A few years ago, my wife bought me a FourSevens (formerly 4Sevens) flashlight. This one is a Preon P2. The P1 uses 1 AAA battery and the P2 uses 2 AAA batteries. This makes the P2 a lot longer size but the second battery makes the flashlight significantly brighter. The difference in brightness is minor at Low but really significant at High. Note: all brightness outputs and battery lifespans discussed here are for the P2 model.
The Preon series has the same simple user interface as the Quark Mini series. It has 3 basic brightness settings: Low, Medium, and High. The flashlight starts at Low when you turn it on, and tapping the power switch increases the output to Medium and then High. Tapping the button again switches back to Low. Going Low-Medium-High over and over again eventually unlocks 4 ‘hidden’ modes: Strobe, SOS emergency, high signal beacon, and low signal beacon. It’s nice that these modes are ‘hidden’ so that they don’t get in the way in day-to-day life, but they’re still available if ever really needed. For example, the SOS emergency mode will run for almost 5 hours on 1 set of AAA batteries.
- The finish on the pocket clip wears easily around the edges.
- The light turns on accidentally in my pocket because I have a click-button switch. Loosen the head to guarantee it doesn’t get bumped on by mistake.
- Short battery life! AAA batteries have low capacity.
A high-output flashlight fed by tiny batteries inevitably has a poor battery lifespan. The circuitry in the light regulates the current to the LED, controlling brightness at the lower levels. On High, the flashlight doesn’t restrict the current at all for maximum brightness. As the batteries start to die, the High setting gets dimmer and dimmer until there’s no difference between High and Medium. However, the brightness of Low and Medium don’t decrease until the batteries are very depleted.
It still took me some time to notice the decline since I don’t use High mode very often. Since this happens over time, the decline is not readily apparent until High matches Medium. The first time I replaced the batteries, I kicked the High output back to full power, and it was like discovering the light all over again.
But what should you do a bunch of half-dead AAA batteries? They’re too good to throw away but too low to serve in a high-use capacity. I guess you could put them in the TV remote or something.
Me? I personally went to rechargeable batteries about a year ago. It started when I was given one flashlight with a rechargeable battery and an almost-universal battery charger. Just having a quality charger (Nitecore I2) was enough to break through the barrier. Now all I needed was to buy batteries, I didnt’t have to research and buy a charger. Now, whenever the batteries start to get low, I just charge them. Yes, NiCad and NiMH batteries should be fully drained and fully emptied, but I’m OK with wearing out my batteries a bit sooner. Even if I charge them every week, they’ll still last a few years, and they’re still a lot cheaper than running disposable batteries. Best of all, I don’t have an ethical/ecological debate every time the power starts to drop. I don’t have to hold-back to save batteries anymore. I just use the light at whatever power level is best for the situation, and don’t worry about draining expensive AAA batteries.
- Incredible brightness for its size: 160 Lumens (Gen 1) or 190 Lumens (Gen 2)
- Three brightness modes
- Slick, simple, convenient user interface
- Thin, sleek, and lightweight: perfect for the edge of your pocket.
The output on High (160 Lumens) is brighter than the top-level tactical/defensive lights a few years ago. More importantly, I cannot emphasize enough how slim and light this thing feels. It’s by far my favorite flashlight because of the comfort factor. I prefer it over my full-power Quark. The Quark feels complicated compared to the Preon. The P2 is 5 1/2 inches long, about 1/2 inch thick, and weight less than 1 ounce without batteries. My scale indicates that a set of 2 AAA batteries weighs 0.80 ounces. Honestly, carrying the P2 clipped in my pocket feels a bit like carrying a writing pen.
I recommend the Mini-Quark and Preon series to anyone looking for a practical, quality flashlight for day-to-day use, but I recommend them with special enthusiasm to anyone who isn’t normally a ‘flashlight guru’. The Preon is a better choice for a light that will be carried daily and used occaisonally. The Mini-Quarks use bigger batteries, so they’re less convenient to carry but have significantly longer battery lives, making them a better choice for a flashlight that will live in a drawer, glove box, backpack, etc. There is a downside to the Mini series, but that’s a discussion for another time.