I’ve managed to keep my flashaholic tendencies under control for a couple of years, but for Father’s Day I got myself a totally unnecessary flashlight to keep up my cred.  As you can see from the photo, this sucker is little. The image is just about life-size if you don’t have the magnification of your screen cranked up.

I am fascinated by small flashlights.  This one is plenty small: 2.2 inches long, and 0.5 inches in diameter.  With an AAA battery installed, it weighs about one ounce.  It’s the first AAA flashlight that I consider actually small enough to keep on a keychain, a good half-inch shorter and much lighter than any other stainless steel light at anything like a reasonable cost.

The Preon PØ has a flood-type beam, rather than the usual halo with a hotspot in the center.  That means it doesn’t reach out as far, but it illuminates a large area evenly.   The Cree EPE emitter (flashlight geek talk for LED) produces a neutral white light, about like a daylight fluorescent bulb.

There are two levels of brightness.  The low level is really low, 0.25 lumens. That’s just bright enough to navigate through an unfamiliar space, a bit brighter than moonlight.  It’s perfect for illuminating a bedroom, for example, without waking a sleeping baby.  It will produce that level continuously for 120 hours.  That’s five days, folks.  As a bonus, the light is so tiny that it can be comfortably held in the mouth for long periods, unlike most small flashlights. (Once you can do this, you find all sorts of situations where it’s a big help.) A magnet is embedded in the end to allow attachment to many metal surfaces (keep it away from your credit cards), and the Preon PØ will stand on end to be used as a candle.

The higher brightness level is 25 lumens, 100 times as bright as the moonlight mode, for two hours.  That will illuminate a moderate-sized room enough for just about anything you might need.  I’m using rooms as an example because of the flood beam.  Outdoors the range is limited, but the flood beam is perfect for illuminating a campsite, or changing a tire.  You’re not going to shine deer with this one.

A regulated circuit delivers constant brightness for the life of the battery, and  the area around the LED is luminescent, so that you can find the flashlight in the dark.

LED flashlights — at least the good ones — tend to be considerably more expensive than conventional lights.  The PØ costs $23.99.  Consider, however, that it’s stainless steel, waterproof to 6 feet for 1/2 hour, the emitter is good for around 50,000 hours of continuous operation (5 years and 8 months, plus a little), and it’s completely shockproof, for practical purposes.  It also uses the cheapest batteries around, and will take rechargeable NiMH AAA’s as well.

The manufacturer cautions not to use lithium ion rechargeables, as the higher voltage will kill the light.  I would expect that to apply to the Energizer lithium primary batteries as well, but with the battery life you get the additional life from lithium is practically beside the point — especially since they cost about 10 times as much as Duracells.

This is a practical, high quality tool at a very reasonable price for what amounts to a lifetime flashlight.  If you’re in the market for a small, pocketable light with good utility, it could be the one for you.  Go to http:// and check it out.

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