Batteries, possibly one of the most boring items we could write about. But by the end of this review, we're pretty sure you'll not only be thanking us for it, but you'll also have changed your mind about how you power your gadgets.
The batteries we're looking at are from Sanyo, which is a part of Panasonic these days, and has been for quite a while. People in their 30s will remember that Sanyo was a big name in the 80s, and lots of us will have had tape decks made by the firm. These days though it's more involved with the things that make things work.
So enter the firm;s Eneloop brand. These are rechargeable batteries, but they're a little bit more interesting than that. Introduced in around 2006, these batteries have a few things going for them that most rechargeable batteries do not, and some things that better non-rechargeable AA batteries too.
We're looking at the Eneloop XX (HR-3UWXB) batteries here which have a minimum rating of 2,450mAh. You can also get standard cells (HR-3UTGB) which have 1,900mAh ratings.
Smarter than your average battery
Anyone old enough to remember a Sanyo twin-deck cassette player will also remember old-fashioned nickel–cadmium (NiCd) batteries. These were the first batteries that you could stick in a Walkman, and then when the power ran out, stick in a charger to use them again.
The problem was, these old batteries were significantly less capable of holding a charge than a traditional AA battery, like a Duracell or Eveready. This meant that you had a lower capacity and your gadgets and toys would last a lot less time than with a disposable battery.
Things have changed. All rechargeable batteries tend to have bigger capacities - or at least, the same - than disposable cells. This means, you're certainly not in a worse position these days if you use a rechargeable battery. That's alien to people who remember the rubbish old cells. In low-drain devices, this isn't much of a problem. In high-drain devices, it's a pain in the reproductive organs.
The first awesome thing about Eneloop batteries is that they're sold with somewhere approaching a full charge. Normal rechargeable batteries wouldn't hold their charge for long but because they use a different system that would see you lose charge within a few weeks, so that is clearly the reason that they couldn't be sold with a charge in.
Eneloop batteries, on the other hand, will keep as much as 75 per cent of their charge for a year. So you can charge them, put them in a drawer, and know they'll be there for you when you need them. This is actually a more important point than it might, at first, seem. Because when you need a battery for something, you might think, "I'll grab the rechargeables", but when you get there, they're flat. That would mean you'd use alkaline disposable cells, because no one wants to wait to see their children playing with Christmas toys. With Eneloop, at least there's a pretty good chance your stored batteries will have a charge in them when you need them. And that's a good thing.
Better for the planet
And it's better for more reasons than just keeping your kids happy, it's also good for the environment. We probably all know that throwing away batteries is a really bad idea. They go to a landfill site, where they leak nastiness into the ground and are generally a waste of materials. Of course, you can recycle batteries, but does anyone actually ever do that? We're betting far more end up in landfill than recycled.
With a rechargeable battery you can use them hundreds of times before they need to be thrown away. And, of course, you can still recycle them when they get to the end of their lives. These Eneloop cells can, apparently, be recharged 500 times before they need to be replaced.
Of course, the Eneloop XX cells are a little more expensive than Alkaline batteries. Six cost about £20, while eight AA Duracells costs about £5. But once you factor in recharging, there's really no competition, and the Eneloop batteries are almost certain to work out cheaper, even when you've factored in charging them with your own electricity. Of course, you could always pop to the pub and charge them there, that way you'd save even more money. Although you'd probably have a drink at the pub, and that would cost more than the electricity ever would.
Here's the thing. Despite knowing that rechargeable cells were more green, and cost effective over the long term, we still couldn't get into the idea. It all seemed like a faff. But in fact, Eneloop has solved all the problems and made them such an attractive prospect, that we're sold on them, and have been using them loads.
In fact, we have an LED light we use for product photos. It can run off the mains, or six AA batteries. We tried it with Duracell's best alkaline batteries, but the time it took them to go flat was a joke. The Eneloop batteries though, lasted ages, and didn't discharge too badly when we didn't use the light for a week.
They have, in short, replaced AA alkaline batteries in everything that has high drain. It's not sensible to put rechargeable batteries in a remote control, as those don't use anywhere near enough power to make the outlay worthwhile, but for things that like a drink - like lights and cameras - they're perfect.
So there you go. These batteries aren't boring, they've clever, and they are well worth buying. They cost a bit more, but for all the use you'll get out of them, the actual cost of running your devices will drop significantly.
We can't recommend them highly enough but if you need convincing, give them a go and we're confident you'll be as impressed as us.