Disposable batteries are cheaper upfront, but investing a good set of rechargeable AA batteries that'll provide years of service in toys, flashlights or TV remote controls will save you money in the long run. Lots of it.
After hours of testing, the Energizer Recharge Universal(available at Amazon) ended up being our top pick. They provide the best balance of capacity and price, holding about 2200 mAh of charge and supporting up to 1000 charge cycles. Interestingly, Energizer lists the capacity of these batteries at 2000 mAh, but we found them to hold more in our real-world tests.
For a less expensive alternative, we recommend AmazonBasic Rechargeable Batteries (available at Amazon). Each individual cell holds about 1800 mAh of charge so your devices won’t run for as long as they would with the Energizers or other higher capacity batteries.
There are less expensive rechargeable AA batteries out there, but they come in packs of 12 at a minimum—this drives the price up and most people don’t need that many batteries, anyway.
These are the best rechargeable AA batteries that we tested, ranked in order:
Energizer Recharge Universal
Bonai Rechargeable High Capacity
RayHom AA Rechargeable Batteries
AmazonBasics AA Rechargeable Batteries
PowerOwl High Capacity
Energizer Recharge Universal
The Energizer Recharge Universal is our best overall pick, as it provides the best balance of price and performance. Each battery holds an above-average 2300 mAh. Interestingly, Energizer lists the battery capacity at 2,000 mAh, significantly less than the capacity they achieved in our tests. That’s somewhat against the grain, as most of the other batteries stored less than their rated capacity. During testing, the Energizer Recharge Universal kept our fan going for just over seven hours and in the case of our flashlight test, four hours and 10 minutes.
Energizer claims that these batteries can handle up to 1,000 recharge cycles, which is pretty standard for NiMH batteries. We weren’t able to test this, but 1,000 recharge cycles are more than enough for most uses: even if you charge them once a week, they should still be good for about five years.
If price is a concern, AmazonBasic’s AA rechargeable batteries are for you. These batteries come pre-charged, so you can use them straight away. However, they don’t hold a huge amount of juice. During testing, we found their average capacity was 1,800 mAh— well below their stated 2,000 mAh rating. So, you’ll get less life out of these low-cost batteries than from our main pick. A set of four, for instance, could only run our battery-powered fan for just over four and a half hours, while other batteries we tested managed seven hours or longer.
I’m Richard Baguley, and I have been testing and breaking technology for over 20 years. In that time I have tested everything from automatic coffee makers to wearable computers. Until 2012, I was the VP of Editorial Development at Reviewed.com, where I created the testing protocols that are still used for products such as TVs, dishwashers, coffee makers, and refrigerators.
The most important things about rechargeable batteries are how much charge they can hold and how quickly they can deliver it.
So, we tested them by doing just that, using two high-end rechargeable battery chargers (a La Crosse BC700-CBP and a SkyRC MC3000) to measure the amount of charge that each of the batteries could hold, testing four of each and averaging the result. We tested AA batteries as these are the most commonly used size for modern electronics such as TV remotes, as well as some smart doorbells and outdoor security cameras.
To see how long the batteries in our test group would last, we used them to run two devices: a small battery-powered fan and a powerful flashlight. Drawing 0.6 and 1.4 Amps, respectively, these devices allowed us to measure how long each battery can run during low-drain and high-drain use. For these tests, we ran our fan at maximum speed, recording how long it kept rotating. Our flashlight was operated at maximum brightness—roughly 350 lumens—as we recorded how long it stayed lit.
When the blades stopped turning, the time was noted and the test was stopped. In instances where I had to step away from observing the test, I set up a GoPro camera to record the operation of the fans, just in case one stopped running before I got back.
What You Should Know About Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are pretty simple devices, but there is a lot of jargon surrounding them. Here’s our guide to the things you need to know to make an informed choice.
NiMH: Nickel Metal Hydride. The chemistry inside the battery that stores the electrical charge. One side of the battery is made of Nickel Oxide Hydroxide, and the other is made of an alloy of several rare earth metals. When the battery is charged, the Nickel Oxide Hydroxide gives up a Hydrogen ion, which is absorbed by the alloy. When the battery is used, this is reversed, creating a flow of electric charge out of the battery.
Charger: the device that controls the flow of charge into a battery. You should never use a NiMH battery (like the ones in this guide) with a non-NiMH charger, as this can damage them.
LSD: Low Self Discharge. All batteries lose a certain amount of charge over time, even when they are not connected to anything. This is called self-discharge. Typically, a NiMH battery will lose up to half its charge if stored for a year. Some batteries minimize this by adding extra insulation inside the battery.
mAh: milliamp-hours. A measure of the amount of charge that can be stored in a battery. 1 mAh is a flow of one milliamp over an hour, so a 2500 mAh battery can deliver 2500 milliamps (or 2.5 Amps) for one hour, or 250 milliamps for 10 hours.
Cycles or Recharge Life: Each full charge and discharge is one battery cycle. All batteries lose capacity when used, meaning that they can store a little less charge with each cycle. Manufacturers offer a cycle life, a number of cycles that the battery can go through before it loses a certain amount of its capacity. This is defined in a standard called IEC 61951-2.
Other Sizes and Adapters: We focused on rechargeable AA batteries for this guide as they are, by far, the most commonly used battery size. They can also be used to power devices that require C- and D-size batteries, too. All you have to do is pop them into an appropriately-sized adapter and you’re in business. This adapter set from Eneloop is a great option for anyone interested in doing this.
Other Rechargeable AA Batteries We Tested
Duracell, the 800lb gorilla of the battery world, offers rechargeable batteries, and they’re a solid pick. We found that each battery held about 2,400 mAh of charge, just a bit below their 2,500 mAh rating. The Duracells kept our fan running for over seven hours and our LED flashlight running for three hours and twenty minutes.
One possible issue with these batteries is that they’re only rated for 400 charge cycles. That’s a lot less than the thousand or more that others offer, and that might be an issue if you use them on a daily basis.
Actual charge capacity close to advertised capacity
The EBL 2,800 mAh High Capacity batteries came close to living up to their name. We found that they held an impressive 2,600 mAh—the largest capacity any battery we tested, by a significant margin. The EBLs ran our fan for just under six hours and our flashlight for three and a half hours. They come pre-charged and in a handy plastic case that makes them easier to store.
This might sound like a small thing, but storing them properly helps prevent self-discharge, where the charge slowly leaks out over time.
For rechargeable batteries, you have to consider two things: how much charge the battery can hold, and how long it can hold it for. The Eneloop Pros don’t have the largest capacity in our tests: we found that they held about 2,200 mAh in each cell. This made them capable of keeping our fan running for over five hours and our flashlight shining for over four and a half.
Enloop Pros have a reputation for holding onto their charge, when not in use, for a long time. Panasonic claims that they will still hold onto 85% percent of their initial charge after sitting on a shelf for a year. That’s important for devices that you don’t use that often, but which need to be ready to go when you need them, like a lamp you keep for power outages. They would also be a great pick for an emergency preparedness kit.
They are not cheap, sometimes costing twice as expensive as the same number of AmazonBasic batteries. But if you need a battery that you can rely on in a pinch, they’re a sound investment.
These AA batteries held an impressive 2,300 mAh of charge. That’s less than the 2,700 mAh they’re rated at, but still respectable—especially given their price.
Powerex says their batteries will retain 75% of their charge after a year on the shelf. That’s 5% less juice than Panasonic claims for their Eneloop Pro. However, the Powerex Pros sell for considerably less.
2,300 mAh capacity
holds 75% charge up to a year in storage
Can't hold in-storage charge as long as Eneloop Pros
Bonai’s inexpensive High Capacity Batteries are rated to hold 2,800 mAh of charge. In our tests, we found that they stored closer to 2,200 mAh. That’s very respectable for such a low-cost battery. Bonai claims that these batteries will survive 1,200 charge cycles: that’s a couple of hundred more cycles than most. Charge them once a day and they should last you over three years.
RayHom is another lesser-known manufacturer that makes big claims about their batteries. Their AA rechargeables are said to provide 2,800 mAH of charge, However, we found that they held just over 2,450 mAh.
Rayhom says that their batteries are good for 1,200 charge cycles and that they will still hold up to 80% of their charge after three years. We suggest you take this latter claim with a grain of salt.
12 month warranty
30-day money back guarantee
Offered close to 500 mAh less power than their stated capacity
PowerOwl might call these batteries ‘High Capacity,’ but they fail to live up to their name. We found that this set of eight AA rechargeable batteries performed pretty poorly, running our fan and flashlight for just over three hours, and just under three, respectively. PowerOwl claims that their High Capacity batteries can hold 2,800 mAh of charge, but we found that they held just 2100 mAh.
Finally, while most of the batteries that we tested come mostly or fully charged, right out of their packaging, the PowerOwls are only charged to about 20% of their capacity. That’s a dealbreaker if you need to use AA batteries, right away.
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