Here’s our compilation of the latest and greatest flashlights available in the market that will dominate 2017.
Best Flashlights of 2017
For anyone serious in getting an illumination tool, palm-sized flashlights driven by a single 18650 battery that provides at least a thousand lumens of maximum output is the standard for today. Durability-wise, the flashlight has to be made of anodised space-grade aluminium and waterproof up to 2 metres for 30 minutes.
If you’re looking for the “best” flashlight, you need to ask: whether you’re looking for
- the brightest flashlight for everyday carry (EDC); or
- a flashlight that allows you to “reach out and touch” a faraway object; or
- one that “floods” your immediate surroundings with light
To find the answer, let’s look at the following chart of single cell 18650 flashlights.
Disclaimer: The values here are manufacturer reported values or sourced from test results published by reputable testers (with the exception of the SC63 maximum beam distance, which is our best guess). The ANSI-FL1 is the preferred standard for the data shown.
1. Zebralight SC63 – Best EDC Flashlight
Top of the list, we present to you the Zebralight SC63. The closest thing to alien technology you can get.
The second iteration of the popular SC6X series and shortest of the lot. The Zebralight SC63 has baffled many with its misleadingly small size and sheer output power.
Here’s YouTube user Lonny Smith getting blown away by his SC63.
At only 3.64 inches, it’s barely long enough to fit a single unprotected 18650 battery, making it the smallest single-cell 18650 flashlight.
Unprotected cells pose a risk when used with other batteries of different charge levels. The SC63 only takes a single cell, so there’s no chance of this happening. The flashlight also comes with reverse polarity and other built-in battery protection features, so rest easy!
Now the problem comes when trying to recharge these unprotected cells. Unattended overcharging with low quality chargers may lead to fires. So that is something of a concern.
Anyway since this article isn’t about batteries, just note that this flashlight uses unprotected 18650s without the button top on the positive end. Sometimes called ‘IMR’s or ‘INR’s.
Using the latest CREE XHP35 LED, this tiny behemoth gives out a retina-scorching 1300 lumens! Probably the highest output at this point in time for single 18650 flashlights.
It also comes with the latest PID (Proportional-Intergral-Differential) temperature regulation technology to keep the heat produced by such awesomeness at bay.
Short Range Floody Beam
Zebralight makes flashlights with floody beams using orange peel reflectors to diffuse light.
At this point, we do not have reported details of its maximum beam distance. However, based on its dimensions and build, which is quite similar to its predecessor, the SC62; the maximum beam distance of the SC63 should fall between 197 to 205 metres.
15 Modes of Operation
The SC63 has a unique battery indicator that is found in most Zebralights. 4 quick clicks of the switch and it will flash out the remaining battery charge in a series of 4 short blinks (for 100% charge). Utilizing an inherent feature of the flashlight, you won’t find unnecessary LED battery indicators taking up valuable space and draining power in this little package.
Another unique feature of Zebralights is their highly customisable operation modes.
There are 4 main modes: high, medium, low and strobe. For each of these main modes, you can further program 2 sub-modes. Then those sub-modes can be further customised for different brightness or in the case of strobe, different frequencies.
The number of available modes is so staggering, it needs to be represented in a table:
|High||Medium||Low||Beacon / Strobe|
- 1300 Lm (PID, approx 2.2 hr) or
- 70 Lm (33 hrs) or
- 3.8 Lm (18 days) or
| - 0.2Hz Beacon at Low
- 0.2Hz Beacon at H1
- 4Hz Strobe at H1
- 19Hz Strobe at H1
- 670 Lm (PID, 2.8 hr)
- 360 Lm (4.3 hr)
- 160 Lm (12 hr)
- 32 Lm (73 hrs)
- 12 Lm (8 days)
- 0.43 Lm (2.8 months)
- 0.06 Lm (5.1 months)
- 0.01 Lm (7.1 months)
This is apparently a familiar feature for many Zebralight products, so those who own or have used other Zebralight products, like the SC5, should know how to perform this customization.
This might be a bit overwhelming for some, but remember, under normal operations, you just have to remember how to turn this thing on and switch to low, medium and high; strobe and ultra low modes. All that additional customization is optional.
Zebralight has hit the home-run with the SC63 with its compact size and output power. Typical of Zebralight to be consistently pushing the limits by producing flashlights with mind-blowing statistics, way before the rest of the competition.
The use of unprotected cells may be a bit of a bummer, but is probably necessary to shave a couple of sub-inches off the flashlight. If this bothers you, the alternative is to get the SC62. It uses protected cells and is still smaller than other lights in this category.
| Smallest in its category|
Brightest in its category
Best floody flashlight in this category
Lots of highly customisable output modes
Easy to use operation interface
Able to tail stand
Creative battery indicator
Super ultra-low output mode of 0.01 lumens
Strobe can be customized into beacon mode
| Uses unprotected cells
Slightly confusing customization interface
2. Olight M2X-UT Javelot – Best Throw Flashlight
Here comes the bazooka of flashlights.
The “UT” actually stands for “Ultra-Thrower” and that’s exactly what this thing is designed to do. It’s not really something you would carry around in your pocket every day, unless you want to look like you have a funnel with you all the time.
However, the M2X-UT does come with a holster that you can carry around on your belt or strap it to your bag or something. It’s actually not that bad when carried in the holster. It would take a much larger flashlight to get a maximum throw of 810 meters, and Olight achieves this amazing feat by using “de-domed” CREE XM-L2 LEDs.
Removing the glass dome covering the XM-L2 LED, it produces a more focused beam. However, this also causes the beam to have a slight greenish tint.
If you’re looking for the most compact searchlight, this is it. Just don’t use it for close-up work unless you wanna end up with tunnel vision. In fact, if you try to use the light on objects lesser than 18 inches away, you’ll find a “donut-hole” in the middle of your hotspot, which goes away when shone on objects further away.
If you like your searchlights slightly longer in length, the M2X-UT comes with an extender tube. It simply screws on where the tail cap is supposed to be, allowing room for one additional 18650 battery. The overall runtime is increased but the maximum output remains the same.
Throwy 810-Meter Beam
Most single 18650 flashlights producing 1000 lumens can cover 200 meters, or 400 meters at best. The M2X-UT punches through twice of that, allowing you to reach out and “touch” something as far as 810 meters.
This can become quite addictive.
Because the beam is so powerful and tightly focused, objects within the short distance are very glaring when shone upon. As the beam diverges the further it travels, the hotspot gets bigger yet retains much of its brightness; splashing light upon larger areas the further it goes.
4 Simple Modes of Operation
There are just basically 4 modes to this flashlight and they are:
- High: 1020 Lm (1hr)
- Medium: 250 Lm (3hrs)
- Low: 20 Lm (30hrs)
These modes can be easily cycled by twisting the head back and forth repeatedly when the light is on until the desired brightness is achieved.
There is a tactical on/off tail cap switch with momentary on function, allowing you to turn on the light by holding down a half press.
There is also mode memory so that it turns on to your last used brightness, if you’re into that kinda bells and whistles.
The M2X-UT is a champion of throwers in the class of compact single 18650 flashlights. It’s closest competitor is the Manker U21, which gives out a whopping 1300 lumens but has a maximum reach of 700 meters. It is also far bulkier than the M2X-UT. The reason it didn’t make it to this list is because it is only IPX7 waterproof (up to 1 meter).
As mentioned, the M2X-UT also comes with the option of being extendable to house an additional 18650 battery for improved run-time and for those that prefer a longer searchlight.M3SX-UT, the extended and more badass version of the M2X-UT that takes in 2 x 18650 by default with improved runtime AND output. It also doesn’t have the greenish tint due to the use of the CREE XP-L HI LED.
| Greatest maximum beam distance in this category|
Compact and easy to carry when in the accompanying holster
Extendable for increased physical length and improved run-time
| Large bezel, not quite something to carry in your pocket
Light has barely noticeable greenish tint
3. Nitecore MH20GT – Best Rechargeable EDC Throw Flashlight
This tiny devil is the upgrade of the MH20, which is the cousin with a similar sized bezel, but with shorter body length and beam distance. Nitecore somehow found a way to reduce the space between the reflector and bezel. Effectively making the reflector bigger while keeping the bezel size the same.
For a flashlight that’s only 4.37 inches, the MH20GT delivers up to 1000 lumens and can reach a maximum beam distance of 362 meters with the CREE XP-L High Intensity V3 LED. An amazing feat considering its bezel diameter is only 1.25 inches.
This XP-L HI V3 LED is also ‘de-domed’, much like the M2X-UT reviewed above. The only difference is the LED comes directly from CREE without a dome over the emitter, so no further customizations from Nitecore is required. Therefore you won’t get a greenish tint with the light produced.
Have I mentioned that this thing is rechargeable? Yep, leave your battery charger at home and just connect a standard USB cable to the flashlight’s charging port and a charger to replenish it’s juice. The charging port is protected by a rubber flap that tucks itself neatly within a groove to prevent accidental opening while in your pocket. Very nice touch.
At the side the MH20GT’s head, there’s a large two-stage rubber side switch, which means you can half-press or full press and it gives a very good tactile feedback at each stage. Underneath it, there’s a couple of blue LED indicators. Other than using it to turn the light on and off, and half pressing to cycle through the available modes, it also doubles up as
- a battery indicator – it blinks the battery voltage after battery installation. i.e: 4.1V equals 4 blinks, followed by 1 second pause, then 1 blink;
- a charging indicator – when connected to a charger, it blinks when charging and fully lights up when fully charged;
- a find-your-flashlight-in-the-dark indicator – half press the button while off to make the button blink once every 3 seconds
Sort of makes you wonder if the “Multitask” in the flashlight’s name is referring to this button.
Anyway, in case you need to know how the battery indicator works, or how the button indicator looks like in general.
Throwy 362-Meter Beam in a Compact Package
The MH20GT is not really the best for indoor use, unless you don’t mind getting blinded by the glare bouncing off stuff you point this thing at. You can still bounce light off the ceiling and it will light up the room just fine.
The hotspot produced by this flashlight is slightly more concentrated at the expense of spill. This gives it more throw to reach further distances.
As you can see, the beam is highly focused, which allows it to project across a large distance, all without too bulky of a bezel.
Easy to Access Modes
There are 6 modes available for the MH20GT:
- Turbo: 1000 Lm (1 hr)
- High: 410 Lm (3 hrs)
- Medium: 230 Lm (6.75 hrs)
- Low: 50 Lm (22 hrs)
- Ultra-Low: 1 Lm (680 hrs)
- Strobe / S.O.S / Beacon
All of the modes can be easily accessed by the multi-purpose side switch with a combination of half presses and full presses. It operates similarly to the MH20.
Here’s some quick usage instructions for the MH20GT:
- Short full presses turn on and off the flashlight.
- Half pressing when on, cycles through the modes.
- Holding down a half press from off, turns on the ultra-low mode.
- Holding down a full press from off, turns on the turbo.
- Holding down a full press when on, goes into strobe.
- Half pressing when strobing, cycles through the strobe/S.O.S/beacon modes
There is mode memory to access the last-used mode (except strobe) when the light is turned on.
The MH20GT is definitely an improvement over its predecessor with its new LED technology and enhanced reflector design. Being just 4.37 inches with a bezel diameter below 1.5 inches also makes it one of the more compact and easy-to-carry throwers available.
Nitecore flashlights also comes with useful survival and defensive modes such as strobe, S.O.S and beacon modes which can be very useful for signaling purposes.
Most compact EDC thrower in this category
S.O.S and beacon modes makes this a good survival tool
Easy to use operation interface
Able to tail stand
|Hotspot causes glare on nearby objects|
4. Fenix PD35TAC – Best Tactical Flashlight
There is much confusion in the flashlight world about what constitutes as a “tactical” flashlight, with manufacturers and various sites claiming everything with an anodized aluminium body as one.
Tactical flashlights are so called for their use with firearms to aid in low light environments. They can be held by hand or attached to weapons via mounts.
Often used by the police or covert teams for tense close quarters operations, it is important that they at least accomplish the following:
- Light spill capable of illuminating a person and his arms within 2 meters
- Quiet tap-cap switch with momentary-on without delays
- Have an easy-to-use interface to minimize distractions
High Performance Floody Beam
The XP-L (V5) is one of the latest high performance LED innovations by CREE. This gives the PD35 TAC a much better beam pattern than its predecessor, with a slightly larger hotspot. The corona blends the hotspot and spill nicely, giving it a nice and even beam pattern with minimal distractions.
The beam has a maximum distance of up to 200 meters, which is reasonable for 1000-lumen flashlights with a bezel diameter of an inch. For tactical lights, this is more than sufficient its purpose.
Dual-State Operation – Outdoors and Tactical State
There’s a tail-cap forward clicky, which means it turns the flashlight on upon pressing down the button, not when the button pops back up. It can also be half-pressed to turn it on momentarily which is important for short bursts of illumination as needed. Momentary on is also useful for signaling purposes with minimum movement and noise.
The tail-cap switch protrudes enough to activate comfortably which is actually quite important for tactical purposes, but the immediate tradeoff is that it cannot tail stand. Tail standing might not be what the tactical flashlight is meant for anyway, but of course would be cool if it did.
Then there’s the side switch near the head of the flashlight, which is now a stainless steel circular switch instead of a rectangular rubber switch in the previous version. It’s much easier to feel the button now. This is used to toggle between the 2 states and different modes of the flashlight.
These states can be switched by holding down the side switch when the flashlight is on for 3 seconds. The light will flash twice to indicate a successful state switch. So remember to set your state before going into a raid.
In the “outdoors” state, which is standard of what most flashlights offer today. It has the following modes which can be accessed in repeating sequence by clicking on the side switch when on:
- Turbo: 1000 Lm (1.16 hrs)
- High: 500 Lm (2.92 hrs)
- Medium: 200 Lm (8.5 hrs)
- Low: 60 Lm (29.25 hrs)
- Eco: 8 Lm (140 hrs)
There is a hidden strobe mode that can be accessed by holding down the side switch for 1 second while it’s on. Pressing it again will return to the last used mode. There’s also mode memory to remember the last used mode when you switch it on the next time. The PD35 TAC can’t “memorize” strobe though.
In the “tactical” state, things are a lot simpler.
Everything is done with the tail-cap switch: turn on or off with a single click and switch modes with a single click. Every time the flashlight is turned off and on, the following modes will cycle in repeating order:
- Turbo: 1000 Lm (1.16 hrs)
- Strobe: 1000 Lm
- Low: 60 Lm (29.25 hrs)
You can also cycle through the modes by using the momentary.
The PD35 TAC is definitely a formidable upgrade to the PD35 and good candidate for the law enforcement and military crowd.
It’s close contender is the P12GT from Nitecore. Both are great tactical flashlights, however, we’ve chosen the PD35 TAC’s beam pattern and ease of use over the P12GT’s increased throw. When it comes down to tactical practicality, 200 meters of floody light is prefered over 320 meters of focused beam.
There were also some feedback regarding the P12GT’s delayed switching where there’s a .4 to .5 seconds of delay upon activation of the switch. This was also one of the main considerations why we chose the PD35 TAC instead.
| Easy-to-use operating interface especially in tactical state|
Pronounced tail-cap switch with momentary on for easy access
Easy to locate side switch
Immediate response on/off switch
Great wide spill beam
| No ultra-low output mode (8 lumens the lowest)
Cannot tail stand
Final Words and Quick Buying Guide
Well that’s all we’ve got for you. Hopefully this article has helped you pick out something that you’re looking for.
To be honest, the flashlights we have shortlisted in our chart and table are some of the best available in the market right now. The ones we’ve picked out for this article are just those that are the most outstanding in their class.
The key to picking the best flashlight is to ask yourself the 3 questions we’ve mentioned in the beginning of this article. Then explore the brightness, throw distance and overall design of the flashlight. So feel free and click through to explore the stats and price to see which one will suit your budget and requirements.
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