Well it looks like there is a new sheriff in town, it’s the CR123 Lithium Ion battery. Ok, it may not be THAT new but compared to the venerable “AAA” and “AA” Alkaline its a relative newcomer. At first I was resistant but now count me in as the newly converted.
My thought process went like this, I have a bunch of gadgets that use the alkaline “A” style (AA, AAA) batteries. They are easy to find, affordable and I can get them at Costco. I will therefore avoid buying devices that use the CR123 battery if that device has a version that will use an “A” style battery. That way its one less battery I have to have on hand. Also, these “new ” batteries cost more and MUST be a fad! Why would someone create a different shaped battery anyway… Are they nuts? I don’t want to buy an expensive electronic device just to be held prisoner by the battery style it requires. I thought gadgets using the CR123 must just be specialty items or a “one off” designs from cheap manufactures.
Well I was wrong, yes you read that correctly, wrong, mistaken, ill informed, off track, etc. How did I come to this new conclusion? Well I was shopping for a new flashlight (more on that later) and was frustrated because more often then not the small, high-powered tactical flashlights I was interested were powered by the CR123, not the AA. Pouring over the reviews, I noticed a
mention of one light has a version for both batteries and that the CR123 version performed noticeably better, I read on. It’s funny how you can miss things when you are not looking for them because now with a focus on the potential advantage to the CR123 style of battery I starting looking for it and seeing it in many things I read.
So here is what I have found out about the CR123 battery
- It has a higher effective output
- They last longer (More mAh – Amp Hours)
- Maintain a consistent voltage throughout their usable life
- Lighter weight
- Don’t leak when they get old
- Will remain stable and usable WELL below freezing (-40f)
- They tolerate heat much better (like in your car)
- Longer shelf life (ready when you need it)
So back to the flashlight that started this whole thing. I had purchased a high output Cree LED flashlight about a year ago to keep in my car. Going on my previous assumptions I bought a model that used “AAA” alkaline batteries. It was a very nice unit and NOT CHEAP. It was also very bright, at first, but then the output dropped off pretty fast (remember, “A” batteries tend to drop voltage in a linear fashion, getting progressively lower output over time or gradually dimming). So I figured it was time to change them out and what did I find? Some of the batteries had puffed up and oozed acid inside my beautiful machined aluminum flashlight. So let’s just say I am flashlight shopping again, thus this article.
So from this I have concluded that even though they cost more per unit, the value is higher then the “A” batteries in consideration of their longer life alone, not to mention I would be about $100 ahead if my “AAA” flashlight had not been fried by leaky batteries. I have a much larger selection of tactical flashlights to choose from (like the Olight T20 Tactical XPG R5 or the Streamlight Tactical 2L). I have also been shopping for an outboard microphone for my camera and originally I was VERY limited in my choices if I tried to avoid one with a CR123 battery. Now with the CR123 as a viable option, I have a many more options available. Just remember, certain devices work better with good old “A” style alkaline so they are still the mainstream and are not going anywhere but certain high output electronics will perform better on the Lithium Ion platform of the CR123.