Panasonic BQ-CC65 flagship battery charger review

Panasonic BQ-CC65 flagship battery chargerPanasonic sent me their brand new flagship charger for AA and AAA NiMH cells, the BQ-CC65. The new charger is black, has a large LCD screen and several modes to get your batteries in pristine condition. The BQ-CC65 is the best charger to charge and recharge your Eneloop cells.

The first thing that struck me when I opened the box the BQ-CC65 came in, was the size of the charger. It’s quite big when compared to the older BQ-CC16 Smart chargers. It has a large blue LCD screen and – a first for Panasonic’s chargers – a 5V/1A USB port. You can’t charge batteries when you’re charging an iPhone or an iPod, so when you plug in a USB device, charging will stop. As I don’t think you’ll be buying the BQ-CC65 for USB output in the first place, I don’t take this to be a minus.

The BQ-CC65 has three buttons: Refresh, Display and USB Out. You can load from one to four AA or AAA cells in the unit. This comes with a warning that you need to insert AAA cells with the minus side first in order not to damage it. I tested the BQ-CC65 with four AA Eneloop Pros and four Eneloop 2000mAh. When you insert the batteries, the charger first diagnoses them and then starts to charge.

If you press the Refresh button right after the diagnostics, it will switch over to a complete refresh cycle, which you should only use with batteries that are a bit older and perhaps not performing as they used to. To test that feature, I used four Apple cells dating back to 2011.

Charging time takes anywhere from four hours for four Eneloop Pros to about three hours for four Eneloop 2000mAh. When you’re only charging, the LCD screen initially shows you an icon depicting the charged state of the cell in 33% levels. Pressing the Display button once will show you the voltage level. Another press will show you the elapsed charging time.

Right after the diagnostics, the unit will also show you the cumulative number of batteries you’ve charged so far.

Beyond the basics

When charging is complete, the unit shows “Full” and battery icons that represent filled cells. All of this is fairly basic and doesn’t tell you much about the state of your batteries, but this changes when you run a refresh job.

Refreshing is very useful for batteries that have been unused for a long time, for example. It reduces the memory effect and reactivates them. On the LCD screen, you will see the word “Refresh” appear next to “Charge” and, at first, the same information will be available as with a common charging operation.

It’s when the unit starts discharging the battery or batteries that the information becomes much more detailed. When “Discharge” appears on the screen, you can cycle through Wh, Volt, Time and mAh by pressing the Display button. The refreshing process on the Apple AA batteries that I tried it with took well over six hours to complete.

At the end of the process, you’ll be able to see how well each of the cells you have refreshed will perform in all four of the parameters you can cycle through with the Display button. By looking at the Voltage, Watt-hours and mAh, you can figure out how long a battery will last in any one device (if the manufacturer specifies the power draw in any of these units, that is), which is very useful when using NiMH rechargeable cells in photography and video equipment.

The verdict

If you want to read a very technical review of the BQ-CC65, I’m sure you’ll soon find one here. However, my review was meant to be more hands-on.

I did pay attention to the batteries warming up while discharging/charging (they remain quite cool), to the time it took each process to finish and to the final result. In my not-too-technical opinion, the BQ-CC65 is a very fine battery charger that strikes a good balance between the super-technical chargers and the pure consumer chargers that leave you in the dark when it comes to process information. It actually gives you plenty of useful information on its LCD screen, isn’t too slow, can show you if your batteries are damaged beyond “refreshing”, and supports maintenance charging (a sort of careful charging with totally depleted cells). Its refreshing process managed to get my Apple batteries functioning at full throttle again.

The charger isn’t the cheapest at €40 to €60 in the EU (looking around on the web reveals hefty price differences), but at least now you’ll be sure your Eneloops and other NiMH batteries will be performing at their best for their entire lifecycle, while it’s incredibly useful to have an idea of how long your video light or whatever device you’re using will be functioning given the battery’s charge.

And this thing looks great as well.