When it's time to buy new batteries, there are plenty of choices out there. The way to decide which is the best option for you is to first consider what you need the batteries for, then examine what the battery is capable of doing. It all boils down to two choices; disposable or rechargeable. Simply put, disposable batteries are just that. You get a one-time use out of them and when they're drained of their power you throw them away. Rechargeables allow you to keep the cells and re-charge them repeatedly, saving time and money when it comes to the power source in your electronics. However, rechargeables aren't necessarily appropriate for every device or application.
Disposable batteries are good for almost all devices, as long as you have the correct size for the application you're looking to power up. These come in two common types; alkaline and lithium. Alkaline are the most widely used as they have a slow self-discharge rate, they can be stored for a long time without any loss of charge (roughly about seven years), and these are often used in low-drain devices such as radios, remote controls, and other devices that don't require constant use at high voltage. There are high-drain versions of alkaline batteries available as well and these are intended for devices that require more juice more frequently. These 'premium' alkaline batteries cost more but provide a charge that is similar to a lithium battery. Lithium batteries last longer, can be stored longer, weigh less than a regular battery and provide nearly double or triple the power capacity of a standard alkaline battery. They also perform well in extreme temperatures. But they all have one thing in common at their very basic purpose; when they've been drained, you throw them away.
Rechargeable batteries are cells that you can recharge when they're out of juice. Slip them into any charger and after a short period of time, they're fresh and ready for use all over again. They are usually more expensive than disposables, but you save money in the long run since you only buy them once. You can find them in three different types: Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride and Lithium-Ion (not be confused with the lithium disposables above). Depending upon which type you choose, some have low self-discharge rates, where the battery maintains its charge for an extended period of time, and others have higher rates, in which the battery does the exact opposite. No matter which type you choose, rechargeable batteries are often recommended for high-drain devices that require constant power and at large volumes. The reason is easy to understand; rechargeables can be re-charged and replaced quickly and easily and without additional costs beyond the price of electricity from an outlet. To go out and keep buying disposables for a device that needs such a power load would probably get more expensive than paying a one-time cost for a set of rechargeables and a charger.
Duracell Coppertop Alkaline Batteries
Energizer Ultimate Lithium Batteries
Rayovac UltraPRO Alkaline Batteries
Panasonic Digital Power Alkaline Batteries
Kirkland Signature Alkaline Batteries
Sanyo Eneloop NIMH Rechargeable AA Batteries
Powerex Imedion NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
Tenergy High-Capacity NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
Sony NHAAB4KN General Purpose Battery - 2000 mAh
Duracell Stay-Charged NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
Available in AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-Volt sizes; these alkaline batteries from Duracell are best-sellers for a reason. They have the best overall output of any standard alkaline battery on the market for guaranteed endurance and strength. They will power your low-drain devices such as remote controls, wireless mice, and flashlights longer and stronger than other brands out there, based on a number of consumer tests. When not in use, the Coppertop can be stored for up to 10 years without any loss of charge when stored in proper conditions. These are Duracell's standard alkaline, appropriate for most applications; but the company's Ultra Power line is more suitable for devices that use AA or AAA batteries and require higher output, such as digital cameras and video game controllers. The Coppertops are the less expensive option and offer the best overall value for your battery dollar. You can also find them almost anywhere, from supermarkets to hardware stores to pharmacies and so on.
Energizer's upgraded lithium version, the Ultimate is not available in all of the sizes that most alkalines accommodate, but instead just the two sizes that are most widely used, AA and AAA. Incorporating lithium into the cell makes them more appropriate for extreme temperatures, they're also lightweight and there's a reduced possibility of leakage of the cell. With an overall rating of 3000 milliamp hours in these lithium batteries, the Ultimate offers twice the staying power of their alkaline counterparts in certain devices and applications and up to seven times more under other comparisons including adverse weather conditions for outdoor use. Lithium cells are best suited for high-drain devices including digital cameras and GPS units and perform extremely well in both. These will also stay fresh longer than most alkaline batteries, with a storage time of up to 15 years before any charge is lost or diminished.
These high-performance batteries are made in the USA and are marketed for industrial use, so they're available in sizes AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V. They're packaged in stackable and recloseable boxes for professional organization and convenience. But the UltraPRO's are still excellent batteries even if you aren't a professional contractor, offering approximately 2850 milliamp hours life capacity in the AA size (compared to around 2700 in the Coppertop and approximately 3000 in the Ultimate Lithium). Rayovac guarantees freshness of their batteries for up to seven years of storage and five for their 9V size. For the price, you can't beat these either, since they cost less per battery than their highly marketed counterparts above. Rayovac may not be a household name, but they make a powerful, long-lasting battery that does the job just as well as the more expensive brands around.
Panasonic's Digital Power battery meets many of the same specialized needs that the Ultimate Lithiums or UltraPRO's are better suited for. But they do it through the use of nickel oxyhydroxide in their chemical make-up, resulting in a higher voltage than other batteries. What this all means is that the Digital Power battery is appropriate for high-drain devices such as video game devices, GPS units, and digital cameras. You can find these in the typical five sizes of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V and while their power load and durability may have more in common with Energizer's Ultimate Lithium battery, they're priced more in line with the Rayovacs. These Panasonic batteries aren't available at all retailers but when you do track them down you'll find they're quite affordable; with some sizes, primarily AA, retailing in bulk for less than a $1 per battery.
Anyone who shops at Costco is well familiar with the Kirkland Signature brand. This is their private label which produces a wide variety of popular quality products that match up quite well against the name brand versions offered within the massive walls of the bulk-shopping superstore. Their batteries are no exception, though they are limited in sizes available (just AA and AAA) and they're not on par with the higher-powered picks on our list such as the Energizer, Rayovac or Panasonic batteries. But they do give the Duracells an impressive run for their money in low-drain devices, especially remote controls and flashlights. These things never seem to die. In fact, I can't remember the last time I replaced the Kirkland batteries in my Blu-ray player or DirecTV remote controls. Plus, because these come from Costco, you can buy them in bulk for the lowest price of any battery on our list. You don't even need to be a Costco member to purchase these either; available on their website and through retailers such as Amazon, these batteries can be found for as low as .35 cents per unit in bulk packages of 48. These workhorses will keep your flashlights and CD players working for hours upon hours and you won't even think about needing new batteries for a long time.
For the purposes of this list, we're going to focus on the Imedion low self-discharge line. Though the Powerex ultra-high capacity line is also a very good battery, but differs in the range of milliamp hours of their various battery sizes, starting from 1000 in AAA's to 11000 in the D. They also do not come pre-charged. As for the Imedion line, these do come with an 85 percent charge when you purchase them and are available in AA and AAA sizes as well as true C and D versions. There's no need for spacers that utilize AA sizes to power electronics that require the larger size. Those larger sizes have mAh capacities of 5000 and 9500 respectively. They also make 8 and 9 Volt sizes as well. These batteries have a shorter life span than the Eneloops, in that these can only be recharged about 1000 times. Their storage capacity allows them to be charged and go unused for about a year while still retaining approximately 85 percent of their juice.
Both the Premium and Centura lines of Tenergy NiMH rechargeables are available in AA, AAA, C, D and 9 Volt sizes. The Premium is their high-capacity line which range from 1000 to 10000 mAh respectively. The Centura batteries range from 800-8000 mAh from AAA to D, with 200 milliamp hours available in the 9 Volt. These LSD versions can take 1000 recharge cycles and may be stored for up to 6 months while retaining 90 percent of their charge. After one year that lowers to 85%, comparable to the other batteries on our list. These rechargeables also lasted exponentially longer than standard alkaline batteries in various devices, most notably cameras, R/C toys and other electronics that require large amounts of power. However, when stacked up to other rechargeables on our list, they performed well in most cases, with only a 20-30 minute difference in power life between these and the other brands. Not a wide margin, but noticeable nonetheless.
These Sony batteries offer nearly identical traits to almost all of the AA and AAA batteries on our list. They come in two varieties; 2000 or 2500 mAh; and both types can withstand up to 1000 recharge cycles. Their loss of discharge rates in storage are also pretty comparable, able to keep around 85% of their charge for up to a year with minimal to no use. However, the limitation here is their lack of C and D size cells. They also don't make spacers for them either, you will need to locate some aftermarket adapters to use them in devices requiring the larger sizes. Luckily, these cells fit most of them fine. On the plus side, these batteries perform very well in appliances or devices of higher voltage.
Duracell's standard coppertop batteries are well-known and ubiquitous in the consumer battery market, which presents an ironic situation. The Duracell Pre-Charged batteries are low self-discharge NiMH rechargeable batteries, and the only thing visually separating these batteries from a standard disposable alkaline coppertops are the bright green color strips on the exterior. It would be a shame to toss one away after the factory charge is depleted, as these batteries can be recharged hundreds of times and maintain a charge for over a year. These Duracells hold about 2000 mAh and will retain their charge up to around 80 percent after a year of inactivity. In comparison studies of overall charge retention, these held up nicely and proved to be just as reliable as the best rechargeables on the market at the moment. This from a company which makes such an annual profit on the sale of alkaline batteries. It's nice to see that they provide a reliable rechargeable version for the mass market as well.