What makes for a great inexpensive flashlight?
It is a rainy Saturday and at any moment the lights might go out, which is fine, cause right at my side I’m ready to fight the darkness off with my most recent flashlight The Thorfire TG06S. I came by the TG06S cause i thought it might be a budget gift for the wife. She doesn’t give one hoot about flashlights, but she is going on a camping trip, and while she doesn’t care about flashlights, she will appreciate a good flashlight over a dime store flashlight, with 12 crappy LED’s that eats three triple a batteries in an hour. I’ve always loved flashlights. I can’t count how many maglights I had growing up, or Duracell branded flashlights. There was always one thing in common, I was constantly buying batteries and the flashlights were of poor quality, so I’d get a year or two out of one, and it would eventually go on to become the kitchen flashlight.
There are hundreds of great flashlights out there and most regular folks don’t know anything about this world except for a small group of flashlights enthusiasts. And like all the other enthusiasts, we are just a little too excited to talk about flashlights. I am writing this as a common language observation, it is not a jargon filled review, for other flashlight hounds.
“The best flashlights are as dim as they are bright”
The Thorfire TGO6S can be bought for less than $20 online and for regular folks, this flashlight is all you need. On a regular AA battery you have a potent flashlight that handles your day to day and will give you years of great service. In addition to being a sturdy small flashlight, which is where most peoples interest in flashlights stop, you also have multiple modes, including a mode called “moonlight” which gives you the ability to use the flashlight when very little illumination is called for.
A lot of people would wonder why you’d want a flashlight to have a “not much light” mode, and I was certainly surprised to see that I missed it, once I got a flashlight that didn’t have it, like the TGO6S. Another interesting thing about the Thorfire TGO6S is it can also be powered by other batteries and not just the double a. In addition to blowing away casually purchased brick and mortar flashlights with their dubious lumen claims, the Thorfire TGO6S can use a battery common folk aren’t familiar with known as the 14500 and deliver 500 lumens for cheap. But what even is 500 lumen? 500 lumens is really the most light that regular people will ever care about wanting. It is an amazing amount of light. The way I like to describe 500 lumen is that this is not the setting you’d use in the house, if you were looking in a dark pantry, or under your bed, but it is great outside.
Going back to power the 14500 is a type of rechargeable battery, similar to the double a in size, but with much more power. Some 14500 batteries can be up to a quarter inch longer, and/or a hair thicker, but devices built for the 14500/AA configuration accommodate both sizes and usually take any 14500 you throw at them. As with all non standard rechargeable batteries, you also need a nonstandard charger. You’ll have choices, with either the route of getting a charger that just recharges your one weird battery, or a more pricer model that charges the lions share of weird batteries.
Ok, let’s talk specs and performance a little. On a double a battery your profile for the the Thorfire TGO6S is very exciting. You will start on your highest setting, this is 150 lumen, this is totally fine for the pantry or under the bed, and walking the dog at night. Life is good. From there you go to the next settings of 80 lumen. this is a moderate light level, it is about what you’d expect from a store flashlight on a fresh battery. Your next light level is 20 lumen which is on par with a key ring flashlight. The last setting is your moonlight mode. This setting is great for reading a book, or walking through the house and looking for something. It is supposed to be half a lumen, but it is probably more like five lumen, still very nice, just not as low as some of the other more premium flashlights. This again is not the feature most folks want out of a flashlight.
I personally like for my Every Day Carry “EDC” flashlight to start high. it feels very unpleasant to not have my light be strong when I call on it, but I feel the opposite when around the house.
Ok, let’s talk performance with a rechargeable14500 battery. Your high setting is now 500 lumen. 500 lumen on a fresh battery is best described as being probably too bright for most people to use inside the house. If you were walking outside you could light up the branches in the highest tree you could find, either directly in front of you or many houses down. You could go to a football field and your light would reach all the way to the other side. 500 lumens is magnificent.
On the highest setting The TGO6S will lower output as the bulb and battery generate heat, but you have a few minutes, and even then the Thorfire will reduce you to approximately 300 lumen, which is still a staggering amount of light, but you will notice the difference. The other settings will not step down, they don’t generate nearly as much heat. The next level is 200 lumens which is still higher than the highest level the double a battery can produce. After that you are at 50 lumens. The thing though is that the moonlight mode is way too bright on the 14500 battery, you’re probably at 10 lumens or so, which is way more than you what you want for a low key light.
These flashlights use a lot of energy, and the initial brightness of a fresh battery is significantly higher than a battery you’ve put some clock minutes on. But you’ve got so much brightness to begin with, that said. If you use a rechargeable battery for power, you might find yourself hard pressed to run the battery down to low and then charge, and why should you?! I get a week of use out of my EDC and that is me using it daily multiple times and then by the middle of week two I start thinking “weak sauce” by the end of week two I can’t take it anymore, cause I know what it can do, so I charge back up. When I had maglights and cheap LED lights in the past I used them till the light was useless, cause I’d be tossing out disposable batteries. I don’t use disposable batteries anymore. Rechargeable batteries pay for themselves, on the second recharge. By the third or fourth recharge you’ve recouped the cost of even the charger.
The TGO6S is about the length of your forefinger and the size of a breakfast sausage and it fits in your pants pocket, or waist band, bout like a thick sharpie would. It is not a large flashlight, but it is capable of giving you this incredibly robust amount of light. Let’s talk more about how you operate the light, at the end of the light is tail switch, you will first turn it on with a full click and then half clicks will cycle you through the lower power modes. A double half click will get you to a strobe mode, which is good for personal defense, signaling and annoying people. This is a pretty simple interface, typical for the price range.
The TGO6S is a inexpensive and well produced product, but you’re missing out on some of the nuance of the more pricey lights out there. Most folks don’t care about nuance though.
1. a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound."the nuances of facial expression and body language"
See what I mean...
I think there are three kinds of people the Thorfire TGO6S could appeal to. For the conventional battery person, who is also likely to use the flashlight infrequently(?), it will just be a great compact and very bright flashlight, and ultimately they’ll get better brightness and a nice product to carry around, or throw in their glove box, or walk the dog with. For the person who has rechargeable double a batteries around the house, the TGO6S is a lot of guilt free fun. You’ll charge often, but it will be worth it. For people who are willing to get 14500 batteries and a special charger, you will absolutely find yourself with a level of performance that amazes you. It will cost you a little cash, like another twenty five dollars or so, to get some special batteries and their charger, but you now have a incredibly bright light, and when you run out of juice you, you can still use store brought, when needed.
Forget about the batteries discussion, this is the kind of flashlight everyone should own.
People already in the world of LED flashlights, will appreciate the cost, good construction, and the Cree XP-G2 bulb, but they might scoff at the fact that the Thorfire TGO6S has PWM (a flicker we can’t see with our eyes, but that cameras can detect, it is a sign of a cheaper flashlight) but regular folks don’t care about such things.
So the thing about the Thorfire TGO6S is that I did not give it to my wife. I bought this much more expensive light for her, it starts low and has a more advanced User Interface “UI” and is incredibly small. This light is the Olight S1A, but I purchased the Thorfire TGO6S, two, one for a good friend, and one for myself and it replaced my much more expensive flashlight. The Olight S1A is hard to find and ultimately has been discontinued. You can search around and dig one up. The truth is though that I had no idea how much I really appreciate those advanced features, cause I didn’t know till I got the Thorfire TGO6S. The TGO6S has these other features which I really appreciate and it beats out the Olight S1A on some levels. While it doesn’t have a proper moonlight mode. The beam center is tighter and brighter and the Olight S1A is more “floody” as they say, which means the beam comes out of the light very wide. it is a different experience, nice, but not as precise. I have no regrets about the Thorfire TGO6S, I’d absolutely prefer it over the Olight, if it had a good moonlight mode.