LED flashlights have grown considerably in popularity. The technology, like anything utilizing the results of research and development, continues to improve. But flashlights have become much like any other electronic item, in terms of quality, you DO get what you pay for! No doubt, most of us are on a budget and we always want to get the most for our money no matter what the product is. So how does all this pertain to cheap LED flashlights? Read on.
Like anything we buy, perhaps with the exception of gummy bears… there’s stuff made cheap, and stuff with good quality components.
Let’s look at the major components of an LED flashlight, and decide which parts can be made cheaply.
Many of today’s major manufacturers use a form of scratch resistant type III anodizing. The aluminum used is often aircraft (or aerospace) grade. This produces an extremely durable light! Virtually indestructible in fact. This durability will NOT be present in cheap LED lights. Most flashlights today are waterproof. They’ll be designated like this: Waterproof IPX-8 standard. This is an international classification, meaning the light can be immersed in water. Most likely the “cheap” light cannot withstand much more than simply getting wet.
The emitter is perhaps one of the most important parts of a flashlight. Deep in the center of the reflector is what produces the beam of light. Emitters have come a LONG way over the past decade. CREE is the major manufacturer of emitters. Just about 100% of all LED lights will feature a CREE emitter. Basically, cheap LED lights will feature older, out of date, and less efficient emitters. If you see a flashlight with the following description; Cree XR-E Q5-WC LED emitter; or XR-E R2… you are definitely NOT getting a product utilizing the latest technology. If the light you’re looking at features an “XR-E” LED, then you’re looking at something that was cutting edge, back in 2006!! The advancement in emitter technology has also lent itself to better regulation and overall efficiency. In plain English, this means that in most cases, your batteries will last longer. In turn, the electronics will keep the “driver” working harder to provide the maximum amount of light even as the voltage (due to a weakening battery) begins to drop.
Another BIG consideration when pondering cheap LED flashlights, is beam pattern (or profile). The beam of a light that isn’t quite uniform, or features multiple “rings”
around the center hotspot (referred to as artifacts) could be somewhat distracting when using the light indoors. The beam of a quality light, will normally be quite smooth with a bright spot in the center, gradually lessening in intensity as it spills off to the sides.
The electronics in each light will probably not vary too much. The rear clicky switches will most likely function equally as well. What you’re paying for in a good quality light, is the overall construction; the quality of the emitter; and of course… the brand. Consider though that a great deal of R&D has gone into these tools. And tools, are what they are.
Consider these points in what a cheap LED flashlight will tend to offer. automotive led driver
An Out of date emitter
The probability of the light getting very warm
The lack of adjustable modes (only high, low & strobe)
Overall cheaper construction – less durability
Various beam artifacts
If you read reviews written by those who purchased a cheap flashlight, one of the main complaints is that the light gets very hot. This can be dangerous. Any light that’s worth the money, has built-in “cooling fins” to dissipate heat. MANY quality lights which feature 500 or more lumens, will automatically “step-down” in power after 2 or so minutes, if left on high. This serves to cool the unit and to inhibit either damage to the electronic drivers, or the batteries themselves. As referenced earlier, these are electronic tools, not toys. A quality flashlight will have some safety precautions built in. The rest, is up to the user.
The final decision is yours. If you’ve recently discovered the world of LED flashlights and are interested in building a collection, you OWE it to yourself to not be swayed by low-cost alternatives. A quality name-brand light will last for many YEARS! They can be dropped, they can be submerged, and they’re often used for self defense. Why do you think police and military units purchase quality lights? The answers are detailed above.
What price can you expect to pay for a quality light as opposed to a cheap LED flashlight? Well… at LEAST $50.00 (U.S.) Those that sell for $30.00 or less over the internet, claiming features that you may of seen for twice the price… will not deliver lasting quality.