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Secret to picking the right AA battery

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
Creative Commons Image - Flicker  Swanksalot

Creative Commons Image - Flicker Swanksalot

You probably received all kinds of shiny new gizmos for christmas and some of them may need AA batteries. Which ones should you choose?

Devices fall into 2 categories :

  • High Drain Devices - These are electronic devices that require a sizeable amount of sustained current to work (like a digital camera, camera flash, etc)
  • Low Drain Devices - These require low amounts of power for short periods at spaced out intervals (like a remote control, alarm clock , etc)

There are 2 main AA disposable battery technologies:

  • Lithium Batteries - These are typically more expensive and are of a newer technology
  • Alkaline Batteries - These are the "standard" batteries you find everywhere at reasonable prices.

How to choose the right battery

For low drain devices, both lithium and alkaline batteries have fairly similar power performance profiles (not the same but close enough). This means that for these devices, you should buy the cheaper alkaline batteries. It is important to note that not all alkaline batteries perform the same. Many of the cheaper brands deliver terrible performance so I recommend sticking with the Duracell Quantum and the Kirkland Signature (second choice doesn't perform exactly like the Duracell but has good performance at a great price).

For high drain devices, my tests show that the lithium batteries significantly outperform the alkaline ones (often by a factor of 5-9 times more). I tested about a dozen brands and the most reliably high performer was the Energizer Ultimate Lithium. The Duracell Ultra Lithium came in as a close second but this is a part of their professional line and is much more difficult to find.