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Head of the pack: The best batteries for your buck

Dec. 15, 2011 - 12:44PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 15, 2011 - 12:44PM  |  
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Whether you're powering up your night-vision goggles downrange or a Wii remote back home, AA batteries are worth their weight in gold. But which portable power providers offer the best bang for the buck?

Just in time for all those batteries-not-included gifts, the charged-up lab rats at Consumer Reports have tested a dozen different offerings from Duracell, Energizer, Rayovac and Panasonic. Testers loaded up energy-draining cameras to see which AAs offered the most juice before running dry.

Earning top honors: the Energizer Advanced Lithium, which powered 809 camera clicks before dying.

"Lithium batteries are by far the longest-lasting AA batteries available," said Jim Langehennig, technical support manager at Consumer Reports.

While the Energizers are priced on the high end at $5.40 per pair — one of the costliest tested — their endurance translates into savings in the long run at well under one cent per shot.

Compare that to Walgreens' Supercell alkalines, which fared the worst in the Consumer Reports ratings. A pair of those cost $2.50 but were only able to squeeze out 133 shots — nearly 2 cents per picture.

"Take manufacturer claims with a grain of salt," the testers warn. "Duracell Ultra PowerPix, for example, lasted for 174 shots, which is indeed "up to 200 photos," as claimed — but any number under 200 meets that boast."

In strictly cost-per-click terms, Costco's Kirkland Signature brand batteries offered the best deal, but you have to buy them in bulk. While rated third-worst in total shots per pair, their average cost per shot was just over half a penny. You'll have to swap out batteries four times more often than with the Energizers to enjoy that savings.

While Consumer Reports didn't rate rechargeable batteries, other reviews reveal that they can be the best deal by far.

Sanyo's Eneloop nickel-metal hydride AAs, for example, cost $10 per pair, but they give you about 350 shots per charge, and they're good for about 1,500 recharges. That's more than 500 shots per penny.

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