Toys are tops on most holiday wish lists for kids, but the batteries are just as important. They make the toys sing, spin, and shake.
To find out which battery lasts the longest, Consumer Reports tested batteries in digital cameras and we tested batteries in toy monkeys and flashlights. One battery came out on top.
We asked viewers what they thought of batteries, and we heard from a lot of frustrated consumers. "Pay more for batteries than the game," Lindasue Zambach wrote on Facebook.
Charlotte Sears-Mihal wrote, "I'm so tired of buying batteries! I'm amazed that with all the technology we have, SOMEONE hasn't come up with something else."
Tim Redwine wrote, "My batteries die everyday. So expensive."
To deal with all this battery burnout, we tested the top selling AA battery. For 3 weeks, we tested flashlights and toy monkeys that move and make noise.
"I have bought so many batteries that it probably would have been cheaper to just buy my sons both cars & made them wait for that 'toy,'" Kathy Miller said.
We compared our results with testing at Consumer Reports.
"We have a protocol that is designed to use these cameras in a way that mimics average use," Consumer Reports lab tech, Jeremy Wright said.
Battery makers said their claims are backed by industry testing known as ANSI, or American National Standards Institute. According to Rayovac, AA batteries are run through nine tests including a digital camera, toy, toothbrush, remote and radio.
Rayovac said devices can vary as much as 20 percent among units of the same make and model.
In ANSI testing, the power is drained intermittently to more accurately reflect the way people use the device. Battery makers said this also accommodates for the design of alkaline batteries, which is not for continuous high-drain use.
In our unscientific test, we chose five AA brands. We tested Rayovac, Duracell Coppertop, Duracell Ultra Advanced, Energizer Max and Energizer Advanced Lithium.
We loaded the batteries into 25 of the same flashlights -- 5 per battery brand -- ran our test twice, and averaged our results.
In our flashlight tests, Rayovac's alkaline battery was consistent and less expensive.
While Rayovac took last place in our flashlight test, the company said ANSI testing shows Rayovac delivers the same performance as other national brands.
In Consumer Reports test, Rayovac earned a "good" ranking.
Batteries perform differently in monkey test
In our toy monkey test, all the batteries performed better. Some performed better than others. Rayovac jumped two spots, going from last place in our flashlight test to third in our toy monkey test.
In our test, Energizer Max ranked third in our flashlight test and second in our monkey test.
There's one battery that never changed its ranking. The Energizer Advanced Lithium earned the top spot in all our tests.
Lithium always tops in our test
On average, the Advanced Lithium lasted almost 3 hours longer than any other battery. The Advanced Lithium also scored high in Consumer Reports tests. You just have to look past the price.
You just get a lot more use out of one pair, even though they might cost you more initially," Wright said.
We paid $1.74 per lithium battery, compared with less than a dollar for all the others we tested.
While lithiums performed well in all our tests, Consumer Reports said be careful which one you buy. The Energizer Advanced took 809 photos in their test. The Energizer Ultimate took just 470 pictures. That's a big difference in power, but Consumer Reports said the price they paid was about the same.
While lithium is tops, Consumer Reports said it shouldn't be used in every product.
"Something that is used infrequently and takes only a small amount of current is where alkaline might be better, for example, remote controls or your clock," Wright said.
Different products yield different results
Our testing found batteries perform differently in every device. For example, Consumer Reports named the Duracell Ultra Advanced the top alkaline battery in its digital camera test.
But in our tests, the Duracell Ultra Advanced performed worse than the cheaper Duracell Coppertop. Our testing was different. We let the devices run continuously, whereas Consumer Reports gave the cameras a break in between snapping photographs.
It all depends on what you're powering up, and how much you want to spend.
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