Tired of slow, clunky chargers and endless waiting? Buy a better charger and get your batteries powered up fast.
We all know that rechargeable batteries are less wasteful and better, in the long-term, for both the planet and your wallet. All the same, it’s always a pain when they run out of juice. Traditional battery chargers can take hours to bring them back to life, which is bad news at the best of times and a nightmare when you need them in a hurry. And if being slow wasn’t bad enough, many old-school battery chargers are surprisingly chunky, which isn’t a problem when you’re using them at home, but an issue if you’re packing them for a weekend break or holiday.
Fortunately, you’re no longer stuck with a bog-standard battery charger. New models offer much faster charging – even charging some batteries within an hour – along with smart charging displays, safety features, compact designs, USB charging and more. So ditch that basic charger and get your batteries refuelled in style.
How to choose the best battery charger for you
What should you look for in a battery charger?
All the battery chargers on test are designed to charge standard NiMH and older NiCad batteries in the most common AA, AAA and 9v formats. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in these sizes are still a fairly new phenomenon, and usually need a specific charger or USB charging cable.
The most significant thing that marks out one charger against another is its charging speed. Slower, cheaper chargers are usually labelled as overnight chargers, taking somewhere between six and nine hours to charge a set of AA batteries. Fast or rapid chargers work at much higher speeds, taking anywhere from four hours to under an hour to charge your batteries. This requires more technology to manage the voltage and ensure the batteries don’t overcharge or get too hot. As a result, they come with a higher price tag.
Watch out when comparing super-fast chargers, as the times stated might only apply to a specific size of battery with a specific capacity, not the 2,300mAh AAs you have in mind.
The other thing to look for is the design and how the charger gets its power. Some chargers plug directly into a mains socket with the batteries sitting upright, while others have the batteries sitting flat and connect through a separate mains cable. A growing number now charge through a micro USB socket, meaning you can plug the charger into any standard USB charger, or even your laptop and PC. This makes them especially compact and convenient and ideal for taking on a trip.
Is there anything else worth watching out for?
Batteries and battery chargers sold in the UK have to satisfy UK safety regulations, but it’s worth looking out for chargers with additional features that prevent overcharging or overheating, and that slow down the rate of charging to a trickle once the batteries near a full charge. NiMH and NiCad batteries don’t pose the same risks as lithium ion batteries, where there’s a chance of a thermal runaway causing an explosion or a fire, but you don’t want damaged batteries or a damaged charger if you can avoid it.
We’re also seeing some new chargers that provide more information on the status of the batteries they’re charging, usually on a simple backlit LCD display. This isn’t critical – the old systems of flashing red and green indicators work well enough – but if you want to know if a battery doesn’t seem to be charging properly or an indication of how long it’s going to take, then it doesn’t seem to add much to the cost.
Any tips for charging?
It’s usually fine to mix batteries of different sizes within the same charger, but you should avoid mixing batteries of different types (such as NiCad and NiMH), different voltages and capacities or old and new batteries. If you do, there’s a risk of damaging the batteries or affecting their capacity long-term. The risks are lower with chargers that charge batteries individually in slots, rather than the usual pairs, but overall it’s best to charge and use batteries of the same type, capacity and brand together, at the same time.
In some cases, you’ll only get the fastest charging times when you pair a charger with batteries from the same manufacturer, though in our tests the difference isn’t huge.
How we test battery chargers
We test battery chargers using a pair of drained Energizer 2,000mAh AA batteries, timing how long it takes for the charger to top up the batteries to full capacity. We also test charging speeds with four or eight AA batteries, depending on the charger, and with two 850mAh AAA batteries. With 9V battery chargers, we use one or two 280mAh 9V batteries. We also test whether the charger can cope with single batteries, and look at the build quality of the unit, the clarity of any charge display, and whether it becomes hot during charging.
Read next: Best rechargeable AA and AAA batteries
The best battery chargers you can buy in 2023
1. Duracell 45 Minutes Hi-Speed Charger: Best all-round charger
Price when reviewed: £38 | Check price at AmazonDuracell’s high-speed charger plugs straight into the wall socket and comes with two AA and two AAA batteries. You might want to take the 45-minute claims with a pinch of salt – that’s to get the two 1,300mAh AA batteries up to 85% or the two 750mAh AAA batteries to three-quarters capacity – but we could still charge a pair of 2,000mAh AA batteries in 72 minutes. Duracell also scores points for the slimline design, and for the simple but effective LED indicators which flash red when you start charging, then flash green when the batteries are ready to use, then go solid green when they’re fully charged. There are even speedier chargers around, but this one’s easy to use and great value.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 2-4xAA, 2-4x AAA; Power source: 240V mains; Charging status indicators: 2x red/green LED; Fast charging: 45 minutes; Dimensions: 85 x 47 x 52mm; Weight: 108g
2. Panasonic Eneloop BQ-CC55: Best smart battery charger
Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at AmazonIf you’re splashing out on the best rechargeable batteries then it makes sense to get the charger to go with them, and the BQ-CC55 is up to the task. It’s a little more expensive than rivals, but it’s packed with useful features, checking and charging each cell individually to power it up efficiently while avoiding any damage or overheating. It will even flash red or amber when a battery is inserted, to let you know if you need to think about replacing it.
It isn’t as fast as the Duracell or Energizer models, taking just over 90 minutes to charge our 2,000mAh batteries and around two hours to top up a pair of the bundled Eneloop Pro AAs; but it’s very flexible, handling one to four AA or AAA rechargeables in any combination. We also like the informative indicators, which turn amber in the 20% to 80% charged range, green when they hit 80%, and then off when the battery is fully charged. Mix epic battery life with efficient charging, and you have one of the safest and more reliable chargers around.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 1-4x AA, 1-4x AAA; Power source: 240V mains; Charging status indicators: 4x red/amber/green LED; Fast charging: 45 minutes to 2 hours; Dimensions: 68 x 120 x 28mm; Weight: 120g
3. HiQuick SW-8N charger with 8x AA batteries: Best value 8-slot battery charger
Price when reviewed: £9.99 | Check price at AmazonBattery chargers don’t get much cheaper or more cheerful than the HiQuick SW-8N, which you can pick up solo for a tenner, or with eight high-capacity 2,800mAh AA batteries for £25. The eight slots work independently, and you can mix different sizes and capacities together, while the clear LED indicators make you aware when the batteries are charging and when they’re full. It charges from a USB socket via the micro-USB cable provided, and there’s overcharge and overheat protection to stop the unit or the batteries heating up.
The SW-8N is a neat, compact and well-built 8-way charger, but it isn’t much of a speed demon, taking just under three and a half hours to charge our 2,000mAh test batteries. However, it isn’t noticeably slower charging eight batteries than it is charging two, and 850mAh AAA batteries charge in under 90 minutes. Don’t make it your top option if you’re always in a rush, but it’s a champ when it comes to value for money.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 1-8x AA, 1-8x AAA; Power source: 5V Micro USB; Charging status indicators: 8x red/green LED; Fast charging: 2 hours to 4.5 hours; Dimensions: 84 x 127 x 30mm; Weight: 103g
4. Panasonic Eneloop BQ-CC63: Best charger for bulk charging
Price when reviewed: £33 | Check price at 7dayshopThere are just two things we don’t like about the BQ-CC63: the price, which is a bit off-putting when no batteries are bundled, and the indicators, which blink when the batteries are being inspected, but then just glow green until charging has completed. Otherwise, it’s a brilliant charger, effortlessly charging one to eight AA or AAA batteries in any combination, with no speed penalty for charging four, six or even eight at once.
Sure, it’s no speed demon, with charging times running from two and a half hours for 650mAh AAAs to nearly six hours for a set of 2,550mAh AAs, but it’s great to be able to fuel up eight AAs in just under five hours. What’s more, the charger works with US and European voltages as well as 240V, so as long as you have a Figure-8 mains cable for wherever you’re going, the BQ-CC63 can travel with you. Throw in safety cut-outs and a five-year warranty, and you’ve got one of the best options out there for charging a whole bunch of batteries at once.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 1-8x AA, 1-8x AAA; Power source: 100-240V Mains; Charging status indicators: 8x red/amber/green LED; Fast charging: 2.5 to 6 hours; Dimensions: 147 x 119 x 28mm; Weight: 240g
5. HiQuick C9026 LCD Battery Charger: Best high-speed USB charger
Price when reviewed: £22 | Check price at Amazon
This fast charger ships with four AA and four AAA batteries for less than £20, with a choice of micro USB and USB Type-C power inputs to ensure it works with just about every plug going (though only a USB Type-A to micro USB cable is provided). It’s small enough to make a decent travel charger, and both AA and AAA batteries clip in securely. Meanwhile, the clear green LCD panel gives you a good indication of charging status and any detected battery faults.
There’s no support for the latest, fastest USB charging speeds, so don’t expect a lightning-quick charge; but we found a pair of 2,000mAh AA batteries charged in just over two hours, while the supplied 2,800mAh AAs charged in just under three. However, you can roughly double these times if you’re charging four batteries at once. As a bonus, the batteries come in their own cases, making them easier to carry around and store. HiQuick also makes an 8-slot version, the C9027, which offers fantastic value either with or without the bundled AA and AAA batteries.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 2-4x AA, 2-4x AAA; Power source: 5V micro USB or USB Type-C; Charging status indicators: LCD Panel; Fast charging: 2.5-6 hours; Dimensions: 68 x 80 x 27mm; Weight: 60g
6. Energizer Recharge 1 Hour Charger: Best one hour charger
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at AmazonWhen Energizer calls a charger a one hour charger, it means it: this one refuelled our test 2,000mAh batteries in just 52 minutes. It’s not quite as neat as the Duracell model, as it needs a separate 16v AC wall adapter, but it’s still fairly small and unobtrusive, and it comes with four 2,300mAh batteries. There are no individual charging indicators, but we rather like the large, four-segment panel that tells you how your four AA or AAA batteries are charging as a whole, and there’s an automatic cut-off if you want to leave the charger unattended. And while the batteries can get warm during the charging process, they never get seriously hot. If you need your batteries charged fast and an hour is all you can stand to wait, this is the best in the business.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 2-4x AA, 2-4x AAA; Power source: 16V AC adapter; Charging status indicators: LCD charging indicator; Fast charging: 1 hour; Dimensions: 109 x 89 x 20mm; Weight: 390g
7. HiQuick 2-slot 9V Battery Charger: Best 9V battery charger
Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at AmazonWhile AA and AAA batteries are the most-used rechargeables, there are still plenty of devices out there that use chunky, oblong 9V batteries, including radios, handheld test equipment, toys, and guitar effects units and pedals. We wouldn’t recommend rechargeables in smoke alarms or CO detectors, but if you want to keep your 9V rechargeables refuelled then you won’t do better than this HiQuick 2-slot charger. It comes with a pair of 280mAh NiMH batteries which it will charge in roughly 3 hours, and will charge from a standard USB charger over micro USB or USB Type-C. With built-in over-charge, over-voltage and over-heat protection it’s safe to use, and the screen updates you on your battery status while also identifying any duds.
Key specs – Batteries charged: 2x 9V; Power source: 5V micro USB or USB Type-C; Charging status indicators: LCD charging indicator; Fast charging: 2.5-3 hour; Dimensions: 103 x 90 x 33mm; Weight: 71g