Rich Warren: A whole battery of information about batteries

Unlike diamonds, rechargeable batteries are not forever. Eventually, all rechargeable batteries share their final electrons. The battery charges slightly less with each charging until your talk time is down to a few minutes.

Certain companies, such as Apple, make it difficult and very expensive to replace batteries. Other electronics welcome a new lease on life with a fresh battery. It seems that no two cellphones, tablets, laptops and other portable electronics use the same battery. That makes it impossible for retail stores to stock all but the most popular batteries.

When my cellphone battery limited me to 10 minutes' talk time, recycling it was imminent. The store with the most batteries in town is Interstate Batteries, just east of Mattis north of I-74. It had to order my battery — and charged me the shocking price of $30. The battery it sold me did not fit comfortably into my phone, although it was electrically equivalent. The battery came apart when I struggled to remove it to reset the phone.

So I went online to search for an exact replacement battery at a reasonable price. I combed the intimidating thicket to save you the trouble.

Dozens of companies on the Internet offered supposedly exact replacement batteries for $5-$30, most with free shipping. Then I started reading the reviews for each company and visiting the Better Business Bureau site. Buyer comments resembled a Stephen King novel of commerce: a complete nightmare. Many of these sites sent used batteries, different batteries than promised, or no battery at all.

If the price of a battery seems too low, it probably means that it is used, defective, very old or stolen. Batteries should not be stored much more than a year without regular use and charging.

After over an hour of research, I came across Batteries4less.com (800-300-9993). It had very few, if any, negative comments. The $20 price for my battery, with free shipping, seemed reasonable.

My battery shipped immediately and arrived in good condition within a week. Batteries4less used the postal service, so a week is fast.

It looked like the genuine battery and perfectly fit in the phone. After a full 10-hour charge, it held that charge for an extended period without a problem. The battery arrived charged, which is essential because lithium-ion batteries don't tolerate being fully discharged. Used, old or defective batteries fail to hold a full charge. Generally it takes three full charge cycles to maximize the battery charge.

Batteries4less even supplies a sheet of accurate recommended battery practices for keeping your battery in good condition for the long haul, along with a coupon for future purchases.

Incidentally, go to one of the online coupon sites for a code to obtain free shipping from Batteries4less. It doesn't automatically offer free shipping.

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In the "too-good-to-be-true" category, a reader sent us a link to Tiger Direct, a reputable Internet merchant, for a Seiki 50-inch 4K (ultra-high-definition) TV for $1,500. According to the printed specifications, it is true 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels). Other websites offer this Seiki for even less. The screen size is considerably smaller than competing 4K sets.

Considering how difficult and expensive it is to make a large, true 4K LCD panel, something seems amiss with this Seiki product. Prices don't fall this rapidly on a technology that's only been on the market for a year.

Seiki's Website (seikidigital.com) claims it can offer this price because it operates its own factories as one of the world's largest TV manufacturers (mostly likely for other companies).

This set does not double or quadruple the resolution of existing HD sources, as other 4K sets do, to take full advantage of the 4K screen. On some of Seiki's smaller screens, the actual panel resolution doesn't always match the advertised resolution of the set.

If any of you take the chance and buy one, please let me know how you like it.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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