Travel Gear Review – Energizer 15 Minute AA and AAA Battery Charger

Back in July, the attendees of TBEX got a bag full of free crap from companies, just like you’d get at any convention. Most of the stuff was junk you’d toss in the garbage, but we got one freebie which I thought was just awesome: a battery charger from Energizer. Not only was it a very practical piece of schwag, but it was a brilliant marketing move on the part of Energizer. Because I had the charger, I ended up buying their batteries and now I’m writing a blog post on their product. It was sort of like giving away the razor to sell the blades. Pure brilliance.

Since then I’ve been buying more devices which require AA/AAA batteries so I’ve been putting the charger through its paces.

Overview

I currently carry four devices with me that require AA or AAA batteries: two flashes for my camera (Nikon SB-900 and SB-600), a wireless mouse and my Bose noise canceling headphones. Buying new batteries was fine when I just needed the two for my cordless mouse, but with the demands that strobes bring, I needed a rechargeable battery solution. The Energizer charger was given to all the attendees at TBEX 2009 for free, but all subsequent batteries I purchased myself. The charger retails for $33.96 on Amazon.com.

Pros

I’ve always been reluctant to make an investment in rechargeable batteries because of my past experience with them. They take too long to charge and didn’t hold a charge long enough. The 15 minute charger does seem to live up to its name. After multiple charging sessions with almost depleted and partially depleted batteries, I never noticed a charging session take more than approximately 15 minutes. This is a really big deal when you need juice for your camera flashes. If I need a battery charged, I needed it charged NOW.

The batteries also seem reasonably prices. Prior to leaving for Fiji I purchased an eight pack of AA batteries for US$20, which is $2.50 per battery. It would only take a few charges to recoup your investment compared to alkaline batteries. Battery life seems acceptable, although I haven’t done any rigorous testing to determine how many times they can be charged and how well they can hold a charge over time. Suffice to say that at this point, I’m happy with the batteries.

Cons

If I only needed batteries for my home, I’d have no real complaints about the charger. As a travel device however, it has some serious deficiencies. The first big problem is the form factor. Like most electronic devices, the charger has a large power brick. The brick and the charger do not neatly pack together. It would have been a much better design decision to combine the power brick and the charger into one unit that could be plugged into the wall. It would save space and probably weight.

The second major problem is that the charger only works with 120V electrical systems. Every piece of electronics I carry with me, especially ones with a transformer (aka power brick) work on both 120V and 220V systems, which means you can take them anywhere in the world and not have to worry about destroying the item when you plug it in. The battery charger for both my SLR and point and shoot camera can use any voltage. I don’t know if there is a technical reason why lithium ion batters can do this but nickel-metal hydride batteries can’t, but it is a major weakness with the charger. My co-host of This Week In Travel, Chris Christensen fried his charger on a trip to Europe recently. Had he not warned me, I certainly would have done the same thing because I would have just assumed it would work with 220V systems.

I should also note that the charger has a fan which runs during charging to dissipate heat. However it is not that loud and I do not consider it a serious drawback.

Grade: B

The Energizer 15 Minute AA and AAA Battery Charger is fine as a charger, but is seriously lacking in the portability department. A more compact design and the ability to use 120V-220V electrical systems would make it a winner as a travel battery charger. I am currently traveling with it, but will have to buy a voltage adapter to make it work, which sort of ticks me off. If they come out with a version that solves the voltage problems, I will buy that and replace the current model.

  • 12 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Gary, thanks for the helpful suggestion, I use a battery charger but it takes to long to charge, that was my only problem. This device needs only 15 minutes…wow, I am really impress!!
    Ciao

  2. Lee Cooper says:

    I have had this charger from a UK based on line supplier (7dayshop) for about 3 years now, yes the batteries get warm, and they dont last as long as trickle chargers.. but thats not the point…
    when i need batteries i need them quick – and it does that every time!
    mine came with both a mains power adapter which can run on 240 or 100 volts, and a car lighter adapter. so is a great if rather bulky travel charge.
    I have bought them as gifts for serveal people over the years and had no reports of them failing.

  3. William says:

    I bought a Rayovac NiMH charger at Sears prior to living in a country with 220V electricity. There were two or three options available, so I made sure to buy the one that could accept 100-240V. It’s not a 15-minute charger, but it (and the batteries I bought at the time) have served me well for over two years (though I am not using them as intensively as you do).

  4. There are plenty of AA battery chargers that can charge Ni-MH batteries that can be used worldwide on 120 or 220V. Fast 15 minute chargers whilst handy do not completly charge the batteries and charge so fast the batteries get hot (hence the fan) this will reduce the life of the batteries. There is no way you will get anywhere near the 1000 cycles claimed when charging this fast. In my opinion you are better off with a slower charger that chargers around 500 mA that will take about 5 to 6 hours to charge regular AA batteries and have a spare set charged up ready for replacement rather than need them immediatley and have to need to charge them in 15 minutes. Just have one set in the device and one set spare charged up and ready to go then there is no rush to recharge them. You can then use the spare set while the flat ones are recharging.

  5. Travel Blogs says:

    I have an Energizer and never had real problems with it, the important thing is they get recharged and it doesnt take ages

  6. Stephen says:

    I’ve used a Varta 15 minute charger around the house for several years now – I’ve probably got 40 or so batteries in various devices by now. I’ve taken it on several short trips, but I wouldn’t want to carry it with me everywhere. It will charge some batteries very fast, others take longer. The batteries come out of it warm – it has a cooldown cycle where it just uses the fan to cool them down, without charging.

    The last time I bought some more batteries for it, they came with a tiny two battery USB charger – takes a little longer, but very light and easy to carry – it’s just a plastic case for the batteries and small cord with USB end. It would solve the voltage problem, as long as you had a USB power source handy.

  7. TheJetpacker says:

    Hey Gary,

    We used to have a 15-Minute Energizer too but we noticed that the charger would fry the batteries in the long run. Yeah, the batteries would be charged in 15 minutes, but their lifespan dropped to only a couple of weeks. Eventually, they also became dangerous hot to handle right out of the charger.

    3 or 4 hour chargers obviously take longer, but they won’t fry your batteries. We’ve been using the same 8 AA batteries for 2 years now!

  8. Kevin says:

    I have an older Energizer 15-minute charger, and my batteries come out fully charged in 15 minutes, but also extremely hot, too hot to handle for more than a few seconds. I would think it may be bad to place them back in the device immediately, without a cool-down period. Does your model heat the batteries to uncomfortable levels? Currently, I use the Energizer Duo, which charges 2 batteries, AA or AAA (but must be a matching pair), via wall or USB (even includes a USB-wall adapter). It’s around $15 and much more portable.

    • Gary says:

      They come out warm, but not so hot that I can’t touch them. There are other recharging solutions, but I really like how fast this charges everything.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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