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11 batteries in the test – cheap often better than branded products

atechbook has tested 11 well-known battery models. These include products from well-known manufacturers such as Varta and Duracell, but also inexpensive models from Aldi, Ikea and Rossmann.

Disposable AA batteries are still widely used. Many devices such as flashlights, watches and RC toys rely on this type of battery. And although AA-size rechargeable batteries are also available, the disposable variety is particularly popular with shoppers. However, the price range between the different models is enormous. atechbook has therefore tested eleven different battery brands, from discounters to well-known manufacturers, to find out how much power is really in the small power suppliers.

The battery models in the test

Low-priced batteries

  • Aldi Activ Energy/Topcraft – 10 pieces for 1.99 euros (20 cents each)
  • Ikea Alkalisk – 10 pieces for 1.99 euros (20 cents each) – taken out of the assortment in October 2021
  • Rossmann Rubin – 8 pieces for 1,69 Euro (21 Cent per piece)

Mid-range batteries

  • Varta Longlife – 8 pieces for 4,99 Euro (63 Cent per piece)
  • Energizer Alkaline Power – 4 pieces for 4,99 Euro (1,25 Euro per piece)
  • Varta Longlife Power – 4 pieces for 4,99 Euro (1,25 Euro per piece)
  • Duracell Plus – 4 pieces for 5,99 Euro (1,50 Euro per piece)

High performance batteries

  • Duracell Ultra – 4 pieces for 6,99 Euro (1,75 Euro per piece)
  • Varta Longlife Max Power – 4 pieces for 5,90 (1,48 Euro per piece)
  • Varta Ultra Lithium – 4 pieces for 6,25 Euro (1,56 Euro per piece)
  • Energizer Ultimate Lithium – 4 pieces for 5,99 Euro (1,50 Euro per piece)

A majority of the tested models in our test are conventional alkaline manganese batteries. To find out whether supposedly high-performance cells based on lithium iron sulfide are worthwhile, we also tested two different models with this chemical composition.

Briefly explained

Different battery chemistries

Alkaline manganese-based batteries are the most common. However, there are also other types such as zinc-carbon. However, lithium iron sulfide is considered the most powerful battery chemistry. This type of battery is usually recommended for use in digital cameras and flashes due to its higher load capacity.

Test setup

In order to obtain meaningful results for the test, we sought advice from physicist D. Schicke (M.Sc.). With his support, we settled on a test procedure according to which we measured the battery voltage at five consecutive points in time. Starting with an initial measurement before the test began, we measured after two, five, seven, and ten hours.

Test batteries with camping LED lights
The batteries were tested in an LED camping lamp. Even without measuring the voltage, the lamps give an indication of how empty or full the batteries still are – by glowing dimmer or brighter. Photo: atechbook

For the test, we opted for a practical, everyday version with an LED camping lamp with three battery slots. We measured the battery condition with a conventional digital voltmeter. This allowed us to determine how quickly each battery model lost its voltage.

After the initial measurement, we looked at all subsequent measurements to see how much voltage was lost across all three cells. To do this, we averaged the three measurements to find out the average voltage. This gave us a good picture of how the batteries were working together to deliver power even after several hours of runtime. Because even if one cell lost a massive amount of voltage, the other two could compensate for this loss.

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Measurement results

We divided the test into five measurement points as described. A preliminary measurement to show the voltage in idle state and then four further measurements after two, five, seven and ten hours.

First measurement point

At the premeasurement, all higher-priced models from Varta, Energizer and Duracell showed a voltage of 1.63 to 1.64 volts. Cheaper battery models from Aldi, Ikea and Rossmann start with a slightly lower voltage between 1.6 and 1.62 volts. Our two models of the lithium iron sulfide type are out of line. Since these are intended for particularly power-hungry devices, they have a voltage of comparatively high 1.79 volts (Energizer Ultimate Lithium) and 1.84 volts (Varta Ultra Lithium).

Tip: Please click to enlarge the illustration.

Battery comparison overview
The curve clearly shows that all tested batteries lost the most voltage within the first 5 hours. Photo: atechbook

Second measuring point

Particularly noteworthy is the rapid voltage drop within the first two hours, which can be observed equally in all models in the battery test.

Especially the high-priced models from Varta (Longlife Power and Longlife Max Power) show good performance with alkaline manganese cells. Both models achieve an average of 1.22 volts in the second measurement. Duracell Ultra and Duracell Plus are also ahead with 1.2 and 1.22 volts respectively. This is closely followed by Ikea Alkalisk with 1.19 volts and Rossmann Rubin with 1.17 volts. Varta Longlife and Energizer Alkaline Power are also at a similar level with 1.16 volts and 1.15 volts respectively. The model Activ Energy from Aldi brings up the rear with just under 1.1 volts.

The two lithium iron sulfide models remain a special case. With 1.47 volts (Energizer Ultimate Lithium) and 1.46 volts (Varta Ultra Lithium), both are still significantly stronger than the alkaline competition. In both cases, however, the batteries are extremely hot when measured, so you can hardly touch them. We’ll see what this entails in a moment.

Third measuring point

After the second measuring point (two hours), there is hardly any change in the average voltage of our test candidates. This is because the strongly decreased voltage of a single cell is compensated by the other two.

While we recorded a veritable voltage collapse at the second measuring point, the values only drop moderately after five hours in the third measurement. The batteries lose between 0.1 and 0.2 volts on average. Aldi Activ Energy emerges as the surprising winner in this round with a value of 1.063 volts. After the batteries quickly crashed in the second measurement, they seem to have stabilized. The other candidates are all at 1.01 to 1.05 volts. The outliers and taillights are the lithium cells, which have been so strong until now. Both Varta and Energizer have fallen below 1 volt. Energizer only reaches 0.89 volts and Varta 0.9 volts. Both deliver a significantly weaker light than the competition in comparison.

Fourth and fifth measuring point

The last two measurements (after seven and after ten hours) provide a relatively conforming picture. None of the models still loses more than 0.13 volts (determined with Varta Longlife Power). We could determine the lowest loss with the Energizer Alkaline Power with 0.002 volts, which reached a respectable value of 1.003 volts in the end. The lithium models performed the worst, only managing 0.85 volts (Energizer Ultimate Lithium) and 0.843 volts (Varta Ultra Lithium). The light was so weak in both that it could hardly be recognized under sunlight.

Battery test expensive vs cheap
Quite clearly recognizable: Although the expensive Varta Longlife Power have entered high, the Aldi Activ Energy can hold the voltage better in the end. Photo: atechbook

The Aldi Activ Energy batteries deliver a surprising test result with 1.063 volts after ten hours of operation, followed by Duracell Plus with 1.015 volts. Ikea Alkalisk and Energizer Alkaline Power also made it with 1.006 volts and 1.003 volts, respectively, just over one volt. They are followed by Duracell Ultra (0.973 volts), Rossmann Rubin (0.95 volts),Varta Longlife Power Max (0.946 volts), Varta Longlife Power (0.926 volts) and Varta Longlife (0.903).

Model Output voltage Voltage after 2 hours Voltage after 5 hours Voltage after 7 hours Voltage after 10 hours
Varta Longlife Power 1,635 V 1,22 V 1,056 V 0,94 V 0,926 V
Duracell Ultra 1,627 V 1,2 V 0,953 V 0,95 V 0,973 V
Energizer Alkaline Power 1,621 V 1,15 V 1,006 V 1,003 V 1,013 V
Varta Longlife Max Power 1,6435 V 1,22 V 1 V 1,036 V 0,946 V
Aldi Activ Energy 1,618 V 1,1 V 1,07 V 1,073 V 1,063 V
Duracell Plus 1,625 V 1,22 V 1,013 V 1,016 V 1,015 V
Varta Longlife 1,64 V 1,16 V 0,963 V 0,916 V 0,903 V
Energizer Ultimate Lithium 1,793 V 1,471 V 0,886 V 0,883 V 0,85 V
Varta Ultra Lithium 1,837 V 1,4643 V 0,9 V 0,86 V 0,843 V
Ikea Alkalisk 1,6 V 1,19 V 1,01 V 1,01 V 1,006 V
Rossmann Ruby 1,61 V 1,17 V 1,026 V 0,986 V 0,95 V

Conclusion: Aldi batteries surprise with high performance in everyday tests

For everyday items with low voltage such as toys, lamps, remote controls and co. it is not worth reaching for expensive brand batteries. The models from Varta, Duracell and Energizer only have more power in the first five hours. After that, all tested models settle at a similar level. Surprisingly, the cheap discounter batteries from Aldi are at the top of our runtime test in terms of performance. The counterparts from the drugstore Rossmann and the furniture store Ikea also perform just as well as the expensive competition in the long run.

This also makes itself felt in the wallet. AA batteries from Ikea, Rossmann and Aldi cost 20 cents each. Brand manufacturers, on the other hand, charge between one and two euros per battery. Already with ten batteries thus a price saving of eight to 18 euro.

The higher output voltage of the expensive brand models brings an advantage in certain exceptional situations, however. If really high voltage is required from a device, one should nevertheless reach for models from Varta, Duracell and Energizer. We are talking about exceptions. Those battery hogs from the 90s and early 00s, like digital cameras and handheld consoles, have been powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for years. These days, there are few devices that justify the use of the expensive AA batteries.

Topics

  • Test

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