Energizer’s AA/AAA Chargers

Energizer CHFM1 Energizer CHDC7 Energizer CHUSB

This is Energizer’s current lineup of budget AA/AAA battery chargers. I was fortunate enough to have Margaret Welch of Blick & Staff Communications send me these on Energizer’s behalf, and I’ve had plenty of time to try them out.

All three work with AA and AAA; with AAA, there are smaller contacts that flip down to accommodate the batteries’ smaller lengths. None of them are made for the forgetful person needing power for their camera at the last minute; to fully charge four 2500 mAh AA batteries, it takes 5 hours, 6.5 hours, or 8.5 hours (from left to right, respectively). However, if you rotate sets, or let them work overnight, these are perfect for use at home or when traveling. If you want a charger that works quickly, Energizer offers a 15-minute charger (Amazon.com), and it has a fan, so your batteries shouldn’t get too hot. I didn’t get one for this review, but customer opinion is positive.

From left to right, as labeled on the packages:
Energizer CHFM1: e2 Rechargeable
Energizer CHDC7: e2 Rechargeable Compact Charger AA/AAA
Energizer CHUSB: e2 Rechargeable USB Duo AA/AAA Charger

These newer chargers turn off automatically, not based just on a timer, but rather they detect when batteries are done, which extends the life of your investment.

In case you’re in the dark, you can use these to power any AA or AAA Nickel-metal hydride batteries, even if they are a different brand. This includes the new low-discharge variants, such as the Rayovac Hybrid brand.

My favorite of the three is the compact one (middle, CHDC7). The charging part retracts into the body, so you can throw it in your bag without wasting any space. The light indicators are innovative; when one is blinking, the charging is begun; when two are blinking, the it is past half way, and when two are solid, it is complete. This makes it easy to track the progress. Plus, it looks cool, and the charger isn’t as wide as the first. It took just over six hours to empower a fresh set of four Energizer-brand AAs, and I’ve taken over 300 shots with my Canon PowerShot A620, with no low-battery warning in sight. I don’t use the flash as I prefer ambient lighting; the batteries will drain faster if you do. Back in the stone age (a.k.a. 2005), I used Mattel’s Juice Box as my MP3 player; it uses three AA batteries, and I always hated that many chargers would only work in groups of two. This one is no different, unfortunately; you can only charge two or four batteries at once, not one or three. Two can be AAs and two can be AAAs, at least.

The Energizer CHFM1 (left) isn’t much different from the compact charger, except for being bulkier and slower (8.5 vs. 6.5 hours). It too charges batteries in groups of two. You can change the face plate; there is white, silver, and black, which is a nice touch. I like the black one, though the back is dark gray and doesn’t match. The only indicator light is red for charging and green for done; there is an on/off button, so that you can turn it off but leave it plugged in; I just unplug it, so I have no use for the button. One thing that worries me about both is that they have no extension cables, but instead have a plug that flips out, so if you plug them into a power strip they’ll block a lot of outlets, and they weigh a pound each with batteries, which puts stress on the outlet. If you’re using a regular wall outlet, it shouldn’t matter, and the simplified plug saves space.

The USB charger (right) touts itself as working in two hours, but actually needs five hours for Energizer’s current 2500 milliampere-hour AA batteries (mAh, generally a measurement of battery capacity). Don’t expect to restore your Fujifilm A900‘s two AA batteries from deadness before your laptop’s battery gives out, but you can get the boost needed for fifty shots if you have your laptop, and a half hour to kill, right in the field. The charger will power up a pair of AAA batteries in two hours, but no serious cameras use them because they drain so quickly. The Fujifilm and Canon A series cameras are still being made and all utilize AAs, though many of the Canons, such as my PowerShot A620, use four AAs, so this charger will be less practical. You can refill one battery at once if you choose, unlike with the others. I can see this being useful for my MP3 player/voice recorder, it being powered by one AAA. The charger also comes with a wall plug so you can use it in a standard U.S. power outlet, away from your computer. The USB cord is just six inches long; that saves space (the cord wraps around the body), but can be inconvenient.

A unique feature of the USB charger is that you can download software at http://energizer.com/usbcharger/ that displays how long you’ll have to wait. The software is available for Windows 2000 or Mac OS 10.4 and above; the Windows version is 3MB, occupies 13MB of space, and is non-portable (writes to the registry), so you can’t keep it on your USB flash drive. It adds a shortcut in “Programs” in your Start Menu AND at the top, which is overkill because the program starts automatically when you plug the charger into a USB port. When I was installing it, Windows XP gave this message:

Energizer USB Charger warning on Windows XP

It’s a pointless warning message, but will confuse many unexperienced Windows users.

Here’s what it looks like when the charger is plugged in but with no batteries:

Energizer USB Charger software: insert battery

And with a battery, the remaining time is displayed; 3 hours, 48 minutes here:

Energizer USB Charger software: count-down

If you are charging 2 batteries, the time displayed is just that of the battery that will take the longest. The software is really basic; you can change the color (mine is orange, as you can see), and configure the software to start and terminate when you attach and detach the charger, but that’s all. I have no idea why Energizer UsbCharger.exe is 12.3MB, nor why it eats up 31MiB of RAM all the time, other than inefficient programming.

The left one (CHFM1) comes with 4 AA rechargeables, the middle with none (CHDC7), and the right (CHUSB) with 2 AAA rechargeables. I used the AAs from the first in the second, and they work great. They can be more expensive, but, if you’ve read my article, Simple Advice on AA Chargers & Batteries, you know the dangers of cheap, gray-market batteries. Energizer batteries always work well and last a long time, so I have no hesitation in recommending them. Plus, I have Duracell batteries where the labels peel off after some use, but this annoyance doesn’t crop up with Energizer, which is nice. All of Energizer’s new peripherals are good despite my gripes; I’m glad we’ve finally passed the age of timer-driven (or even timerless), “dumb” chargers that I’ve complained of. While AAs don’t last as long the Lithium-Ion battery in my Canon Rebel XTi, they’ve come quite far, are cheaper, and are far easier to find.

Simple Advice on AA Chargers & Batteries

Rechargeable AA batteries and chargers — Photo by Richard X. Thripp

Normal alkaline AAs are fine for the casual shooter, but in the long run, you’ll save money with rechargeables. Duracell and Energizer are good, but my favorite is Tenergy (sold at all-battery.com), which are cheaper and have worked well for me. Get a charger that is “smart,” in that it doesn’t stop just on a timer. I like the Duracell CEF90NC 30 Minute Charger, though I have an older version. Mine doesn’t take long (one hour), has built-in cooling, stops based on some sort of charging detection system that works well, and has worked without fail for 2+ years. The new model should do the same, unless they’ve messed things up. Then, you won’t have to change batteries often, unless your camera is particularly power-hungry. The charger runs $30 and comes with 4 Duracell batteries. Avoid 15 minute or faster chargers, as they stress your batteries more, are prone to overheating, and cost more.

When I got my first digital camera, I bought a charger with four AA batteries for $10. The charger took 16 hours, and would not stop automatically. It was inevitable; I charged the batteries for 24 hours once, but fortunately there was no apparent damage, likely because the charger is less apt to damage batteries for being so under-powered. One month later, one of the batteries leaked acid. If it had been in the camera, it would have corroded the contacts and perhaps render it unusable. I bought new batteries, but continued using the original three for my CD player. Another month later, I opened the player to find that the battery had leaked, and the acid had burned through the compartment, onto the CD, corroding it so that it was unusable. It was a CD I burned, but if it had been a commercial release it may have been a loss of up to $20. I stopped using those batteries, filed down the corroded part in the player so that the CD wouldn’t touch it while spinning, and used aluminum foil to fit the battery against the corroded spring. After several months, it became such a hassle to keep the aluminum foil in place that I stopped using the player; the batteries would frequently fall out of place despite my efforts. I paid $33 for that CD player; this was three years ago, and it was one of those fancy models that would play MP3 files from CDs (flash memory was expensive back then), so it was quite disappointing to lose.

That is my cautionary tale: be careful of the batteries you choose; the cheesiest option isn’t the best. Digital photography is expensive, but this is no place to skimp, as your camera is useless without working batteries.

In the banner, the chargers, from left to right: Tenergy V-2833, Duracell CEF80N, Energizer CHDC, Digital Concepts CH-1800. The Duracell CEF80N is the one I’m saying good things about above; the Digital Concepts CH-1800 is the one I’m saying bad things about. The Energizer one uses an 8-hour timer, so I don’t like it. I haven’t opened the Tenergy one, but it says it takes 18 hours, which is too long. The batteries on the left are Rayovac Hybrid brand, which are low self-discharge batteries. I’ve kept them for a year without charging and they still work, but I only recommend them if you use your camera infrequently, as they’re pricier. The middle ones are Tenergy brand, which I like. The Energizer brand batteries on the right are good too, but are $10 a pack.

If you don’t want to worry about changing batteries, or want some spares to keep in your bag just in case, lithium AAs are a good choice.