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.
I LOVE these lights! Have several around the house and at least two in each vehicle.
For years I’ve used these LED AA battery lights. No more am I dropping and breaking $70 surefires or streamlights. You really can’t go wrong with these things. I have one that’s 4 years old and it’s been used everyday and traveled with me to other countries and continents.
Thanks for the review. I have a bunch of these throughout the house and our vehicles. Each of my kids also have one in their own distinct “can’t argue with their sister” color. I have a definite preference for the simplicity of the On-Off only switches. Also of note, there are very significant switch, housing, reflector, and water resistance differences between sources so don’t sweat paying $5.99 over the $3.99 ones. We’ve had the most luck from the “Ultrafire” marked ones.
They’ve been through water, chlorine, salt, sand, and have been smacked around during “night-time-flashlight-tag” with the kids. They just keep going so far… That said however, this is not my night-stand light…that’s a Foursevens.
Has anyone tried using AA Lithium batteries in these? I’ve toasted a few cheap lights (one click, flash, done) by trying to use the slightly higher voltage Lithium batteries, but I greatly prefer them for their long storage and runtime lives, and far superior performance in extreme cold weather (where I live, this is important).
Some versions actually come with a 14500 battery which is a 3.6 V Li-Ion.
There’s also a larger model that takes 3xAAA that is ridiculously bright for about $8.
Yeah it’s kind of weird, as some of the descriptions mention 14500 batteries and some don’t. Most of the reviews mention using them without any issue, but with the benefits of brighter light and more stable light output. I kept it cheap as could be and these flashlights were still brighter than I expected with a cleaner beam throw than I expected.
I have the lithium version with the 18650 lithium battery. Had an old laptop battery pack die and I tore it open and salvaged most of the 18650 lithium batteries. I then use these for the flashlights. They are not very high quality, but they are very bright and are certainly very cheap.
Please be advised for the above – the 2000 lumens is totally bogus. There is simply no way. That said – it is cheap and it is bright. If you are looking to spend orders of magnitude higher in price for a higher quality light – buy a streamlight, etc.
That’s what I do (Energizer Ultimate Lithium), and it works fine.
Note that this is an AA battery, not 14500. The latter will likely cause issues, judging from the reviews.
Thanks! That’s my favorite AA/AAA as well.
A pair of each (single-mode and 3-mode) are now on the way.
Jeremy S, great write-up, and the links were much appreciated too!
Received the lights today. I ordered one pair each from the links in the line “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 ordered Blue ones from the second link (delivered in a bright Air Force Blue color).
The single-mode lights came stamped with the Hausbell name printed on the flats of both sides; the blue-bodied multi-mode lights had no name/logos at all, although the bodies seemed identically configured to the single-mode black-colored lights. I installed a battery in each light, and imagine my surprise when I found that ALL FOUR LIGHTS were multi-mode lights that functioned exactly the same (click once for low, click off, quickly click a second time for flashing, click off, quickly click a third time for high, click off, cycle will repeat with subsequent clicks). However, if you leave any of the lights off for more than about 5 seconds after any series of on/off cycles, all the lights will return to a default “high” mode when next turned on. Although somewhat wasteful of battery power if you only need it for a low-powered use, at least it does allow for more serious uses needing immediate access to “high” after any other setting. Once turned on, a partial button press will also allow you to silently cycle through the light options.
I am a bit disappointed that two of the lights are not single-mode-only as advertised (often simple is better for serious uses), but I think I can still find a useful place for all these lights in and around the house and car.
Edit: I was using Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries in my testing.
if you like these lights, you’ve never owned a real flashlight. These are JUNK. They have horrible battery life because they’re unregulated (they start to dim very quickly). The UI is horrible. The “narrow/wide” adjust is crude on a good day…horrible light. Not even worth the $3.
Please explain “unregulated.”
Please elaborate on why the UI is horrible?
$3 is pretty cheap. Dirt cheap. There is no way I could machine this piece of “junk” out of aluminum for 3 dollars – much less invest my time to equate 3 dollars worth out of the process.
Please provide an example/link of a “real” flashlight.
It’s straight voltage from the battery to the LED. Some lights regulate it in order to provide the LED with a steady voltage and therefore provide a stable amount of light output. Example would be putting 9 volts worth of battery in the light but regulating it so only 3.6 volts actually make it to the LED, so as the batteries discharge and drop in voltage you’re still going to get the same light output whether they’re at their full 9 volts or down to 3.6, and only when they dip under that will dimming become apparent. This light doesn’t do that. The solution would be using a lithium battery that outputs a constant voltage from full all the way down to around 10% charge state. That said, even with the cheap batteries I used I didn’t notice dimming for quite a while and the light was way brighter than I expected from a $3 light for around 90 minutes of constant “high” mode run time.
As for horrible battery life, all three of them lasted the 5-day blackout without a battery change. That’s in part to 1) I had just put fresh, albeit really crappy batteries in all of them 2) they were used primarily on “low” mode and 3) there were three of them so they shared the load, although there were also multiple people using them so they did keep busy.
The focus adjust is crude in that it just slides relatively freely. But it’s very functional and the beam was much more even than I expected. In “wide” mode, the photo above shows a clear hot spot in the center but it’s less obvious in real life. I’ve had nicer lights with much sloppier beams that had radial darker lines and the like. This thing looks good all the way down to fully-focused, where it looks awkward because it’s a direct image of the LED itself. But it’s dang focused and effective for putting light on objects very far away. Again, far exceeded my expectations given the price.
The UI on the 3-mode is horrible, yes.
If I could afford to put a SureFire, Streamlight, Fenix, Nitecore, ThruNite, Zebralight, Olight, Foursevens, etc etc light everywhere I wanted to stash a flashlight I would. But at $3 a pop these are VERY functional lights. I’m not suggesting you bolt one to your home defense rifle haha.
The forward bias voltage for the LED is over 2 volts. It must at least have some kind of boost converter topology to operate. Break one open and you’ll probably find a tiny printed circuit board.
The link you provided indicates they will also operate on a lithium 14500 3.6v battery. This is the optimum voltage for the CREE LED per the data sheet: (temperature Q5)
My link above might not be the correct data sheet. But typically for a high output LED like this they have a high forward turn on voltage (>1.5v)
“It’s straight voltage from the battery to the LED. Some lights regulate it in order to provide the LED with a steady voltage and therefore provide a stable amount of light output.”
You can also regulate the current from the battery as well as the voltage.
From my putzing with LED lasers salvaged from old DVD burners, high-powered LEDs really don’t like having too much current flowing through them (or if they overheat). It can *easily* zap them.
That’s why it’s risky to the LED to defeat the current regulation provided by the resistor when you ‘jumper it out’.
Yes, it will get brighter, but you risk killing the LED…
You don’t have to spend $$$$ on a Surefire to get a quality light. One light that I really like is the Sunwayman V11R. The prices range from $40-$80 depending on the vendor and what accessories you get with it. It’s a single CR123 light but with a $15 adapter, you can use standard AA’s. It will take RCR123’s (16340) and 14500’s. You get 500+ Lumens (REAL 500, not this made up “300” lumens. Those $3 are NOT 300 lumens, not even close) using rechargables. You get around 250+ Lumens when using primaries (like Alkaline or the non-rechargable Lithiums). It has variable dimness (truly variable, not “steps”) and it works with two different type of batteries. Once you try one, you’ll see what a waste of money the $3 lights. Are the $3 better than nothing? Absolutely. Are $3 light great if you need to buy 100 of them for every possible location you could think of? Absolutely. Are they actually “good” light? HELL NO. They’re one step above those keychain lights that run on 2016 or 2032 coin batteries.’
As someone who owns over 40 lights from several different brands (from cheap to Surefire), I can assure you that these aren’t worth it. I bought a few to try out and they weren’t even good enough to be consider a glovebox light. They’re literally sitting in the bottom of a box somewhere in my garage.
It is not a replacement for your expensive Surefire etc. It’s something that you buy in bulk – like, a dozen – and stash around the house, in your car etc, for emergencies.
In my experience, it is very much worth $3.
The local big box hardware store had 3xAAA LED flashlights in a 10 pack WITH BATTERIES for $9.99. Sure, they’re cheap, but one in the glovebox, one in the console, two in the kitchen, two in the bathroom, one on visitor’s side bedstand. one in the laptop case, one on the keyring and one on the spare keys. All for less than the price of the batteries.
Got another 10 pack for my folks, another for the ex, and another that I broke up and gave to neighbors and friends.
If you can prep for an emergency, why would you prep with shoddy equipment? I know that cost is a driving force for a lot of people but as someone who has had to rely on equipment in emergency situations, I can tell you that not ONCE, did I (nor do I) regret having QUALITY gear.
Totally agree. I found these lights over a year ago. I bought one and it worked well for a week so I bought 5 more for work. Long story short, every single had a failure of the “clicky” button. Trash.
So instead of buying 5 lights for $15 that might last 5 months in total, I recommend the iTP A3 which I keep in my pocket no matter what (gym shorts even!). It’s $17.85 on ebay and I still have my well worn original that’s more than 2 years old.
I’ve got these all around the house and in every go-bag. They have certainly served well and cheap enough to trash if they break. Let me say a couple of things about the review. First, these lights also work with a 3.7 volt 14500 battery. This makes them much brighter and will blind you. Second, there are videos on the net describing how to short, or add resistance to, the circuit board driving the LED. This depletes the memory capacitor on the chip and will start up in the default mode or high.
Thanks for that! I should have mentioned the 14500 thing, as it’s in some of the product descriptions and in many of the Amazon reviews. Another advantage to Lithium batteries is a stable voltage output from full all the way down to like 15% or 10% charge state, when it finally starts to taper. A standard battery like what I’ve been throwing in these drops in voltage as charge goes down in a nearly linear fashion.
Of course, I didn’t want to put a $5 battery in a $3 flashlight haha
“Second, there are videos on the net describing how to short, or add resistance to, the circuit board driving the LED.”
FYI, a ‘short’ is *not* adding resistance.
In electricity, a ‘short’ means you go from a set amount of resistance to a much lower, or even *zero* resistance.
That means the circuit will now pass a much higher current, often to the point the wiring or the components will heat to the point things melt.
Now, the humorous part: When the parts get so hot they burn up, the smoke is called the ‘magic smoke’. If the ‘magic smoke’ leaks from electronic components, they stop working…
Very important to keep the ‘magic smoke’ *inside* the parts…
You are missing about half the potential output by running this light on a 1.5 v battery. Put in a 14500 3.6 v lithium battery and see what “blinding” really means. Note that the 14500 battery has special charging requirements and will not hold up well if it is one of the cheap ones that lack the internal overcharge protection circuit.
Yeah, but is it 3 year old proof; he took out my mini mag now I’m looking for a replacement. I think it’ll probably be a Tac Lite Pro but this is interesting by its self.
Maybe I’ll pick up a couple of these to replace my 2 Mini-Maglights that inexplicably died a couple weeks ago. One the standard ‘krypton’ bulb the other an LED conversion. They are just too darn FAT to fit in the belt loop pouch from the Maglights I have become accustomed to.
I’ll def look into these. I just ordered a Fenix LD41 as my big flashlight to replace my old, off brand bulb flashlight that runs on heavy, clunky D batteries. I figure since I have the rechargeable eneloops now, the LD41 is the best large flashlight for my needs.
Now, for smaller lights I was looking at another Fenix, the LD22, and the new Maglite that runs on 3 AAA’s, but those are in the $30-50 range and if these can put out just as much light, and of good quality, with just one AA, then these are the better buy.
I’ve had the ld22, great light.
I now have the PD35, It’s a better light, if you don’t mind the 18650 batteries.
For years I refused to purchase a light that used CR123As, as they were too expensive and
not as easy to find as the more common AA/C/D types.
The 18650s are becoming more common, and the CR123As are almost
as common now as AAs, so you might want to consider a more powerful light.
PD35 is awesome! I got one last year for Christmas and added a rechargeable 18650 a few months later.
Compared to the various Maglights and cheapos it is amazing. I love the 5 brightness settings.
Sadly, $75 is a bit much for me to have multiples right now. I will probably get a few of these ones just to see.
I like cheap flashlights and have a few of them. They work just fine, last about forever and for the price of one brand name flashlight I can have 30 cheap ones.
Of course, if you must have a brand name, go right ahead. It’s your money. Waste it any way you want.
I buy these a half dozen at a time. I lend them out a work (and get about half back – that’s why I buy so many). I stash them in my vehicles, desk drawers, range bag, tool boxes etc. They’re lots better and lots brighter than the Harbor Freight “present this coupon and get a free flashlight” version although HF obviously wins on price! A great deal.
OK. Ordered a couple.
I bought a similar light from Costco a few years ago. Loved it. Stockpiled a dozen or more for cheap. All of them are now in the trash as the batteries corroded. Never had that happen with a Fenix, Surefire, or 5.11 light. I would store them without batteries installed.
” I would store them without batteries installed.”
Store all electronic gear for long-term storage without the batteries.
Leaking batteries are *very* corrosive.
I have broken a few of these. They last me about three-four months if lucky. Whatever you do, DON’T try to use one as a bicycle headlight. They can’t take the jarring and develop loose connections very quickly.
I find that their best use is for blackouts. Stockpile a half dozen and you don’t need candles.
I have had 4 of the various Ultrafire models 501,504 ect for several years. one in the car, one in the truck, bedside table and one on my mountain bike. All have worked flawlessly. Had to order the 18650 batteries and charger on line as they were readily available locally.
I have an Ultrafire with a T6 led running off of a 18650 battery and it is awesome.
I have been buying these for about a year. I have a bunch of them, including a UV version, which is pretty wide spectrum and fairly visible. But they are decent lights, great for the price. And I am somewhat of a flashlight enthusiast. I do, in fact, have a $4,000.00 light setup for cave diving. This is not comparable to that. But everyone should have these in all their cars and junk drawers, and on their nightstands. And give them to all the elderly people you know.
I’ve gotten a bunch of these flashlights. Unfortunately I got hooked on them when they were $8 so consider yourself lucky if you’ve got the $3 ones. As said above, use the 14500 Lithium and it really lights up. However, they don’t last as long as a regular AA but obviously can be recharged. Also, when the Lithium gets to low, you just instantly loose the light. The protective circuitry in the battery does this to prevent you from over draining and ruining the cell. I have a few that I just use the Lithium and a most I just use a AA. Never had one break on me yet. Gave a few away as well.
I use these at work. I regularly have to look down into 10,000 gallon chemical reactors, and these lights shine way better then the 3 AAA Surefire flashlight I was issued.
I’ve had a few of these from a few different sources. I only have one remaining that works, even then, the strobe mode is gone. :/
Went with 2PCS WAYLLSHINE® SILVER 3Mode 7W 300LM Mini CREE X-PE LED Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp.
Adding to gift bag for relatives, with the usual box of ammo & jerky. Of course have ordered enough of the flashlights for myself and the husband, don’t need or have room for more ammo, neither of us are crazy about jerky, women on the list get a box of candy in lieu of jerky
Why would you want an emergency TOOL that may or may not work when you need it? Why would you cheap out on something that could save your life? I’ve been thru all the chinese made wonder (wonder if it will work this time) torches. They all suck including the one’s that cost over $100. The only illumination TOOL I will trust to get me out of a jamb (or the dark) is a SUREFIRE. Buy once cry once.
And I bet you have a $5,000 1911 in your nightstand, too! B/c you wouldn’t want to go with a cheap Glock, S&W or Ruger
I keep there around the house and use rechargable AA batteries.
I got one of the 3-mode “Ultrafire” ones for Christmas last year. For the last couple months the button has been somewhat sticky – you press it down and it doesn’t pop back up, leaving the light off. It seems worst when going into the “high” mode.
That said I (and my kids) have used this a lot over the last year and will continue to use it… I’ll just probably get another one for the bedside table.
can I go off on a flashlight tangent?
I AM SICK OF MODES. I don’t want a strobe mode. I’m not throwing a damn rave. I want high and (maybe) a low mode. I want decent construction. I want it to take regular batteries. I want it to last. I want it to not be expensive as hell. That’s what I want. I don’t 5 different modes and 3 different color lenses driving up the price.
FWIW as far as having one on me all times; I have a small keychain light from Fenix that works a charm. One AAA battery,a bout 80 lumens, has held up for over a year now. It’s not nearly as bright as these but its’ actually lasted with regular use and only cost meli ke 15 bucks on amazon.
I finally broke the bank and ordered two of these things a few months ago. My first impression was that they aren’t as bright as I expected, but still good, and the color isn’t as neutral as I’d like. What I do like is the single mode, the focus, and the single AA. I have a few of the Duracell Costco unit and hate them. Just sitting there the batteries die probably from the mode memory/PCB controller so for a go bag unit those are useless as tits on a bull. The modes are not necessary as I only use them on full blast anyways and I’m not on ecstacy so the strobe mode isn’t needed. After Christmas I’ll probably order ten more of these cheapos for work, vehicles, house, etc.
I love these little lights.
I’ve got them on my kids bikes taped to the handle bars, in the cars, in drawers, next to my bed. They are the perfect small cheap light. And they run on AAs. Which I always have a couple of Cosco Kirkland mega packs on hand.
p.s. Its brighter than a $200 LED Surefire that I have that is about 4 years old. Its much brighter than an old P60 surefire.
Ok, so I have a Scorpion AND a rechargeable streamlight cop flashlight I used to carry on my duty belt. Also have a variety of Maglites laying around. Blah, blah, blah. These little lights can’t be beat for their brightness and utility. Mine are 3 mode, never had a problem with them. Have one in my pocket next to my spare mag all the time.
I have a bunch of them.
Have one in my mag carrier now. Been carrying it daily for last eighteen months. Treat it with no special care. So impressed with it ordered a six pack to give away for the holidays.
Has anyone tried using these as tactical lights…mounted to a rifle or handgun? I’m guessing that they are not as tough as a surfire (or other ‘tactical’ flashlight that costs 10x as much), but it might be an interesting test.
Yeah, I know…buy once cry once and all that. But just for a shear science perspective. In addition to toughness, maybe include comparing the beam and some kind of brightness test.
I have a couple of those lights and I love them. I keep one on night stand and I carry one in my pocket everyday. Just normal use I get a few months out of each battery. I change battery after about 3 months anyway if not used enough to run it down. As far your question Matel, I was wondering the same thing and I removed the clip and was able to put in a scope ring. Where the ring fits you end up needing a pretty long rail for it to fit on a gun, so only the longest pistols would it work on, but works fine on a rifle.
Currently using similar LE flashlight with CREE LED module producing up to 140 lumens and running on 3 AAA batteries. I’m satisfied with it. Brightness is good enough at daily use and changed batteries one time after 4 month use.
I got one free for do a survey . .. plus 10 bucks shipping . ..big disappointment . . Way smaller then I thought.. not all that bright… fell like I got rip off on a free item…lol