Years ago I decided to quit using Alkaline batteries and instead move to rechargeable. Of course, old nickle cadium (NiCd) batteries were horrible. They were prone to "memory" problems where a the recharging/discharging cycle could result in a loss of capacity. NiCDs also discharged quickly and just could not power some higher demand devices like today’s digital cameras.
I initially bought name brand but the Energizer NiMH were weak. Their D cell rechargeable batteries turned out to be spacers to fill the size of a D but with only a AA inside which I supposed doesn’t really matter except that "D cells are typically used in high current drain applications" [Source, Wikipedia, D battery] Duracell rechargeable batteries were equally disappointing. Now for years I chose Rayovac alkaline AA batteries for most applications and Energizer Max AAs for digital cameras. One day in Target, hidden toward the bottom of the batteries and off to the side, I found a package of generic looking rechargeable batteries labeled "Hybrid." I pleasantly discovered this was a Rayovac product and it rocked! In addition to being a great battery, Rayovac didn’t require a Rayovac charger.
Eventually Rayovac switched to a green label and then a blue label. It felt like the redheaded stepchild of rechargeable batteries but I loved the performance. Over time a cell or two died but I didn’t have the knowledge for using my multimeter to determine a good cell from bad. We just bought more batteries and soon our house had enough rechargeable batteries that we rarely use alkaline batteries anymore. Eventually I discovered the Ansmann 5207123 Energy 16 Charger. What an awesome investment! Even though NiMH don’t really get memories like the old NiCDs they do start to wear down. The Ansmann charger evaluates the cells and can refresh them. I quickly eliminated our bad cells and the charger worked to restore live to the remaining cells. On one it took 4 days but brought it back to life! Since the Ansmann is microchip controlled it does not require batteries being charged in pairs and since it conditions the batteries you can leave 12 AAs in it until they are needed. This makes it really easy for the children to use the batteries (unlike other charging systems).
So today I was reading a review of the new hotness, nickle zinc (NiZn) batteries. Despite the good words about PowerGenix’s Nickel Zinc AA I’m not ready to make the switch. Part of my hesitation is that NiZn requires a special charger and I don’t want the children accidentally putting a NiZn into the NiMH Ansmann charger; melting $114 device would make me sad. Another is that where an alkaline battery comes charged to 1.5V and most electronics are designed for 1V per cell, and a NiMH charges holds an optimal charge at 1.2V, the NiZn charges fully to 1.8 and holds an optimal charge at 1.6. I have not clearly answered the question of whether or not this poses a risk to certain equipment. I’m certain it doesn’t.
In the review, I discovered that Rayovac has discontinued their Hybrid AA/AAAs! Turns out, Hybrid is from 2007; it was rebranded to a blue wrapper in 2009 and is now (2010) called Rayovac Platinum Pre-Charged according to a review by the awesome NLee the Engineer.
We now use the Rayovac batteries in all the kids toys and our various electronic devices. For Cathy’s digital camera, we use Sanyo Eneloop which rates the same as the Rayovac Hybrids but had a distinctly different label that warns the children "do not use these." So, if you are looking for rechargeable batteries for the holidays, I recommend Rayovac Platinum Pre-Charged and Sanyo Eneloop.