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Batteries & Chargers FAQ

NiMH Battery & NiMH Battery Chargers
Frequently Asked Questions

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By Paul Schwartz, Chief Nerd at PSS Enterprises.

Question: What is the difference between Maha and PowerEx?
Answer: Maha is the company, and PowerEx is their retail brand name. I suppose that "PowerEx" is a name that simply plays better in North America.

Question: What is the warranty on the Maha PowerEx products?
Answer: Warranty is provided directly by Maha, and they have truly excellent and fast service: click here for the Maha service and support details and contact information. But their products are incredibly tough, reliable and easy to use, so it's unlikely that you'll ever need to contact them or make use of their superb service. You are of course also more than welcome to contact me for my opinion or suggestion or help. All Maha chargers are covered by a three-year limited manufacturer's warranty. All batteries have a one year limited manufacturer's warranty.

Question: Are these batteries really better than so-called "name-brand" batteries and chargers you see in stores and elsewhere on the Internet? Yes. It's why I carry them, and have been using and selling them for over 10 years. Here's what a customer had to say:
Answer: "Hi Paul, [...] The 2500's [Maha batteries] and C801D charger that you sold to me are great ... I have 6 sets of those batteries and truthfully, with 2000+ shots at a wedding (with 60-75% shot with flash), I rarely go thru all all of them. I also have 4 sets of the Energizer 2500's... they're not bad, but out of 20 batteries, I've had to toss 4 out as they stopped holding a charge. With the 40 or so batteries I've bought from you over time, well, they are still all in operation. I digress... I really appreciate you being the Canadian supplier of MAHA... I tell people about you all of the time! [...] I have also purchased "cheap" NiMH's off of eBay a few years back - they stopped holding a charge after 3-6 months so I had to toss those. Not good for my pocket book or the enviroment either. You really do get what you pay for."   
– Roël Dixon-Mahatoo, Toronto-Area Professional Photographer, Port Credit, ON, Sept. 2006.      
See Roël's Africa book, with all profits donated to charities that support and assist AIDS victims in Africa.

Question: I see other batteries with higher capacities than what Maha is selling. Why don't you carry these?
Answer: Why haven't I started carrying other brands of chargers and batteries? Actually, I've been testing some for quite a while now, but in head-to-head tests against the PowerEx models, NONE even come close to the battery capacity and charger quality of the PowerEx. I won't mention any brands in particular, but when I once tested some batteries (supplied by the manufacturer) claiming to be 2400 mAh capacity, I never saw more than 1800 mAh, while with the PowerEx 2300 mAh AA I never saw under 2000 mAh, regardless of the discharge rate! So until I find something that offers an acceptable price/performance benefit to offer you, I'm sticking with PowerEx. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

Question: Can NiMH batteries really replace Alkaline batteries in most devices?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. I use NiMH batteries in my digital cameras, Game machines (Wii Remotes, etc.), DVD/Cable/TV remotes, R/C (radio control) transmitters and cars, my kids' toys, GPS devices, and anything else that asks for AA and AAA batteries. I also sell lots of 9-volt batteries and chargers to schools, musicians and audio professionals for wireless microphone and instrument systems, and to paintball enthusiasts (the model 490 charger/battery kit was specifically made for paintball users).

Question: What kind of capacity should I expect from NiMH batteries? Will they last as long as NiCADS or Alkalines?
Answer: I've removed the run-time claims from the site (the ones you'll see on lots of other sites) because run-times and VERY variable, even with the same device. For example, flash photos use a lot more power than non-flash photos, so even on the same camera you'll never get the same number of shots. What I CAN tell you is that with the alkalines that came with my old Canon PowerShot A20 digital camera I was able to take 18 shots (mostly flash), and with first set of old 1700 mAh NiMH batteries (MUCH less than current capacities!) I got 96 with the very first charge. With my newer cameras and much higher capacity batteries I get HUNDREDS of shots from each charge. Yes, they are THAT good for high-rate applications. By "high-rate" I mean devices which need a lot of power, and need it FAST. Cycling a camera flash is one of those high-rate applications -- it takes a lot of power to get that flash ready to pop. While alkalines technically have good raw capacity, the problem is that unless you trickle that power out (such as in a small radio which uses a tiny bit of power), they just can't deliver. Another good example is Radio Control (R/C) cars which need LOTS of power to have decent acceleration. No use having 30 minutes run-time if you accelerate slowly and have a low top-speed. The old NiCAD batteries (still sometimes sold at a cheap price in stores and online) generally have about half the capacity of NiMH (which is why rechargeable batteries got such a bad rap before NiMH came along) and along with their "memory" problem they just aren't up to the task of replacing alkalines for most purposes.

Question: How long will NiMH batteries hold their charge?
Answer: Official responses vary, but in my experience, I usually see about 1% per day. So after a few months of sitting idle, expect your NiMH batteries to be down at about half of their capacity. Either way, Maha recommends recharging your batteries at least once a month even if you don't use them at all. NOT using/charging your batteries much is definitely worse for them then using them a lot! Use and charge them regularly and you should get at least 2-3 years of solid service from them, after which time it'll be worthwhile investing in newer and higher capacity batteries anyway. And if you need batteries that hold their charge longer and don't use as much power anyway (flashlights, alarms, TV remotes, etc.), then go for the Imedion batteries since they'll hold most of their charge for a year or more.

Question: What about Sanyo Eneloop style "low discharge" batteries?
Answer: YES! Maha has their Imedion batteries: their answer to Eneloops, and as usual, they've leapfrogged the competition! These are a new type of NiMH battery that hold their charge for longer periods (after a year they're supposed to have up to 85% of their charge left!). So this feature really closes the gap with alkalines, since you can use them in emergency radios and flashlights and other such devices without having to remember to charge the batteries every few months. The downside? Not much really... just slightly lower capacity. Currently about 12% lower capacity than "regular" NiMH. But for many uses where maximum power isn't required, these are clearly the way to go. I personally now use the Imedion AA and AAA in all my devices at home, and many of my professional photographer customers now use them too for their cameras and flashes... in real-life, the capacity difference does NOT seem to be very noticeable, and the knowledge that they haven't been sitting self-discharging like the regular NiMH do (after a few months the old NiMH can be dead) makes them much more reliable in my opinion. If you REALLY need the highest capacity for some devices that really sucks power then fine, but otherwise, I'd personally recommend the Imedions now. And they're fully compatible with all Maha NiMH battery chargers, so you have nothing new to buy to charge them. Check out the selection of batteries and battery/charger kits today!

Question: What about "rechargeable alkalines"?
Answer: Yuck. Have you ever noticed the thick coating of dust on these "Pure Energy" and other such items at your local Wal-Mart or hardware store? These things have not caught on for good reason. You can't recharge them many times, and they have a much higher resistance than NiMH batteries, making them useless for high power drain applications. Affordable NiMH batteries and fast, reliable and affordable chargers like the Maha PowerEx models have made rechargeable alkalines completely obsolete.

Question: Don't rechargeable batteries have a "memory" problem?
Answer: NiMH batteries do NOT have the famous "memory" problem that could affect NiCADs. In short, the memory problem associated with NiCAD batteries meant that you really needed to discharge the batteries (generally to about 0.9 volt per cell) before recharging them, otherwise their capacity could be reduced. If you do have NiCADS that you still use, the Maha C401FS charger can recharge them just fine (the new 204W is NOT rated for NiCAD batteries). Again, you do NOT need to cycle or discharge NiMH batteries -- just pop them into the charger regardless of their charge state and they'll start fast charging and you'll always have the full capacity available.

Question: Can I use my old NiCAD charger to recharge NiMH batteries?
Answer: The quick answer is NO. For fast charging it's an extra firm NO, and for slow charging, well, a new NiMH-safe slow charger is so cheap now you really should just get a new one and avoid any potential problems. NiMH batteries are very safe and tough and resistant to heat and everyday use, but better to err on the side of safety here.

Question:Which battery charger should I get?? I'm confused!
Answer: Okay, here's the short answer:

  • Get the 204W if you want a charger and batteries for your new digital camera. It's affordable, small, lightweight, works anywhere in the world, and fast. It charges 2 or 4 batteries at a time.
  • Get the 401FS if you want a great, fast, all-purpose charger kit for your home. It's great for all-around use because it has 4 independent banks, and so can charge 1, 2, 3 or 4 batteries at time, which is useful for many kids toys and GPS units that take 3 batteries. It also comes with car adapter (not an option at all with the 204W).
  • Get the 800S if you want something like the 401FS, but with a discharge feature, or that can charge more batteries. It's like having 8 separate chargers, and it can discharge/condition if this is something you're concerned with.
  • Get the 800D if you're a professional photographer. It's fast and can charge 8 batteries quickly -- great for pros who use lots of batteries and need them charged right away. Also the toughest power adapter and connect/cable, so good for business/industrial use.
  • Get the 808M if you want to charge C or D batteries. It's your only choice.
  • Get the C9000 if you're a geek or nerd and have lots of AA and/or AAA batteries and want to check them all to know exactly what their TRUE capacity is. This way you can match them up for the highest performance, and you can week out bad or dying batteries. Also a popular choice with professional photographers who need to make sure their batteries are all perfect and who can't afford to have one bad battery in a big pack reduce the performance or duration of the pack during a big job (a wedding shoot for example). This is by FAR the best-selling charger I've ever sold... the "analyze" (test) feature is really fantastic, and REALLY useful... I would HIGHLY recommend this unit over any of the others I sell.
  • Get the C1090F if you need to charge lots of 9-volt batteries for school or business use.
  • Get the 490F if you want an affordable 9-volt charger for home/paintball/individual or musical instrument use.

Question: Should I get the PowerEx C204W charger instead of the C401FS -- is there really much difference?
Answer: The C401FS is still the more "powerful" and flexible, in that it comes with a car adapter (not even an option with the 204W since the adapter is built in), it has a "slow charger" switch for gentler treatment of older batteries, it can still charge any old NiCADs you might be using (the 204W is only rated for NiMH), and most of all, it can charge 1, 2, 3 or 4 batteries at a time, whereas the 204W can only charge in pairs. This last feature is sometimes a "deal breaker" if you were thinking of the 204W but have devices that take 1 or 3 batteries at a time. Again, one of the nicest new features of the C401FS is its ability to charge 1, 2, 3, or 4 batteries at a time, as opposed to only pairs in the C204W. Doesn't seem like a big deal until you buy that new gadget that takes 3 batteries (which is becoming all too common), then dealing with the C204W can be frustrating. This feature means that the C401FS charger actually acts like 4 separate chargers, because you can start and any combination of batteries in any of the positions at any time: you can charge AA, AAA, NiCAD and NiMH in any combination, and at any time, completely independent of each other. VERY flexible and convenient! So considering how long you'll probably live with the charger, it could probably worth the small extra cost (a year from now you'll most likely wish you'd have spent the extra money). So why buy the 204W? Well, it's really the ideal kit for use with a digital camera, especially if you are planning to travel, because the 204W really is smaller and lighter, and there is no annoying external power adapter (the power "brick" as it's sometimes called) -- just a cord to plug in directly. If you really don't use or plan to use rechargeable batteries in lots of other devices and want something mainly for your new digital camera (especially if you're planning on travelling overseas where the universal 110-220 integrated adapter will come in handy), then the 204W is an excellent charger and a real bargain and you're sure to be very pleased.

Question: What about using my charger overseas?
Answer: All the Maha chargers I sell now come with lightweight international power adapters which are auto-switching, automatically adjusting to any power system in any country that supplies power in the range of 100-240V, 47-63Hz, which means that it works just about anywhere in the world. These are also MUCH smaller and lighter than the old 110V adapters because they use a more modern and efficient "switching" power supply (like those used in modern computers). If you're travelling, the only thing you'll need to add is a plug adapter (like the TC-400 kit in the Maha Accessories section) to adjust the US/Canada style plug to the plugs (large spades, circular, etc.) that are common in other countries. These are affordable and also commonly available from most travel, electronics and airport shops. You do NOT need (and should not use) a voltage adapter -- JUST the plug (spade) adapter!

Question: Is there any application where NiMH batteries aren't useful?
Answer: Keeping in mind the information above, I will say that these days it's VERY rare to come across something that won't work with NiMH batteries. I now VERY rarely hear about any such device (especially any brand-name device from a reputable supplier). Regular (non-Imedion) NiMH batteries don't hold their charge as long as alkalines (they'll gradually lose their charge over a few months), so it didn't make practical or economic sense, for example, to put rechargeable batteries in an emergency flashlight that just sits on top of your fridge for six months at a time, but now with the Imedion Ultra-Low-Discharge batteries, you also have an excellent rechargeable solution for these devices too!

Question: How many times can NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries be recharged?
Answer: The official word from the manufacturers is "500 to 1000 times". In real life, this means "a LONG time." Unlike NiCAD batteries which seem to lose capacity with each charge, I rarely see a drop with my NiMH batteries, though of course they too will eventually konk out, but only long after you've saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars over buying (and filling land fills with) alkaline disposable batteries. Generally speaking, you should get a good 2 to 3 years from your NiMH batteries before they stop holding a charge. Again, after 2 years, they will have clearly paid for themselves many times over, so don't worry about it, and just use the opportunity to get some new higher capacity batteries anyway since there will generally be a bump in capacity at least once a year (when I first bought my own NiMH AA they were at 1600 mAh; now they're at 2700 mAh!) This doesn't mean that batteries 3 years or older won't work, but they might simply be more useful in non-critical applicationsn (I use my really old NiMH batteries in my TV, DVD, and stereo remote controls).

Question: Why are you selling these? And what's with your web site and business name – isn't your business called PSS Enterprises?
Answer: I'm such a gadget nerd that I use a TON of batteries (for example, radio control transmitters take 8 AA batteries each) and you just can't find good NiMH batteries and chargers at reasonable prices here in Canada, so I thought I'd give it a try. I originally chose "GadgetNerd.com" because "PSSenterprises.com" was really boring, and also because I AM a gadget nerd in that I love researching new gadgets and technology and I find that friends and family are often coming to me to ask for purchasing advice for everything from computers to cameras. They know that if I happen to have researched the item they want to buy then THEY won't have to bother (most people are NOT nerds and DON'T like to research gadgets like me) and they'll be happy with the quality and value of their purchase. So I decided to apply the same philsophy to my web business and only sell quality products which I think are of high quality and the best value, regardless of the profit margin. I ran the GadgetNerd.com site for over 2 years before finally getting serious about expanding beyond just electronic gadgnets, hence the PaulsFinest.com site. If I think something's junk I'll say so and won't sell it to you.

Question: Why should I trust you with my hard-earned cash?
Answer: I've been running honest and fun web sites since the early days of the web (I ran a gopher server before my first web server!), and you can see my extensive and long-running Concertina.net web site (I'm an amateur musician) where I've developed an excellent reputation while earning the trust of thousands of people from around the world.

Battery symbols and terminologies.

"mAh": Stands for mili-ampere hours. It measure the capacity of the batteries. For example, a 1000mAh capacity means that the batteries will last for 1 hour if subjected to a 1000mA discharge current.

"V": Stands for voltage. It measure the power of the batteries. For NiMH (and NiCAD) batteries, this is 1.2V. For alkaline batteries it's 1.5V. This is very rarely an issue, as most devices have a wide operating voltage range.

"C": "C" defines the rate at which a battery is charged or discharged. It is the capacity obtained from a new battery subjected to a constant-current discharge at room temperature. For example, draining a battery at 1C means to drain the capacity of a cell completely in one hour. Likewise, draining a battery at 0.2C means discharge a battery in 5 hours. For nickel-metal hydride cells, the rated capacity is normally determined at a discharge rate that fully depletes the cell in five hours, or 0.2C.

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