For use around the house, it's hard to beat a regular flashlight that uses alkaline D cells. You get a lot of light for the price. For example, owners reviewing flashlights at HomeDepot.com give top grades to the MagLite X0101H two-flashlight combo (*Est. $20) (*est. $20). The combo includes one 3D flashlight with a Krypton lamp plus a smaller 2AA flashlight, both with beams that adjust from spot to flood. They're water- and shock-resistant, with aluminum alloy cases.
Among incandescent flashlights, reviews give MagLite models top marks for quality, performance and durability. However, as noted earlier, all incandescent flashlight bulbs are relatively fragile, and they don't last as long as LEDs. The LED models are brighter, too. For example, tests at FlashlightReviews.com show the MagLite 2D LED flashlight (*Est. $24) putting out the same amount of light as the incandescent MagLite 3D (*Est. $22) . Surprisingly, the LED flashlights also get longer runtime.
Since the MagLite 2D LED lacks a voltage regulator, tests show brightness dropping to about 50 percent almost immediately; then staying fairly steady for about 22 hours before dimming even more. The MagLite 2D LED flashlight has gotten mixed ratings from the handful of owners reviewing it at Amazon.com. Owners agree that it's bright, but one says the LED module can pop out and break if the flashlight is dropped. A spare incandescent bulb -- which this flashlight can also use -- is stored in the tail, but replacing the LED is expensive.
This problem isn't noted by owners reviewing the MagLite 3D LED flashlight (*Est. $30) . Although this flashlight is big and heavy -- over 12 inches long and almost two pounds with batteries -- owners give this model top marks so far. One says it "can light up a building 200 feet away." Tests show the 3D flashlight doesn't dim to 50 percent as fast as the 2D model, and total runtime is slightly longer. Therefore, if the size isn't a problem, the MagLite 3D LED flashlight is a good budget choice. It puts out nearly twice the light of the incandescent MagLite 3D (*Est. $22) , with far better runtime as well.
Owners rating flashlights at Lowes.com give high marks to the Task Force Super 3 Watt LED Aluminum (*est. $30). Like the MagLite 2D and 3D LED flashlights, it uses a 3-watt Luxeon LED, but powers it with two C batteries instead of D batteries. We found no objective tests of this flashlight, but it would be reasonable to conclude that the MagLite flashlights get longer runtime. The main advantage of this Task Force flashlight is its smaller size and lighter weight.
The Dorcy 6-watt K2 Luxeon LED 41-4295 (*Est. $40) gets good ratings from owners reviewing it at Sears.com. It incorporates a heat sink to dissipate the heat from the bright 120-lumen LED. Though it weighs 1.6 pounds and is about ten inches long, this Dorcy model comes with a detachable belt clip. Owners say that it throws light over 100 feet and that its single light level is brighter than a MagLite 2D.
If runtime is more important than brightness, you might consider the Craftsman 3D LED 41-5830 (*est. $20). It uses only a 1-watt Luxeon LED, compared with the 3-watt Luxeon LED used on the MagLite 3D LED flashlight, so overall output has to be lower. The Craftsman does provide two light levels, though, running up to 200 hours on the brightest level and 280 on the lower. Owners reviewing it at Sears.com give it reasonably high marks.
The Stanley MaxLife Tripod 369 (*Est. $25) is even dimmer, though it uses up to six LEDs. Its main advantage is its versatility. You can use it as a handheld flashlight with the three aluminum legs folded together, or spread them out for a hands-free work light. Though it doesn't make the "Top Picks" list at FlashlightReviews.com, Doug Pribis gives it a "good" rating and adds that it's a "great utility light for around the house and fantastic for power outages."
Pribis praises the MaxLife Tripod's runtime, saying "plop in 9 cells and it'll run for days on only one LED." Stanley officially rates the runtime as 200 hours with nine AA alkaline batteries. The flashlight will also operate from three or six batteries. The number of LEDs lit is user selectable at one, three or six.
Though we've seen some complaints regarding brightness -- which FlashlightReviews.com measures at just 7.18 lumens with six LEDs lit -- most users at Home Depot, Lowes and Amazon.com give this unusual flashlight fairly high marks. The other issue worth noting is that reviewers and users say the head doesn't always stay aimed where you want it, and there's no way to tighten it. Pribis also claims that the MaxLife Tripod is a little awkward to hold as a conventional flashlight. This flashlight has some interesting features, but can be considered "budget" in most ways -- it's not very bright compared to others, and it has some usability issues, but most owners say it's a useful gadget.
Paying more for an LED flashlight with a voltage regulator keeps the light from dimming rapidly, as it does with the less expensive household flashlights discussed above. The Streamlight ProPolymer Luxeon 3C #33244 (*Est. $40) is the top-rated 1-watt LED flashlight at FlashlightReviews.com. This review praises the way its light stays consistently bright (at about 44 lumens) for six hours before dropping to 50 percent. Therefore, it's an excellent flashlight for close-up and intermediate-range tasks.
The sturdy polymer body is also an advantage for jobs where electricity might make a metal flashlight case dangerous, and it comes with a clip. This flashlight's only drawback is you can't stand it upright on its tail. It puts out a little more light than an incandescent MagLite 3D, but not as much as a MagLite 2D or 3D LED.
Bear in mind that a household flashlight can be a lot smaller and put out even more light. As noted earlier in the sections on pocket-size and glove-compartment flashlights, reviews and owners praise the Fenix LED flashlights for consistent, bright, adjustable light with long runtimes. Their ultra-durability just isn't usually as important for household use.