CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Moixa Energy USBCell AA batteries are practical for an on-the-go gadget addict. These attractive, compact batteries resemble other nickel metal hydride AAs, except for a bright green cap covering the USB plug. Instead of tossing them in the trash or nestling them into a recharging unit when out of juice, you can pop these into a USB port on any laptop or other USB device.
The USBCell design is excellent and feels sturdy. When opened, the cap reveals a pair of tensile cords attaching it to the battery. We pulled and pulled, but couldn't break them.
The batteries' LEDs light up around the base while inside a USB port, and flash slowly some 20 minutes later when the battery warms up to a 90 percent charge. The light turns off when the AAs are ready for use.
Unfortunately, depending on how close your USB ports are to each other, you might not be able to plug in two or more USBCell batteries side by side at the same time. That's a major flaw, perhaps, if your laptop only features two side-by-side USB ports and you lack a third-party recharging kit.
Features and performance
USBCell AAs can replace comparable batteries altogether, especially if you have USB ports at the ready. But we wouldn't throw away standard batteries. Instead, we found it useful to carry both the USBCell batteries in addition to a pack of rechargeable NiMHs.
Luckily, USBCells also fit into standard AA battery chargers. That could take up to 7 hours to recharge in a 250-milliamp charger. The vendor doesn't recommend 2-hour, 600-milliamp chargers.
Our rechargeable Duracell NiMH AAs were rated to store 2,300-milliamp hours, eclipsing the 1,300-milliamp hours of the USBCell equivalent. We found that a pair of fully charged USBCells lasted in a Canon point-and-shoot camera after shooting close to 600 pictures, while the Duracells lasted for more than 1,000 shots. In a small Flip video camera, the USBCells lasted for several hours of footage before needing more juice (we didn't measure the life of the other AAs in this device for contrast). USBCell batteries are meant to last 500 cycles, or several hundred charges.
As with other batteries, it's ideal to store USBCell AAs in a cool, dry place. You shouldn't need to freeze them, although that could help extend their life in arid regions. Moixa Energy recommends against storing its AAs near alkaline batteries.
Consumers striving to "green" their electronics should appreciate that the batteries ship within a recyclable PET plastic bubble with a recycled cardstock backing printed with vegetable inks. Then again, many Duracell and Energizer batteries also feature recycled and recyclable packaging. Moixa's manufacturing in China is supposed to follow labor, environmental, and health and safety standards of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition.
In theory, any reusable batteries prevent or at least delay toxic waste from entering landfills. U.S. battery recycling collection centers, such as at Radio Shack and Best Buy stores, should accept tapped-out USBCell AAs. Call2Recycle offers a zip code look up. Moixa Energy also collects dead batteries mailed to its London address.
Service and support
Unhappy customers can return USBCell AAs at their own shipping expense to Moixa Energy's London address within 30 days of an online purchase. A one-year, no-questions-asked warranty covers any defects. An online form promises to handle inquires via e-mail within 48 hours. Tech support isn't available by phone, but we believe that's fair for this relatively uncomplicated product. There's also a five-page PDF user guide for getting started.
Moixa Energy's novel, useful new type of battery likely has larger battery makers wishing they'd launched it first. The company is also developing USB-charged batteries in AAA and other sizes, including for mobile phones.
Standard AA batteries, rechargeable NiMH or alkaline, are cheaper upfront, but they demand a recharger--yet another gadget and cord to pack. Alkaline batteries--the cheapest--are wimpy and often more toxic than NiMH alternatives. Those tethered to their laptop, digital camera, personal media player, and other digital, AA-powered toys could come to depend on the convenience of packing USBCell AAs.