Rechargeable batteries are pretty wonderful. They save money since they can be used over and over and over. They save resources since you are not buying alkaline or lithium batteries ad infinitum for your electronic toys. They do eventually die, but most chargers will make you think that they are dead long before the end of their useful life.
Smart chargers like the LaCrosse BC-900 can not only extend the life of your rechargeable batteries, but they can also make those batteries last longer on a single charge.
The BC-900, in particular, has some very nice features that set it above your average charger that you pick up at Target. First off, each battery is charged on an individual circuit, which means that you can charge different types of batteries without worrying about damaging the batteries or the charger, like you possibly can with a regular charger. Those idividual circuits have very complex monitoring technology to ensure that they do not overcharge and ruin your battery, a major problem with many fast chargers on the market. The circuits can also immediately detect whether or not a battery is completely shot or not, so you do not have to wait until you need the battery to figure out that it is destined for the recycling center. The BC-900 can charge batteries that my other chargers don’t even recognize as batteries in the first place.
Second, you can change the rate at which it charges. If you want to be nice and gentle to your poor little batteries, make it charge slow. If you want to inundate your batteries with as much juice as possible in the shortest amount of time possible, crank it all the way up. I personally just leave it on the middle setting, so it is not frustratitingly slow and also does not burn out my batteries.
Lastly, and coolest to me (I admit that I am a giant nerd, so take this with a grain of salt), is the “discharge and refresh” function. Most chargers will just charge a battery a single time, which can make the battery not have the maximum amount of charge possible. The discharge and refresh function does just that, discharge each battery completely, and then recharge them with the maxium amount of capacity (mAh) over and over. This process can take several days, but it will also help you achieve those ratings you see on your batteries, like “2600 mAh.” In my experience, just charging a battery once will get you about 2/3 of the capacity that the battery is capable of, which means that you are losing a full 1/3 of what the battery is capable of. The BC-900 will help make sure that you take full advantage of your batteries, which is very nice if you take them on a trip where size and weight matter, like on a hiking or travel trip.
There are other nice featuers of the BC-900, but those are what I believe set it apart from other chargers. The BC-900 and similar chargers are more expensive than your average charger, but if your house is littered with five million flashlights, electronics, game controllers, remotes, etc. like mine is, it will very quickly pay for itself.