note: I started working on this article back in 2017 but due to the “crash” it got put on hold. I finished this article over the last couple of weeks.
What I was looking for in a AA & AAA battery charger was two-fold, ability to charge AA & AAA batteries; 1) using 110vAC power when it is available, 2) using 12vDC power for emergencies or field use. Of course, using the same actual charger, just changing the charger’s power supply. And the 12vDC option could come from a power box, solar charger, battery, vehicle accessory port, etc.
You may be asking why both voltages…legitimate question. I want the capability to charge my batteries under normal conditions and as quickly as possible…hence, 110vAC power capability. But, if the regular utility power goes out I want multiple ways to be able to charge my batteries; 1) using my portable Honda generator (110vAC), 2) 12vDC power available through car batteries, 3) my various portable power box, 4) solar panels.
“Redundancy” being a priority to me. The old “Two is one, one is none, three is a good start” mentality.
Mission Statement –
“Ability to charge standardized field operation batteries via 110vAC or 12vDC power.”
Requirements & Restrictions –
- Must be able to operate on 110vAC power for extended periods of time without damage to the unit or the batteries.
- Must have the capability to operate on 12vDC without modification to the unit.
- Must be able to charge AA and AAA rechargeable Ni-MH and Ni-CD batteries.
- Must have sufficient safety features to prevent damage to the batteries, the unit, or the area around the unit.
Test Units –
- FrePow 8-slot
- Tenergy TN160
- Foxnovo F08
- AccuPower IQ-338
- BlueTech AV-1000
- MaximalPower FC1000
- Ansmann PL8
- SunLabz SL00056
Each unit was tested against the Mission Statement, Requirements & Restrictions, and comparing features; price was not so much of an issue. Units were tested recharging batteries via 110vAC and 12vDC. The 12vDC test was done via a 110vAC -> 12vDC power supply to ensure no variation in power such as solar power fluctuations or 12vDC battery charge level or condition. The purpose of the testing was to test the charger unit itself not a solar panel / charger combination. I did test with a 12vDC solar panel test just to ensure compatibility and that it would in-fact work. These test units all ranged from being able to charge 4 batteries – 16 batteries.
No longer available – Testing results not included.
Tenergy TN160 –
Compact, sleek, and good looking unit. Nothing fancy about this unit and no frills or thrills. Both size batteries (AA & AAA) were easy to insert and were held steady in the charger tray. Each charging station assessed the batteries individually and began charging within 5 – 6 seconds. The LCD screen was easy to read and made sense without any directions or instructions needed.
From the manufacturer:
- 12 channels PWM switching fast charger with MUC control; accurate voltage detection ensures no over-charging and under-charging
- 12 independent charging channels for individual charging and detection: AA & AAA, NIMH/ NICD can be mixed when charging. AA & AAA, NIMH/ NICD can be mixed when charging.
- 8 hours safety timer ensures extra safety.
- Over-heat, over-current, short-circuit, & reverse polarity protection, (mechanically) ensures that charger and batteries will not be damaged when users insert batteries with reversed polarity.
- Large LCDs indicate charging status.
- Charger comes with refresh function
- Input: 100-240v AC (Works Everywhere in the World).
- Suitable only for 1.2v AA/AAA NIMH/NICD batteries.
I really like the automatic protection built into this unit, especially the safety timer that shuts down the unit after 8-hours of operation. During testing the batteries never got hot and that is a really good thing. Heat is what damages batteries more than just about anything (operating environment) else. The unit won’t recognize damaged or fully discharged batteries which isn’t particularly good.
Foxnovo F08 –
This thing is a hunk of plastic and electronics, there is nothing sleek or compact to it. There is no fancy LCD screen to look at, simply a series of flashing status lights. When I was inserting the batteries (AA & AAA) it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. First off you have to move the spring-loaded negative contact manually to get each battery to seat in the charging cradle. And here is the stupid part…the positive contact is this little “nub” piece of metal. If you look at the positive contact on a battery it too is a little “nub” of metal. Try putting two little “nubs” together and see how that works for you! It was fairly easy to bump one battery while inserting another. Bumping a battery more than just a minimal amount and the positive “nub” contacts decontacted. Yes, decontacted is a word I made up. Once the batteries were all in-place they were fine.
From the manufacture:
- Capable of charging 8 batteries of different sizes, types and capacities at the same time; Each of the eight battery slots charges independently
- LCD indicators lights shows the charging process of every batteries
- Automatically identifies Li-ion, Ni-MH and Ni-CD rechargeable batteries.
- Automatically detects battery status and selects the appropriate voltage and charge mode. Automatically stops charging when complete
- Come with a US-plug adapter for indoor use.
- Adopts negative voltage control technology to improve charge efficiency.
- Excellent features of heat dispersion and reverse polarity protection. Protect opposite connection and short circuit, 0 voltage alarms
- Compatible with batteries: Li-ion 26650, 22650, 18650, 18500, 18490, 17670, 17650, 17500, 16340, 14500, 10440, Ni-MH and Ni-CD A, AA, AAA, C, SubC
Here’s where this unit is way cool…charging time. And no, there wasn’t any noticeable battery heat indicating that the higher charging rate was damaging the batteries.
And then there are additional cool features to this charger; 1) charges a long list of Li-ion batteries, 2) charges C, SubC, & D size batteries. That makes this unit considerably more versatile than the other units tested. If you are wondering about the Li-ion feature I can tell you that is will recharge the rechargeable version of the CR123A (RCR123A). The CR123A is a popular battery for flashlights and weapons’ optics.
The testing showed that the unit charged all the batteries of different brands and sizes in record time. It only took the unit a matter of 2 – 3 seconds to analyze the batteries current charge and begin the charging process. There is no fancy LED screen to indicate much of anything. There is a series of four lights that shows current charge. They flash to indicate that charging is taking place at a specific level (25%, 50%, 75%, & 100%). When the battery is fully charged all four yellow lights glow steady.
Periodically a blue light will flash in the upper right-hand corner on the face of the unit. I have absolutely no idea what that means. So you wonder why I didn’t refer to the instructions. Ah, there aren’t any. Yup, no instruction guide of any kind with the unit. I searched all over the Internet looking for a user guide and nothing. But, fortunately the unit is pretty simple to use…so instructions aren’t really needed.
AccuPower IQ-338 –
This unit is sleek, compact, and way more intelligent than me. Yeah, surprising…right? Seriously, this unit has a ton of options for you and your batteries. The batteries fit in this charger like a glove, very nice engineering. The LCD screen is easy to read and back-lit as well.
From the manufacturer:
- Fast Charge Li-ion or NiMH/NiCad Rechargeable batteries including most common 18650 size.
- Test Li-Ion & NiMH/NiCad cells for actual capacity.
- Automatic selection of NiMH/NiCad or Li-ion chemistry cells.
- For use with the following: NiMH/NiCad: A, AA, AAA, sub-C, C-baby size
- Li-ion: 26650, 22650, 19650 (protected 18650) 18650, 17670, 18490, 17500, 17355, 16340 (RCR123A), 14500, 10440
- With the new AccuPower IQ338 charge or test most round cell batteries. Automatic selection of NiMH/NiCad or Li-ion chemistry cells. Includes the most common 18650 cells, can accept cells up to 70mm in length. Easy to use, easy to program, informative display.
- Four independent channels programmed individually.
- Easy to read large Backlit LCD display.
- Digitally displays battery information.
- Adjustable charging rate from 300 to 1000 mA.
- Three modes of operation:
- Fast Test
- Nor Test (Normal Test)
- Delta Peak full charge detection for NiMH/NiCad cells.
- 4.2V full charge for Li-ion cells. CC/CV charge profile.
- 12V input powered and can be powered by an optional car adapter.
- Worldwide voltage switching power supply.
- Automatic detection of different battery type. NiMH/NiCad Vs Li-ion.
- Thermal sensors to protect against overheat and overcharge.
- USB charging socket. Supplies 5V 1000 mA.
So I figured out that this unit is actually a computer that also charges batteries. OK, on a more serious note, this is a great charger. However, it only has four slots for batteries. I wanted the ability to charge more batteries at one time than just four so I took some time and looked online to see if it has a bigger brother. It does, but the bigger brother is not the IC-338 with more slots, it appears to be a carbon copy of the Tenergy unit.
And unlike the Foxnovo unit, the AccuPower unit does come with instructions…very, very good instructions. It explains how to take advantage of each unit feature.
I like this unit, just wish it handled more batteries at one time. But…I really like this unit.
The latest version of this charger is the AccuPower IQ-338XL. The “XL” evidently added more battery size capability and higher charge rate which lowers the charge time.
BlueTech AV-1000 & MaximalPower FC1000 –
You might be wondering why I am grouping these two chargers together for review purposes…GREAT QUESTION!
Simple answer…they are the same unit other than a different name on them. Although there are two units being tested, I will refer to them as “unit” for the purposes of this article. I will only refer to the MaximalPower FC1000 unit since it is the only one of the two that is still readily available.
The unit solidly built, sleek, and compact. Good feel to it. The LCD was clear and easy to read.
From the manufacturer:
- FC1000 Intelligent AA/AAA Charger and Capacity Tester with USB charging port
- Battery charger for NiCd and NiMH AA and AAA rechargeable batteries
- Features 4 function modes: charge, discharge, refresh, and test
- Overheat-detection to prevent over-charging
- 4 separate LCD displays for simultaneous readouts
The unit worked as stated in the description. I liked the fact that is displayed the individual “mAH” of each battery in the LCD display. It was also nice to have a USB charger as well, especially a 1A USB charger. Only being able to charge 4 batteries at one time was a drawback. Unfortunately I couldn’t get real excited about this charger.
Ansmann PL8 –
Nice basic “brick” recharger unit. Has overcharge protection but I didn’t see any smart overheat protection, but it does have a built-in time shutoff to help prevent overheating. The 500mA charging current helps charge your batteries quickly, but it completes the charging cycle in a “trickle” mode to help ease the potential heat buildup problem.
From the manufacturer:
- For 1-8 AA/AAA (NiMH/NiCd) cells
- Discharging of the batteries before charging is possible, Multi-coloured LED indicators show the battery status for each charging slot
- Individual supervision of each cell, Multiple over-charging protection per cell and Automatic cut-off (-dV) & Trickle charging
- Faulty cell detection / accidental alkaline insertion detection
- Reverse polarity protection
Single use battery detection (i.e. alkaline batteries) prevents any chance you might accidentally try to charge the wrong types of batteries. There is a “discharge” capability to reset the battery’s memory to a fresh state. I like units with the more informative LCD displays, but this unit’s flashing light display of this charger unit gives you all the information you actually need. The USB charging port is a nice little extra.
Going back to the “trickle” charge feature. One of the nice things regarding this feature…self-discharge offset. You can leave the batteries in this charger and the trickle charge feature will keep them fully charged but not overcharge them. That will offset any self-discharge of your rechargeable batteries. And I really like that each charging port is individually monitored and each battery “smart charged” individually to its own capacity.
I would love this charger if it had 12vDC power capability but it only runs off 110vAC. And that gives it a “fail” compared to my mission statement. But, if you are looking for a 110vAC only unit…this is a great option.
SunLabz SL00056 (MOSL00056) –
This unit suspiciously looks a whole lot like the Tenergy TN160…with 4 additional battery bays.
- 16 INDEPENDENT CHARGING SLOTS – Allows you to mix and charge AA / AAA / NiCD / NiMH 1.2v rechargeable batteries.
- SMART AND SAFE – Accurate voltage detection ensures no over-charging and under-charging.
- Reverse polarity protection and 8-hour shut-off timer ensures extra safety.
- LIGHTED LCD DISPLAY – Intelligently shows the charging status of each rechargeable battery.
- 1 YEAR WARRANTY
- SAFETY WARNING: The charger should not be plugged into an outlet with batteries for extended periods of time to prevent damage. Remove the charger from the outlet once the batteries are charged and use the recommended charging times in the manual.
Each battery is charged individually based on its own state of charge. There is “discharge” capability to reset the battery’s memory to a fresh state. Nice to clear battery memory and revitalize batteries.
I don’t like that you can’t leave the charger plugged in with batteries in charger. So this tells me there is no overheat protection…and the potential for battery damage. I don’t like that this charger gets batteries fairly hot. As long as you monitor the charging process this is a decent no-frills charger. And it charges 16 batteries at once!
Comparison Chart –
Let’s clear up one thing right off the bat…The FlePow and the Tenergy chargers are made by the same company in China, SunLabz.. SunLabz simply does what’s called “private label” manufacturing. In addition to SunLabz selling their own chargers they market them to other companies such as Tenergy who then sell them under their brand.
The ability to charge the other types and sizes of batteries could prove to be a real benefit in long-term emergencies and disasters. In terms of grid-down, the ability to recharge the rechargeable CR123a batteries (RCA123A) could prove really valuable. It should be noted that I am NOT a proponent of the CR123a batteries (rechargeable or standard), I only use and recommend AA & AAA batteries.
I can’t recommend the FlePow unit because it is no loner readily available.
I can’t recommend the Foxnovo unit, it simply cooks the batteries with too much heat and is no longer readily available.
I don’t recommend the Maximal unit because…well, I just couldn’t get excited about it…something just seemed off about it.
The only reason I don’t recommend the Ansmann unit is it doesn’t have a 12vDC power option. If I was only going to use AC power this would be my #1 choice.
I liked the Tenergy unit but it is a “private label” charger unit made by SunLabz. This is a unit I use and would buy again. And yes, I put the SunLabz unit in this same category. These are not high-end chargers…but solid and get the job done.
The hands-down winner is the AccuPower IQ-338 unit!! But, I would NOT buy it. I would buy the newer version AccuPower IQ-338XL to take advantage of more battery options, etc. The only drawback is the number of batteries it charges at one time…4. But this is simply the best charger…my “go to” charger.
However………….if I was only going to use AA & AAA and an occasional C battery…AND I needed to charge more than 4 batteries I would go with the AccuPower IQ-312. That bad boy can charge up to 12 batteries at one time. It is also 4.7 star rated on Amazon. If I wanted a 16 bay charger for AA & AAA batteries and an occasional 9v I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the AccuPower IQ216.
So I own and use the Tenergy charger, the AccuPower, and the HiTech IC1012. I didn’t test/include the HiTech IC1012 in this article because the technology is 7 years old and the unit is no longer available.
Are there other good units out there? Yup! Should you buy any of them? No idea! I can only tell you my experience and what I use…and I am happy with my choices…they are all still working and doing a good job.
If you are interested in buying any of the chargers I use I will provide the links to Amazon. If you click on the link I provide I might make 1% or 2% as a finder’s fee from Amazon. Hey, every little bit helps in this day and age. If you don’t use the link that’s no issue. I hope you find that battery charger that you need and that it serves you well.
AccuPower IQ-338 $47.24 <click here to buy on Amazon>
AccuPower IQ-338XL $53.45 <click here to buy on Amazon>
AccuPower IQ-312 $37.97 <click here to buy on Amazon>
AccuPower IQ216 $32.30 <click here to buy on Amazon>
Tenergy TN160 $47.99 <click here to buy on Amazon> (you also get 12 Premium Tenergy AA rechargeable batteries)
SunLabz SL00056 $44.99 <click here to buy on Amazon>
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