Best Non-Rechargeable and Rechargeable CR123A Battery
CR123A battery is a very popular lithium cylindrical battery commonly used in high drain and standby devices like photo cameras, flashlights, toys, and similar.
Non-rechargeable CR123A lithium-ion battery offers great capacity, high-drain currents, and rather long shelf-life, while rechargeable CR123A or commonly labeled as RCR123A offers a large number of charging/discharging cycles combined with moderate capacity, while drain currents depend on the battery design.
CR123A Battery Features and Specifications
CR123A battery is a cylindrical battery featuring 17 mm (0.67 inches) diameter and 34.5 mm (1.36 inches) height.
According to different standards, CR123A battery labels are CR17345 and 5018LC, but other labels are used as well, including K123A, VL123A, DL123A, SF123A, EL123AP, 17345, 17340, 16340, etc.
Non-rechargeable CR123A batteries are manufactured practically by all the most reputable battery brands and are available in local or online stores.
CR123A battery on average features a battery capacity of 1500 mAh, nominal voltage of 3.0 volts, and cutoff voltage of 2.0 volts.
CR123A battery is lithium battery - lithium is used as the negative electrode (anode), manganese dioxide is positive electrode (cathode), with organic electrolyte. Generally, the CR123A battery doesn't contain mercury, cadmium, or other heavy metals, or similar pollutants, but nonetheless, when the battery is discharged, it should be disposed of properly.
The shelf life of CR123A batteries varies, but commonly it is in the 7-10+ years range, making these batteries an excellent choice for standby devices like EDC flashlights, medical/security/survival equipment, and similar.
Rechargeable CR123A batteries are commonly labeled as RCR123A batteries. Depending on the exact battery chemistry, these batteries feature a nominal voltage of 3.0-3.2 or 3.6-3.7 volts.
While RCR123A batteries with a nominal voltage of 3.0-3.2 volts generally can be used instead of CR123A batteries, 3.6-3.7 volts RCR123A batteries should NOT be used instead of CR123A batteries due to the higher voltage, unless explicitly stated by the device manufacturer.
Note: even 3.2 volts RCR123A batteries may cause some devices to act randomly (to say the least), so before using RCR123A instead of CR123A, it is a good practice to check the unit's manual before using the RCR123A battery, regardless of its chemistry. Better safe than sorry ...
The nominal capacity of the RCR123A batteries varies, but on average it is in the 600-800 mAh range. Actual capacity depends on the battery design (high-drain, low-drain, general use), presence of the Battery Management System (BMS), and similar.
Some of the RCR123A batteries come with the Battery Management System (BMS) which protects the battery from most common hazardous situations like over-discharge, over-voltage protection, over-current protection, over-temperature protection, and similar. Regardless of how compact the Battery Management System (BMS) is, it occupies some volume of the battery, decreasing the capacity. Nonetheless, having a good Battery Management System (BMS) significantly improves battery safety.
Note: RCR123A are generally shipped only semi-charged for safety reasons and before the very first use, they have to be charged first. Also, the self-discharge rate of RCR123A batteries is in the 10-30% per year range.
CR123A vs. RCR123A Batteries
People often wonder when to use CR123A and when to use RCR123A. Assuming that devices can accept both CR123A and RCR123A due to the voltage differences, CR123A should be used in standby and similar applications where the battery must reliably provide plenty of power right away, even after a long time being placed in the device.
On the other hand, RCR123A batteries are an excellent choice for devices that are often in use and require plenty of energy - in such situations, having spare rechargeable RCR123A batteries (one set in the device, one set charging) can save plenty of money in the long run.
CR123A vs. 18650 Battery
18650 battery is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, commonly featuring 3.6-3.7 nominal voltage. Nominal capacity depends on the design, with low-drain 18650 featuring a capacity of 5000+ mAh, and high-drain 18650 batteries featuring capacity in the 2000-3000 mAh range.
Note: some high-quality high-drain 18650 batteries can provide constant currents in the 20-30 Amps range, with short pulses of 40-60 Amps.
18650 battery features a diameter of 18 mm (0.71 inches) and a height of 65 mm (2.56 inches), although there are some models that are higher than standard height (up to 68 mm, 2.68 inches).
CR123A battery with its dimensions of 17x34.5 mm has a very similar diameter (17 vs 18 mm) and it is half the height of the 18650 battery (34.5 vs 65-68 mm).
Certain devices, most commonly LED flashlights and some photo cameras allow the use of both CR123A and 18650 batteries (of course, two CR123A instead of one 18650 battery and vice versa) despite the differences in voltage.
The use of CR123A vs 18650 battery is very similar to the use of CR123A vs RCR123A - non-rechargeable CR123A batteries should be used in standby applications where the device may wait for years before being used, and 18650 battery should be used in devices that are used often, saving plenty of money.
CR123A vs CR-P2 Battery
CR-P2 battery is a popular camera battery with dimensions of (H x L x W) of 36 x 35 x 19.5 mm. CR-P2 battery is shaped in such a way that it can be inserted in the battery compartment in only one way.
The nominal voltage of the CR-P2 battery is 6 volts and the nominal capacity is 1500 mAh.
Internally, CR-P2 battery is designed as two batteries connected in series - due to its shape and dimensions (36 x 35 x 19.5 mm) it is roughly double the size of CR123A batteries (17 x 34.5 mm), or just like two CR123A batteries side-by-side (34.5 x 34 x 17 mm vs 36 x 35 x 19.5 mm).
Some devices allow the use of either CR-P2 or two CR123A batteries - their battery compartments are designed to accept both types of batteries.
Also, devices that allow the use of either CR-P2 or two CR123A batteries should NOT use RCR123A batteries unless explicitly stated by the device's manufacturer that the use of RCR123A batteries is allowed.
Long Story Short: CR123A and RCR123A batteries all have their pros and cons. They are very popular batteries, commonly found at hardware stores and online shops, especially CR123A batteries.
If you are looking for CR123A batteries, but you are unsure what type, a good CR123A battery from reputable brands and with good reviews from real-life users will do the job just fine.