03.Do you need them?
How much do you use your high-tech devices?
- If you use your appliances a lot, rechargeable batteries are your best bet. Although they may be more expensive to purchase initially, they’re cheaper in the long run, perform very well and are better for the environment than non-rechargeables because you’re not constantly throwing them away. Manufacturers are also continually bringing out new models with higher capacity (which means longer time in use).
- Of course, one problem with these batteries is remembering to charge them. VARTA has come up with a 15-minute Charge&Go battery that allows a quick charge. However, it has a slightly lower capacity than the other rechargeables in the test and didn’t last as long per charge as the top performers. The VARTA took an average of 270 photos before running out of power, while the best rechargeables took 470 or 480.
- A normal charger for high-capacity NiMH batteries takes around 12–15 hours, but some also have a one-hour ‘fast charge’ option. We haven’t tested whether fast charging has any effect on a battery’s durability.
- If you’re likely to forget to recharge or will be trekking through the rainforest on your next holiday and unable to recharge your batteries after a day of heavy snapping on your digital camera, you’re better opting for a lithium battery. The ENERGIZER e2 Lithium was by far the top performer in our test, taking an average of 620 photos before running out of power.
- Lithium batteries work out more expensive than rechargeables when used over time, but they’re more economical than most of the alkaline batteries, which have to be replaced more often. For example, in our test scenario the lowest-scoring alkaline batteries — the DSE Exxtra and PANASONIC — would require 167 sets of two batteries to take 10,000 photos. In comparison the ENERGIZER e2 Lithium would need only 16 sets of two batteries to complete the same task. So, for example, the PANASONIC alkaline batteries would cost you $580 for 10,000 digital photos, compared to $160 for the ENERGIZER e2 Lithium.
- Lithium batteries are also a good bet if you don’t use your battery-operated devices very often and don’t want to bother recharging batteries.
- Another option is to keep your eyes open for the GP Digi 1 nickel zinc battery. It’s the cheapest non-rechargeable battery we tested (both for a set of two and per 10,000 photos taken) but unfortunately it’s not widely available.
High-capacity or regular?
All devices that need AA batteries can use any of the batteries we tested. But:
- Rechargeable batteries lose their charge over time even if they’re not used. So it’s not a good idea to have them in devices you don’t use often, like an emergency torch.
- Batteries designed for high-drain appliances (such as lithium and other high-capacity batteries) don’t provide any advantage that would justify their higher price in devices that don’t use much power, such as a remote control. It’s probably more economical to use regular alkaline or zinc carbon batteries in these low-drain devices.