REVIEW OF MAGLITE’S MAG-TAC ® LED RECHARGEABLE FLASHLIGHT SYSTEM
By: Sheila Rockwell
I’ve always loved flashlights. My dad would sometimes let me tag along to the hardware store with him on Saturday mornings, and I would beg for a new flashlight. Usually, he’d get me one, and I would be occupied for the next few days, sitting in a dark closet to see how much the beam illuminated the space, peering under the sofa, exploring the backyard after dark, and sneaking books under the covers. I’d use that light sparingly because it didn’t have a long life. No changing batteries…those little plastic flashlights were $1 and came in every color. When the filament burned out, that was it.
I’m an over-planner, over-packer, and try to be overly prepared for everything. In college, I was the friend that usually had whatever was needed. Band-Aid? I had several sizes. Tylenol? Got it. A knife? Right here. Flashlight? Oh, yes. Dad made sure I had a flashlight in my car and one for my apartment. But…no more cheap, plastic, disposable flashlights. These were heavy-duty. They meant business. They were Maglites.
Over the years I have owned and used many different brands of flashlights, but Maglite has always been, for me, the gold standard.
Maglite retains that title with the Mag-Tac LED Rechargeable Flashlight System.
Let me tell you how this little flashlight has performed over the past few weeks. Full disclosure: I did not take it “through the paces”, insofar as to see how much of a beating it could take in the field, or in mud, rain, etc. I used it for household, average, and everyday applications.
I can tell you this: Maglite did not skimp anywhere…everything on this little light is equally solid. The system costs about $100. at Mag-Tac LED Rechargeable Flashlight System and, in my opinion, it’s worth every penny.
To begin, the packaging and presentation of the rechargeable flashlight system is impressive. All components and accessories are neatly fitted into custom, sturdy foam cutouts in a box suitable for storage. After unboxing, I followed the included, easy-to-understand instructions to remove the battery insulator, install the pocket clip, and left it to charge in its base. After a few hours, it was ready to go.
And…I love this little light!
The Mag-Tac fits perfectly in my hand. It measures only 5.8 inches long and weighs in at 5.6 ounces, so it doesn’t add bulk or weight to my bag or pull while clipped to my waistband. It has 4 modes: a quick light while holding the button, full power, power save, and strobe. The crowned bezel that protects the lens could serve as a painful, improvised weapon if necessary, though it’s not intended for that purpose. (Maglite does not advertise or condone their lights to be used as handheld weapons, but…I happen to know someone who clocked a would-be assailant over the head with her full-sized Maglite, and she swears that the guy dropped like a stone.) And, the pocket clip is a game-changer for me. I love the versatility that little clip provides. I clipped it inside my tote-bag style purse, and *click* found my keys in seconds. Clipped it on my waistband and *click*, I can see a label at night instead of turning on a big light. Clipped it onto the strap of my Maglite backpack (see my review of the Maglite EDC backpack) and it stayed put when tossed in and out of the car, into the corner of the room, onto the ground, etc.
The best part: this little light packs some serious power. On its brightest setting, it provides an impressive 671 lumens. That number means nothing when you read it…but that bright white light is absolutely amazing when you're in the dark. I took this flashlight out onto the golf course behind the house at midnight, climbed to the top of a little hill, and lit up the fairway. I was able to see— clearly–for several hundred feet. The throw on this light is impressive. Now, let’s talk for a moment about “lumens” and “throw” because it’s important to understand what is being advertised when you see “lumens” on an item’s packaging.
Brief history lesson: In 2009, the American National Standards Institute published the Flashlight Basic Performance Standard. The ANSI Standard provides a way for consumers to compare different brands, as well as defines 4 different categories and units of measurement: beam distance (in meters), peak beam intensity (measured in candelas), run time (in hours/minutes), and output (in lumens). It’s not required to follow the ANSI Standard, but if a manufacturer chooses to do so, they will show the flashlight’s performance data in what’s called an “ANSI strip” on the packaging. Additionally, ANSI provided a definition of the term “a useful level of light”, which is the maximum beam distance at which the flashlight will produce ¼ lux of light. Wait…what? What’s a lux?! A lux measures illuminance, or the amount of light on a surface per unit area. So, how much light is a ¼ lux, in plain English? Well, it’s about as much as a full moon gives on a clear night. Actually, a full moon can produce up to a single lux, but I digress. It’s not daylight, but it’s enough that you can see.
Now, back to the review: As I was saying…the Mag-Tac’s throw of 185 meters is impressive, especially considering its size. (Throw is also described as the distance a beam can light an object when optimally focused.)
The Mag-Tac’s peak beam intensity rates at 8545 candelas. A candela measures luminous intensity, or how bright a light source is, unobstructed. One candela is roughly the amount of light you would get from a single candle. In other words, its peak beam intensity is…blinding. Literally!
Lumens, on the other hand, describes the light’s output–it is a measurement of how much light is generated from a source per second, or the total amount of visible light. The Mag-Tac, as mentioned above, produces 671 lumens on full power, and 22 lumens on the power-save mode. Something to keep in mind while shopping: a high lumens number means nothing if that light isn’t able to be gathered and formed into a beam capable of providing “a useful level of light”. That’s why the quality of the optics of a flashlight is important–the beam-forming reflectors play an important role. Maglite’s optics are precision designed and manufactured to ensure that the lights provide the best possible beam/illumination without using a ton of wattage and draining the batteries.
Speaking of batteries, the Mag-Tac is powered by a Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) high-capacity rechargeable battery. I tested the run time indoors. I left the light on both “full power” and “power save” modes and received OVER the advertised run time for both settings. On its brightest setting, I got 2 hrs, 42 minutes after a full charge (Maglite advertises 2.5 hrs), and on the power save mode, I got a whopping 18 hours, 27 minutes of continual light on a full charge (Maglite advertises 18 hours)! I did not measure the time on the strobe light setting. (You’ll have to test that one for yourselves!) It took about 2 ½ hours to charge the light from completely dead to full.
The LED lights are intended to last for a lifetime of normal use.
The Mag-Tac’s housing is made from aircraft anodized aluminum alloy, and the serial number is permanently engraved for registration and identification purposes. It didn’t get a scratch on it after being dropped multiple times from counter-height onto a tile floor. I also dropped it from waist height onto concrete: not a ding, and it powered up immediately, without a flicker.
I also tested the light after “accidentally” splashing it with water, and it didn’t miss a beat.
One thing I would like to see Maglite improve: the weight/sturdiness of the base and the length of the included wall adaptor cord. I found that unless the base was weighted with the flashlight, it was not “solid” enough to stay put on the nightstand when bumped or nudged. (Maglite does include a mounting screw and instructions on how to mount the base onto something that you wouldn’t mind drilling holes in, but I wasn’t about to drill into the nightstand.)
Bottom line: Maglite, once again, has impressed me with the quality, durability, and usefulness of their products. The Mag-Tac is the last small flashlight you will need to purchase, unless you happen to lose it. You can order one at MAG-TAC Flashlight. If you’re not already a loyal Maglite customer, I’m willing to bet that you soon will be. You won’t be disappointed!