Our Best 18650 Batteries for 2016 (so far….)
Batteries are arguably the most important piece of equipment in the vaper’s arsenal. It is what makes everything possible, and will directly influence your vaping runtime as well as limit the amount of power you can push through your atomizer.
This is especially true with Mechanical mods, since the vaper is the one fine-tuning the builds and adjusting the resistance to suit the batteries.
Batteries are also a source of danger; with enough abuse (such as stressing the battery, overcharging or putting it in the wrong way), a battery can vent extremely hot gasses and will cause significant burns. Venting (also known as thermal runaway) is a nicer word for EXPLODING.
Knowing which batteries are safe and which are not is especially important when planning to buy on a tight budget, as they have a higher probability to be either counterfeits of high-performance brands, or have exaggerated battery specifications.
As a rule of thumb, you get what you pay for – you do NOT want to buy cheap batteries for a high drain application very near your face.
Before we look at and compare some of the more popular brands, there are a few things you need to know:
The most popular type of battery used for vaping is the IMR. It is a lithium-ion battery which uses lithium manganese oxide as cathode material.
It is considered “safer”, though with enough abuse it will still vent. These little beauties are made for high-drain applications, and generally will have higher amp limits along with lower internal resistance (more power will be delivered to the atty) and can be discharged at high currents.
Popular brands can handle 20A-30A. These cells usually have lower mAh ratings (meaning less runtime). Other types of lithium battery you will likely encounter when looking for a good battery includes ICR and hybrid cells.
ICR batteries (lithium cobalt oxide) are generally not recommended for high-power vaping applications as they cannot be charged and discharged at a current higher than its mAh rating, which translates to an Amp limit much lower than IMRs.
For example, a 3000mAh ICR battery rated at 1C (discussed later) can only be safely discharged at 3000 mA (or 3 amps). The ICR batteries are also usually more expensive than IMRs, and are reported to vent more violently compared to their more affordable counterparts.
However if you are using a low-power device that does not draw more than 4 or 5 amps (such as older vamos etc.) then ICRs may be a viable choice since they offer significantly higher capacity in comparison to IMRs – a single charge on a high capacity ICR will last for a few days when used in a low-power device.
Just make sure you use regulated devices as they will have multiple protections in place to prevent stress and damage to the battery.
Hybrid batteries have several elements in a cathode combination; the result is higher capacity compared to IMRs (meaning better runtime), and can handle higher discharge rates than ICRs. However they tend to be a bit more expensive compared to ICRs.
2C – rating
This is how much you can safely charge and discharge a battery. Basically you multiply the C-rating (you can usually find it at the manufacturer’s specs) with the mAh rating, and the result is how much power the battery can safely give you in one hour.
For example, regular rechargeable batteries are commonly rated at 1C – meaning that a 1,000mAh battery should provide a current of 1,000mA for one hour (or 1000mAh).
Likewise, a 5200mAh battery rated at 2C can be safely be pushed to 10,400mAh, or 10.4A.
When dealing with high-drain batteries, it is usually easier to figure out the power limit due to the fact that manufacturers will more often than not state the amp limit (as well as recommended charging speed). High performance lipos can handle 25C and up.
Amp rating – This is very similar to C-rating, but so much simpler. This is simply how many Amps you can safely push your batteries.
You can figure out the Amps your setup is pulling by dividing the voltage used by the atomizer resistance; for example, if you use a Mech mod with a fully charged battery (4.2 volts) and an atomizer built at 0.5 ohms, by dividing 4.2 by 0.5 we can calculate that the circuit would be pulling 8.4 Amps.
If you do not have a basic understanding of Ohm’s law, or do not have a way of measuring the resistance of your atomizer then it is recommended to use a regulated device which can do it for you. Alternatively, there are many online Ohm’s law calculators for free that you can use.
mAh rating – this means miliamps-hours, and you will probably see this stamped on the side of the battery. This is how many miliamps per hour is discharged (it is actually the current being measured), and is a rough estimate of how long a battery will typically last.
Keep in mind that the mAh rating can be misleading; the reason why is that batteries give less milliamp-hours the faster you discharge them (this is called Peukert’s law). Manufacturers use a discharge load of 0.1C (1/10 of current capacity) because it shows the absolute optimum battery capacity achievable, and can be very misleading.
Think of it like using ultra-light airgun pellets to achieve 1500+FPS on springers; manufacturers do it so they can put in pretty numbers in their advertisements but in reality no one uses those types of pellets because they are inaccurate.
Watt-hour – this is probably the best parameter for comparing cells. While the mAh rating is a measure of current capacity, the Watt-hour (Wh) is a measurement of the work done (measured in Watts) in one hour – meaning we are actually measuring the energy stored.
Wh is also a good way to estimate runtime when using regulated devices at constant Amps. For example, drawing 20 Watts from a battery that can put out 10Wh (10Wh divided by 20W) will give you 0.5 or roughly half an hour of continuous vape time.
This may not seem like much, but remember you are not pressing the fire button for 30 minutes straight – half an hour of continuous runtime will translate into roughly a day of vaping.
Charging – A good charger is just as important as getting good batteries.
It is actually cheaper in the long run to invest in a true CCCV charger since it will not only prevent overcharging (which is actually a common cause of battery venting), but also significantly extend battery life compared to “generic” cheap-o chargers. Popular brands include Nitecore and Xstar.
High drain cells have no protection – You may notice that some cells are labelled as “protected”. These are very safe, since a hard short or putting it in the wrong way will trigger the tiny pcb and stop the battery from damaging itself.
Remember that high-drain batteries do NOT have protection, and you need to rely on a regulated device to do it for you or be VERY careful with mechanical mods.
Battery Rewraps – Many “specialized” vaping batteries more often than not are simply rewrapped cells from big companies like Panasonic or Samsung.
The problem is that they may exaggerate cell specs, may not go through Quality Control, or may simply be cells which have not passed factory standards (and sold by the factory for cheaper).
I’m not saying they are no good, but you can usually get same (or better) quality for cheaper if you buy a Samsung 25r rather than a Samsung rewrap for example. It is important to do research when buying batteries and read customer reviews – they are usually a good indicator of battery quality.
“Fire” batteries – In the search for cheap batteries, you will probably encounter a number of VERY cheap batteries with “Fire” at the end of their names that have extremely high capacity (usually 4000mah+).
DO NOT BUY THESE under any circumstances, no matter how cheap they may be. The specs are extremely exaggerated and will generally not last for a more than a few weeks. These are very dangerous in high-drain applications.
Cell cycles – This is the number of charge-discharge cycles the battery can handle before it needs to be replaced.
As the cell reaches the end of its lifespan, you will notice that it will not last as long as when it was new. You won’t be able to accurately determine by how much without special equipment, though some of the more high-end chargers have this function.
*As a rule of thumb, if my batteries usually last for 1 day with heavy use when new and they start needing to be charged by lunch time, then I replace them.
TIPS FOR EXTENDING BATTERY LIFE
Most quality cells last up to a year of heavy use, but there are a few methods of extending battery life:
- Using a good charger (as previously mentioned)
- Using good batteries
- Letting the batteries “rest” for at least 30minutes after charging before use
- Using lower Amp builds
- Not letting the battery get drained too low (I charge them when they hit 3V)
- Using multiple batteries – if your device uses 2 batteries, get 6 and label them. While the first pair is used, charge the next pair for use and the last pair after that. It means that each pair is used less with more periods of “rest” in between uses.
- Lower your charging speed – Some chargers allow you to choose the charging speed. While high-drain batteries can handle higher charging speed (usually around 4A), charging at 500mAh will extend your cell cycle count by a lot. The only drawback is that it will take much longer to charge. This is the advantage of having multiple batteries on hand – while a battery is charging, you will still be able to vape!
So without further ado, here are some of the most notable batteries used for Vaping! (Note that these are not in any particular order, since the needs of each individual vapers are different – some might need more power while other might need more runtime for example)
- Samsung INR18650-25R 2500mAh – These are Lithium manganese nickel batteries, and are considered one of the better choices for medium to high power vaping.
- Nominal discharge capacity: 2,500mAh
- Nominal voltage: 3.6V
- Standard charge: CCCV, 1.25A, 4.20 ± 0.05 V, 100mA cut-off
- Rapid charge: CCCV, 4A, 4.20 ± 0.05 V, 100mA cut-off
- Charging time: Standard charge : 180min / 100mA cut-off
- Rapid charge: 60min (at 25°C) / 100mA cut-off
- Max. continuous discharge: 20A(at 25°C), 60% at 250 cycle
- Discharge cut-off voltage: 2.5V
- Cell weight: 45.0g max
- Cell dimension: Height : 64.85 ± 0.15mm, Diameter : 18.33 ± 0.07mm
- Operating temperature (surface temperature): Charge : 0 to 50°C (recommended recharge release < 45°C), Discharge: -20 to 75°C (recommended re-discharge release < 60°C)
- Storage temperature (Recovery 90% after storage): 1.5 year -30~25°C, 3 months -30~45°C, 1 month -30~60°C
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 8.3Wh
The latest version of the Samsung 25Rs are coloured green (they used to be blue). The more recent version has slight tweaks in electrolyte chemistry, giving the same performance but with much improved cycle life.
These batteries are rated at 20A continuous discharge (and can handle considerably more when fired in short bursts), so you can push these cells pretty hard, especially with dual battery devices. For single-18650 mech mods, you can easily chain vape at 0.2ohms and the battery won’t even get hot. The battery is able to put out 8.3Wh when discharged down to 2.8V @ 5A, so at 30 – 40 watts a single battery should last a whole day with moderately vaping. While the specs are great, they are not the best. What makes the Samsung 25R a favourite for vapers is the fact that it is readily available and quite affordable, as well being extremely rugged and reliable.
While these batteries are designed to handle high currents, you can still use them in low-power devices – in fact, these batteries perform surprisingly well in low current applications; they last a very long time. With roughly 60% capacity at 250 charge-discharge cycles, these batteries will see a lot of use and can last rougly 8 months or more if you use a single battery every day, and charge it every day.
Bottom line: this is a very good high current, high capacity battery that performs spectacularly, and is readily available and relatively cheap. It is definitely a great cell to have on hand for primary use, or for spares. I would say that this is the best “bang for the buck”.
- Sony VTC5 – These batteries are wildly popular, and with good reason. These cells are among the best you can get for high-power applications.
- Nominal Capacity (0.2C discharge): 2600mAh 9.36Wh (2.0V cut-off)
- Rated Capacity (0.2C discharge): 2500mAh 9.00Wh (2.0V cut-off)
- Standard charge: CCCV, 2.5A, 4.20 ± 0.05 V
- Capacity at 1C: 2563mAh 9.23Wh (2.5V cut-off)
- Capacity at 10A: 2577mAh 8.80Wh (2.5V cut-off)
- Nominal Voltage: 3.6V
- Internal Impedance: 13.0mOhm Typ. measured by AC1kHz
- Cycle Performance: 70% Min. of Initial capacity at 300 cycles 10A discharge, 2.5 volt cut-off
- Size (with plastic tube): Diameter 18.35mm max, Length 65.20mm max
- Standard Charge Current : 2.5A
- Standard Charge Time : 2.5h
- Weight: 44.3g Average
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 8.7Wh
The Sony VTC5 is one of the most well-known battery in the vaping world. It is renowned for its high Amp limit, as well as its excellent battery life. It is one of the most highly-recommended batteries for vaping, and most consider it the best.
These batteries are labelled and sold as a 30A continuous discharge (and up to double that in short bursts) cell. This means that you can safely use it at much higher power settings, if using a regulated device or at an incredibly low 0.14 ohms in a mech!
Additionally, with 70% capacity at 300 charge-discharge cycles, these cells last almost a year (over 10 months) if you chuck them out when the capacity drops to 70%. This is significantly more cycles than the Samsung25r, so even if the SonyVTC5 costs more, you may have to replace the Samsungs’ a bit sooner.
Do note that while it is widely regarded as 30A, in the official datasheet measurements were taken at up to 20A; while this does not mean it cannot handle 30A as many people have pushed these cells even further, but it may shorten battery lifespan and can get hot at very high Amps. It is always a better idea to use regulated devices with protections in place when using these cells for high-power vaping. That said, these are still excellent cells that perform spectacularly; for uses up to 30A (with safety in mind) they even outperform the Samsung25r cell. Do note that these cells can be a bit more expensive than others, so if budget is a priority then look for alternative batteries.
As with the Samsung 25r cells, these can also be used for low-power setups without problems, if you don’t mind the lower capacity compared to ICRs.
Overall, the Sony VTC5 is definitely worth getting, especially if you need a bit more power for those cloud chasing sessions.
- LG MJ1 18650 3500mAh 10A Battery – Oh wow, where do I start? These are my personal favourite batteries simply due to the fact that the capacity is ridiculous at 3500 mAh with an impressive 10A limit. If you’re ok with conservative power settings (or higher resistances for mech users; I find 0.7ohms with 28awg kanthal to be an excellent vape), then these cells are absolutely the BEST you can get.
- Nominal Capacity: 3500mAh
- Minimum Capacity: 3400mAh
- Nominal voltage: 3.635V
- Standard charge: 0.5C (1700mA) 4.2V, cut-off 50mA
- Max. charge voltage: 4.2V +/- 0.05V
- Max. charge current: 1C (3400mA)
- Standard discharge: 0.2C (680mA), cut-off 2.5V
- Max. discharge current: 10A
- Weight: Max. 49.0g
- Cycle life : 400 cycles, charge 1.5A, discharge 4A (80%)
- Operating temperature: Charge: 0° ~ 45°C, Discharge: -20°C ~ 60°C
- Storage temperature: 1 month: -20°C ~ 60°C, 3 months: -20°C ~ 45°C, 1 year: -20°C ~ 20°C
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 10.8Wh
The LG MJ1 cell is an incredible product of advances in battery technology. It can actually compete in terms of capacity with ICR cells, with an incredible 10A limit! Imagine using a pair of these in parallel for your box mod. 7000mah will last days before needing a charge.
Naturally, with a 10A limit, you won’t be winning any cloud comps, but it is perfect for everyday use. 10A may not seem much, but with a regulated device the LG MJ1 truly shines – you are able to increase the voltage so you don’t need as many Amps to reach higher wattages. With a massive 10.8Wh of stored energy (measured at 5A, discharged from 4.2 down to 2.8 volts), a setup using two batteries literally lasts me over 3 days on a single charge! For reference, my preferred setup is using an OKR T-10 module drawing roughly 4A on series, and gives me about 24watts at 6V.
In terms of cell cycles, with over 80% capacity at 400 cycles, this beats both Samsung and Sony’s cells in this list. Imagine vaping and charging every single day for more than one year and your battery can still maintain 80% capacity. And I don’t even charge my MJ1s every day!
Overall, this is a marvellous cell that is the go-to for those that are comfortable with 10A. While they can be a bit expensive, they will definitely outlast most cells since it can do more cycles, and the number of cycles/day is fewer than most others since it has ridiculously high capacity. Did I mention that this is my personal favourite?
- Efest 35A IMR 18650 3000mAh Flat Top Battery (purple) – Do you love the massive capacity of the LG MJ1, but need a little more power? Then consider buying the Efest 35A 3000mAh. Many vapers love these little purple cells because they have high capacity along with a monstrous 35A limit.
- Rated capacity: 3000mAh
- Nominal voltage: 3.7V
- Max charging current: 4A
- Standard charge: 2A
- Max continuous discharge current: 35A
- Pulse discharge current: 60A
- Charging temperature range: 0°C ~ 45°C
- Discharging temperature range: -20°C ~ 75°C
- Inner resistance: 20mOhm
- Cell size: 18.5mm x 65.20mm
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 10.1Wh
Looking at the specs, these cells are extremely impressive. Max continuous discharge at 35A is definitely no joke; we are talking close to 150 Watts of power. 60A in short bursts will put you well over the 200w range. And to top it off, the Efest has the capacity to run such monstrous loads!
In terms of capacity, the battery gives 10.1Wh when measured from 4.2 down to 2.8 volts at 5A. The difference between the Efest and the LG MJ1 is negligible; so why isn’t the Efest 3000mAh my favourite battery? Simply put, it seems too good to be true. There have been reports of the cell not performing very well at over 30A (i.e. getting a bit hot & not having as much capacity at higher Amps), and Efest is a relatively new company. I personally don’t know if they make their own batteries or just rewrap them from big factories like Sony or Samsung.
Nevertheless, these are pretty good cells and many vapers swear by them. I would recommend using them carefully and at 30A max – that’s still more than enough power for most vapers.
- LG HE4 18650 2500mAh 35A – These are excellent cells from LG, and are better suited to high-drain applications compared to the MJ1 but with less capacity.
Specs: Nominal Capacity: 2,500 mAh
- Nominal Voltage: 3.6V
- Standard Charge: 1250mA, cut off: 50mA
- Fast charge: 4000mA, cut off: 100mA
- Max. Charge Voltage: 4.2 +/-0.05 volt
- Max. Charge Current: 4000mA
- Standard Discharge: 500mA
- Fast Discharge: 10000mA, 20000mA
- End voltage: 2.5 volt
- Weight Max.: 47.0 g
- Operating Temperature: Charge 0 ~ 50°C, Discharge -20 ~ 75°C
- Storage Temperature: 1 month -20 ~ 60°C, 3 month -20 ~ 45°C, 1 year -20 ~ 20°C
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 8.1Wh
Another impressive cell from LG, the HE4 boasts impressive specs that are close to what the SonyVTC5 can put out. Though on official specs they list is as 20A, they can handle 35A without breaking a sweat. With a 5A test current and discharged from 4.2 down to 2.8V it measures out at 8.1Wh – not as much as the SonyVTC5, but still better than most cells out there. Overall, these are really nice cells for high-power applications.
- MXJO IMR 18650 3000mah – MXJOs are great batteries with very impressive specs. They have been popular with many in the vaping community, but nevertheless these Chinese cells may not be exactly suitable for high-power vaping despite the manufacturer’s claims.
- Capacity: 3000mAh
- Nominal Voltage: 3.7V
- Max. Pulse Discharge Current: 20A (35A pulsed)
- Dimensions: 65*18.24MM (+/-0.05)mm
- Operating Discharge Temperature: -10 to 60 Degrees Celsius
- Standard Charge: CC/CV
- Cycle Life: > 500 cycles
- Weight : 65g
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 9.2Wh
As we can see from the specs, these ought to outperform both the SonyVTC5 and the Samsung25r. When tested, the battery was able to put out 9.2Wh at a 5A test current from 4.2 down to 2.7 volts; this is actually a very impressive score! However, 5A is a very conservative number. When other cells such as the Samsung was pushed a bit harder, naturally the Wh would be smaller; at 20A it is in the neighbourhood of around 7Wh. The Sony cells did much better at 20A, and were just under 8Wh under the same conditions. The MXJOs on the other hand, seemed to have difficulty pushing 20A – having only less than 2Wh at that load! What does this mean? Well, it means that this cell is unsuited for high-drain applications, and you won’t get much vape time at higher Amps. It does well at 10A and below; in fact it does so well within those ranges, that it still made it on this list despite its shortcomings.
If you use less than 10A in your rigs, then these cells are actually a solid choice.
- AW IMR 2000mAh – The good old AW batteries. These have been the preferred battery of vapers for a very long time, and had been considered “the best” in its day.
- Nominal Voltage : 3.7V
- Capacity : 2000mAH
- Lowest Discharge Voltage : 2.50V
- Standard Charge : CC/CV ( max. charging rate 2A )
- Cycle Life : > 500 cycles
- Max. continuous discharge rate : 10A
- Operating Discharge Temperature : -10 – 60 Degree Celsius
- Wh @ 5A test current, discharged from 4.2V to 2.8V: 6.7Wh
Looking at the specs, one would think that the AW 2000mAh is a bit outdated, especially when compared to the newer high-performance cells. With a 10A limit and 2000mAh capacity, it may not seem much. At 5A and discharged from 4.2 down to 2.8 volts it measured 6.7Wh.
So why is it in this list? Well, The AW batteries have been around since vaping was still in its infancy, and are known for their quality. In fact, the makers of the Provari actually recommended AW batteries for use in their devices; they are that reliable. It is said that the company behind the batteries have extremely strict quality control, and tests their batteries regularly. Any cell that does not reach their high standards will never make it to shipping. The specs may be a bit underwhelming, but if you want truly reliable cells, then the AW may be the one for you.
Choosing a battery may be a daunting task, especially when the market is flooded with so many different brands to choose from. To make things easier, here are a few pointers to guide you in your selection:
- Look for a battery that fits your style of vaping. If you sub-ohm, then choose batteries that can handle the Amps/power setting you like. If you like a more leisurely vape at less than 10A, you can opt for higher capacity cells that will last more cycles since you aren’t stressing it as much.
- Read reviews on the battery you are planning to buy. I have listed several batteries here, but there are literally hundreds to choose from – the only way you’ll know if they are any good is to pay attention to the opinions of others who have purchased and used them.
- The information in this article may be a lot to digest in one sitting, but basic understanding of how a battery works and how it is measured will really help you make informed decisions.
- You get what you pay for. Don’t expect high performance from low-quality batteries. Batteries are the one thing I would not recommend skimping out on.
- When in doubt, buy Samsung 25r batteries. As mentioned, these are very good cells for the money and perform well and is stable at higher loads. They are also relatively inexpensive.