Are no-name batteries a good value?

Consumer Reports News: January 27, 2012 05:38 PM

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Disposable batteries have become a staple in our world of high-tech portable electronic devices. But do you really need to buy and use those pricey brand name batteries to keep those gadgets up and running? It depends.

In Consumer Reports' Ratings of AA batteries, our technicians found real differences among well-known names and value brands. And in the case of energy-hungry devices such as digital cameras, you're probably best off with a brand, such as Energizer Ultimate—a top performer in our battery tests.

Rhett Allain, an associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, also bought and tested various disposable batteries. And based on his calculations, there is a big difference between dollar store batteries—which have less stored energy—than name brands. However, as he reports in Wired, there are instances where inexpensive batteries could save you money.

Suppose that I was using these batteries for a flashlight. In this case, it wouldn’t matter too much which battery I used. If I used the cheaper DG [brand batteries], I would just have to replace the batteries more often. However, suppose that I am using the batteries for my Wii remote or my awesome Syma indoor RC helicopter (these really do fly nice). For these electronic devices, if the voltage drops too low they might not work properly. Yes, the battery will still have energy in it, but if it won’t run the device correctly who cares?

The bottom line: Cheaper, lesser-known brands can be fine for less demanding devices such as TV remote controls. And buying them in bulk, say from a big-box store such as Costco, could save you a lot of money. However, devices that require constant, high-levels of energy would mean that you'll end up swapping out batteries much more frequently and possibly negating any money you'd save by buying less expensive batteries.

Are Expensive Batteries Worth the Extra Cost? [Wired]
A Physics Professor Asks: Are No-Name Batteries a Better Value Than Major Brands? [Time]

Paul Eng

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