Best CR123A Battery - Rechargeable vs Non-Rechargeable Lithium CR123A Batteries
CR123A batteries are very popular cylindrical lithium batteries, commonly used in various devices like photo cameras, flashlights, security devices, military equipment, etc.
CR123A batteries come in two major versions: rechargeable and non-rechargeable CR123A batteries, both featuring different voltages, drain currents, capacities, etc. That and the fact that many manufacturers come with their 'own' labels lead to slight confusion when picking the right CR123A battery.
Updated: April 29, 2021.
CR123A Batteries - Features and Specifications
CR123A batteries are cylindrical batteries, featuring 17 mm diameter and 34.5 mm height (0.67 x 1.36 inches).
These batteries are commonly labeled as 'CR123A batteries' (non-rechargeable type) or as 'RCR123A batteries' (rechargeable type), but they also appear with other labels, like CR17345, K123A, RCR16340, VL123A, DL123A, 5018LC, SF123A, EL123AP, 17345, 17340, 16340, etc. But, they all are also labeled as 'CR123A'!
Voltage, capacity, and max drain current depend on the CR123A model and chemistry.
Non-rechargeable CR123A batteries have a nominal voltage of 3.0 volts and a capacity of around 1500 mAh. The shelf life of the best CR123A brands is usually in the 7-10 years range, making these batteries excellent choices for standby devices like EDC flashlights, security devices, military applications, and similar.
Non-rechargeable CR123A batteries also tolerate high drain currents, which is very important for high-power devices and for devices that require plenty of power for relatively short periods of time.
Rechargeable CR123A batteries (or RCR123A batteries) usually have voltage in the 3.6-3.7 range and capacity in the 500-800 mAh range. Note that rechargeable 3.0 and 3.3 volts batteries are also present on the market.
CR123A vs RCR123A Batteries
The main differences between CR123A and RCR123A batteries are:
- output voltage: CR123A batteries have a nominal voltage of 3.0 volts, while RCR123A batteries have higher voltage (usually 3.6-3.7 volts) and this voltage difference can cause operating issues for sensitive electronic equipment. Before replacing the CR123A battery with the RCR123A battery, check if your device can be powered with an RCR123A battery. Note that 3.3 volts RCR123A batteries feature 0.3 volts higher nominal voltage and 3.0 volts RCR123A batteries have practically the same voltage as CR123A batteries and can be used in less sensitive devices (if recommended by the device's manufacturer!).
- capacity: CR123A batteries feature a capacity of ~1500 mAh, while RCR123A batteries feature a capacity of 500-800 mAh, with most models having a capacity of around 700-750 mAh. High-capacity RCR123A batteries usually have a lower maximum drain current than RCR123A batteries with lower capacities, but this must be verified for every model.
Note: some RCR123A manufacturers advertise their RCR123A batteries as both 'high drain' and 'high capacity' batteries (>1000 mAh), but before buying such batteries, be sure to read the reviews of other buyers first. Personally, I doubt that such batteries (not just RCR123A) are as reliable as batteries from reputable brands. Just my 2c :)
- storage and shelf life: for safety reasons, RCR123A batteries are manufactured and transported only half-charged and must be fully charged prior to the first use. On the other hand, RC123A batteries are manufactured and transported fully charged, and ready to be used at the moment's notice. The shelf life of CR123A batteries can be up to or even more than 10 years, while the best RCR123A batteries lose 10-30% of the initial charge after one year of storage.
- safety: none of these batteries should be disassembled, exposed to high temperature or fire, short circuit, and similar - use them, but don't abuse them. However, a good RCR123A battery should also feature a built-in safety system that protects the battery from short circuits, surge currents, over-voltage, overheating, etc. Such small electronic circuits decrease the battery capacity, but significantly increase the safety of the RCR123A batteries.
- charging/discharging cycles: CR123A batteries can be discharged only once, after which they must be disposed of properly and replaced with the new CR123A batteries. On the other hand, a good RCR123A battery when charged with proper charger and used as intended by the manufacturer, such RCR123A battery can withstand 1000-1200 charging/discharging cycles. This 1:1000-1200 ratio is the reason why RCR123A batteries are used in devices that are used often, leading to significant battery savings.
CR123 vs CR123A Battery
People often ask, what is the actual difference between CR123 and CR123A batteries.
Well, the answer is simple - there is no difference. CR123 is the label commonly used for CR123A batteries, just 'somebody, somewhere forgot' to add the required 'A' letter.
If you own a CR123 battery, be sure to check other important details, like actual chemistry, type, voltage and similar.
CR123A vs 18650 vs 3xAAA Batteries
CR123A batteries are roughly half the length of litihum 3.6 volts 18650 battery (17.0 x 34.5 mm vs 18.6 x 65.2 mm).
Some devices are designed to operate using either two CR123A batteries or one 18650 battery, regardless of the 3-4 mm difference between 2x CR123A and 1x 18650 battery.
Also, CR123A batteries are available as both non-rechargeable lithium batteries providing 3.0 V and as rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (also often labeled as 17340, 17345, or 16340 battery) providing 3.6 - 3.7 V.
This voltage difference (3.6 vs 6 - 7.4 volts) can damage many devices and one must check the documentation of a particular device to be absolutely sure if 2xCR123A batteries are supported.
Non-rechargeable CR123A batteries are often recommended for standby devices like EDC flashlights, panic lights, and similar devices that are often not used for years, but when they are used, they must operate reliably, while RCR123A and 18650 batteries are used in devices that are used practically on the daily basis.
3xAAA batteries can be used instead of one 18650 battery or instead of 2x CR123A batteries in certain devices via an AAA batteries holder. For devices that are often used, rechargeable 18650/RCR123A batteries are recommended choice.
But for standby applications, 3 high-quality AAA batteries (alkaline batteries, not rechargeable NiCd or NiMH batteries) or 2 high-quality CR123A batteries are a more reliable choice.
Note: good 18650 battery features 3.7 volts and 3000mAh capacity, while 2 good RCR123A batteries feature 3.7 volts and 750mAh capacity. Since devices that support the use of both batteries feature high-efficiency DC/DC converters, the voltage difference is not an issue. But energy density is in favor of 18650 batteries when compared with RCR123A batteries (11.1 Wh vs 5.55 Wh) or even when compared with CR123A batteries (11.1 Wh vs. 9 Wh).
CR123A vs 16340 Battery
16340 battery is rechargeable 3.6 - 3.7 volts lithium battery that features 16 mm diameter and 34 mm length.
Its physical dimensions are very similar to the CR123A battery (17 x 34.5 mm) and rechargeable CR123A batteries (RCR123A) are sometimes labeled as 16340 batteries.
Note that lithium rechargeable batteries of similar size (for example lithium 17340 and 17345 batteries) are also commonly labeled as rechargeable CR123A or simply RCR123A.
CR123A vs CR-P2 Battery
CR-P2 battery consists of two batteries that are equivalents to CR123A.
CR-P2 batteries are 36 mm in height, 35 mm in length, and 19.5 mm in width and feature 6 volts nominal voltage and 1500 mAh nominal capacity.
They are commonly used in photo cameras and similar high-drain devices.
Some manufacturers also provide CR123A battery holders, letting the user choose to use either CR-P2 or 2x CR123A batteries.
CR123A vs CR2 Battery
Both CR123A and CR2 batteries are non-rechargeable batteries based on the Lithium Manganese Dioxide chemistry, featuring a nominal voltage of 3.0 volts, a cutoff voltage of 2.0 volts, and shelf-life of up to and sometimes even more than 10 years.
Also, they feature battery terminals on the opposite sides of the battery.
CR123A battery features physical dimensions of (D x H) 17.0 x 34.5 mm (~0.6693 x 1.3583 inches) and a nominal capacity of around 1400-1500 mAh.
CR2 battery features physical dimensions of (D x H) 15.6 x 27 mm (~0.614 x 1.063 inches) and a nominal capacity of around 800-850 mAh.
As one can see, due to the differences in physical dimensions, CR123A, and CR2 batteries are NOT interchangeable batteries - it is possible to find CR2 battery adapters that allow the user to place CR2 battery in the battery compartment intended for CR123A battery, but due to the much smaller capacity, CR2 battery will not last as long as the CR123A battery.
Also, due to the higher internal volume and area, the CR123A battery can provide stronger currents when powering high drain devices.
Long Story Short: CR123A batteries are popular batteries, manufactured by most reputable brands.
RCR123A batteries can save plenty of money, just be sure that the device they are intended for, supports their use due to the voltage difference and that these RCR123A batteries are charged with the battery chargers intended for such batteries.
Both CR123A and RCR123A batteries are available at most online shops and stores.