AA batteries that shine

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Is anyone giving or receiving a holiday gift labeled “batteries not included”? We thought so. Listen up: We tested 15 AA batteries—the type typically used in digital cameras, flashlights, toys, radios, and remote controls—and found differences in performance and cost. (Note that the batteries aren’t rechargeable. In past tests we’ve found that rechargeables of 2,000 milliamp-hours or more are best for often-used devices such as game controllers.)

What we found

Overall, the tested lithium batteries performed much better than the alkalines, especially in cameras, which tend to drain a charge quickly. But alkalines cost far less, and some perform almost as well as lithiums in low-drain devices such as flashlights and remotes.

In our camera test, which mimics everyday use (zooming, flashing, shooting, and resting until batteries die), a top-rated Energizer lithium took 609 shots; the best of the alkalines, a Duracell, 76 shots; and the lowest-rated alkaline, just 49 shots.

Our flashlight test involves the equivalent of turning a flashlight on for 4 minutes every hour for 8 hours, letting it sit for 16 hours, and repeating the cycle until the batteries die. Battery life was 7.3 hours for an Energizer, 6.8 hours for a Duracell, and 4 hours for a Toys “R” Us battery.

Bottom line

An Energizer lithium, $5.50 per pair, was the clear winner. Among alkaline batteries, two Duracells and, for less money, a Kirkland Sinature (in a 48-pack) are worth considering. Once dead, alkaline and lithium batteries can generally be tossed in the trash. For information about recycling rechargeables, go to call2recycle.org.

This article appeared in the January 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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