Tests and reviews of different batteries to help you find the Right One…
If you are using various kinds of rechargeable batteries you might have trouble keeping them all in shape and maximizing their performance and life, the more the batteries, the harder it is and we are not talking only about NiMH batteries, but LiPo, PB as well as other various kinds. For example if you only use a couple of NiMH batteries, then probably a simple and slow charger could do a good job, but if you are using many batteries and not only NiMH, but also Lithium-based rechargeable ones you might want to get a more serious charger or even multiple charger in order to properly maintain and take full advantage of the rechargeability of your batteries. You probably have seen that rechargeable NiMH batteries offer up to 1000 recharge cycles and Li-Ion and LiPo batteries can go from anywhere between 100 and 500 cycles if properly used and maintained. But in reality most people literally kill their rechargeable batteries in just about few dozens of recharge cycles due to improper maintenance and it is very often due to a problem with forgetting to recharge or overcharging or discharging them. In order to fully utilize the potential of the rechargeable batteries and also do what they are supposed to – help nature by avoiding the use of so many primary batteries like Alkaline for example or even worse Carbon-Zinc ones, you need to pay some attention and use better chargers in order to maintain and use the batteries as they are intended to be…
We are starting with the MAHA Powerex MH‑C9000 WizardOne Charger-Analyzer, probably the single best charger for NiMH batteries out there. But this is more than just a charger for AA and AAA size NiMH and NiCD batteris, because it can not only Charge but also Refresh and Analyze, Break-In, Discharge and Cycle the batteries in order to maintain them in the best possible shape. The device has four independent channels, one for each battery, thus allowing you to have a different function for each of the battery you have there or just to work with a single or more batteries at the same time. The standard charging current is user selectable from 0.2-2.0A (200-2000mA) and the discharging currents can be between 0.1-1.0A (100-1000mA) in increments of 0.1A and you can of course have different current for each channel. Thanks to the extra functions besides the standard charge and discharge you can use this to always maintain the health of your NiMH/NiCD batteries, even if they are not used for a while or they were not properly charged or discharged for some time. The charger is great both in terms of functionality, reliability and quality and the only better thing than getting one Powerex MH‑C9000 is to get two in order to be able to have 8 slots and nit just 4 with a single one – that is especially useful if you have and use a lot of AA and AAA size rechargeable batteries. In fact we are using one of these chargers as a part of our test equipment and are planning to get a second one in the near future. If you manage to find the Memorex Pro Genux 1 charger you could have a chance to get the Powerex MH‑C9000 for less as this is a rebranded version of the MH‑C9000, so grab a better deal if you can with the rebranded model.
Now, if you need a good charger that can quickly properly charge and maintain a larger number of AA and AAA size NiMh/NiCD batteries the Powerex MH‑C9000 might not be the best choice with its only 4 channels per device. Yes, it does have more extras, but with the significant increase in the number of batteries having a more functions with menus and options could turn out to be a problem and a distraction, so MAHA has some other chargers that might be more interesting in such situations. MAHA Powerex MH‑C800S and MAHA Powerex MH‑C801D which are AA and AAA NiMH/NiCD battery chargers with 8 independent channels for charging batteries and the only difference between the two is the charging current. The Powerex MH‑C800S has a Rapid Charging Mode with 1.0А and Soft Charging Mode with 0.5A per channel and the Powerex MH‑C801D is with 2.0A and 1.0A respectively and both these also have a Conditioning Mode intended to help revive batteries that are not performing optimally.
If you need similar chargers to the 8-channel Powerex models with lower charging current and similar simpler use and good quality you might also want to check out the chargers made by the Japanese company Tensai. They have the very nice 8-channel Tensai TI-800L, 12-channel Tensai TI-1200L and even 16-channel Tensai TI-1600L chargers for AA and AAA NiMH/NiCD batteries with independent channels for each battery. The charge rate per channel here is fixed at 0.5A for AA batteries and 0.25A for AAA, so higher capacity batteries might need more time to be charged, but in other hand if you don’t need very fast charging, but you need charging of a lot of batteries a single 16-channel charger can be quite useful for some. These chargers also have a Conditioning Mode for maintenance of batteries that are not giving their best.
Another good option are the LaCrosse Technology chargers such as the 4-channel chargers LaCrosse BC-700 (RS-700), LaCrosse BC-1000 (RS‑1000) and the many other names that these go rebranded under. The smaller LaCrosse RS-700 does have a bit more limited functionality giving you the ability to use only 200/500/700 mA per channel (independently set) and the better LaCrosse RS‑1000 supports 200/500/700/1000 mA per channel (up to 1500/1800 mA if charging only two batteries). Both of these chargers also support battery Refresh and Test modes aside from the standard Charge and Discharge modes and are good and more affordable option as compared to the MAHA MH‑C9000, though not as powerful and feature rich. The good thing is that these can probably be easily found, even if rebranded under another name in some countries, unlike the MAHA chargers that may be harder to be found in some places.
So far we have covered some of the best chargers for AA and AAA size rechargeable batteries, but what if you need a more universal charger that can charge pretty much all of the more common battery chemistries? For example both MAHA and Tensai are also making specialized chargers for 9V NiMH batteries (8.4V NiMH), but they are not as powerful as their models designed for the more common AA/AAA batteries, and the same goes for other battery types such as the C or D size NiMH batteries. If we want to add LiPo, LiIon or LiFe batteries or even Pb batteries along with the NiCD/NiMH models and have them in a single device we need to look elsewhere. A good and very popular choice is the SkyRC IMAX brand of chargers and one of their most popular model the IMAX B6AC, the model we are using this in our test setup for Lithium-based rechargeable batteries. The SkyRC IMAX B6AC is designed to charge NiMH and NiCD batteries in packs of multiple cells (it can still charge single cells), so it is probably not the best choice for such cells, but it can be used for 9V NiMHs (though it is limited to minimum 0.1A charging current). Regarding Li-xx batteries, you can charge 1 cell up to 6 cell batteries with a charge current between 0.1-5.0A (up to 50W) and discharge them with between 0.1-1.0A (up to 5W), there is also a built-in balancing functionality to make sure that all of the individual cells are charged properly. You can also charge PB batteries with a voltage between 2-20V. The B6AC charger can be powered by either AC input (100-240V) or DC input (11-18V), there is a B6 only version that does not include a built in adapter for AC input. What you should be very careful with these chargers is when buying to make sure they are genuine and really made by SkyRC and not a cheaper fake copy as they have a lot of copies, also have in mind that SkyRC has these chargers rebranded for some companies such as Team Orion for example. SkyRC also makes more advanced and powerful models that are based around the base functionality of the B6, but even a B6AC should be enough for most. If you however use LiPo batteries with more than 6 cells for example or even 3S-4S batteries with higher capacities you might want to look for more powerful models. There are of course a lot of other Li-xx chargers out there that are more powerful or offer extra functionality, but the B6AC should be more than Ok for most of you that need to have a good charger and don’t want to go doing things like advanced testing batteries for example.
The battery manufacturers use various testing procedures to test and report the performance of their products, there are also some industry standards for testing some types of batteries with usage scenarios simulating different real device use. Our goal here is not to try to repeat the battery test procedures used by the specific manufacturer, instead we are applying a test frame for each type of battery we test and follow it for testing each battery of that type in order to have results that are comparable between products from different brands.
Out battery testing equipment consists of a professional battery analyzer for discharge testing of batteries, for charging of AA and AAA rechargeable cells we use one of the best consumer chargers – the Powerex MH-C9000 WizardOne Charger-Analyzer and for other batteries such as Lithium-based ones we rely on one of the most popular universal consumer charger – the SkyRC IMAX B6AC (original, not a copy). The chargers are only used for charging rechargeable batteries in order to be able to test them, however all of the testing is done only with the professional battery analyzer that is specially calibrated to provide as accurate results as possible.
With Alkaline and other primary cell batteries (single use ones) we are performing constant current discharge tests with multiple discharge currents until the battery reaches the minimum cutoff voltage in order to see what capacity each battery can provide with different load levels. We are also performing a power profile test to see how the battery behaves with different current loads starting from 0A and gradually increasing it step by step, until we reach the maximum current draw the battery can provide before hitting the cutoff voltage. We are not testing at very low current loads that some devices using batteries can require, or with a varying duty cycle or varying current loads as these can take up quite some time for testing just a single battery.
With Nickel-based rechargeable batteries we are charging and recharging the cells and performing similar tests to the ones we do with Alkaline batteries, but with higher discharge current in order to judge the performance. Again the tests are with constant current discharge and we also do a power profile test of the discharge capabilities of the battery as well as measuring the temperature of the cells while they are being discharged as this is also an important factor with the rechargeable batteries.
With Litium-based rechargeable batteries we are again doing a constant current discharge tests with varying current and power profile test. Here the levels of current for the discharge are based on the specifications for charge and discharge ratings from the manufacturer for the batteries being tested. The comparison is still possible by comparing batteries from different brands with the same or close capacity and the same number of cells.