Duracell Rechargeable AA and AAA batteries are from a highly respected brand. From flashlights to flashguns, remote controllers, toys and all sorts of other gadgets, anything that runs on batteries is completely useless if the batteries don’t work. Rightly or wrongly, when people need to count on their kit working in critical situations, they often prefer to stick with a famous brand. And for batteries, they don’t come much more famous than Duracell. The company has been a leading manufacturer of high-performance batteries, all the way back to the 1940s.
Duracell is best known for its alkaline single-use batteries but it also makes rechargeable batteries in a wide range of sizes, with a darker shade of that iconic copper top. For the ever-popular AA and AAA types, we’re reviewing the highest capacity Duracell options currently available, which are 2500mAh for AA and 900mAh for the smaller AAA size.
Size: AA / AAA
Capacity: 2500mAh (AA) 900mAH (AAA)
Charge held: 80% after 1 year
Recharge up to: Hundreds of times
For us, a key feature of any NiMH battery these days is that it holds its charge. Put the clock back a few years and we’d often find that we’d fully charge a set of Ni-MH batteries, only to find that they’d gone flat all on their own by the time we wanted to use them a few weeks later. Nowadays, we expect NiMH batteries to hold their charge for months or even years, and the Duracell AA and AAA are no exception. Indeed, you can charge them up and they’ll still have 80 per cent of their capacity available after being stored for a whole year. And Duracell claims that they can be stored for 10 years and will still work.
Size for size, the actual capacities of these Duracell AA and AAA cells is a close match to Panasonic Eneloop Pro. The2500mAh of the AA size battery is identical, and the Duracell AAA battery isn’t far behind, at 900mAh compared with 930mAh for the Eneloop Pro. That said, there are plenty of higher capacity Ni-MH batteries on the market, from the likes of EBL, HiQuick and Powerowl, which boast capacities of 2800mAh for AA and 1100mAh for AAA.
For the number of times that you can use and recharge the batteries, Duracell doesn’t give an exact guide figure. For other makes, it ranges from 500 times for Eneloop Pro to 1200 times for some of the other makes we’ve mentioned. Duracell simply says that its Ni-MH batteries can be charged ‘hundreds’ of times. Still, if you take 500 times as a reference point, that still means you’d be able to drain them and recharge them every single week for 10 years.
Unlike older Ni-CAD rechargeable batteries, there’s no dreaded ‘memory effect’ with Ni-MH. You therefore don’t need to fully drain the Duracell batteries before recharging them. That’s good news in that you can easily top up the charge as and when you want to.
A key performance factor of NiMH batteries is that they maintain a relatively constant voltage over their entire discharge period. Even when fully charged, they only give 1.2V compared with 1.5V for an alkaline battery, but the voltage of alkaline batteries starts dropping off as soon as you start using them.
To test how this works in real life, we put a fully charged set of the Duracell 2500mAh Ni-MH batteries in a Nikon Speedlight SB-700 flashgun. After a full-power flash, the SB-700 recycled in 2.4 seconds, and the recycle speed stayed pretty much identical even after 270 full-power flashes. It slowed to 3 seconds after 280 flashes and the batteries were exhausted after 295 full-power flashes. That’s way ahead of alkaline performance. With a fresh set of alkaline batteries, recycle speed started at 3.2 seconds, dropped to 6.5 seconds after 50 flashes, 9.2 seconds after 75 flashes and the batteries ran out after just 117 full-power flashes. So basically the Duracell AA batteries have 2.3 times the staying power, with much better performance in the later phase of their usage period.
For the AAA batteries, we put a set of Duracell AAA 900mAh rechargeable batteries in a high-power flashlight. They lasted for just over an hour of constant use. Alkaline batteries only lasted for 40 minutes so, again, the Duracell rechargeable batteries were way ahead of their alkaline siblings. The only downside is that when Ni-MH batteries come to the end of their discharge period, they drop off very suddenly rather than dimming down, which can catch you out when using them in a flashlight.
For outright stamina, the Duracell AA and AAA batteries proved a close match to the equivalent Panasonic Eneloop Pro cells in our tests. The Duracell batteries also gave very similar performance and staying power for other makes of NiMH battery, with higher nominal capacities of 2800mAh for AA and 1100mAh for AAA. The only real sticking point is that the Duracell batteries are about two to three times the price of competitors from EBL, HiQuick and Powerowl.
In the world of advertising, the famous Duracell bunny leaves other toys in its wake, powering ahead when others have run out of juice. But that’s based on alkaline cells. Nowadays, anything that’s ‘single-use’ is second-best. Rechargeable batteries can be used hundreds of times, making them much more eco-friendly. Packs of Duracell Rechargeable 2500mAh AA and Duracell Rechargeable 900mAh AAA Ni-MH batteries have very good (although not class-leading) stamina and worked flawlessly in our tests. However, they’re pricier than many competitors and not the best in terms of value for money.