What do the iPod, Sony PlayStation Portable and Motorola RAZR cellphone have in common? Sure, they're ultracool gadgets. But they, and similar...

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What do the iPod, Sony PlayStation Portable and Motorola RAZR cellphone have in common? Sure, they’re ultracool gadgets. But they, and similar gadgets, also rely on rechargeable batteries.

Without batteries PSP screens would go dark, RAZR calls wouldn’t be connected and you wouldn’t be able to listen to any iPod tunes.

Today’s most popular battery choice is the lithium-ion variety. Other types you may see are lithium-polymer (Li-Poly and very similar to lithium-ion) nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH).

Here, some battery tips:

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Consider conditioning. Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries typically arrive in a partially charged state. Most manufacturers will tell you to charge them before use. Otherwise, they don’t need to be conditioned.

Nickel-based batteries require conditioning, which means they must be charged and discharged several times before initial use. Otherwise, they won’t function to their full potential. Check your device’s manual for more about conditioning.

Charge properly. You can prolong batteries’ life span. Failing to properly condition nickel-based batteries could lead to the formation of crystals, which can lead to batteries that won’t hold a full charge, which can lead to memory problems in your gadget.

With lithium-ion batteries, partial charges and discharges are best on a regular basis. These batteries do not develop memory problems.

However, lithium-ion batteries contain a fuel gauge that must be reset periodically. The fuel gauge measures the charge left in a battery. A gauge that is not reset periodically might become inaccurate.

If the gauge is off, your laptop might shut down unexpectedly, and you’ll lose your work. To prevent this from happening, completely discharge lithium-ion batteries about once a month to reset the gauge.

Fuel gauges should not be a problem with nickel-based batteries, assuming they are discharged and charged regularly.

Store them correctly. Don’t store batteries completely discharged. A 50 percent charge is optimum for storage.

Also, recondition nickel-based batteries if you have stored them for six months or longer to help regain lost capacity. Charge lithium-type batteries when you’re ready to use them after storage.

They don’t last forever. You’ll have many options when you buy a replacement. Third-party replacements are available online, often for a fraction of manufacturers’ prices.

Fight frugal urges. Manufacturers test their batteries to ensure a good fit and for safety. If something goes wrong — such as a short circuit — with a third-party replacement, chances are you’ve voided your gadget’s warranty.

Dispose of your batteries correctly since they contain hazardous chemicals not suitable for landfills. To find a drop-off location near you, visit the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. home page at www.rbrc.org.

Cusp of a new age. Toshiba recently announced a rapid-charge battery. This lithium-ion model achieves 80 percent of its charge in one minute. It’s fully charged in a few more minutes.

What’s more, the battery is small, less susceptible to extreme temperatures and boasts a longer life span. It will debut in 2006.

Fuel-cell batteries also are on the way for electronics. Fuel-cell batteries aren’t recharged — they’re refilled with a chemical such as methanol. This means instantaneous power. Fuel cells have roughly 50 times the power potential of comparably sized lithium-ion batteries.