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.
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.
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.
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.
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.