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Sunday, May 20, 2012

And God Said, Let There Be Arc Light

And it was so. And God saw that it was good. And God saw that it was BRIGHT!

Okay, so maybe the Arc-AAA Premium LED Flashlight wasn’t made by God himself, but it sure is the cream of the crop as far as tiny keychain-sized flashlights go. I want to take a short bit of your time in this post to draw your attention to a great little gadget that has had a permanent spot in my pocket for the better part of the past decade. While originally designed in 2001, the Arc-AAA is simple and great piece of tech that is every bit as useful today as it was then.

You may remember the old Maglite Solitaire flashlights that were popular in the 1990’s and still available today (for around $5 to $20). I carried one for years on my keychain, and have always found it useful to have a flashlight handy. These days, I think many use the light from their mobile phone screen or, even the LED flash that can be used as a flashlight on smartphones like the iPhone 4/4S. While I also use the LED light on my phone for that purpose, there are times when I need to work on something in a confined space and (sorry if this grosses you out) end up putting a flashlight in my mouth while I work. That just doesn’t work with a phone. Also, the LED light on a phone will quickly drain the battery and I prefer to save that power for other uses.

Many years ago, I started to see a wide array of LED-based flashlight products come out that were very bright and had long lasting bulbs that didn’t burn out as frequently as incandescent bulbs. The problem was I couldn’t find one small enough to fit comfortably on my keychain like the Maglite did. At first the Inova Microlight seemed like it might be just what I wanted, until I realized that it used hard to find (and expensive) button cell batteries.  I was excited when I discovered the Arc-AAA Premium online and took a chance by ordering it sight unseen. I was ecstatic when I found that it completely blew away the Maglite. Not only was it five times brighter (10 lumens vs. 2 lumens), but the build quality was impressively good with its hard-anodized aluminum body. This thing screamed quality compared to the Maglite.

I didn’t truly appreciate how nice it was until I took a trip to New York a number of years ago and visited the United Nations building. In order to enter, I had to pass through a security checkpoint and have all of my belongings searched. The guard picked up the Arc-AAA that I had emptied from my pocket and started inspecting it closely. He passed it around to the other guards while they murmured about it. I thought for sure they were going to confiscate it for some bizarre reason that I couldn’t even begin to understand. Instead, he gave it back to me and excitedly said, “Where did you get this from? This is really cool.” I knew then that I had stumbled onto something unique.

To this day, Maglite does not make an LED version of their Solitaire (though aftermarket mods exist), and I have yet to find a better alternative to the excellent Arc-AAA. I have also yet to see the Arc sold in stores and so I thought that I would take this opportunity to make more people aware of it. Gadget nerds like myself will appreciate the full spec list below and also the additional information available on the product FAQ page.

Arc-AAA Premium LED Specs:
  • Nichia white LED for long lasting light, no bulbs to replace or break
  • Uses 1 ordinary AAA alkaline cell - no expensive and hard to find lithium button cell
  • Internal DC/DC current regulator chip produces a more consistent light output over the life of the battery
  • Waterproof to 100 feet (Maglite is only water-resistant and is not able to be immersed in water)
  • Tapered head design wears better and slips into pocket
  • Stainless steel battery contact to improve corrosion resistance
  • Type III Hard Anodized 6061 Aluminum is more durable than other pocket flashlights
  • Chemkote interior for increased corrosion resistance
  • 2.7 inches long by 0.5 inches in diameter
  • Weighs 0.75 ounces
  • Made in the USA
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Duracell AAA cell, split ring and clip included

You’ll note above that it carries a Lifetime Warranty. I can tell you from personal experience that the company will really make good on that promise. I actually have two Arc-AAA lights. One I carry on my keychain, and the other I kept as a spare at home. Well, as it turns out, if you leave a battery in any electronic device for too long, there is a real chance that it will burst and corrode the metal contacts. That is exactly what happened to my spare Arc-AAA as it sat in a drawer. I contacted the company and was pleased to find out that all I had to do was send in the aluminum battery tube and pay $5 return shipping. Weeks went by and I received an envelope that I though carried the repaired tube. Nope. The company actually went above and beyond and sent me an entirely new Arc-AAA (expensive LED head included). So now I have two complete lights and a spare LED head that can be screwed onto either tube should the LED burn out. Thank you Arc Flashlight!

The Arc-AAA Premium LED can be purchased from the manufacturer’s website for $45. A version that is half as bright is available for $30, but I'd recommend sticking with the Premium version. 

Note: For an equally cool, but not as keychain-friendly flashlight, check out the Pak-Lite