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If you surf the internet, watch TV, or read any of those in-flight magazines that are stuffed into the air-line seats, you have probably seen the magnetic flashlights that "never need batteries". They are pretty cool, I'll admit that. Built around the "move a magnet through a coil of wire" experiment that I learned as a kid in grade school, these flashlights produce light after a short period of "shaking the light". How well do they work? Is one better than the next? If so, which one is? Plenty of questions but who has the answers?
Some of the "facts" I read in the flashlight ads would have me believe that some are so awesome that they are just short of a full blown Jedi light saber......or are they? It was time to put these claims to the test and see just how good they really were. Put up or shut up.....it was time to put their money where the light does shine!
With the assistance of my magnetic flashlight supply guy, I soon had five likely candidates in front of me just begging to be put through their paces. Now mind you, I've never done any flashlight testing before, unless you count turning the switch on and off to see if the bulb works. But in my younger years, I worked in a Type II Naval electronics calibration laboratory as a certified Cal Tech. I felt confident I could come up with a battery of tests that would hopefully weed out the wanna-be flashlights and do so in an objective manner. No doubt, some parts of the evaluation would be subjective....but hey....not all things can always be quantified by a number. Sometimes, something just "looks better" than something else.
OK......so you now know what this roundup is all about. Time for you to get to know the contestants! I've included a few comments about each one. These comments were the result of my initial impression with the flashlight upon removing it from its package, reading the supplied directions, reading any available information provided on the package, shaking the light a bit and then turning it on....stuff like that. Yeah, it is not really very technical nor is it highly objective.....call it the flashlight's chance to make a great first impression with the tester. And so, they are, in no special order:
Nightstar RS - 5 year warranty (ship to company at address provided), shake for 1 minute at 3 shakes/minute, this gives 8 minutes of light, recharging light takes about 30 seconds, good directions which also includes cautions about magnetic fields and erasing your credit cards, tapes, etc. It is lightweight, uses magnets at each end of the light to reverse the direction of the charging magnet (that is cool!). Not very noisy when you shake it. No lanyard attachment point. Flashlight is sealed and can not be opened. Has a rather unique rotary on/off switch...easy to manipulate. Lists patents.
Forever flashlight - 1 year warranty (must ship back to company but no address is provided....what good is this?), 30 seconds of shaking gives more than 5 minutes of light, recharge by shaking 10 to 15 seconds every 2 to 3 minutes, good directions which also includes cautions about magnetic fields, etc. Noisy when shaking. Uses springs (the source of the noise) and rubber bumpers to reverse the charging magnet. Feels "clunky" in your handy. Has lanyard attachment point. Flashlight can be easily opened by turning black ring around lens (why?). I opened it and removed the contents for inspection. It has the worst soldering job, on the printed circuit board, of all the flashlights. Has a sliding on/off switch.
Everlast flashlight - no warranty indicated in documentation (I guess I am on my own?), 30 seconds of shaking gives up to 3 minutes of light, good directions which also includes cautions about magnetic fields, etc. Comes with a miniature version of itself (is this like a "Mini-Me" kind of thing?) Mini-me is virtually useless....shake it excessively to get a little bit of light. If I had a 6 year old child, I would give it to them so they could have a flashlight "just like Dad". The flashlight can be easily opened by turning black ring around lens (why?). Not very noisy when you shake it. Has lanyard attachment point. Uses a push button switch that you must continuously press to remain illuminated.
The on/off switch just ruined the chances of my ever using this light for anything other than completing the tests in this roundup. There is no way I will hold the light (to keep the button pressed) while working on my Jeep at 1:00 AM with my remaining free hand. Sure....I could get some electrical tape and find a small rock and tape it over the switch to keep it pressed.....but that simply isn't going to happen.
Nightstar - 5 year warranty (ship to company at address provided), 30 seconds of shaking gives 20 minutes of light, most complete directions of all (includes specs on depth, noise emissions, hazardous gas certification, marine certification, submersion, corrosion resistance, light output, etc.) Has lanyard attachment point. Flashlight is sealed and can not be opened. Uses magnets to reverse the direction of the charging magnet (that is cool, again!). Not very noisy when you shake it. Glow in the dark on/off switch. Feels "solid" in your hand. Clear plastic housing allows easy viewing which reveals surface mount components in use on the printed circuit board (that is ultra cool!). Very bright output. Lists patents. Has a sliding on/off switch.
Hummer Shake flashlight - 90 day warranty (ship to company at address
provided), 30 seconds of shaking gives more than 5 minutes of light, recharge by
shaking 10 to 15 seconds every 2 to 3 minutes. Very big box to hold an
average sized light. Rubber grips on body are nice. Comes with
attached lanyard. Not too crazy about the push button on/off
switch....hard to manipulate....can't tell by "feel" when it goes on or
off....must look at light for confirmation. Flashlight can be opened by
turning black ring around base or lens (why?) but contents do not easily slide
out. Uses rubber bumpers to reverse the direction of the charging
magnet. Not very noisy when you shake it. Claims patent pending.
(kind of late maybe?) Has a push on/push off switch.