Sure, shopping for electronics is no picnic. You drive to a store so large its visible from space and wander the maze-like aisles until you find what you need. But at least theres a clerk or two there to help you—often poorly informed and commission-motivated, but its help nonetheless.
Shop for batteries, though, and youre on your own. People usually buy batteries from grocery or drugstore racks. Asking a clerk which battery is best for your digital camera will probably earn you only a glazed look and a shrug.
This lack of information is really too bad, because given the way battery lines have been expanding in recent months consumers could use some direction. Suddenly, each of the big three battery makers—Duracell, Energizer, and Panasonic—is touting long-life batteries tailor-made for electronics.
Do they really perform better? Do they deliver enough extra juice to justify their higher price tags? And are they easy to find at the corner drugstore?
With cash in hand, I set out to survey several local stores and scoop up their best batteries, then put them to the test during days of sightseeing and shooting on a conveniently timed trip to San Francisco.
Once back home, I put them through further paces with an additional high-drain device (a battery-sucking portable television) and a low-drain test using a cheap flashlight.
First things first: If I was going to test the crème de la crème of long-life batteries, I needed to know what average batteries could do. I picked up some basic Duracell and Energizer alkalines, as well as RadioShack and IKEA store brands.