-acid battery type battery.
Finally, this battery type redefined the concept of acceptable use based on the DoD it permitted.
Conventional lead acid batteries, to be functional and do their thing, needed to stay at an acceptable 50% charge rate, either during use or when storing them.
Depleting them beyond this limit posed a risk of damaging the fragile cells therein and ruining things completely.
This posed a challenge for users as the usefulness of the units was instantly reduced by half, even with the exceptionally poor battery that was the lead acid.
With a lithium-ion battery, however, this changed. The batteries could be discharged almost to a flat state without any attendant negative consequences.
2. A Design That Was As Badass As It Was Practical
The design of the GB series was legendary and a true joy to behold. Before the series debuted, all that it took for manufacturers in this niche to make jumpers was simply to get inspired by the super ugly shape of the amoeba and viola! a model was produced.
For the few companies that were trying to do something different, all that it usually took them was simply to slam the ugly shape of a sad vehicle and in the exact fashion of the former, a new product would be created! The results were not any better than the fore mentioned.
The resulting products always clearly lacked inspiration and were a disservice to the buyers they were intended to serve, at best.
The machined exterior of the GB series was a joy to behold and a change that was welcomed with both arms.
Further to this and with the help of the lithium-ion battery the unit made use of, it was also ergonomic – another first.
Curiously too, for the first time in the attempts of designing a portable jumper, the vehicle shape made sense and did not appear as overkill, complete with the ‘headlights’ that stayed on as a flashlight or the ‘hazards’ that served classical strobe fashion.
This was a design perfected in heaven itself!
3. Functional Features That Did Not Overwhelm
In the world of utilities such as the portable jumper and even vehicles (that the jumpers are primarily designed to serve), more functions equal a higher probability of something going wrong.
Accordingly thus, it is never a good sign and overall, screams ‘unreliable’.
Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover, and Audi are perpetually bottom on the JD Power Rating of automobiles for this singular reason: they simply pack too many features in their vehicles and when things begin to go wrong, they go horribly wrong!
The world of a jumper is no different, especially a portable one: cram it with features, especially unnecessary ones, and the so-called features will fall apart one after the other, sooner than later, making the whole unit generally unreliable with a lot of shiny buttons and switches that basically do nothing.
This was the reality of jumpers before the advent of Noco’s GB series – jumpers that were supposed to be voltmeters, compressors, battery chargers, jumpers, flashlights, and a plethora of many other things, usually, powered by a weak lead acid battery.
It simply did not work and the best of them began to fall apart around the 6th month, post-use.
What Noco did with the GB series was genius – and like all genius-worthy things, it was also devilishly simple: the company only fired options that were needed and nothing more: a flashlight with strobe function and then, the ability to charge portables…and that was it.
For the GB 150, majorly due to its monster size and impressive battery capability, a digital voltmeter was added to test and see if the alternator was indeed sending charge to the battery in the first place, an addition that made perfect sense.
Why add more functions that would likely never be used when you can do without them in a brilliant fashion and importantly, no one will even miss them in the first place (when not added)?
4. A Size That Made Sense (And Still Makes Sense, Today)
Many things make sense when they are bigger: houses, cars, and maybe, this and that 🙂
However, there isn’t any law in the entire universe that doesn’t make room for exceptions and this is no different. For a jumper, the cardinal purpose of buying and keeping one close is to have the same handy when duty calls and your starting battery behaves in a less-than-ideal manner.
Such a use case and reality is expressly defeated if you’re reduced to carrying bulky units like the predecessors of the Noco GB series assured. Such units were so large that fitting them in the trunk was clumsy and the very thought of even considering the glove box was simply out of the way.
Coupled with sensible weight, these new jumpers from Noco blazed the trail and make certain that motorists, for once, were able to buy and use a jumper that was truly made for the road and the upwardly mobile. This was when the game truly changed and competitors, to a large extent, woke up.
5. Advanced Safety Features And An Idiot-Proof Design
None of the features mentioned above, perhaps, are greater than the safety the GB features ensure as a unit; safety is the most exciting and important thing and without it, nothing here (or even anywhere else) makes sense.
Now, to illustrate, let me share a little story. I once had some sort of jumper cables; those long, more than 6 ft cables meant to jump a dead battery with a functional one if things go south and your original battery refuses to turn your motor.
While attempting to get a buddy’s vehicle for help, he made the mistake of touching the clamps together whilst the other ends were securely clamped to my starter battery. The spark I saw that day made me imagine that my fuse box was toast and my whole hood likely to engulf in flames any moment from then!
Luckily, with the exception of a few fuses, everything else was found to be intact and as soon as the fuses were replaced, the vehicle started and drove fine for the remainder of its life with me.
Now, while not calling my friend an idiot, touching the jumper clamps together when the other ends are actively hooked to a connected battery is an act that appears to be something only an idiot would do.
Fortunately, Noco had the foresight of running an intelligent idiot-proof design with the GB series ensuring that in such a situation as my friend above put me, nothing happens. Absolutely nothing. Perfect protection/safety!
That is just the beginning, however.
The unit is also engineered with perfect reverse polarity protection. Assuming you connect your terminals wrongly, instead of frying the internal circuit and messing up things, nothing simply happens!
You are likely to face an audible beep that makes you realize your mistake and correct things up.
As a side note, it is important to understand that the protections and ‘proofing’ as enumerated above are not available to the GB series when the manual override button is depressed and the unit operates in the override mode.
Finally, with an IP65 ingress protection level, sand, dust, and water splashes are simply a walk in the park for units that are operated in adverse conditions that are truly challenging and demanding. This means, in addition to a truly wide and impressive temperature range, you can also brilliantly jump even when the weather is angry and would rather not allow you to make any progress with any jumper engineered to a lower standard.
The GB series, from the above, appear to be the apex of the portable jumper world. Now, are there any improvements in the GBX that are worthy of your time or consideration (not already covered awesomely by the older GB series)?
Features That Make The Noco GBX Series Very Tempting
Now, comparing the features that make the older GB series what it is with the options that make the newer GBX ‘special’, according to Noco can be tricky. This is because many of these points are shared between the series and what holds true for the GB may also hold true for the GBX.
Accordingly thus, the features that the GBX has that make it stand out from the competition will not be shared here again, if the older GB series already is already designed with such. Only new features will be espoused here or if they are already present in the older GB series, only an improvement will earn them a spot here.
The standard assumption thus is that all the features (safety included) that the GB series spots are shared with the GBX series (unless expressly indicated otherwise).
1. Turbo Rechargeable Reality
The new(er) Noco GBX series introduced what the old(er) GB series did not even imagine possible nor could not even begin to even envisage possible at the point when it was engineered and produced: turbo rechargeable reality.
While I love to particularly call the manual override function/button a ‘turbo button’, that is as far as jump-starting reality goes (only). When it comes to the charging reality (of itself), it left much more to be desired.
For instance, the GB 50 that I own, takes well north of five (5) hours for a full recharge from the point when I pull it out from the trunk, for boost recharge after some light usage (which is every six (6) months or so).
This is with a 2.1 Amps wall charger. Used with a charger that is rated below this figure, this time is likely to significantly increase.
With the GBX series, the entire unit gets to charge from flat to a completely full state of 100% in well less than two (2) hours, which is an improvement of more than 100%!
The standard charging times of less than two (2) hours is not all and that is certainly where the excitement only but begins.
If you’re in a hurry and desire to quickly jump a dead battery and would rather not wait for those two (2) hours, you’ll be pleased to know that it takes only about five (5) minutes of charge via an AC wall outlet for the unit to have enough power to be able to jump whatsoever dead battery you may have.
This ranges from a small battery powering a bike to an impressive V8 monster battery!
2. USB C Reality
Excepting the insistence of Apple to keep using its lightning connectors for its iPhones, the whole world of electronics and gadgets is gradually shifting base to the USB C, which is gearing up to become the default USB protocol for charging and data transfer needs.
Unfortunately, the older Noco GB series were designed and released at a time when the USB Micro B held sway and the standard combinations/cables then were the USB A to USB Micro B and nothing more. For many, this is all they needed, by the way, and still, today, many more do not need more than this combo.
However, for the growing number of persons who need USB C or the emerging tech users who believe that USB cables/connectors should be universal across devices and are doing their best to promote this reality by buying only USB C-compliant devices, frustration is bound to set in with the older unit when desiring to use same for device charging purposes.
This is where the USB A to USB C reality of the newer GBX comes in and makes a ton of sense.
3. An Amps And Battery Boost
The new(er) GBX Noco portable jumper series came with the idea that the unit was different and built from the ground up to be exceptional and was meant to cater to the ‘extreme’ tasks of jumping.
To prove this, there had to be some sort of distinction: the ‘X’ in the name, the increased battery size, and importantly, the retail price that saw an upward review.
This was good to note, at least on surface value. The GB 40 had a matching counterpart: the GBX 45; the GB 50, the GBX 55; the GB 70, the GBX 75 in that order.
However, in real-time, something amazing happened in the background that made such an ‘improvement’ possible in the first place: the 1.65 pounds the GB50 weighed, for instance, became 3.37 pounds in the GBX 55!
There is a price to pay for everything, not so?
That is not all: the increased ability to charge other devices was also dramatically decreased in the newer GBX series in order to reserve much of that Amp for raw jumping ability.
Summary of this change/adjustment? More juice for your devices if you’re looking to use the jumper frequently for this purpose.
Summary Of The GB Vs GBX Series Comparison In A Concise Manner
If reading simply isn’t your thing, here’s a smart and concise summary of the GB vs GBX series in comparison form:
- The newer GBX series can be recharged in a faster manner compared to the older GB series. If you’re interested in getting your things to charge in a super fast manner, this should appeal to you.
- The GBX is nominally more powerful compared to a similar unit of the GB series. For instance, the GB 50 I own compares to the GBX 55; 1500 Amps vs 1750 Amps, respectively. This equates to more raw starting power.
- The newer GBX series all have a sixty (60) seconds inbuilt timer that activates on an attempt to jump a vehicle. The vehicle would need to start within this window or you’ll need a reset for another try. This is a battery conservation step. None of the GBs have this.
- The 60W in/out USB C on the GBX truly makes the difference and ensures speed in recharging devices and recharging itself. Again, the GB series is left out here!
- Finally, the newer GBX is about $10-30 more than the ‘equivalent’ in the GB world. In terms of ability, while a GB 50 can power a petrol engine up to 7.0 liters, the GBX 55 can only go as far as 7.5 liters for the same petrol engine.
Why It Makes Sense To Resist The Temptation Of The Newer GBX Series
Newer, usually, is better. It also, often, means improvements in the stock options and a ‘sync’ with the times. However, it isn’t all the times that it makes sense to go newer, especially for units such as the GBX from Noco. Here’s why:
- The newer GBX is only marginally more powerful than the older GB series. However, it is more expensive and weighs at least three (3) times more. For instance, the GB 50 is rated for 1500 cranking Amps while its comparable unit, the GBX 55 is rated for 1750 cramping Amps. The result is that, while the GB can power diesel engines up to 4.5 liters, the new GBX can go only as much as 5.0 liters, diesel; a .5 improvement (that comes with between $10-$30 extra in cost and over 1.70 pounds extra in weight. So much for improvement!
- With ‘improvements’ here, comes fewer jumps available per charge. The GB 50 for example is capable of about 30 jumps per charge. The comparative model, the GBX 55 can only jump about circa half of that (in comparative applications, in the same time). This hardly looks like an ‘improvement’ where I’m standing.
- Finally, the sixty seconds timer, while in theory appears to be a very good thing, will only wind up being a pain in the butt for older vehicles that must be cranked more than a minute for them to start and attain compression. This certainly isn’t good news for owners of classics especially ones that may not be in the best condition, ignition-wise.
Is There Any Circumstance That The GBX Series Wins Over The GB Series?
So far, it appears the GBX series is only taking a beating from my keyboard and nothing positive appears to have come from it so far.
So, does that mean the newer, ‘Xtreme’ line from Noco is actually good for nothing and should be ignored by all means?
The answer is no, generally. There are some pretty ‘tight corners’ that if you find yourself in, the newer GBX series would be the best option for you as nothing more will fly.
Here are they:
1. An Exclusive Need For USB C
If you truly need USB C charging reality, then, it makes perfect sense that this is the model you should opt for and not the older GB series.
Personally, I have a Chromebook that charges via the USB C port and only charges via that port. Assuming I do a lot of travel and have no other means of charging the device on the go, this would have been a perfect option.
What is interesting to note is that both the USB C port’s ‘in’ and ‘out’ (on the GBX) take an impressive 60W! By comparison, my Chromebook’s charger is rated for only 45W.
Plugged in to charge, this means the jumper will charge the device faster than even the stock charger that came standard with the Chromebook!
This is a good thing to note and if ever you’re in this sort of shoe, kindly understand that the GBX is a better option, overall, as far as your (not so unique) circumstances are concerned.
2. Need For Ultra Fast Charging
Not everyone has the patience for their devices to charge when plugged in. It is for this singular purpose that most electronics and gadgets that are rechargeable are engineered in what is called a ‘pass-through’ manner; a reality where you can use the unit when it is still connected and charging.
This has been a life-saver and makes a ton of sense, across scenarios.
However, there are many instances where pass-through power doesn’t make sense or serve the purpose it was designed for. The portable jumper (and its use) is one such perfect scenario.
When you need to use it on the road on a weak or dead battery, great chances are that there won’t be a wall outlet close by.
Then again, even if there exists a wall socket close by, you are likely not going to be able to use it because of the general inconvenience of attempting to use the same ensures (that is, assuming your portable jumper is capable of such a feat in the first place).
That is where you’ll need something to quickly charge up so that you can take it along to ensure your boosts.
Or, that is where you’ll need to quickly boost up the unit so that you can easily jump your vehicle’s battery (should the need arise).
With the newer GBX capable of getting enough boost to jump a vehicle’s battery in less than 10 minutes, this is the most perfect fix to this challenge so far.
Then again, if you ever need to charge other units and want them to achieve that process as fast as possible, this is also your go-to charger.
My Chromebook, for instance, uses a 45 Watts charger and charges from a flat state to full in about an hour and a half. Now, just imagine how devilishly fast it will be if I decide to use the 60 Watts capabilities of the GBX 55, for instance.
Won’t that be solid bliss?
3. Legitimate Need For More Power And A Desire To Spend Less
Times are hard these days and generally, it is profitable to deploy wisdom in all that you do, no matter how little it is.
This means that you deploy a savings culture and whether it is a dollar or even a cent, it should be saved if you can generally avoid spending it. All thanks to the inflation engulfing the world now, you won’t lack what to put the money to use on.
If you need to jump a 4.7-liter diesel engine for instance, this is where such an application of wisdom will come in and savings will be kicked up.
In the example above, the 4.7-liter diesel engine won’t be served by the GB 50, with its limits stopping at 4.5 liters, diesel. The GB 70, in that same line, would be an awesome option/alternative, being capable of handling such diesel power up to 6.0 liters.
The problem now would be that the ‘ideal’/’ideal’ unit for this task, the GB 70, costs way more than the GB 50 and certainly, the newer GBX 55, which can power up to a 5 liters diesel engine.
What purchase makes sense now? The GBX 55 or the GB 70? The answer, for the thrifty and financially savvy soul, is as clear as daylight.
The newer GBX series are some badass units, no doubt. However, the challenge of making something better after giving its forerunner your all is what plaques Noco here: the GB series were so good that making something better than them or a replacement for them (if you want to look at it that way) is simply impossible, at least at the moment.
The GBX series are plagued with an overall heavier and bulkier reality, produce just marginally more power than the older GB series, ensure overall fewer jumps than their ‘comparative counterparts’ in the GB world (despite sporting considerably larger batteries), and as an icing to the cake, are priced higher.
These aren’t exactly what makes one excited about a product if you take your time to look deeply.
It is not all gloom though: the newer GBX series have an advanced 60 seconds timer shut-off timer that adds to the already long list of safety and efficiency features Noco is known for.
If you are looking for USB-C connectivity, you’ll also find it standard and the best part is that both its in and out supply means are ‘turbo-chargeable’ via a 60W port making it easy to boost charge both ways when you truly need to.
That is genius!
Buy the newer GBX series if you have specific needs for what they bring to the table that the older GB series doesn’t have.
However, if you simply want a good, old jumper that will give you the most jumps for your money and always serve you no matter the circumstances, the GB series is where you should be…like the Landcruiser, they are bulletproof, solid, and will certainly survive even the apocalypse!
Unlike the LC, however, they have another advantage about them: they are cheaper than the new kids on the block: the GBX newcomers.
Choose your poison carefully. If you’re confused about the units to consider, take a look at the GB 50 and the GBX 55 on Amazon (before you decide): I have found that they cover the widest range and will serve almost about 95% of typical and general needs in today’s automotive world.
If you still have some time to spare, be sure to also take a close and interested look at my article, the Noco Boost XL Portable Jumpstarter Review for a balanced view.