Battery buying guide

Last updated: November 2015

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Disposable batteries are a staple in today's world of portable electronic devices. The most widely sold type--the AA--is used in flashlights, radios, remote controls, toys, and game controllers. Battery prices range widely, and to find out whether you need to pay top dollar to keep your gadgets running, we tested 15 different brand-name batteries--both alkaline and lithium.

How we tested

This year we evaluated 13 alkaline and 2 lithium batteries. Our test scenarios were based on typical usage in toys and flashlights. Our toy test simulated an hour a day of continuous play. The flashlight test involved powering the battery for 4 minutes every hour for 8 hours, then leaving it alone for 16 hours. We repeated each test until the batteries were drained.

In years past, the lithium models clearly outperformed the alkalines. This time, however, the top-rated alkalines made it a true contest. In fact, the Duracell Quantum alkaline scored just as high as the Energizer Ultimate lithium--at roughly half the price. All in all, though, the 13 alkalines varied in performance. In the end, we recommend eight of them. If you choose one of these batteries, it can save you money in a low-drain item such as a clock or an often-used remote control.

We prefer lithium batteries for high-drain devices such as an external flash for a camera, as well as devices that are less commonly used or hard-to-access, because of lithium's higher stability (lower "self-discharge" or power loss over time). Unlike alkalines, lithium batteries don't release a corrosive liquid as they age.

Rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries are a greener choice than any of the options we tested. For devices that are used a lot, such as game controllers, consider high-capacity rechargeable batteries. In past tests, we've found that rechargeables of about 2,000 milliamp-hours or more work best.

For information about tossing or recycling batteries, go to or

Bottom line

Lithium batteries routinely rate high in performance, but they're also expensive. In many instances, you can save money by choosing a well-manufactured alkaline battery. Before making a final call, consider how frequently the device will be used (lithium batteries are less prone to leaks) and how much power it will consume (low-drain items operate just fine on alkalines). For power-hungry products like game controllers and remote control toys, you might be better with a rechargeable battery--especially if the device gets lots of play time. If not, a disposable lithium battery is your best option.

The shelf life for alkaline batteries ranges from five to 10 years; for lithium batteries, it's 10 to 15. And unlike the carbon-zinc batteries of old, modern batteries won't benefit from being refrigerated. (One more myth busted.) Check our current battery story for more tips on battery use and storage.

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