Alkaline batteries are awful. Seriously. Even the Amazon Basics ones. In fact, all single-use batteries deserve to be outlawed. If you think you’re ever going to need AA or AAA batteries for something more than once — be it a shaver, TV remote, vanity mirror, vibe, whatever — you owe it to the environment, your own convenience, and your wallet to invest in some respectable rechargeable batteries. And once you’ve done that, you’re going to need a good charger to keep them topped up.
Now look, if you’re some sort of remote-controlled car enthusiast or another flavor of hobbyist who cleaves through batteries as rapidly as you can charge them, not only should you look elsewhere for a solution, but you probably already have one. Can I interest you in a charming, nearly indestructible coffee pot instead? But for the rest of you who need to recharge a couple of batteries at a time for your keyboard, trackpad or mouse, or for your DSLR, the UniPal might be ideal.
Most batteries welcome — These are the salient points: The UniPal will charge AA, AAA or most camera batteries. For the A-varieties, there are a pair of grooves beneath its sliding cover. For block-style camera batteries, you use the two wheels next to the LCD to adjust the connectors and the cover then holds the block in place.
It’ll charge Li-Ion, Ni-MH, and Ni-Cd Batteries, as well as 3.6, 3.7, 7.2 and 7.4V lithium-polymer cells. If you’re not sure whether the battery you want to charge is one of those, grab a magnifying glass (or a young human whose eyesight hasn’t yet been besmirched by decades working in the knowledge economy) and you’ll soon be able to tell.
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Good on the go — there’s a car charger in addition to the regular 12V power supply, in case you ever need such a thing. The package also suggests you’ll get a U.K. and EU plug, but sadly that’s not true in North America. Sorry. But because the UniPal supports 100-240V, it’ll work all over the world with the help of a DC 12V plug, so should the lockdown end and you get a transfer to Australia, you can take some consolation knowing it’ll still work there.
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to power — Thanks to the LCD display you’ll get a sense of how long a charge is going to take. Which is handy. And because there's a proper display instead of a mere indicator light, you'll know when charging is complete.
As for the USB port on the side? Well, it’s not terribly useful. You can use it to plug in a cable and charge your phone, sure, but unless you’ve lost the wall charger for your phone it’s irrelevant. Also, your phone charger is probably faster. Still, it's potentially useful in a pinch while traveling, presumably. I've never used it.
Get the batteries to match — Now that you’ve got a decent charger you don’t have to buy one of those battery-and-charger packs of rechargeables that fleece you for the included — usually average — wall-charger. Just buy some Panasonic Eneloop rechargeables and be done with it, yeah?
Eneloops come pre-charged, are rated for over 2,000 cycles, hold their charge even if you leave them in a drawer for months, and you can buy adapters for them for less-common battery sizes (like C or D) for, say, a portable radio... or a remote-controlled car. Also, Eneloop batteries are charged with solar power at the factory, so your green credentials will shine even brighter.