|Which battery: CR123A - Lithium or AA - Alkaline?|
In the pursuit of flashlight efficiency, one thing cannot be overlooked: The choice of battery. For the past 40-50 years, alkaline batteries have been the standard for a quality battery.
Within the past few decades, as technology has advanced, the lithium battery was introduced. Lithium batteries have a longer life for high-demand appliances and can even offer higher voltages than your standard alkaline battery, although they are generally more expensive.
This leads us to title of this post, "CR123A or AA?". For those who do not know, CR123A are popular lithium-cell batteries often used in flashlights. I wanted to give you some advantages and disadvantages, comparing the lithium-cell CR123A battery with the alkaline AA battery, both common in today's flashlights.
AA - Alkaline Cell
|Never fear, excellent flashlights that use |
AA batteries do exist, such as this
Quark Tactical QTA by FOURSEVENS.
High load applications are where the alkaline battery falls short, being the main reason why it is not as good for flashlights as a lithium cell. A AA battery, when used in a powerful flashlight, has about 700 mAh (miliampere-hours: a unit of power), which corresponds to how long of a runtime the flashlight can have. When you read about CR123A batteries, you will see how many mAh the lithium-cell battery can have.
Alkaline AA batteries are also heavier than lithium cells, the average weight a AA alkaline battery being around 0.9 oz. The dimensions of a AA battery also dictates the dimensions of the flashlight. A AA battery is 2.0" longer with a diameter of 0.5". Knowing this, a flashlight that uses such a battery cannot be smaller than that. Flashlights that use AA batteries are generally longer and more slender than flashlights that use CR123A batteries.
CR123A - Lithium Cell
|The FOURSEVENS Quark Pro QP2L is a high quality |
flashlight that uses CR123A lithium cells.
Like I mentioned before, this is a lithium-celled battery. The fact that it uses a different chemical makeup than an alkaline cell means that it can offer higher voltages. The CR123A battery outputs 3.0V as opposed to 1.5V in a AA alkaline battery. A higher voltage can mean that the flashlight using it is capable of being brighter.
The CR123A battery is also a better performer in terms of capacity. The CR123A battery has about 1500 mAh (double that of a AA alkaline battery), which means that the flashlight that uses it generally has a longer runtime.
To top it off, CR123A batteries weight 0.6 oz, 33% lighter than alkaline AA batteries. A CR123A battery is 1.3" long with a diameter of 0.6". Flashlights that use CR123A batteries are generally shorter and wider.
Personally, I am a big fan of the CR123A battery. Flashlights that use them are generally more powerful and have longer runtimes. Sometimes, however a flashlight that uses AA batteries may be the better choice. The only situation that I can think of that you might want a AA-powered flashlight instead would be for people who do not have easy access to CR123A batteries.
In the future, I predict CR123A to continue to grow in popularity, inevitably leading to CR123A batteries being easier to find and purchase. The future, of battery technology resides in lithium cells. As technology becomes better, look forward to flashlights being less expensive, along with having longer runtimes and brighter outputs, eventually leading to the complete phasing out of alkaline batteries altogether. It's a bright future indeed.