Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Turbo DV8

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Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

So I picked up one of Duracell's Power gauge chargers ($20) to see if it would be suitable to lighten some of the more menial, strictly charging chores from my two BC-900's. It advertises four individual charge status indicators, and "safety protections & microprocessor controls." It sounded like a smart charger, so I thought why not try it. Just for fun, I also picked up a Duracell "Value Charger" for about $16. Although the Value charger package info suggests individual indicators, which might suggest individual monitoring also, upon removing the product from package and seeing behind the piece of advertising paper which blocks direct view of the front of the charger while in the package, there is in fact only one indicator, so I didn't even bother trying it out. If you like nice owner's manuals, you won't like the instructions which come with these chargers, unless you call the odd-shaped thin carboard packaging sleeve an owner's manual, because that is where the instructions reside for all posterity. I will mention briefly my initial thoughts on the Power gauge, but my main discovery was the huge difference in the quality of the cells which are included with each charger.

OK, Power Gauge ... Each bay has three red charge status LED's, and one green "charge complete" LED. The back of unit says 400 mA x 4. Back of package says "charges in 4 hours." I am thinking "not" on both counts. Even four 2000 mAh cells with a good bit of charge remaining took 6-7 hours to "top off." When inserted in the charger, only the first LED lit up for the first 2-4 hours. This happened repeatedly with other cells. It tops the cells off nicely, as determined after the fact with a capacity run on the BC-900. Can't determine the termination voltage, since there is absolutely no room to sneak a probe onto the positive charger contacts. I tried sneaking a thin strip of aluminum foil between the positive cell contact and charger contact when inserting the cell, but the charger wasn't having anything to do with that. It would not even initialize the cell, giving a flashing error reading on the LED. Same with trying to measure the current. Can't sneak an ammeter into the works without the charger noticing and crying "FOUL!" So the longer-than-advertised charge times could be either the charger holding peak voltage for a very long time, or a lower-than-advertised 400 mA rate. In either case, the bays do seem to charge, monitor and terminate independently, which is nice. The clear, smoke-colored cell cover is slotted for ventilation, and will also stay fully open, or if you like, even half-open (has a detent.)

Now for testing the included cells. "Why bother?", one might ask. Because it's fun to do on the BC-900? Get this: the Value charger comes with 1800 mAh cells. The Power Gauge comes with 1700 mAh cells that look identical except for the rating. I ran an initial test on the four 1700 cells on one BC-900, and the 1800's on the other BC-900. The 1700's blow the 1800's out of the water! On a top-off, 350 mA discharge, and 700 mA charge, the 1800's capacities were all over the board, as low as 1300 mAh and the others nowhere near rated capacity. I then put them through a refresh, and after several cycles, they struggled and managed to almost hit their rated capacity, but some still seemed weaker on the discharge under load. One might consider this all to be normal for cheap NiMH cells sitting unused in a package for who knows how long. But check out the 1700 mAh cells! Even on the initial test (top-off/discharge/charge) all four 1700 cells ran neck-to-neck, finishing at between 2200-2260 mAh! A subsequent refresh terminated after the second charge, with no increase in capacity. Not that I expected it! Hell, I'm happy enough that they are putting out 29-33% above rated capacity. It's just amazing to me that the 1700's can test together so evenly and have such abundant capacity, while supposed identical cells rated 100 mAh higher, are such dogs in every respect. The difference was so dumbfounding, I even questioned if perhaps there was a discrepancy between my two BC-900's, so I ran the test again, putting the 1700 & 1800 cells in opposite BC-900's, but the final cell results remained the same regardless of which BC-900 I used. (It is worth noting that some question if the v33 charges/reads the same level as the v32. The two BC-900's I use are composed of one v32 and one v33, so this is a testimony to how evenly the two versions charge.)

Anyway, just some fun with battery chargers.
 
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lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Hey Turbo - nice information. I bought the Duracell Power-Gauge charger a while back, because it seemed like an individual channel charger, which it is, for less than $20.

But mine came with the 1700 AA cells, not the 1800's like you say yours did. (Maybe you got them mixed up?)

Anyways, I noticed the same things you did. The charging times were longer than listed, but since it individually charges and with individual indicators, I thought, "who cares?"

But those 1700 AA cells. I popped them freshly charged into my SLPPL at 1.38v across the board. And I used the light. And used it. And used it some more, to the extent of wondering if these little 1700's were ever going to quit. They were running like my 2500's, I couldn't believe it. I OCV tested the cells a couple times along the way, and saw they were discharging EXACTLY the same, all through the cycle. The light finally dimmed when all the cells registered 1.16v. I was very impressed with these cells.

So much so, that I started looking for Duracell 1700's at any electronics place I happened upon, without any luck. They even had that little "HR" stamped on the negative side, that I've read was a "good" thing.

From your evaluations, I see why these 1700 cells are performing so well. Its too bad they only come with the Power-Gauge charger.
Thanks for your interesting post:) I enjoyed reading it.
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Yes, you are correct that I confused myself in my last sentence, which I just deleted.

Ha, I didn't even look for the coveted "HR" stamp on my cells, so I just checked. The 1700's that ran like 2200+ are stamped with "HR". I reopened the Value Charger I am going to return and looked at the 1800's that were real dogs, and they do NOT have the "HR" stamp! All my other strongest runners (Sony, Sanyo, Panasonic) all have the "HR" stamp, and conversely all my weakest runners do not have the "HR" stamp. I tend to find that Japanese cells, which almost always have the HR stamp, run very strong, whereas the Chinese cells are more variable and unimpressive. These Duracell 1700's have the HR stamp and are made in China! So, I don't know what is exactly Holy Grail about the HR stamp, but there appears to be a direct connection, since these made-in-China cells with the HR stamp can put out 33% above rated capacity.

As far as finding the 1700 cells for sale separately on the shelf, it does not surprise me at all that they are nowhere to be found. The 1700 mAh cells included with the charger are window dressing, basically a giveaway. They are yesterdays news. More like two or three years ago news, in terms of rated capacity. With current "capacities" steadily approaching 3000 mAh, if they put 1700's beside them on the shelf they wouldn't sell a single one! To the general masses, a high number on the box is what sells, regardless of actual performance. Think about it - the vast majority of consumers don't have a C9000 or BC-900, so wouldn't have a clue if the claim is valid or not. Big numbers are what sell!
 
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NiOOH

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

The "HR" stamp on negative pole means that the se cells are made by Sanyo. I have 4 of these labeled as Sanyo and made in China. I purchased them recently to replace my 2500 IG Sanyos. They are very good cells. I also have 4 1600 mAh cells labeled as Kodak and also made by Sanyo that run strong after 5 (that's five!) years of moderate to heavy use.
Currently, I have phased out all of my high capacity cells, switching to Eneloops, 1700 and 2100 mAh Sanyos
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Thre's just no way this thing charges at 400 mA! It takes upwards of eight hours to charge 2000 mAh cells, and even cells with slight discharge take at least two hours. It would be nice to know if it is just charging at a lower rate, or if it is not terminating soon enough and frying the cells, but there's no way to reach the contacts for voltage testing while charging. Anybody else underwhelmed by this Duracell Power Gauge charger?
 

lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

I'm having my suspicions about this charger, although I haven't used it very much.

One thing I have noticed, is when charging any number of cells, is that at the 2 hour mark (mine continually at 1h.59m.), is when the second LED indicator lights up, above the original indicator light. No matter the size or capacity of the cell. This kind of seems like a timer. I have yet to put a fully charged cell in it to see when it terminates.

But after that, the indicators seem to change at different times.

It definitely charges way slower than advertised, but it will do 1,2 ,3 or 4 at a time, which is a plus. (But so do my better chargers.)

Maybe a call to Duracell C.S. is in order. But usually the reps know very little about the product, and give genaric answers.
 

lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Update - I went ahead and charged up the four excellent performing Duracell 1700 mAh cells that were included with this Power Gauge charger.

Three were used heavily and were ready for recharging. The fourth was charged a month ago and has sat idle since. It OCV tested at 1.30v. All cells were put on the charger at the same time.

Results - this charger finished charging the idle cell in under an hour, with all LED indicator lights completely lit up. It OCV'd @ 1.44v. It was barely warm.

The other 3 finished charging in right around 4 hours, all within minutes of each other ( I monitored the indicator lights.) They all OCV'd @ 1.42v. Pretty much exactly as the packaging info stated they would.

Conclusions - not bad for under $20. Individual channel charging with individual indicators. Available at local Brick and Mortars, (Wal*Mart,Target.) Decent back-up charger.:grin2:
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

I don't seem to be getting such predictable results from mine. I will run the same test on my 1700's after I discharge two of them.
 

lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

I hear you. That last time I used this charger was the only time it operated close to specs.

Previously, it seemed to be way slow. That makes it a little more confusing. Certainly it wouldn't need a "break-in" period. Its either going to work or not.

I'll try different cells next time and post results.
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

I ran a test with two completeley discharged cells, and two which were slightly self-discharged over the course of two weeks, both the 1700 cells included with the charger. On one hand this thing seems to charge independently, on the other, it sometimes acts like timer. The nearly full cells hit full charge in under an hour, while, like your results, the discharged cells lit up the second LED within seconds of each other, at exactly 1:59, and took over five hours to terminate. At this point I don't know what to make of this charger, other than it is and isn't completely independent! I'm not sure I even want to keep it, if i don't know for sure if it is overcharging or not, but then I hate to return those perfectly matched, hot-ticket 1700 cells!
 

lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Thats exactly the way I feel! - I hate to return those overachieving 1700 cells!

Thats interesting about the 1hr.59m. change of indicators. Whats up? And then it seems to charge independently. This charger definitely gives confusing results. I'll try some different cells soon.

Also, I checked my receipt; I've got until April 3 before it expires. By then, I'll hopefully have come to some type of conclusion about this charger. If not, I may just have to return it.
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

OK, despite initial high hopes that this charger might be an overachieving underdog for it's price, I am ready to return it with nary a rearward glance. I purchased another one today to test it to make sure that at least if my first one was giving inconsistent results, at least perhaps it was consistent in it's inconsistency. They are. I took four fully charged identical cells, discharged two to the tune of about 400 mAh, and the other two to slightly more than 1 Ah, then placed all four in my second charger and monitored them. All four stayed at one LED illuminated for exactly 120 minutes, at which time all four bays switched to two LED's illuminated within a span of five seconds. At about three hours charge time, all four bays then lit up the third LED within a few more seconds. They are still charging right now, but if the results from the first charger are any indication, I expect all four cells to terminate nearly simultaneously. The fact that the charger is indicating charge advancement equally on cells of differing initial states of charge, and the fact that the cell with only 400 mAh drain is still charging at a supposed 400 mA rate for over 4.5 hours now, makes it clear to me that this charger is not living up to either it's advertised ability to monitor cell charge truly independently, or it's claimed charge rate, respectively. It's strange because under certain circumstances, although I am not certain what those might be, it sometimes does appear that this charger is somewhat acting like it has independent control, but mostly not.

So, for me it is time to return these and move on. The next hopeful barn-burner deal in battery charger might be the AngelEyes for $20, a BC-900 wannabe, but add shipping from China and it approaches the cost of the BC-900, so why bother. If and when someone gets a hold of one and it performs well, if a group buy or some other mass order could alleviate the shipping hit, we may have a winner.
 
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lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

You know, you're right. Why babysit a charger. This charger is consistently inconsistent. Takes the fun out of using the charger (for us chargerholics.)

Especially based on your latest observations; this charger seems like a bust! I noticed yours changed "within a span of five seconds" at the 2 hr. mark. And with differing cell capacities. On my charger, the second LED indicators were lighting up exactly at 119 min. All of them. No differential. Sure seems like a timer.

I haven't used it since it performed up to specs. I'll try it again and see what happens. Any inconsistency, it'll be returned. This is a new product, and maybe Duracell has to work out the "kinks."
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

lumenal said:
This is a new product, and maybe Duracell has to work out the "kinks."


I was thinking more along the lines of, "Look at us! We'll put in a separate series of LED's for each bay, so we can advertise that it has independent cell monitoring!" Then they threw in the timer and called it a day...
 

lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Probably so. I took another look at the packaging and it states," four independent charge status indicators", NOT individual charging channels. Technically, just because the indicators are independent, it doesn't have to mean individual, independent charging channels. They could certainly be connected to a timer.

I'll try this charger again, and if I find sub-par performance, I'll return it. I see the C-9000 is now being touted as "new and improved." Maybe I'll put the 20+ bucks towards one...:grin2:
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

lumenal said:
Probably so. I took another look at the packaging and it states," four independent charge status indicators", NOT individual charging channels. Technically, just because the indicators are independent, it doesn't have to mean individual, independent charging channels.


But right below that statement is the claim, "Safety protections and microprocessor controls." Those are plural, not singular, along with independent charge status indicators. What else should a buyer assume other than independent microprocessor charging control? But then, we know that Duracell lied about the charge rate, too, don't we? Yeah, we're definitely better off applying the spare change toward something that actually works somewhat!
 

LGCubana

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

I'm glad that I found this review. As I was ready to buy. I figured $20 for 4 independant channels; what's not to like ?

I went with the Sony BCG-34HRMF4, instead. Unfortunately the included 2700 mah batteries do not have the HR stamp.
 

Turbo DV8

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value chargers

Here's an update on these 1700 mA/h cells. I did a 30 day self-discharge test today. Charged them up 30 days ago, and discharged them at 350 mA today. Recall how when freshly charged, these bad boy 1700 mA/h cells were returning 2200-2260 mA/h on the BC-900. Some skeptics said this was artificially high due to the way the BC-900 does not let the cells rest between cycles, and also the fact that it bases capacity on a discharge to 0.9 volt instead of 1.0 volt. So for that rowdy crowd, I discharged four cells today at 350 mA until the voltage read 1.0 volt. After 30 days sitting on the shelf, these humble Duracell 1700 mA/h cells returned between 1780-1810 mA/h! Not only are they matched within 2% of each other, they are putting out about 5% above and beyond their rated capacity after 30 days of self-discharge! 60 day self-discharge test soon to come.
 
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cave dave

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value char

Dang I wrote up a long reply and lost it when my connection went down.

Anyway the short story is 99% of smart chargers terminate based on the change in voltage over time. Smart charges can't predict what time in the future this is going to happen. They just wait till the Voltage peaks then terminate. So it make sense the 1st 3 indicators are timer based, since most people are going to be charging depleted batteries. What do you expect for $20.

Smart yes, Brilliant no. :sick2:

*Edit* Some info on charge methods:
http://www.mpoweruk.com/chargers.htm
Its a good read, but incorrect in that most NimH charges do not terminate on Temp. The temp sensors if any are usually used as a last resort cuttoff.
 
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lumenal

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Re: Huge difference between 1700 & 1800 Duracell AA's incl. w/ Power Gauge/Value char

Well said cave dave.

And thanks for that informative link.
 
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