In the previous article, I showed off that I bought two led flashlights for next camping trips. These flashlights run on 18650 batteries.
So today I continue to write an essential part of flashlights, that is “what is the best 18650 battery and charger for flashlights?”
It’s just like looking for best led flashlights, I also set some criteria of 18650 batteries and chargers.
After few days digging in a deep searching for that question (yeah, I had quite free time), below are what a good quality 18650 battery must have:
- Made by reliable brand such as Panasonic, Sony, LG, Samsung
- High-drain rating (Ampere): > 10A
- High capacity (mAh): > 3000mAh
- Built-in protection circuit for over-current; over-charge; over-discharge, and over-temp.
- Rechargeable, of course!
As for best 18650 battery chargers, I just use intelligent (or smart) charger because It keeps batteries long-life and safety during charging. More the details at below.
But first, I can’t wait to show you my review of top 3 BEST cheap 18650 batteries, it is not just good for flashlights but also for other devices.
Top 3 Best Cheap 18650 Batteries for LED Flashlights
These 18650 batteries have had many positive reviews and recommending from users in many forums such as candlepowerforums, budgetlightforum, e-cigarette-forum, quora and reddit.
1. ORBTRONIC 18650 battery review (capacity: 3500mAh)
This is one of the high-capacity 18650 battery for led flashlights or any devices which need the longest run-time possible.
It is very safe working because it had a good PCB protection:
- Over current (activated at 10A-12A).
- Over charge (activated at 4.35V).
- Over discharge (activated at 2.5V).
- Over temperature protection.
- DUAL short circuit protection (for external & internal).
Note: for recharging 18650 batteries, I don’t use dumb chargers, I use smart charger – Nitecore D4 Smart Charger is my choice. It is easy to monitor status of batteries and safety as well.
2. NITECORE NL189 – 18650 battery review (capacity: 3400mAh)
Just like ORBTRONIC 18650 batteries, the NITECORE NL189 is integrated with overcharge and discharge protection circuits. So it is safe to use and a popular choice for led flashlights and other heavy load devices.
Nitecore is a big flashlight brand, and they have provided batteries and chargers for quite a time. So, do not worry when choosing it.
I’ve bought and used both 18650 Orbtronic and Nitecore NL189 for my led flashlights for a week. I feel no difference between them, all work well.
3. The 18650 Flat Top Batteries Review
I haven’t used these 18650 flat top batteries before.
In searching 18650 process, however, I noted and picked out the list of best 18650 flat top batteries for your reference.
Hope to help you save time with this list.
* these are high drain batteries and they are the best 18650 batteries for vaping
Why SMART 18650 battery chargers are always the BEST choice?
Note: Capacity (mAh) = Current (mA) * Time (h) => Time (h) charging = Capacity (mAh) / Current (mA) charging.
Example: A 18650 has 3500mAh, it will take ~ 7 hours to complete full if you charge with current 500mA.
Can a 18650 be charged without a specific charger? The answer is YES, of course. However, I don’t recommend you do that, why?
Safety is first! This is one of the main reason I voted digital smart chargers. I do not wanna fire or/and explode during charging by using dumb chargers.
With a smart 18650 battery charger, you wouldn’t worry about over-charge, weak-charge and over-heat battery.
In addition, when battery is charging, you easily monitor the status of battery such as voltage, current, estimated charging time, which dumb chargers can’t tell you.
If you don’t want to use default mode, you can probably set the current charging for fast charging or something like that.
Top 3 best SMART 18650 battery chargers for the money
1. Nitecore Intellicharger (digicharger) D4 vs. New I4 – Review
Both of them work well with
- Li-ion (26650, 22650, 18650, 17670, 18490, 17500, 18350, 16340 (RCR123), 14500, 10440)
- Ni-MH & Ni-Cd (AA, AAA, AAAA, C).
They are safe to use because
- Automatically stops charging when complete
- Four independent slots
- Over-charge protection, over-heating prevention.
- Reverse polarity protection prevents damage to both batteries and charger
- Automatically detects dead battery and notifies user
- Automatically optimize milliamps charging based on battery’s capacity
As I said above, Nitecore D4 Digi charger is my great choice. It is small and all-in-one smart charger for almost all cylindrical rechargeable batteries.
I don’t need refresh batteries nor manual setting current charging, so D4 is BEST suit to me. I like the simple thing.
Plus, it is integrated with LCD panel which clearly monitors charging parameters. It lets you know
- The amount of time you need charging
- The current voltage of your batteries.
- How many milliamps are being charging?
- Easy select charging parameters for each battery.
What is the difference between the Nitecore D4 vs. new I4?
The basic difference of both Nitecore D4 and I4 are price. The price of D4 is higher and completely worth the few extra dollars.
- D4 has an LCD display showing useful information about status of charging and selecting charging parameters for each battery if you want.
- I4 just has 3 color LED displays charging progress for each battery.
Nitecore D4 will tell you the milliamps and voltages of each battery when you put them on to charge as well as when you take it off.
So you can make sure they’re charging and discharging at the same rate. Instead of just medium or full lights of Nitecore I4.
Note: Nitecore Intellicharger D2 vs. I2 are similar D4 vs. I4 but they have two independent channels.
2. XTAR VC4 vs VP4 – Review
Note: VP4 and VC4: Max 1A applied for CH1 and CH4 only
Both of them had these features:
- LCD screen displays charging capacity, charging current, battery voltage.
- 4 independent charging channels.
- Over-load, reverse-polarity and over-heat protection.
- Automatically stop charging when complete and restart charging.
- Rescue (refresh) over-discharged battery function.
- Manually choose the current for charging.
- Charge current: (max – min) 1A – 100mA
What is the difference between the XTAR VC4 vs. VP4?
- VP4: only 3.7v Li-ion’s (10440, 14500, 14650, 16340, 17500, 17670, 18350, 18490, 18500, 18650, 18700, 22650, 25500, 26650, 32650)
- VC4: 3.7v Li-ion’s and 1.2v NIMH’s (AAA, AA, etc.)
So if you need an all-in-one charger, the XTAR VC4 is BEST choice. If you just charge Li-ion’s batteries, the XTAR VP4 is BEST because it has multi functions which optimized for li-ion batteries and the display on VP4 is better VC4 as well.
3. Opus BT-C3400 vs. BT-C3100 – Review
The Opus BT-C3400 vs. BT-C3100 has the same features.
- Work well with Li-ion and NiMH NiCd rechargeable batteries.
- 4 indepentant charging channels
- LCD displays capacity, voltage, time elapsed and current for each battery charging channel.
- Charge, discharge, refresh , test batteries
- Charge current: (max – min) 2A – 200mA
- Over-load, reverse-polarity and over-heat protection.
Which one is BEST suited for, Nitecore D4 vs. XTAR VC4 vs. Opus BT-C3400?
As you can see in the table above, the Nitecore D4 vs. XTAR VC4 vs. Opus BT-C3400 are best suited to one who needs a safe charger with built-in multi functions.
The Nitecore D4 vs. XTAR VC4 are the same features but VC4 charge faster because of high current charging.
If you need a fast charger, the Xtar VC4 is good and Opus BT-C3400 is BEST because it built-in with many options.
Personally, I like Nitecore intellicharger D4 more than the other. Its price is CHEAP and I don’t need so much options as well.
How can you prevent 18650 batteries from exploding?
There are two main reasons for exploding batteries.
- First: the battery was short circuit, that means the positive (+) and negative (-) are in direct contact together via the metal objects such as paper-clips. That is the cause of temperature and internal current of battery increase very quickly and explode.
- Second: Over-charging, over-discharging, high-current-charging, buying low quality batteries are the reasons why batteries explode.
So I highly recommended you use smart chargers which built-in protect circuit. It helps you avoid problems during charging batteries such as over-charge, reverse polarity, over-heating, and so on.
Plus, you need to store batteries into battery case, that keeps your batteries out of short circuit.
How can we extend the life of 18650 batteries?
The lifespan of 18650 batteries depends on how you use and charge them. Here are these tips to keep your 18650 long-life:
- Do not deep discharge (don’t let it discharge to empty or near empty). If the capacity of 18650 battery reduces to less than 50%, you should recharge it.
- The high temperature will cause short lifespan and reduce capacity rating. That is why you do not store them in high temperature.
- Do not charge batteries with high-current-charging. In most of 18650 batteries, you should charge them with current under 1Amp. Although high-current-charging helps you reduce time charging but it also causes over-heating, exploding and short life battery.
The 3 type of 18650 batteries in the market
Each type of 18650 batteries has separate-special-features. So, understanding about it is necessary to help you easily choose the right type.
Below are 3 popular 18650 batteries in the market.
1. IMR18650 – Lithium Manganese Rechargeable
The IMR batteries are HIGH-DRAIN rating and don’t need Protective Circuit Board (PCB).
It supplies big current in an immediate without heat or burns out the battery. Even if it is shorted, which not cause of flames or explosion because Manganese is awesome chemical.
That is why there is no built-in protection circuit against over discharging and shorted, though.
Stay with IMR 18650 batteries – these are better for portable devices such as LED flashlight, power tools, vaping and more.
2. INR18650 – Lithium Manganese Nickel Rechargeable
These INR 18650 batteries are similar with IMR 18650 batteries but being added Nickel for optimizing performances.
The INRs combines the safety and low resistance of Manganese with the high energy of Nickel, which gives high capacity, HIGH-DRAIN and higher discharge than the IMR 18650 batteries and higher priced, of course.
3. ICR18650 – Li-Cobalt Rechargeable
The most quality ICR18650 are built-in with protection circuits because ICR 18650 batteries have higher capacity (mAh) but lower drain rating.
When you use high-current discharging or short circuit [get in an accident] it becomes too hot and may cause explosion. A protection circuit, in this case, will reduce the problems.
These ICRs are used in laptop batteries and other devices which need constant power over a longer time.
If you need HIGH-DRAIN 18650 battery for portable devices such as LED flashlights, power tools, vaping. I highly recommend not to use ICR 18650 batteries or at least choose ICR 18650 batteries has PCB (protection circuit board)
The last words
Hopefully, these information and review will help you choose the best cheap 18650 batteries and chargers for LED flashlight for the money.
Thanks for stopping by!