|GadgetScope.com > Electronics > Jaw-tip Battery Tester|
|Reviewed 6-4-2003 by John Shirrell - Produced by Improvements - List price: $19.99|
The batteries, bulbs, and fuses on the right worked fine... the stuff on the left didn't.
Improvements has let me down before... My review of their Aerator Sandals was my first to score a zero. However, their battery tester has a unique, attractive design that I gave a try. After a series of tests I can say for sure that this battery tester was definitely more satisfactory than the Aerator Sandals. However, in the grand scale, how did it perform compared to other battery testers?
The important thing to realize about this tester is that it tests batteries differently from other testers. Most testers check the voltage of the battery either under a short circuit or a very small resistance. This allows a consistent measurement of the battery's voltage, but not its power. The Improvements tester, on the other hand, tests the batteries under a heavy load, not unlike the kind of load a digital camera or other hi-tech device uses. There is a switch between a barrel and a button cell type of battery to choose an appropriate load. To test the load testing abilities of this tester, I simply found two new 9V batteries, a Duracell and a cheap Rayovac. It was a bit confusing at first deciding whether to set the switch to barrel or button cell mode, but remembering that 9V batteries contain six tiny barrel batteries that is how I set the switch. Sure enough, the Improvements tester reported that the Duracell was good, but the Rayovac was low under a load. A different battery tester reported both batteries as having the same voltage (9V) but did not report the difference in battery power. For this reason the Improvements tester really sets itself apart because it can be used to separate the batteries for hi-tech devices from the batteries that are only suitable for low-power devices like clocks and radios.
It isn't just the unique load-bearing test that makes this tester handy. It is also very compact, weighing only 3 ounces and only 5.5" long, and can be held and used in one hand. The jaw-tips mean there is no need to balance the battery and connect leads to it, you only have to lock the magnetic tip to one terminal of the battery and clamp the jaw onto the other. This process is slightly more difficult with 9V batteries, fuses, and especially light bulbs, but overall it is still much easier than using test leads. When testing light bulbs the magnetic tip isn't useful, but when testing batteries it has a very strong hold. I disagree with the designer's choice of color on the terminals; the silver-color terminal should be negative and the brass-color terminal should be positive, because that would more closely match the conventional black and red colors. However, they are still clearly marked. As a nice addition there is a simplified list of instructions right on the back of the tester. I would have liked a more precise readout of the battery's power than just good/low/bad, but this design is simple and effective.
The only area where this tester was limited was its compatibility. While it worked great with the most common types (AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, CMOS batteries) it did not work with a few oddballs like photo batteries, 12V batteries, and garage door opener batteries. I also wasn't able to get it to positively test any miniature Christmas light, even though it's supposed to be able to test those. If you want to test Christmas lights I don't recommend using a tester like this, because there are special testers for just that purpose. Its light and fuse tester is just a continuity test, but it consistently worked well with all the fuses and bulbs I tested with it except those Christmas lights.
Overall, this tester is a good deal for its price, and a nice gift idea; it is perhaps the best battery tester design to date. There are a few batteries that this tester does not test correctly, so there is still much room for improvement, but it works great for the most common types of batteries. Improvements has, for the moment, redeemed themselves.