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Wednesday, March 21 News

Living with Technology: LED flashlights have come light years

A flashlight is a pretty basic item. Most people have them around their homes. Some of them even work.

Years ago, I became a fan of the Maglite brand of flashlights. They're made of anodized aluminum, are as tough as nails and last forever.

When LED (light emitting diode) flashlights came out, I started to look at them because of their long battery life.

The problem with the early LED flashlights were that they were just a few simple LEDs on the front of a stack of batteries. They didn't focus very well ----if at all -- didn't put out much light and didn't project very far. Not a ringing endorsement.

But the batteries lasted just about forever.

As with everything tech, even lowly flashlights evolve.

What I found was that flashlights with LEDs started moving away from the multiple LEDs on the front panel to a more typical very bright LED with a parabolic reflector.

Not only does this combination project lots more light, but it lets the beam be focused either wide or narrow.

And, while Maglite has come out with a great line of LED flashlights, I've been finding some other companies that offer surprisingly good performance at an affordable price.

One of the companies making this possible is a company called Cree, which makes LEDs that go into a lot of products, including home light bulbs and flashlights.

I have a number of Cree products in my home, either branded with the Cree name or as part of other products.

What I've been seeing is a great supply of LED flashlights that put the old incandescent bulbs to shame in terms of durability, brightness and power efficiency.

Maglite continues to make really nice flashlights, some of the best I've seen. But other companies are giving them some strong competition by providing flashlights that are at least as bright, as durable and as power efficient as a Maglite.

Better yet, some of the new LED flashlights are far smaller than the traditional flashlights, so they tuck away in a drawer, glove compartment or backpack and can be taken just about anywhere.

Next time you're in the market for a flashlight, be sure to check out the new LED flashlights. Not the ones you get for $3 or $5, but if you get into the $20 and up area, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you can get for that amount of money.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org.