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Which batteries are the best buy?

A consumer advocate pitted the top brands on the market against each other in a lab study and came to a startling conclusion.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 31, 2011 1:32PM

This post comes from Mitch Lipka, consumer advocate for


When it comes to batteries, how can you tell a deal from a dud? When is it worth spending money on a premium brand?


We brought a collection of different AA batteries to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and asked if they could test to find out whether there's any real difference between brand-name and generic batteries.


The answer is that you're better off buying less expensive batteries, such as Rayovac or generics, or getting regular Energizer or Duracells on sale, because our exclusive tests show there is no measurable difference in quality among these batteries. That's right, none. So just buy whatever is on sale, take steps to make them last longer and never fret again about what type of battery to buy.

At least that goes for regular batteries. The very notable exception: The Energizer Advanced Lithium battery separated from the pack like the bunny that promotes the brand. Not only did that particular battery push out far more initial voltage than the others -- when it finally corrected down to the expected 1.5 volts, it kept going and going and going.


Putting them through the paces

Here's how our test worked: A team of graduate and undergraduate students supervised by professor Glenn R. Gaudette at the renowned eponymous institute in Massachusetts put several sets of batteries through the paces over several months. All the batteries were purchased off the shelf at retail.


Among the batteries tested were Duracell Ultra Advanced, Duracell Coppertop, a generic battery, Energizer Advanced Lithium, Energizer Max and Rayovac. All were measured for their initial voltage and how much energy they lost over 19 hours of constant use.

After 19 hours, the Energizer Advanced Lithium battery was still running at 1.5 volts -- far higher than any of the other batteries. The WPI team said that it showed "remarkable stability" compared with the rest. The testers said there was no statistically significant difference between the other batteries. 


So, why not just buy the Energizer Advanced if it did so much better in the tests? Price. You get more; you pay more. But do you get four times more? Our latest price check showed that Rayovac AA batteries were selling for a quarter of the price of the top-performing Energizers -- 42 cents each vs. $1.42 each. The testing team also expressed some concern that some very sensitive devices could be negatively affected by the higher-than-expected initial voltage.


The WPI folks caution that the testing included only the pressure of constant demand -- not the on-and-off usage that can be seen in real life.


More from and MSN Money:

Mar 31, 2011 4:56PM
So why not perform a REAL world test?  Simulate a camera flash - 20 photos then nothing. 10 photos then nothing. Repeat.  Or use for an hour here and there?

This test is basically useless.

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