NEXcell Optima Smart Rapid Charger/Conditioner Review

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One of the features that I like best about my Olympus digital camera, beside

the fact that it takes such great photos, is that it can use regular AA

batteries instead of relying solely on a rechargeable battery pack.

Of course, this mainly comes in handy when I am on vacation and can’t charge

the batteries as easily as when I am at home. It’s convenient to be able to just

run in any store and pick up fresh cells.

On the other hand, when I am using my camera at home I prefer to use

rechargeable batteries because they are less expensive in the long run and

better for the environment. Up until last week, I was using this cheesy set of

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rechargeable alkaline batteries that were way past their prime. When I would use

my digital camera with the color screen on in conjunction with the flash, which

is my preferred way to take pictures, I would only get maybe 15 or 20

snaps before I would get a low battery warning. Taking just one more picture

would shut my camera off.

I am the first to admit that my rechargeable batteries were not the best to

begin with, and they were getting old. I knew I was going to have to replace

them, it was just a matter of "with what?"

Well it looks like I have found the answer to my problem: the


Optima Smart Rapid Charger/Conditioner. I received the NC-20FC charger with

a set of eight 1800mAh NI-MH AA batteries, but there are other combinations that

you can purchase. This combo also came with an

automobile charger…

Included in the box is the charger, which can hold up to four batteries of AA

or AAA size. You also will get a 100 – 240V AC input adapter that has a 12V

power outlet plug. This adapter is awesome because it can be used either here in

the United States, or overseas where voltages can vary. You just have to buy the

proper adapter depending on the foreign country’s plug configuration.

One of the cool features about this gadget is that is can charge either AA or

AAA batteries, or a combination of both.

I was surprised when I first plugged the NEXcell in – "It’s a small world,

after-all" started playing! It was only on for just a couple of seconds –

long enough to let me know that the charger was working and it was getting

started on the inserted batteries. Red lights came on under each set of

batteries, and they stayed on until approximately two hours later, when the

batteries were full and the lights turned green and the tune began to play

again. Pretty nifty!

I charged two sets of batteries, and both times the batteries felt warm in my

hand after they were done but the charger felt cool to the touch. I am assuming

that this is normal.

It is interesting to note that you do not have to worry about over-charging

batteries when using the NEXcell. While the lights are green, signifying a fully

charged battery, the LED will flash red every 30 seconds to indicate that the

battery is "charged completely and under trickle charging mode."

Just for fun, I decided to see how many pictures I could take before I got a

low battery warning with my new, fresh batteries. Remembering that I was only

able to get 15-20 before, I figured I would be able to get at 50 or so. In fact,

I got over 250 before I got tired of hitting the shutter button over and over.

Remember, this was with the LCD screen viewer on and the flash going off for

every picture – pretty impressive!

Obviously, the NEXcell batteries and their charger are a huge step up from

what I had before. I am actually looking forward to taking the entire kit with

me to Scotland on Spring Break! With this kind of battery life, you all will get

to enjoy a flood of pictures from the trip! ;0)

The NEXcell Optima Smart Rapid Charger/Conditioner and its accessories are

available from Sunn Battery Company

and other retailers.

Price: $32.55 (includes 8 AA batteries and car



Fast charging with protection against memory effect

Wall charger works internationally – either 110V or 240V

Has over-voltage protection to keep battery from over-charging

Can charge different size batteries in the same charger




Product Information

  • Fast charging with protection against memory effect
  • Wall charger works internationally - either 110V or 240V
  • Has over-voltage protection to keep battery from over-charging
  • Can charge different size batteries in the same charger
  • None

16 thoughts on “NEXcell Optima Smart Rapid Charger/Conditioner Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Hi Judie,

    Could you let us know if you can charge an odd number of batteries? 1 at a time or 3.

    I have some FRS radios that use 3 batteries, and I think it would be easier, and perhaps better for the batteries, to charge the set of 3. Some chargers won’t handle that.

    Thanks for the info.


  3. Looks like a good deal. I use the BM-200 charger that came with my Olympus camera. Does an excellent job on my NiMH batteries, full charge in approx 4 hours. Small and world voltage capable. One other charger to consider is the MAHA 204, widely regarded as the best charger available. A little more expensive, but well worth it, at least if you believe the reviews it has received. Need an extra adapter for UK though.


  4. Ray,

    I believe you really need to charge either two or four for it to work properly, but with the over-charge protection I think (hope) your batteries would be safe. I suppose you could just rotate them out…

    Judie :0)

  5. Pacific85, you may want to look into the Maha C-401FS.

    I’d also like to point out that I’ve owned NEXcell batteries, and they have failed. At first they performed very well, as you experienced. Within a few months they became useless and wont’ even power on my Olympus digital camera. This is not an isolated incident, as Imaging-Resource had the same problem in their test of many NiMH batteries. I suggest visiting that site to see which brands did well.

    They also reccommend the Maha C-204F, which I use. The batteries do get warm during charging, but I usually place a fan in front of my charger while I’m charging batteries to help keep them cool.

  6. After I have used these for several more months, I will definitely post my results.

    I would like to point out that this type battery is probably not the best one for a digital camera to begin with. Lithium-Ion would be better – however for the money (meaning less of it), I am happy with these.

    Judie :0)

  7. I read your response, Judie, and realized what I said may not have been clear. What I meant is that NEXcell brand NiMH batteries fail while those from other companies do not. NiMH batteries are a good choice for digital cameras as well as Lithium-Ion.

  8. Ah, okay…

    Well – right now they are working very well. If I see in the furture that their performance slacks off, then I will definitely make note of it here and in the review.

    Judie :0)

  9. Alkaline batteries are not a good idea for most digital cameras. They are unable to deliver enough current almost out of the box. Once they are about 20% used up, they can fail to meet the demand placed on them by most cameras, even though they will be quite happy to live the rest of their life in a less demanding device. Same goes for Alkaline rechargeable batteries. NiCADs are fine for cameras. They will supply enough current throughout their discharge. The advantage of NiMH batteries is that they have a similar ability to supply a large amount of current combined with nearly double the storage capacity of NiCADs. The only disadvantage, besides the small cost premium, is that they have a high self discharge rate. They will loose their charge just sitting around over a few weeks, while NiCADs and rechargeable alkaline will retain much more of their charge while not in use. If you are stuck without batteries, try to find disposable Lithium AA’s, since they have a tremendous ability to deliver high current, combined with light weight and very long shelf life.

  10. If you want to really get into rechargeable batteries, check out this site:

    The site is put together by a company that makes battery charger/conditioners.

    The good thing about NiMH is that you can use them for years. Apparently, Li-Ion batteries only last about 2 years before they degrade (no matter how well you treat them).

    Have you had any problems with PDA batteries that are over 2 years old? On several Palm bulletin boards, I have heard that Palm, Sony, and Handspring Li-Ion batteries are lasting only 2 years.

  11. John,

    The only older battery that I have had trouble with was in one of my iPAQs – it just died – possibly because it was discharged for too long.

    To the best of my knowledge, all of the others have held up very well (I have sold many of my older PDAs). My Palm IIIc now belongs to a friend, and it is going strong – and it is well over 2 years old.

    In any case, this is what makes companies like Pocket PC Techs even more valuable.

    Judie :0)

  12. Originally posted by Judie
    I believe you really need to charge either two or four for it to work properly, but with the over-charge protection I think (hope) your batteries would be safe. I suppose you could just rotate them out…

    it appears this charger only has two circuits, i.e., you can only charger batteries in pairs. you should put that down as a negative, judie. a lot of the newer chargers have up to four separate circuits that allow you to charge 1, 2, 3, or 4 batteries at a time. here is a good source for nimh batteries and chargers:


  13. I own a Maha C-204F which looks to be the same as this charger (although it does not make sounds) and it only has two charging circuits so you must charge in pairs. Moreover, it warns against charging two batteries that do not have similar levels of charge, so I do not think that rotating batteries to deal with odd numbers is a good idea.

    Unfortunately, with a two-circuit charger you need to own a few extra batteries and wait until you have similarly discharged pairs and charge them together. This is what I do with the batteries I use with my Nomad II MP3 player that only uses a single battery. If you really need to charge odd numbers of batteries the Maha C-410-FS referenced in Carguy’s first post seems like the way to go, although has considered it and kept its original recommendation of the Maha C-204F as the best charger available because of its ability to give a full charge to the batteries on each charge cycle.

    Carguy – great post! It caused me to realize that the only NiMH batteries that I have ever used that have failed were also Nexell’s and the indication on that these batteries also failed in their tests is starting to amount to more than anecdotal evidence of problems. I have had good experience with Maha and Powerex batteries, and my wife has not complained about Kodak and GP AAA batteries (although her usage may not be at “gadgeteer levels.”

    Finally, the down side to NiMH batteries seems to be that some electronic devices have a battery charge indicator that is not properly calibrated for the lower voltage of NiMH batteries (1.2V rather than 1.5 volts of alkalines) so they prematurely indicate that the batteries need to be replaced. This should not be a problem with any digital camera made in the past three years, as the manufacturers all seem to be recommending NiMH, unless they are providing Lithium-Ion rechargeables.


  14. —- The charger that came with my U20 took over 8hrs to charge 2 AAA batteries while the NEXcell took less than 2hrs!

    Judie: I actually wound up buying a blue U20 after admiring Julie’s on the trip, and I can definitely vouch that the NEXcell charger is wayyyyyy better than the included Sony version.

    Julie: Speaking of voltage converters, both of us bought one for the trip. Mine is called the Voltage Valet and came from It came with several different plug adapters. I used it with my hair dryer and various PDA, camera chargers. —–

    why did you need to use a voltage converter with the nexcell charger? i reread your nexcell review and it can be used for travel both in europe and the united states. it would appear that it should not be attached to a converter. it also appears that you used a converter for your pdas. i would also assume that your pdas are rated for 240 volt and should not require a converter. i use my sony 615 and handspring visor both in the united states, middle east and europe with no coverter,just a plug adapter.

    thanks for the clarification.


  15. bettina,

    What we had with us were combination adapter/converters. I didn’t even think to just try the adpater without the converter – this was my first time anywhere that I would have to even use a converter like that, so I am sure it was overkill. Hopefully we didn’t hurt anything…

    Judie :0)

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