Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Maglite Solitaire LED [AAA Flashlight]

My very first AAA flashlight was a Maglite Solitaire, almost 25 years ago. It wasn't just the best single AAA
Maglite Solitaire LED With 25 Year Old Classic Version
Product Link
flashlight, it was pretty much the only single AAA flashlight. It put out a pitiful amount of light, but hey, it was all we had back then.

Maglite was very late to the party with the Solitaire LED. At its inception, the market was already saturated with powerful and innovative AAA flashlights, most of which sport top of the line Cree LED emitters. Manufacturers such as Fenix capitalized on the lack of completion in the space, to the point where I'm not sure a company like Maglite can ever fully catch up.

Product Description


This is an LED version of the classic Solitaire, in almost every respect. Same anodized Aluminum construction, same loosen-to-turn-on, same zooming optics--everything.

My review sample was purchased from Amazon for about 15 bucks using a seller that was fulfilled by Amazon and shipped it with Prime.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • 37-lumen LED light source capable of up to 60 yards of visible illumination
  • Mag-LED Technology provides extended battery life, enhanced brightness, adjustable beam width
  • Anodized aluminum housing with black finish
  • Weather and shock-resistant construction
  • More than 90 minutes of continuous illumination on a single AAA alkaline battery
  • .8 Ounces
  • 3.2 x 0.5 x 0.5 inches
Maglite Solitaire LED: Taken Apart

Maglite Solitaire LED: Closeup Of Threads
Closeup of anodized threads

Maglite Solitaire LED: Closeup With Classic Version

Initial Impressions


At first glance it looks identical to the classic Solitaire. When I held them up together, I could see that the newer model seems to be a hair shorter and a hair wider in diameter. Not a big surprise that they tweaked the body a little, but it's essentially the same as the classic.

Fit And Finish


Maglite Solitaire LED: Closeup Of Tail
The build quality, fit and finish are identical to the classic Solitaire. At least I can't tell any difference. Years ago, one of my friends worked for the company that did the anodizing for Maglite, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out it's the same company using the same process.

Everything else: machining, knurling, springs and other parts appear to of identical build quality and finish as the classic. Why mess with a good thing. I've got to hand it to Maglite there; uniform quality control spanning decades.

Candle Mode



Yep, it's still there, just like the classic Solitaire. Just tail stand the unit, take unscrew the head, and you basically get a 37 lumen candle. Much better than the classic version, which was barely as bright as an actual candle!

One note, though. It looks like the emitter is just sitting there exposed, and may be more vulnerable to damage than the incandescent version. Time will tell I guess.

Usability


As far as usability goes, the new LED model is identical in every respect. It's brighter obviously, and doesn't have the warm tint of an incandescent, but that's it. It's the same light. Because of the higher output coupled with the zooming mechanism, it's much more useful than its predecessor.  Too bad it doesn't have a 120 lumen Cree XP-G2 emitter in it, or it would probably be the throw king of AAA flashlights.

Conclusions


The output is a little disappointing given the number of high output single AAA flashlights on the market. But it's not always about output. With a 90 minute run time, you get a pretty good balance of output and run time. At least in this respect, the Solitaire LED holds its own against its high tech Chinese competitors.

But it could be better. All these years after the original, I wish I could point to some feature of the new version and say 'wow, they really raised the bar here,' but honestly, it appears they basically just slapped an LED in an older design.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a good design. The loosen-to-activate interface is still rare on other lights to this day. It's ideal for a keychain because most of the newer models suffer from the problem of the head being too loose and prone to falling off the light, leaving you with an empty tube on your keychain. This design doesn't have that problem. And 37 lumens is about average for what most people use at any given time. But for me, I'm too spoiled on multi-mode lights. With my trusty Olight I3S, I can have my medium mode just like the Solitaire, but I could take it higher or lower, or even activate the strobe for an emergency. And the few single output mode AAA lights I carry are all at least about 100 lumens.

So, overall this is a good light, but I think Maglite needs to step up a little better. For the average user, though, this is a decent light, and it's probably what most users of the classic Solitaire have been clamoring for: an LED version of their favorite classic flashlight.

Gallery


Maglite Solitaire LED: In Package, Front

Maglite Solitaire LED: In Package,Back

Maglite Solitaire LED: Another Comparison Shot

Maglite Solitaire LED: Closeup Of Unknown Emitter
Closeup of emitter of unknown make and model

Maglite Solitaire LED: Closeup Of Tail Spring
Closeup of spring. Same build quality as classic version!
Maglite LED Solitaire On Digital Scale
Shown with Tenergy NiMh battery. It was set to grams ... DOH!

Maglite Solitaire LED: Emitter Comparison
Just about the only obvious difference by looking at them




1 comment:

  1. I just Found New Black Mini Maglite Led AAA also Avialable The Home Depot cost $15 had Luxeon C Led bright 84 Lumens with 2 AAA Batteries count up 5:45 time life

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