Maglite LED “3 D Cell” Flashlight Review – Is Maglite Still the Gold Standard or Totally Outdated?

Maglite is known for making durable flashlights, and I have had one of their older incandescent flashlights floating around since forever. Let’s see if their LED offering meets the hype and is worth the approximately $30 at the time of this writing!

First, a note about LED Maglites. There are three generations of Maglite LED flashlights. While all stock in inventory at all major online and physical retailers should be the 3rd-gen product by now, it’s something to be aware of. Be sure to get the third-generation light as it’s more energy efficient and brighter than previous generations, and while 2nd-gens are OK, the 1st-gens had major overheating problems.

  • Gen3 uses a Cree XP-E LED, has a serial number beginning in D, and the LED has a square base. Also, it advertises 168 lumens on the package.
  • Gen2 used a Philips Luxeon Rebel LED, has a serial number beginning in DL, and the LED doesn’t have a square base.
  • Gen1 used a Luxeon III LED. also has a serial number beginning in DL, and the LED has a dome over it with a black plastic ring around it.

Build Quality and Features

Of course, Maglites have a reputation for durability. Just like previous Maglites, the Maglite LED is built out of a sturdy metal housing, is water resistant (IPX4 rating), has a 10-year warranty, and is proudly Made in the USA.

Even before installing batteries (not included), it’s a hefty thing that could be handy in an emergency situation. Since it is beautifully machined and has no sharp edges, you don’t have to worry about hurting yourself grabbing it in the dark, unlike some similar flashlights I own or have seen.

On the Maglite, unlike many other competing flashlights, the power button is within reach of your thumb, rather than on the end. This is a matter of personal preference, but I have flashlights with both setups, and it’s fine. The button is covered by a rubber thing to keep it comfortable and keep water and stuff out. It’s worth noting that on the older incandescent Maglite I have, it was given to me because the rubber thing fell off, so it’s not something I would trust outdoors anymore. Hopefully they’ve improved the product so that the rubber button cover doesn’t fall off so easily on the newer LED models.

The button can either be clicked on or off, or you can press it lightly for momentary light. The momentary feature is cool if you need light suddenly but don’t want the audible click of turning it on, or just need light for a quick moment. Since quite some pressure is required to turn the flashlight on completely, it’s unlikely that it’ll accidentally turn on when banging around in your truck or toolbox or whatever, which is great.

Brightness and Runtime

Mag-Lite advertises 168 lumens of light output and 80 hours of runtime for the 3 D Cell size – smaller AA, C, or 2D Cell flashlights will deliver less runtime, though it’s worth noting that the 3 D Cell and 2 D Cell flashlights are the same brightness, and the only advantage to the large 3 D Cell unit I purchased is size and runtime. I’m not going to waste a set of expensive D batteries and sit here for several days with a timer, but from what I’ve read online the runtime on this flashlight is excellent, though apparently once the batteries get low, it does get noticeably dimmer. One major improvement between the Gen3 and Gen2 Maglite LED flashlights compared to the Gen1 flashlights is that instead of simply shutting off when the batteries are weak, it continues to operate at reduced brightness, which is very helpful so you aren’t stranded without light.

As for the light output, the 168 lumens the Maglite produces is really not competitive to other flashlights with a similar price range. Most similar sized flashlights offer 700-1000 lumens, and many smaller flashlights are available with about 300 lumens of output. One thing I don’t like about the Maglite is that while the lens adjusts between a wide-angle spotlight and a more focused light, there is a black spot in the middle when you de-focus the beam. Other flashlights I own don’t do this as much. It’s not a major issue, it’s just annoying.

Value and Conclusion

In terms of value, I don’t think the Maglite is the best deal out there. It’s got about 1/5 of the brightness as other similarly priced flashlights.

If you don’t really need a very bright light, and just want a quality American made flashlight that you can rely on for many years, the Maglite is for you.

I’m going to throw my Maglilite in the door compartment of my Ford Escape, and it’s going to live there. If it fails anytime soon, though I don’t expect it to, I’ll update my post. Otherwise, you can assume it still works.

You can buy the Maglite on Amazon.com here, or if you are a Costco member, check there, because I’ve heard they sometimes carry a twin pack that comes with a “mini” AA version of the Maglite packed with the large D version for about $30, which is a darn good deal!

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