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How should I strike a good balance between performance and cost when selecting batteries?
To be a smart consumer, you have to understand the power consumption requirement of your electronic device before deciding on which battery to go for. Generally speaking, high power consumption electronic devices operate under high current condition.

NiMH batteries will provide the longest operating time. Besides, they can be recharged up to 1000 times. Hence the cost per unit energy is much lower than alkaline and carbon zinc batteries.

Alkaline batteries are best used for moderate power consumption electronic devices.

Zinc carbon batteries are the best choice for extremely low power consumption electronic devices.

Quick Battery Selection Guide

Power Requirement Electronic Devices Recommended Batteries
High Digital cameras NiMH batteries,
Nickel zinc batteries
High Handheld TV
Portable MD/MP3/CD players
Handheld game
NiMH batteries
Moderate To High Walkman
MD/MP3/CD players
Alkaline batteries
Low Clock radio
Remote control
Smoke alarm
Zinc carbon batteries
Time:  2011-07-01