Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight Is Adequate When It Is Not A Battery-hungry Club!

The Good: Good lighting when batteries are new, Durable, Extra bulb.
The Bad: Drains batteries quickly!
The Basics: A good flashlight, the Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight eats through batteries at an alarming rate, but functions as an ideal flashlight when the batteries are fresh.

I've actually never reviewed a flashlight before, so this is new territory for me. I'm starting with the Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight, which I have had and used for about four years. In that time, the Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight has been dropped almost as many times as I've changed the batteries. This is a powerful flashlight which casts a great cone of light, but goes through batteries at a pretty alarming speed. Even so, it is easy to recommend this flashlight for those looking for a bright battery-powered light in the dark . . . or a flashlight intimidating enough to suggest itself for uses for the purpose of self defense!

The Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight is a heavy-duty aluminum flashlight that is actually just under 12 1/2". It is closer to twelve and a quarter inches long with a diameter of an inch and a half throughout the base where one grips and 2 1/8" at the lighted end. This substantial flashlight may be light on its own, but with the three D-size batteries it weighs just over a pound. This makes it less ideal for backpackers and more of a tool for those looking to have a reliable light source in the car for changing tires at night on otherwise dark highways. The aluminum has been powder coated in black and no matter how many times I have dropped this, it has never chipped or dented.

This flashlight is easy to use from its basic operation to the changing of its components. Operation is quite simple as there is a single button on it. Three inches from the lamp end of the flashlight is a rubber button 5/8" in diameter. That button is depressed to turn the light on (there will be a click) and pressed again to turn it off. The button operates smoothly and for all the years I have had my Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight, the button has never corroded or denatured. Despite the button's proximity to the light source, this flashlight has remarkable balance because of the grip right behind the button. When one naturally wraps their fingers around this flashlight with their thumb over the rubber button, they are wrapping their fingers on textured metal which prevents slippage. This works nicely when one is fishing at night or is wearing gloves while holding the flashlight. The non-slip surface makes it easy to keep this flashlight stable and is a nice touch.

As for the light source, when the batteries are fully powered, this flashlight uses a tiny bulb that creates a very bright cone of light. The Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight lights a surface twenty feet away to a brightness where surface details are quite visible. The objective test my partner and I did was place a sign on a wall twenty feet away and lit it with this flashlight. We could easily read the sign and the flashlight lit the wall in a five foot diameter at that distance. The Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight features a beam adjustment function that allows one to spread the light being cast from the flashlight out so it diffuses over a greater surface with less brightness. So, by twisting a ring at the light end of the Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight, the light beam can spread out to approximately eight feet in diameter for a surface twenty feet away and while it is less bright that way, it also diffuses better outside the strong circle light, making for an ideal search tool. Instead of having to hit something like lost keys in the grass directly, even the fainter light of the opened aperture will illuminate reflective surfaces enough to reveal themselves.

As for replacing the bulbs, this is a simple flashlight to use. One simply unscrews the base (the end without the light source) and the D size batteries slide right out. One may simply unscrew, drop out the old batteries and slide in the new batteries. The Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight includes an extra bulb in the base as well. Wrapped in foam for protection, the spare bulb is stuck in the coil that pushes against the batteries to keep them in place! The spare in mine has been there for four years and I have never had to use it as the original bulb has continued to work for me, but it is nice to know the spare is there!

For practice, though, I have removed the bulb and here the Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight is a little problematic in its design. The only way to access the bulb chamber is unscrewing the ring at the top (the same one used to adjust the beam from tight to wide) all the way off. When one does that they must then remove the reflector inside to get access to the lightbulb. The lightbulb must be unscrewed and there is very little room within the top of the flashlight to do that. This requires very thin, long fingers to swap the bulbs out.

The other real issue with this flashlight is how quickly it goes through batteries. Fresh batteries keep the light on for five hours before the beam intensity begins to fade, but when it fades, this flashlight fades fast. The light operates at a significantly dimmer level for a while, but it does not cast much of a light even ten feet away after the five hours. As well as having a weaker strength, the faded battery casts a much uglier light. Instead of a bright, clean white light, the faded battery illuminates with a sickly brown color that is hardly, pardon the pun, illuminating.

Even so, I keep a Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight in my car with fresh batteries for emergencies and it has proven reliable when I've needed it . . . so long as I have not needed it for an excessive amount of time.

All of the seals on the Mag-Lite 3D Flashlight have rubber rings around it, which implies that it is waterproof, but I have never submerged this to test the resilience of it underwater. However, this flashlight has gotten wet in the rain and snow and there have been no adverse effects on its functioning, nor on its surface (i.e. there has been no wear from water). For most people, this will be the only flashlight they need for around the house and in emergencies.

For other simple tool reviews, please check out my takes on:
Craftsman Electronic Studfinder
Dirt Devil KWIK vacuum
Dyson Air Multiplier fan


For other tool reviews, please visit my index page on the subject for an ever-expanding and very organized listing, by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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