These flashlights, sold under a handful of brand names, are all over Amazon and fluctuate in price from about $2.75 to $3.75 shipped. They run off a single, AA battery and claim to put out 300 lumens with a CREE Q5 LED. This listing for them has been the #1 best seller in the “handheld flashlights” category since at least early spring when I first noticed it. Eventually I couldn’t keep away from them any longer and figured it was time to pick up a few and see how they actually fare. . .
First, the link above is the most popular listing but it isn’t the only option. The closest competitor is this one, and like the #1 best seller it’s going to ship from China and take around a month to arrive. If you’d rather not wait, there are options sold and shipped from the U.S. with Prime shipping. This listing is for a 1-mode version (on/off), sold as a pair shipped Prime for $9.90, and this listing offers pairs of lights in a few color choices and 1-mode or 3-mode (high/low/strobe) options, also shipped Prime for under $10.
I decided to buy one of the #1 best sellers, which are 3-mode lights, and a 2-pack of the 1-mode “Hausbell” ones. The best seller took about 3 weeks to arrive at my door, and the Hausbell was here two days later as you’d expect with Prime shipping.
On the 3-mode light, each time you click the tail-cap button it progresses through each of the modes with “off” in-between. For instance, click-high-click-off-click-low-click-off-click-strobe-click-off-click-high etc. etc. repeat. Alternatively, depressing the tail-cap button most of the way down, but not far enough to click it, will transition directly between modes without turning the light off in-between.
As far as I know, there’s no way to make the light always turn on in “high” mode. It’s going to turn on in whatever the next mode in the above sequence is. This is a known annoyance of mine, as I tend to just use lights in “high,” which is why I also bought the 1-mode lights. With simple 3-modes that work like this one, after using it in “high” for whatever I need it for, I tend to click-click-click-click-click when turning it off so that the next click turns it on in “high” mode.
The 1-mode lights worked as expected. Click it on and it’s on full blast. Click it again and it’s off. Well, until I realized that partially depressing the tail-cap will switch it between the same three modes as the 3-mode version. But, regardless of what mode it was on previously, a full click to turn it off meant it came back on in “high” mode on the next click. Well, until (after heavy usage during a 5-day power outage) one of the pair suddenly began functioning exactly like the 3-mode one! I have no freaking clue how that happened. But, somehow, I reprogrammed the thing. Unfortunately, they don’t come with instructions of any sort. Odd.
All of these lights adjust focus by simply sliding the bezel in or out. In is wide beam, out is tightly focused.
Right off the bat I installed a cheap, Memorex AA battery, put the light on “high,” and set it on the table next to me.
It seemed to put out approximately its full brightness for about an hour and then started tapering off. By 90 minutes it was definitely dimmer, but still bright, and it was a map light at about 2.5 hours.
I then popped a new battery in it, turned it on, and threw it in 4″ of water.
After 30 minutes it seemed good as new so I decided to adjust the focus in and out while it was under water. I could clearly feel water being sucked into the bezel as I slid it forwards to tighten the focus, but kept pulling it in and out until sliding it back into wide angle mode no longer resulted in air bubbles. The light kept trucking, though, through the entire life of another, cheap AA.
That’s despite the obvious fact that the bezel isn’t water-tight. I took it apart, dried it up, and this light continues to work fine after another few hours of runtime. The battery compartment remained completely dry.
Now, these all claim to be 300 lumen lights, but every company seems to measure differently and I don’t think anyone’s ratings are particularly reliable when it comes to comparing offerings from multiple manufacturers. They certainly are bright, though. In wide zoom on high or even on low, it’s blinding from across a large room or long hallway. On strobe mode in a relatively dark environment, it’s annoying and disorienting. Heck, it’s annoying even if your eyes are closed.
When focused in, the image is actually identical to the shape of the LED’s face, and the beam size remains fairly tight over an impressively long distance.
Taking it out for a nighttime stroll, it’s capable of brightly lighting up the tips of trees a good 100+ yards away. Inside the house, especially on “low” mode and with wide focus, it’s great for doing just about anything you need a flashlight to do. A groove in the rear proved handy for hands-free, teeth-operated use.
After a pre-Thanksgiving storm left us without power for 5 days, these lights saw plenty of use and they served us well. They’re small, lightweight, and bright. On “low” mode even these bargain basement batteries lasted a very long time, and “low” is still way brighter than necessary for any household use other than blinding assailants.
At $3 a pop, I’ll likely pick up a few more to stash in vehicles, drawers, bags, and wherever else. It’s nice to get a bright flashlight that runs off a single AA, too.
Ratings (out of five stars)
Overall * * * *
For $3 including shipping it’s a heck of a light and its brightness and beam focus capability perform way out of its price class. The machining of the aluminum body and the anodizing are both quite nice, actually, and the glass lens is thick. I’d give it five stars — again, taking into account what you get for the “almost free” price point — if it wasn’t for the 1-mode light magically turning into a 3-mode light. These won’t be replacing any of the nicer quality tactical lights I own, but they are bright enough to serve that function and they’re cheap enough to stash one anywhere a flashlight might come in handy.