The Best Battery Tester Is Not Only AA or AAA

Best Battery Tester: Placing the Power Back
in Your Hands

Choosing the best battery tester isn’t as simple as it sounds. With numerous models on the market, it can become a little overwhelming. As this article will explain, all battery testers are not the same. Believe me, you’re going to be surprised.

Before I let you in on the truth behind battery testers, consider this. Batteries are so common in our daily lives that most of the time we forget we are using them. That is, until they fail.

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Sitting here I’m using a wireless mouse and keyboard. If my room becomes too hot I can switch on the AC with the remote control. They all involve batteries—and that’s just the devices on my desk.

If these batteries fail, they need to be replaced. Otherwise I cannot type. However, you know what it’s like. You find some replacement batteries loose in a drawer—but, are they dead? Do they have enough capacity to power your device?

You might think that the only way to find out is through trial and error in your equipment. But there is a simpler solution—battery testers put you back in control.

This article will show you the best testers on the market. In addition, it will explain what to look for, what to avoid, and illustrate how they can save you money.

Are All Battery Testers the Same?

In short, no. When selecting your battery tester, there are a few key features that you should be looking out for. I will discuss these soon.

However, there is one main characteristic that I believe deserves its own singular section. I am not one for making sweeping statements, but here it goes.

Always select a battery tester that tests load, not just voltage. The difference is very important.

Battery Load Tester

Units which have this capability are the most accurate and useful of all battery testers. These units deliver a pulse load for a couple of seconds to the battery.

In essence, this recreates, for a short time, the power demanded by your electronic devices. The machine then indicates the power and performance remaining in the battery.

Once the short test has been completed, the pulse load ceases. This ensures that testing the battery will have hardly any effect on the remaining charge.

Battery Voltage Tester

As the name suggests, these machines just test the remaining voltage. In many batteries, this can provide a false impression of charge.

For example, CR2-type batteries have a discharge rate which is relatively flat. That is, they will work for a long time but will then suddenly die. Hence, these battery’s voltage ratings at 81 percent capacity can appear the same as at around 38 percent.

This means you cannot accurately know the capacity of your battery. You could be in for an unwelcome surprise. However, testing a CR2-type battery on a pulse load test machine would give you an exact indication of the battery’s remaining power.

The Best Household Battery Tester

The following are what I consider to be the best battery testers available. Each one has been carefully researched to ensure it meets all the necessary requirements in a powerful unit.

ZTS MBT-1 Multi Battery Tester Review

ZTS is a company which has specialized in electronic testing equipment since its creation in 1976. The ZTS MBT-1 is probably one of the most versatile testers on the market.

ZTS Multi Battery Tester - ZTS MBT-1
215 Reviews
ZTS Multi Battery Tester - ZTS MBT-1
  • Easy to use - no switches or settings
  • Quickly and easily identify weak or failing batteries

What Batteries Can It Test?

If you’re someone who loves tech and has every possible gadget in your home, this could be the ideal tester. Naturally, you would expect this machine to test alkaline, NiMH and NiCd rechargeables—and of course, it does. However, it’s the ability to test other formats as well that initially makes this unit stand out.

Barring combined cells (as in power tools) and the enormous 6-volt batteries found in older 35mm cameras—there are few batteries it cannot test. It can test small button and coin cells such as the “LR44” and “CR2032”. Additionally, the more substantial 18650 batteries (found in devices such as vapes) are catered for.

This tester is suitable for people who have battery-powered devices relating to:

  • Photography.
  • Medical devices.
  • Smoke alarms.
  • Watches and clocks.
  • Diving computers.
  • Games.
  • List Element

I have provided a complete list of battery compatibilities in the specifications section.

How Does the ZTS MBT-1 Test Batteries?

This machine uses the pulse load testing system. Therefore, it is perfect for people who want to know the exact status of their batteries, not just voltage.

However, different styles of battery do need different pulse test types. And this is where this tester stands out. There is no requirement for the user to manually select settings. The unit automatically recognizes the battery type and performs the correct pulse test.

After approximately two to three seconds (dependent on battery) the results are given. The unit automatically cuts off after the test to prevent unwanted drain.

Ease of Use

If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy messing around with buttons, this tester is ideal as it is so simple to use. For first use, all you have to do is insert the batteries. And it’s ready.

There are no “on” or “off” buttons. You place the positive end of the battery onto the correct contact and touch the negative end with the attached probe. The probe lead is rubberized for protection, and will stand up to heavy-duty use.

But, here’s the clever part. Ironically, the unit runs on batteries. How do you check them?

There is, initially, a swift internal battery check to make sure everything is okay. A nice feature to reassure you that all is in good working order. Even if the unit is used every day, the manufacturer indicates the internal batteries should last around two years.

Then the test begins. In around two seconds it’s complete. It’s that easy. Each different battery type has a corresponding positive contact on which it is placed. Again, no switch or button selection.

Choosing the correct contact is simple. Next to each is a list of all the compatible types for that particular one. There is no need to refer to manuals.

The results of the test are displayed in an LED format on the unit, in increments of 10, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 percent. If knowing the most accurate data is important—this is one of the most detailed performance indicators I have seen.

Size, Weight, and Build

Weighing 14.5 ounces, I would suggest that this unit is probably best suited for workshop or garage use, not portability. That being said, with a size of 8 inches by 4 inches, it does fit securely in the hand. Although, you would need large pockets to carry this tester around with you.

What I Like About the ZTS MBT-1 Multi Battery Tester

  • Tests over 40 different types of battery.
  • Extremely easy to use.
  • Performs its own internal battery test.
  • Detailed charge status indicator.
  • Uses pulse load testing, not voltage.
  • Can be held in the hand.
  • Enables you to “match” batteries of similar capacity.

What I Don’t Like About the ZTS MBT-1 Multi Battery Tester

  • A little bulky for portable use.

Final Thoughts on the ZTS MBT-1 Multi Battery Tester

It’s difficult to see how this quality tester could be improved. The user-friendly operation is combined with versatility. This means that this unit will perform well for your existing batteries or any you will buy in the future.

Pulse-load testing, combined with a detailed LED display, will ensure you always know the current capacity of your cells. An excellent machine for both the serious home user, hobbyist or professional.

ZTS MBT-1 Multi Battery Tester Specifications

Size

8 inches by 4.5 inches by 1.25 inches

Weight

14.5 ounces

Internal Power

4 x AA batteries

Pulse Load

Dependent upon the type of battery tested

Operation

Microprocessor

Pulse Load Test Time

 Between 2 to 3 seconds, according to battery type

Terminal Material

Brass with a nickel plating

Battery Compatibility

 3.6-volt lithium-ion rechargeable (RCR123A - 18500 -17650

-18650)

1.5-volt button cell (364377 - 371 - 392 - 395 - S76 - A76 - A625 - A640 - LR44 -357 - 303)

1.2-volt nickel-metal hydride rechargeable (NiMH)

1.2-volt nickel-cadmium rechargeable (NiCd) (AA - AAA - C - D)

1.5-volt lithium (AA L91 - AAA L92)

3-volt lithium-coin (CR1216 - CR1220 - CR1232 - CR1612 - CR1616 - CR1620 - CR1632 - CR2016 - CR2025 - 58L - 1/3 N - CR2032 - CR2320 - CR2430 - CR2450)

6-volt “28” series (28A - S28 - 28L - 544 - 4LR44)

3-volt lithium cylindrical (CR123 - CR2)

1.5-volt alkaline (AA - AAA - C - D - N)

12-volt alkaline (A23)

9-volt alkaline and carbon-zinc

ZTS Multi Battery Tester - ZTS MBT-1
215 Reviews
ZTS Multi Battery Tester - ZTS MBT-1
  • Easy to use - no switches or settings
  • Quickly and easily identify weak or failing batteries

ZTS Mini-MBT Multi Battery Tester Review

It would be hard to improve on the ZTS MBT-1 reviewed above. The ZTS Mini version may not be an improvement, but it does take it in a slightly different direction.

If you recall, my only downside to the MBT-1 was the size. As the name suggests, the Mini scales things back a little.

This is possibly the best small battery tester out there.

Mini Multi-Battery Tester
403 Reviews
Mini Multi-Battery Tester
  • Brand: ZTS
  • - Part No.: MINIMBT

What Batteries Can It Test?

As the unit has been reduced in size, it cannot test as many types as its larger sibling. That being said, for a compact machine, it’s still more versatile than others in the “mini” category.

Please check below in the specifications for the exact battery sizes. But, in short, it can test nickel rechargeables, standard and 9-volt alkalines, 18650s and 3-volt coins.

This will cover the majority of batteries that most people have in their household. Only more exotic specialized batteries, such as for medical equipment and photography, may be excluded. In total, this machine can test over 15 types of battery.

How Does the ZTS Mini-MBT Test Batteries?

As with all good battery testers, it uses a pulse-load test. It’s good to see that, despite being scaled down, this feature has not been omitted. Some inexpensive portable models promise the world, but are in fact nothing more than voltmeters.

Ease of Use

Like the MBT-1, using the mini version is simple. Place the positive end of the battery on the unit contact and a probe on the other, and it’s in testing mode.

The contacts are still large and therefore comfortable to keep a battery in contact at all times. Even people with larger hands will find that operation is simple, despite the transportable size.

Printed text on the unit face is easily readable. It has not been scaled down. Therefore, making it a useful unit even if you are challenged in the eyesight department.

Once the microprocessor has powered into life and the two-second test is complete, the LED flashes. This indicates the remaining capacity in the cell—20, 40, 60 or 80 percent.

Size, Weight, and Build

If provenance is important to you, this tester may appeal. It is both manufactured and supplied from its US base in Ohio.

However, it’s the size, weight, and build of this unit that makes it most appealing. Weighing just 3 ounces and measuring 4 inches by 2.5 inches, it can easily be placed in pockets or a home drawer. That’s lighter and smaller than many smartphones.

If you have ever owned a multimeter, you know that there is often nowhere to store the testing probe and lead. In this mini tester, both are secured in a small recess on the side of the unit. This prevents entanglement or damage, and makes it ideal for slipping into your pocket.

There is an optional carrying case available. But, if you are someone who likes to budget, there is another choice. The tester is supplied in a resealable “blister pack”—not one that requires scissors to open.

It can be placed back into this packaging and then sealed with the molded “studs”. A nice protective feature if the tester is going to be placed alongside heavy wrenches and drivers in your toolbox.

That being said, this small unit is still sturdy and well-protected. The edges are rubberized to protect from bumps and scrapes. Furthermore, the “flat-face” design and lack of perspex, glass, or buttons, means there is little to be damaged or broken.

A textured edge allows the tester to be gripped firmly, even when being used with oily hands. This reduces the chance of accidental droppage.

What I Like About the ZTS Mini-MBT Multi Battery Tester

  • Small and light—easily transportable and comfortable in the pocket.
  • Tests the most common batteries found in devices—and more.
  • Made in the USA.
  • Large contacts and text are not compromised due to the overall size.
  • Pulse-load test—not voltage.
  • Probe and cable slot neatly into the tester’s side.
  • Sturdy with rubber-treaded edges.

 

What I Don’t Like About the ZTS Mini-MBT Multi Battery Tester

  • Lacks testing ability for some batteries—check specifications below for detail.
  • Carrying case involves an extra purchase.

Final Thoughts on the ZTS Mini-MBT Multi Battery Tester

Although small, this tester is one of the most useful in the portable category. Compatible with a wide range of common, and some less common, battery types, makes it ideal for the home user.

Size has not compromised important features, such as pulse-load testing, battery contact area, and typeface. Rugged, tidy and easily held in the hands, it will still stand up to frequent use.

ZTS Mini-MBT Multi Battery Tester Specifications

Size

4 inches by 2.5 inches 0.75 inches

Weight

3 ounces

Internal Power 

4 x AAA batteries

Pulse Load 

Dependent upon the type of battery tested

Operation

Microprocessor

Pulse Load Test Time 

Approximately 2 seconds

Terminal Material

Brass with a nickel plating

Battery Compatibility 

1.2-volt nickel-metal hydride rechargeable (NiMH)

1.2-volt nickel-cadmium rechargeable (NiCd) (AA - AAA - C - D)

1.5-volt alkaline (AA - AAA - C - D - N)

3-volt cylindrical lithium-coin (CR123 - CR2)

3.6-volt lithium-ion rechargeable (8500 - 17650 - 18650 - RCR123A)

9-volt alkaline and carbon-zinc

Mini Multi-Battery Tester
403 Reviews
Mini Multi-Battery Tester
  • Brand: ZTS
  • - Part No.: MINIMBT

Conclusion

As I have illustrated, having a battery tester is a worthwhile investment. It can save you money, reduce aggravation, prolong battery life and have a positive effect on the environment.

However, it is important to stress that there are many budget-friendly testers on the market which simply do not perform. In many cases they often don’t provide accurate results, only perform voltage tests. They can actually drain the battery being tested. That’s why it is important to select the best.

In my opinion, the ZTS MBT-1 is the best battery tester on the market. With its pulse load testing feature, wide-ranging versatility in battery types and incredible ease of use— it’s hard to beat.

That being said, I cannot finish without praising the ZTS Mini. For a smaller unit, it packs more features than many other manufacturers’ full-size versions. Making it ideal for the serious home user.

But, the best of the best has to be the MBT-1.

I really hope that this article has helped you in selecting your battery tester. Doing so will give you years of reliable use, and remove the guesswork when replacing batteries.

Why Do I Need a Battery Tester?

Unless you are living entirely off the grid, surviving in some remote mountain wilderness, chances are that you use batteries every day.

Theoretically, the simplest battery test you can do is place them in an electronic device and see if it works. However, this is time consuming and, actually, not a very accurate measurement.

For example, the device could have malfunctioned—leading you to mistakenly curse the batteries and shoot out to the store to buy expensive replacements. Only when you fit the new cells in your device do you discover it wasn’t the batteries at all. So, here are the main reasons you should consider getting a battery tester.

They Can Save You Money—and the Environment

Let me give you a scenario. You have a battery-operated device which is high-drain, such as some handheld electronic games.

While playing the game, the screen dies. A little frustrated, you open a brand new pack of AA batteries, insert them, and the game fires up again. Muttering under your breath something about batteries not lasting as long as they used to, you throw the old ones away. A familiar situation, I’m sure you agree.

However, those discarded batteries could still be useful. They may not have enough residual charge to power demanding devices, but could still perform well in lower-drain equipment.

Clocks and remote controls can run with very little power in the battery itself. Using a battery tester can indicate how much power remains, or in fact if the battery is actually “dead.”

What may not work in “Super Fortnite Game of Portal” could work in your alarm clock. This means you can get every ounce of use from them, particularly if they are the disposable alkaline types. This can save you money.

Additionally, it’s better for the environment. Unless they are recycled, they can cause water and ground pollution, and use up valuable resources.

Battery Testers Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

Okay, that may be stretching the truth a little. But, they will make life a lot easier, prevent frustration and save you time.

If, like me, you’re not particularly organized, there is a high chance you have loose batteries lying around. Mostly in entirely different places in your home. I have batteries in drawers, cupboards, boxes in the attic, and in my toolbox.

I guess mostly this has occurred as I only needed one or two fresh batteries from a pack. Then just put the remaining ones in the nearest place possible. The thing is, these new batteries can also be mixed with half-or-more used batteries. For example, where I have thrown away an old gadget but kept the power cells.

Not only are brand new batteries mixed with part-used, but there could also be some dead ones in there too. All batteries lose their charge over time. If they have been stored for a while, they could already be dead.

A battery tester prevents you from mixing and matching batteries in your device to find the ones that work. Saving you a lot of time, stress and annoyance. And your blood pressure.

Battery Testers Can Prevent Disappointment

When we leave our home, we often take electronic devices with us. If the batteries fail, we might not be in a position to recharge them or buy new ones.

For example. If you are flying long-haul, your gaming device may be working perfectly in the terminal building. Then, two hours into the flight, the batteries die. You have nothing left to entertain you, because the budget airline doesn’t have in-flight entertainment.

So, for the next five hours, you are resigned to reading the thrilling in-flight magazine from cover to cover. By the end of the flight, you have memorized all the destinations of the airline and know Ariana Grande’s favorite juicing recipes off by heart.

Using a battery tester can enable you to check that your batteries have sufficient capacity for extended use. If not, they can be replaced (and the old batteries will make their way into your drawer again).

This is also particularly appealing for those who use batteries for their work. A wedding photographer, for example. Explaining to the bride that her photos will be taken on another day as your batteries are dead, will not go down well at all.

Using a Battery Tester Can Prolong Battery Life

Ever remember being told that you should fully discharge a battery before recharging it? Otherwise, you are restricting the capacity of the battery in the future?

In some circumstances, this is true. Some rechargeable batteries, such as NiMH types, can suffer from “the memory effect” and “voltage depression.” Essentially, these factors could restrict the future power of the battery if it is recharged while there is capacity remaining.

A battery tester can indicate when it’s time to pop that NiMH battery into the recharger. Thus, prolonging its life and effectiveness. That being said, don’t worry about plugging your smartphone into the charger every time it hits 50 percent. Lithium batteries do not suffer from this issue.

Find the Perfect Partner With a Battery Tester

Sadly, not a romantic one. Although, I suppose if you find someone who has a common interest in cell-charging, it could be a conversation starter.

In general, it is best not to mix two batteries with largely differing capacities. Doing so can impair the performance of the device in which they are being used. Furthermore, the “better” battery can drain at an excessive rate while compensating for the “poorer” battery.

A battery tester allows you to mix and match batteries of similar capacities, avoiding the above. Select those that are within 10 percent of each other, or less.

Are There Other Ways to Test Batteries?

There are ways, but they are inaccurate and in some cases, rather silly.

The Multimeter Method

Many people have a useful multimeter in their toolbox. By attaching the two probes to either end of a battery the remaining voltage can be indicated. However, as mentioned earlier in this article, without providing a pulse-load test, this can be a very inaccurate method.

The Bouncing Method

Theoretically, if you drop a standard battery, such as an “A” or “C” size, negative-side down, it will bounce if it is empty. This is due to gases which remain inside. Full batteries will not bounce.

However, this only really works if you have two batteries to compare side by side, one which is completely dead while the other is fully charged. What’s more, this is of no use for square 9-volt batteries or CR2 types.

Finally, never ever check the quality of your smartphone battery by dropping your iPhone onto the floor. That would be reckless.

The Licking Method

Unless you have an extremely long and weirdly flexible tongue, this test can only be performed on the two terminals of a 9-volt battery. By applying these contacts on the tongue’s surface, a circuit is created, giving you a small shock.

Firstly, this only tells you if there is any charge remaining, not how much. Secondly, it’s a little bit silly. Giving yourself a shock is not the best idea in the world. Furthermore, would you lick the inside of your remote control? Of course not, it’s disgusting. But, that’s where the battery sits.

Seriously, though, do not put batteries anywhere near your mouth. For starters, they contain acid, and you do not want any leakage on your tongue.

Also, okay, the chances of swallowing a 9-volt battery are small—but if you try it with a CR2 then you are asking for trouble. Ingesting batteries can be fatal. Hence, the only safe and accurate way to test batteries is to use a specialized battery tester.

What to Look for in a Battery Tester

The key to selecting the correct battery tester is to ensure that it meets your individual requirements. What is suitable for one person may not be ideal for another. Here are some important features to consider.

Pulse Load Testing

As mentioned earlier, the only accurate way to investigate your batteries is through a tester that has a pulse-load capability.

Types of Battery

Some batteries are only compatible with certain testers, so before purchasing, it is important to check. Consider, not only what batteries you currently use, but also what you may be looking at in the future. Batteries to consider are those such as the standard sizes (A, AA, C etc.), 18650 rechargeables, like Ni-MH, and lithium coin batteries.

Ease of Use

If you are testing numerous batteries in succession, you don’t want the hassle of awkward use. Some testers involve having numerous cables and probes to attach to the contacts, often while holding the battery. Simplicity is the key.

Status Bar

The status bar, usually consisting of LEDs, indicates how much charge is remaining in the battery. The more detailed this is, the more accurate the measurement. Some of the cheaper models only indicate three levels—low, middle and high. The difference between 1 percent and 49 percent remaining is huge.

 

Size and Weight

If you are looking for a portable machine that can be taken on vacation or business trips, a smaller and lighter machine may be more suitable. Conversely, if it is to remain in your garage or workshop, these aspects may not be so important.

However, always ensure you do not compromise size and weight with versatility. Some of the cheaper models on the market are small but don’t have the ability to check many battery types.

Last update on 2018-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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