Drafted on OCT 2015.
We’re taking a little detour from the planned battery safety topics to discuss a question that is asked daily on the online vaping forums… “What’s the best 18650 battery? Or “What is the best battery for unregulated/regulated mods“?
This is a surprisingly hard question to answer! Unfortunately, the answer is “It depends”. Some batteries last a very long time before needing to be recharged, but they can’t handle being discharged at high rates. Some batteries don’t get too hot even at 40 A, but they need to be recharged very often.
So, while I can’t tell you what the #1 best 18650 battery is for the way you vape, I can give you my personal choices for the top five batteries and the reasons why. I hope this will help you pick the one that best fits your vaping style.
What makes for a great battery?
There are four qualities that are important to consider when picking the top batteries for vapers:
- High capacity
- High current rating
- High voltage when vaping (“hard hitting”)
- Low operating temperature.
Other things like price are part of choosing a vape battery but, in my opinion, aren’t as important. You should be able to use a battery for at least a year before replacing it. A couple of dollars for a better battery is almost nothing when compared to having a better, safer vape for a year or longer.
Let’s explore these four qualities that make for a great vape battery.
This is important because it determines how long you can vape before you need to recharge the battery.
Capacity for vaping batteries is measured in milliampere-hours (mAh). It tells us how many milliamps we can draw from the battery for how many hours. For example, the Samsung 25R has a rated capacity of 2500 mAh. This means you can theoretically draw 2500 mA from it for one hour. Or, 5 A from it for 1/2 hour. Or 1250 mA for 2 hours. As long as the current multiplied by the number of hours equals 2500, the battery is supposed to last that long before needing recharging.
Batteries aren’t 100% efficient though so that formula only works for rough comparisons of batteries. You can’t take the Samsung 25R’s 2500 mAh capacity and say it will do 250 A for 1/100 of an hour!
But comparing the capacity rating for two batteries will give you a general idea of which will last longer before needing to be recharged. For example, the 3000 mAh LG HG2 battery should last longer than the 2500 mAh Samsung 25R, which should last longer than the 1500 mAh LG HB6.
Why not just buy the highest capacity vape battery you can find then? Batteries can be high capacity or high current. You won’t find batteries that are both. Battery technology today just can’t fit all that into one small 18650 battery. If you need a high current rated battery, you have to sacrifice some capacity. If you need high capacity, you’ll have to settle for a lower current rating. There are some great batteries in all three categories though; high capacity, high amp, and a compromise between the two. We’ll go into more detail further on in this article.
High current rating
It’s important to choose a vape battery that can safely deliver the current that you need without overheating, whether using unregulated or regulated mods. You would think that it would be best to just buy the battery with the highest (continuous) current rating possible. This would definitely be the safest choice but there are a couple of things to consider that could make buying the highest rated battery not the best choice.
As mentioned earlier, you can have a high current rated battery or a high capacity battery, but not both. If we choose the highest current rated battery then the capacity will probably be a lot lower than other batteries that might still be plenty safe in our device. For example, the LG HB6 is rated for 30 A continuous and can easily be used at 40 A. It is the lowest temperature battery vapers can buy. This seems like the perfect choice! But, the tradeoff you have to make for this high current rating and low running temperature is capacity. The HB6 only has a capacity of 1500 mAh. This means that you will be changing batteries a lot more often than if you used higher capacity batteries.
The key is to pick a battery that has just high enough a current rating to not overheat for the way you vape. That way you’re not sacrificing capacity for a current rating you’ll never really use. For example, instead of choosing the 30 A LG HB6 with its 1500 mAh capacity you could choose the 25 A LG HD2 with its 2000 mAh capacity. Or perhaps even the 2500 mAh Samsung 25R. It all depends on how much current you’ll be drawing.
But, be careful! Many companies exaggerate their battery ratings or just print the pulse current rating on the battery. You might think you’re buying a battery that can easily handle the current you’ll be drawing from it only to find out that you’re replacing the battery every month or two because they’re always running hot. We’ll explore these exaggerated battery ratings in more detail in a future article but for now it’s safest to just buy vape batteries made by one of the Big 3; Samsung, Sony, and LG. Their ratings are accurate and you’ll know what you’re getting every time.
Panasonic is also a manufacturer of high quality, dependable batteries but most of them are rated for 10 A continuous or less. This is why I don’t include them in the list of high current rated battery manufacturers for vapers.
You might have been wondering about vape battery pulse ratings. They seem to make sense. We vape by pulsing the battery so why not select a battery that has a pulse rating that matches (or exceeds) the current you need? Some of these pulse ratings sound great! But the pulse ratings on these batteries are essentially useless.
We have no idea how the pulse ratings we see on so many batteries sold to vapers were determined. How long was the pulse? How much rest time was there between pulses? How hot did they allow the battery to get? All these have to be the same for any two batteries we want to compare. And no battery manufacturer/rewrapper prints this information. Without this information we could be looking at two 60 A pulse rated batteries but one used 3 second pulses and other used 10 second pulses. One could have used 20 seconds rest time between pulses and the other could have used 60 seconds. These differences make those 60 A ratings impossible to compare.
The only way to compare batteries right now by their current rating is to use the continuous discharge rating, or CDR. It’s also called the MCD rating, maximum continuous discharge, or MCC, maximum continuous current rating. They’re all the same and it’s the standard for rating a battery’s capability.
High voltage (hard hitting) when vaping
Why is having a high battery voltage a good thing when we vape?
For mechanical device users it means that it “hits harder”, or delivers more current to the coil, so more vapor is created. For regulated device users it means that the battery doesn’t have to work as hard. The higher the battery voltage is in a regulated device, the lower the amount of current that is drawn from it by the device’s regulator circuit.
Different batteries run at different voltages even if the same amount of current is being drawn from each of them. Choosing the one that runs at the highest voltage for the longest time benefits both regulated and mechanical/unregulated device users.
Getting this information can be tough to do though. It requires that the vape battery be tested and the results posted for you to review. Testers like Torchy the Battery Boy, Kidney Punchers, Liionwholesale, Pegasus Vapor Academy and others have done testing. I’ve also done some testing, as Mooch in ECF and Mooch315 at the /r/electronic_cigarette subreddit.
You don’t have to search too far for the harder hitting batteries though. The batteries that have good capacity, a high current rating, and run at cooler temperatures are typically already the ones that run at a higher voltage.
Cool running temperature
As discussed in my previous article, battery temperature is critical. It is the top cause of premature aging and damage to your battery. If the temperature gets too high your battery can even vent or burst.
To help ensure long battery life and safe vaping we want to use the batteries that run at the lowest possible temperatures. We can run at lower power levels or use higher resistance coils, but this might interfere with the way we prefer to vape. It’s better to find the batteries that run the coolest so we have the greatest amount of freedom when choosing power settings, coils, etc.
Choices for best 18650 vape batteries
Here are my personal choices for consideration as the best batteries for vapers. The list is divided into three groups so that we can choose the best batteries for different current levels. These groups are not the limits of the batteries, just the level at which they are best used in my opinion.
Winners Up To 20A = LG HG2 3000mAh and Samsung 25R 2500mAh
These batteries are a fantastic combination of a decent current rating, good capacity, moderate operating temperature, and good voltage while running. Both are rated at 20 A but the HG2 delivers about 15% more capacity than the 25R when running at 20 A. The 25R runs several degrees cooler though.
The VTC5 and HE4 are also great batteries but not quite as good as the 25R and LG HG2. In testing their voltage and capacity at 20 A is a bit lower than the 25R and HG2. The 30Q is a great battery too but the HG2 performed just a bit better in testing. The HE2, while still a good battery, lags behind the others in this group in its performance.
Winners 20A-30A = Sony VTC4 2100mAh and LG HD2 2000mAh
Both of these batteries provide high current at a decent capacity with good voltages and moderate temperatures while running. They tested out very close to each other in performance.
While the HB6 and HB2 can easily handle 30 A, their low capacity compared to our top two picks keeps them out of the running. They easily have the lowest temperature while running though.
Winner 30A and higher = LG HB6 1500mAh
While both the LG HB6 and HB2 have low capacity, they are the only choice for very high current levels. They are the coolest running 18650 batteries available.
While the HB2 is a great vaping battery, the HB6 runs a bit cooler and has a bit more capacity and voltage at the higher current levels. This makes it the number one choice above 30 A.
The top five 18650 vape batteries
*You can exceed the current levels listed in this table. These are the levels that still give you a decent safety margin in case your regulated device malfunctions by not stopping when you release the button, i.e., it “autofires”. Or if your mechanical device’s button breaks, gets stuck on, or is accidentally pressed in your pocket.
When vaping we pulse our batteries. This means they run a lot cooler than they do when discharged continuously. This is why we can use them at current levels higher than the continuous rating. But if you do, be aware that there is a risk of the battery overheating or venting if you use them at current levels much higher than the ones in the table and you have a problem with your device.
Why didn’t any rewrapped batteries make the list?
You may have noticed that only batteries from the Big 3 manufacturers are listed; Samsung, Sony, and LG. Why? The other vaping battery brands are usually just “rewrapped” cells from one of these three manufacturers. Some are from battery factories located in China though and aren’t rewraps because they don’t use batteries from the Big 3.
The big problem is that some of these rewrapped batteries can be lower grade batteries rejected by the Big 3 as not meeting the ratings during testing. These lower grade batteries are purchased, a different wrap placed around each, and they’re sold under a different company name. Often with exaggerated ratings and at a higher price than batteries from the Big 3 manufacturers.
You might have seen the “authentication”, or anti-counterfeit, stickers on some rewrapped batteries lately. The only thing these stickers guarantee is that the battery is a rewrap of something else of unknown quality/grade. They don’t mean that the battery has met any type of testing or quality standard.
Not all rewraps have exaggerated ratings or use low grade vaping batteries though. And some rewraps are perfectly ok to use. Perhaps not at their ratings, but at a lower current level that doesn’t really stress the battery. We’ll cover the issue of rewrapped batteries in more detail in a future article.
Reliable vattery vendors
It’s important to buy from well known vendors who only carry authentic batteries. There are a lot of fake, “counterfeit”, batteries out there that not only perform badly but can be dangerous to use. Here are a few reliable sources for authentic batteries:
In the United States:
- Vaping360’s Choice – IMRBatteries (imrbatteries.com)
- Illumination Supply (illumn.com)
- Liion Wholesale (liionwholesale.com)
- Orbtronic (orbtronic.com)
- RTD Vapor (rtdvapor.com)
- Akkuteile (Germany) (akkuteile.de)
A lot of batteries were considered for this list, over 40, and there are some good batteries that don’t appear here. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are poor performers. This list was just my personal choice of the best vape batteries and many of you will have your own favorites that have served you well. Share your choices with us in the Comments section!
Next week we get back to our battery safety article series
Drafted on OCT 2015.