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Disposable batteries

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Which AA batteries are best?

We tested 17 disposable AA batteries to help you cut through the marketing hype and choose the right one for the job.

From our test

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Battery basics

Portable electronics can be roughly divided into low- and high-drain devices. A TV remote, wall clock, AM/FM radio or small LED flashlight are examples of low-drain devices. Anything with an electric motor, such as a remote-controlled toy car, will be high-drain, as will a digital camera.

Selecting the right type of disposable battery for your application is crucial. Rechargeable AA or AAA batteries are usually the most cost-effective in the long run (we’ve got 12 models currently on test and the results will be available later this year).

However, many of us lack the time or inclination to dutifully recharge enough batteries to keep all our devices running, and they’re unsuited for low-drain applications like TV remotes, as they lose energy while sitting idle.

There are three commonly available varieties of disposable battery, distinguished by the electrochemistry they use to store energy: lithium, alkaline and carbon zinc. Alkaline is the most common, while manufacturers claim more expensive lithium batteries last longer and deliver better performance. Carbon zinc is an old technology often sold as “heavy duty” batteries, but our testing shows they’re anything but.

Which type do you need?

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How we test

Each AA battery goes through high- and low-drain tests to assess how they perform in different gadgets – we averaged the results from four examples of each model in every test. We measure how long they last in each test and the amount of energy they deliver over that time, then convert these measurements into a performance score. The low-drain test uses a load of 24 Ohms, while the high-drain test uses a 2 Ohm-load.

Our performance scores are weighted evenly between performance and run time from each battery’s starting voltage of 1.5V down to 1.0V then to 0.7V – some devices start to falter and won’t operate at 1.0V; we use 0.7V as our benchmark for completely empty. We also calculate a ‘Value’ score based on how much each hour of use costs.

A note on AAAs

Our test only assessed AA batteries. But many of these AA models will also have a AAA counterpart, which are used for small devices and lower-drain applications. Since the composition of the corresponding AAA battery will be similar, just on a smaller scale, it’s a fair bet our top-performing AAs will also be the best AAAs.

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