These days flashlights are all over the place and getting lured-in by some of the hype is easy. In this post, I’m bringing to the surface the biggest mistakes made by flashlight buyers, which will hopefully save you time, money and unnecessary frustration.
So one day you realize your flashlight isn’t doing its job and you need a new one. You do a Google search for “LED flashlights” hoping it will guide you in the right direction. This is your plan of attack because, A) you don’t really know what you want, and B) you’re hoping a general search will give you some ideas.
Entering such keywords brings up a wide variety of results. Depending on your buying habits the search displays a mixture of reputable sites, and “others” that offer a wide selection of products. Amazon is a trusted source for many… myself included! So it would seem natural then that Amazon would be among the top results.
Dissecting the Results
I think you’d expect that whichever link you click, you’re going to find a variety of products. So for the sake of argument, let’s say you go with Amazon because, A) you know you’ll get good service, B) you know you’ll get a good selection, and C) you expect to find a reasonable price.
Choices, Choices, So Many Choices
Of course once you’re in there, and you do the “basic search”, the results can be overwhelming. Large lights, small lights, and prices ranging from $10 to $80. Now, if you try to narrow the search, perhaps by price or customer rating, a entirely new selection may appear before you.
Evil Combo of a Low Price and Many 5-Star Reviews
So there you are, dozens of products and lots of choices, all just a click away! So what do you focus on first? Price or star ratings? If you do, let me be the first to explain to you that putting trust into either, is one of those biggest mistakes made by flashlight buyers!
Let’s examine why each is a dangerous search filter.
Generally speaking, any flashlight product that offers “what sounds” to be a fantastic deal (and usually $20 or less) is not worth even HALF that. The products included in “the deal” are low quality and do not present themselves accurately. An excellent example of this are 18650 lithium batteries. To find out what I mean by that, please refer to this post.
The other problem within these deals are the flashlights themselves. They too, are extremely low quality. Now, you can argue that people should know “you get what you pay for”, but what fools the majority of potential customers are the claims of performance made by the sellers, and the fact that the products themselves are well camouflaged to “look” just like their higher-quality cousins.
Popularity; (AKA the 5-Star Rating System)
This also comes down to experience. Very simply, those who’ve used LED flashlights in the past, or have a current collection, are well versed as to what quality looks like and what features are possible at a certain price-point. Those who’ve NEVER bought one before, or whose experience goes no deeper than an ordinary Maglite, will be easily fooled.
So to explain this further. “Average Joe” gives his new $15 flashlight kit a rave review, including five stars. He says “it’s the brightest light I’ve EVER seen”. He says when he shines it out the back door “it lights up the whole yard!” Is there a problem with that statement? Yes.
Chances are, the flashlight “AJ” is raving about is a “focusing head” or “zoom” flashlight. His statement is inherently false. The fact that the lens moves back and forth to create either a full or narrowed-beam effect, means that when it’s in full position, a large portion of light is all around you. That’s called “spill”. As you focus the head and the beam narrows, you lose all the spill, so you end up with a longer reaching (funneled) beam that can pinpoint a target. “AJ’s” statement is wrong because when in “full” position, the beam only reaches up to maybe 20 feet in front because the light is all “spill”. Then when it’s focused, every bit of spill has gone. So there’s NEVER a point, no matter what position the head of the flashlight is in, that he can ever see his “entire back yard” unless the LENGTH of his yard is 20 feet or less! Understand? And just for clarification, this explanation ONLY applies to “focusing head” flashlights.
In addition to beam performance, “AJ” has also praised the lights’ output as “the brightest I’ve ever seen”.
Well, the problem here, is that 95% of the time, a less than $20 flashlight will advertise incorrect or purposely exaggerated output ratings. When they claim 800 lumens or higher… they’re lying. Typical output is usually about 300 lumens. Even if it advertises at 1200, 1600 or 2000 lumens……… it’s STILL 300 lumens!!!!
The problem regarding AJ’s “brightest ever” statement a few lines back, is that he’s not familiar with flashlight lumens. This isn’t his fault… he’s just not had experience with many, (or any) LED flashlights, and as a reviewer of a product, he’s not knowledgeable as to whether the product is performing as described. Does that make sense? He “sees” bright light coming from the device. But, he doesn’t understand the difference between 100 lumens or 1000 lumens. The light is delivering less than HALF the advertised output, but he doesn’t know it! In short, he’s had NO experience with LED flashlights. He’s commenting on a level of advertised performance that he has NO understanding of! He sees much brighter light than his previous incandescent lights could ever offer, therefore virtually ANY output looks impressive (whether it’s accurate or not).
Then, if that isn’t enough, other lies are sprinkled throughout the product description. They claim it’s “tactical”… but it’s not. They also claim it’s suitable for camping etc., but it’s not impact resistant or waterproof.
What should you take away from the five star reviews?
- Read what the reviewer says, very carefully, and try to “gauge” their level of LED experience
- Be suspicious when they make claims that it can “light up my entire…whatever” (unless they’re referring to a room in their house)
- Just know that if they’re a flashlight newbie, they’ll say things like “super-bright” … “best flashlight ever” … “can’t beat this deal” … “best value for the money”… etc.
So Who Can You Trust?
Believe it or not, it’s the three star and under reviews that are the most useful. It’s not that those reviewers are more experienced than the others… although, SOMETIMES they are, because on occasion, someone who already owns a few flashlights will buy one of these, and when comparing it to something better, is when the truth is revealed.
Reviews to Take Seriously
What you need to realize is that bargain-priced flashlights are VERY poorly made. The LED’s they use, although normally of quality, are in many cases factory rejects. The unit is assembled poorly, sometimes without key components! A heatsink (used to control heat buildup) is often missing. The advertised type (and make) of LED (usually CREE) is sometimes REPLACED with an inferior brand! These lights have a tendency to not live up to their owners’ expectations. And in many cases, the owners who left a glowing review, (perhaps several months ago) are NOW experiencing problems, but DO NOT bother to update the five star review and downgrade it to something less.
Here are some actual reviews by actual buyers of cheap flashlights. I’m also identifying the light they’re talking about. Take special note of a “common theme”.
Let’s begin with the Refun E6; (seen at; Amazon)
- “If I could give negative stars I would, I have purchased at least 6 of these for my houses and family they start out great but shortly after the button doesn’t work properly and the flashlight is garbage it has happened to all of them very disappointed”
- “At first this was great. It’s a nice bright compact flashlight. After about two to three weeks It broke. The light won’t come on at all. Its not a reliable product. I never neglected or dropped it. Just one day it would not come on. At first I thought it was the battery so I charged it to full. Then tried it again and nothing. Its kind of a shame because when it worked it was pretty good.”
- “I was very disappointed when I first used the battery charger it didn’t work and it was also cracked. I recommend spending more money on a better flashlight I regret ever buying this flashlight.”
- “While I loved the output of the light, I did not like the fact that the glass lens was loose in the light. When I stretched out the light to change the beam the lens fell into the light. The rechargeable battery is pretty worthless.”
- “Worked for about 5 min. If it did wrk this would be an awesome light.”
- “Worked great for about two days. I tried all modes several times for a total of about 10 minutes and it worked flawlessly. After recharge, it worked fine. Tried it the next day and it’s dead. Checked the switch and battery with a multimeter and they’re fine. The electronics just died completely. Not worth the trouble to return. Avoid this product.”
There are many more for the E6, just like this.
Now to the Outlite A100; (seen at; Amazon )
- “This light is a joke. It lasted only two days until it started giving me problems. It does not turn on when you push the switch at least 8 out of ten times. Out of disgust I slammed it to the ground and it then worked for a week. Once again it started acting up again . So I threw it in the trash. Waste of twenty dollars.”
- “Was working great until it fell out of my pocket when I leaned over (dropped about 3 feet). Now it won’t turn on. In product description it says LIFETIME BREAKAGE WARRANTY, so logic says this should be covered/replaced. I cannot locate where it says how to return or replace. When I click on return to Amazon, Amazon says it falls out of the 30 return policy. When I click on Outlite, it takes me back to the product description.
A few days later, Amazon is willing to work with me on this issue, but no word or resolution from Outlite.”
- “I strapped this thing to my backpack and went on a very easy short hike. There was no time when I took off my backpack or hit it or anything really. When I was back, the lens in front of the LED had fallen off. I do not think this is acceptable for a Flashlight that is described as “sturdy and durable.” This thing didn’t even withstand swinging from my back for a couple of hours.”
- “Works less than half the time. Generally it just gives a brief flicker when I try to turn it on, and then goes out. When it does work it’s extremely powerful, but because it’s unreliable it’s pretty much useless.”
- “I purchased one and i had to ask for a refund. It stopped working within a week of purchase date. I thought it was just a defected item, so i decided to purchase it again but the second one only last about 2 weeks. So it it very low quality in my opinion.”
- “Did not work right out of the box. Whether I put in the rechargeable battery or the battery pack, the light would turn on but I could never turn it off.
Had to unscrew the cap to turn it off. Could find nothing in the package or anywhere online on how to operate it (it’s a flashlight with a button. It should not be that difficult anyway). After trying this 20 times, I gave up. I’ve owned many flashlights and this thing stinks!”
- “I received this flashlight in early March, and at first it worked fine. Today, June 5, I checked it, and it’s dead. I thought the battery was out, but when I placed it in the charger, the light immediately came on green. The instructions for the charger state that when the light is green, the battery is fully charged. I kept this flashlight in my pocketbook, and it may have received a little jostling, but not rough treatment. If it can’t withstand that, I think it is worthless.”
These negative reviews for the A100 go on and on.
Now to the OxyLED Super Bright 800 Lumens; (seen at; Amazon)
- “Chinese Junk! Battery charger stopped working second time using it. I pitched it!”
- “Kinda lame, no matter what you do (light press or heavy press), the 5 modes always cycle each time you turn this on and off. if i want to grab it quickly and look at something, its going to be on one of the 5 modes (flashing, sos, dim, bright, etc). so i always have to press it 4 more times to see which of the 5 modes im on. just wanted a flashlight that goes on/off at same brightness.”
- “Great light but stopped working so soon. I think I’ve had it for 3 months and used it maybe 6 or 7 to times.”
- “Just got my OxLED flashlight today and I was super excited when I noticed the case it comes in. The build quality of the body is very sturdy and nice! I also love the fact that it comes with a rechargeable battery and also a cradle to add regular AAA batteries yourself. Once I put the batteries in it and I began testing it, I quickly realized that there’s no way this thing is 800 Lumens. The box even says 500 Lumen and you can see on the pictures already posted by others. It is still super bright but I want my 800 Lumen flashlight.”
- “Battery went bad after 1 week and refuse to charge.Would not recommend this flashlight!!! Wish I could give this no star!”
- “Broke a week after I got it. Spend a few more bucks on a nicer one.”
- “Worked great…until it didn’t. Used the flashlight for about 10 minutes/night while walking the dog. After two weeks, I noticed the light was not as bright. Recharged the battery, and now the flashlight is completely dead. Thought I may have put the battery in wrong, but no such luck. Should have read the one- and two-star reviews on Amazon, as it seems that a lot of people have had the same problem. Obviously the manufacturer and vendor don’t care, since nothing has been done to correct this ongoing issue. I will never order an OxyLED product again and will be contacting Amazon to see if I can get a refund. Bottom line? Don’t buy it!”
- “I bought 3 of these and one of them just literally exploded today. The battery felt hot so my brother in law set it down on the table and walked away, thankfully this happened right after my 4 year old son left the room. The battery exploded and send shrapnel flying everywhere for a 10 foot radius. Great, I’ve got 2 more ticking time bombs sitting here at my house until UPS picks them up.”
Lots more negative stuff to say besides this.
Finally, let’s look at the PeakPlus; (seen at; Amazon)
- “The charger is supposed to light up red when charging, green when done. Plugged in charger with battery – no light. Tried moving battery around, tried different plug. Then noticed charger getting very hot and bad burning electronics smell. Not good.I understand that a certain percentage of an item is going to be defective, and obviously I got a defective one. However, even before I had plugged it in I had noticed that this flashlight isn’t well made. Components are the cheapest available. There was some sticky substance in a couple of places on the flashlight, maybe from the white printing, and the paint was defective in a couple of places. The light end wasn’t even securely screwed down. The lens is not completely clear, it kind of looks like that semi-clear plastic used for windshields in plastic model cars. The silver ring around the emitter isn’t polished at all, it looks like just a stamped piece of very thin tin.The case and charger are similarly cheap. This is a “free with purchase” giveaway-quality item, not something to be counting on for reliability and durability.I’m also skeptical about the quality of the battery. This same company has different listings for this same light, with and without the green case, but with the same pictures of the flashlight, battery and charger. But for some reason the mh rating of the batteries is different. I really doubt they are sending higher mAh batteries with one and not the other. Who knows what you’re really getting?”
- “Do not buy this flashlight – a ripoff. I purchased a Wophain – XML-T6 LED flashlight for $8.95 on Amazon….actually 2. I gave them away to my kids, they are not bright like they claimed. The I purchased the Peak Plus Flash light – it is the same exact product – also labeled the XML-T6, but for $19.95. The only difference is that the Peak Plus came with a cheap and cracked carry case and a battery and the button to turn it on is orange, the Wophain button is green. If you are going to spend money on a good LED Flash light – purchase the LUX-Pro brand, much better quality. So beware of these fraud flash lights sold under different names by different companies.”
- “Garbage, this flashlight is nowhere near 1000 lumens. I didn’t expect it to be 1000, maybe somewhere between 700-800 but holding it next to a flashlight I bought from Walmart that claims to be 750, this one is half as bright.There’s also a very annoying “halo” around the beam.”
- “Absolute garbage. If you think this is a great flashlight you have never had a great flashlight. I own high quality flashlights from Surefire and others, and this light is nowhere near the brightness or quality of even the cheapest “military grade” flashlight. My wife saw this thing advertised as being an awesome light, and not wanting to spend the $100+ for an actual light that works, she got this. Bad decision. All it is is a crappy Chinese made light that is available with different labeling from about a dozen different sellers…..they just put their name on it. You may have seen it as the Falcon Tactical 8MR-T. Avoid this one at all costs.”
- “Maybe I got a defective light but this is NOT a tactical grade flashlight. I have seen what tactical flashlights can do…this can’t. I took it out and it wasn’t even as bright as my four wheeler low beam headlight. The flashlight itself is nice quality but its lighting ability totally lacks. I think I would do better with a $5 light from Wal Mart! I will return it and and go to a source for actual tactical flashlights. I would add…I had purchased a head light for my road bike last year that was brighter than this light.”
- “Flashlight came clicky switch was lopsided and sticky. However light still worked… Until the LED Just slowly faded over 20 seconds and then it didn’t work- at all. Noticeable burn mark on the actual diode when looking at it. Everything else seemed fine… Just crummy sub-par internals. Wishing I could give a good review but it was a horrible light. Maybe I just got unlucky, but two components that were less than adequate??! That is crazy.”
- “Works fine as a flashlight but broke down after 3 days of use. The metal part around the led got bent for some reason and damaged the led so now it doesn’t even turn on.”
And once again…more negative reviews follow those.
The Tip of the Iceberg
This is just a sampling. The flashlights that I have focused on here are just the tip of the iceberg! There are DOZENS more EXACTLY like these. Even though they have different names, they’re basically one and the same. A flashlight mold was created and tons of merchandise, much of it crap, is the result.
Now, if your question to me is…
…So What’s Your Point?
Here is my answer.
The point… is that these are poorly made products. It’s also true that EVERYTHING you buy online is not without some degree of negative . But even when taking into account the number of reviews left for the average flashlight product, these have higher than average negatives. Obviously there are many, many positive reviews too. There would have to be, because if the reviews were ALL negative, they’d never sell another unit.
But with the positives, you have to take a few things into account.
- The review is often written early in ownership. Breakage occurs later and the review is not updated
- Many reviewers are newbies and have either no experience or even a basic understanding as to how the product operates
- Majority of owners have never owned an LED flashlight before
- Most owners are gullible, and don’t stop to wonder if the information on the product page is only there to sell more product
So, What’s One of the Biggest Mistakes Made by Flashlight Buyers?
They go online to where massive amounts of products are available, possibly searching by a mix of the number of positive reviews, and the lowest price. A deadly combination!
I understand there are problems with a lot of products. It doesn’t matter what you look to buy, whether it’s a light bulb or a household generator, it’s going to have mixed reviews. But, for some unknown reason, hand-held flashlights have been a target for scammers for a while now. It’s only human nature to want to pay less and get a good deal on stuff. I get it, and I do the same thing. But, I’ve also learned why LED flashlights are the one exception to the ‘oh it doesn’t matter they’re all the same’ way of thinking. And it’s about time other people realized that as well.
Go to my Product Review page if you need to. READ the reviews and take special note of the BRANDS on that page. They are trusted and they stand behind their products. If “flashaholics” can trust them… then so can you.