Customer Reviews: Dynamo Illuminator Wind-up LED Flashlight
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I own both the Garrity Power Lite and the ILLUMINATOR wind-up flashlights. They have the same basic design, but with the following differences:

1. Size: The Illuminator is about the size of a man's electric shaver. It is easier to hold and to crank. The Garrity is bulkier, mainly because of the extra plastic lenses in front. It is also less comfortable to hold because rubber grips on the sides are shorter (see my Customer Image for size comparison)

2. Ease of Cranking: The Illuminator's handle takes very little effort to crank. However, you need to turn it virgorously (2-3 turns per second) in order to charge up the battery. The Garrity's cranking presents more resistence and is noisier. But the good news is that you only need to turn it at around one turn per second to charge up the battery.

3. Light Output: Both flashlights use 3 white LEDs, and have the option to turn on either one or all three. As far as I can tell, the LEDs are identical. The main differnce is that the Illuminator's light output is diffused, while the Garrity added three plastic lenses in front to produce a well-focused beam.

4. Light Duration: When fully charged up, the Illuminator gives out brighter light initially. However, its light dimmed down within a few minutes. After ten minutes, the light becomes barely visible (see my Customer Image above). The Garrity, on the other hand, produces fairly consistent light output for at least one hour!

Based on longer light duration, I would recommend the Garrity over the Illuminator. The Garrity is also cheaper when you order it with free super-saver shipping. (Be carefull when ordering The Illuminator, because some places offer the flashlight for $8-10, but charge another $8 in shipping!)

[The following Info for geeks only]:
Why does the Garrity produce much longer light duration than the Illuminator?

The Illuminator uses one 3.6V Lithium-ion rechargeable button cell (capacity unknown, probably around 30mAh). The Garrity uses 3x 1.25V NiMH cells rated at 80mAh. In my opinion as an electrical engineer, the NiMH design is much better because:

1. Each white LED needs about 20-40mA at 3.6V to produce sufficient light output. Three NiMH cells provide a consistent 3.75V throughout most of the discharge period. The Li-ion cell may provide up to 4V when fully charged, but its voltage drops quickly during discharge to 3.6V and below. This explains why the Illuminator produces a brighter light initially, but dims down much faster.

2. NiMH cells are more robust and can withstand over-charging better than Lithium-ion cells can. Think about it: there are chargers that can fully charge up NiMH cells in 15 minutes (that means charging at 4X), but nothing can charge Li-ion cells in less than one hour. In this case, since you can charge up the battery in one minute and then use it for up to one hour, that means the battery is being charged at 60X! This kind of abuse is not recommended even for NiMH, and it can be murderous for Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.

[Update on April 9, 2007]
The Lithium-ion rechargeable battery in my Illuminator probably was already damaged (from over-charging) when I did the comparison above. It has deteriorated further since then, and can hardly sustain five minutes of light now.
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88 comments| 231 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 7, 2005
I picked up one at a local drug store (rhymes with smallgreens) for only fifteen bucks. Works way better than I expected. I wound it for one minute the first night

and it is at full brightness two weeks later.

The three LEDs are extremely bright. Bright enough to blind you if you look straight

at them.

Definite five star product. I wish they would make more products like this.
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on October 27, 2005
A friend of mine demonstrated hers outside one night... Wow! What a great product!! The LED's are very bright and it's easy on arthritic hands. You don't really need to wind it for the full 30 - 60 seconds for it to work right away. A must have!! Think of the money you could save in batteries!!
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on October 19, 2007
I purchased this about a month ago and I have to say that I was very disappointed with it. First off the flashlight is enormous! Also, it's not very bright at all. When I received it there was a slight charge so I used it until it died and then cranked it up and it lasted for about 2 weeks on the one charge. When it died I cranked it again and it lasted for about 2 days. After that It would give me about 10 seconds of light and then I'd have to crank it for another 2 minutes to get 10 more seconds. Even though it was only 10 bucks I don't think it was worth it. After this crapped out on me I bought a mini flashlight from LL Bean that ran on one double A and it gives me about 50 hours of light on one battery. Plus it is much brighter. Even though I have to replace the battery once a month it's worth it.
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on December 19, 2005
I ordered several "Illuminator" flashlights. Bealls said "Illuminator" on their order confirmation, but shipped "Dynamo." They have now changed picture and description, and lowered the price. Will not order from them again.

When I tried to crank up the first flashlight, rotating knob froze up, and broke off in my hand. I tested three others, and light is only bright while crank is turning. It dims when cranking stops, and fades very quickly to no useful light. Switch functions as off/off/off/on---obviously something wrong. There is compartment for optional batteries, with plastic cover that keeps falling off. Will return all, but am very irritated about paying the shipping for a bait and switch.
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on August 27, 2007
It seemed like a great item. When the power went out, it was charged and worked great. It lasted about 3 hours with one LED. I cranked to charge it and after about two minutes of cranking, it started cranking real easy. Wouldn't charge the battery. I've had it for a a little over a year. Surprise.... there was no warranty info with it. I took it apart and checked everything - it was the dynamo, the commutator brushes broke off inside. Good Idea, but didn't last too long. I paid $29.95 for it and am shopping for a better one..
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on December 11, 2008
We purchased two units. Our kids love reading in bed, and they sometimes prefer using a flashlight rather than a reading lamp. Plus, there are all the other good reasons to have dependable emergency lights.

These units provided a moderate amount of light - a bit dimmer than typical 2 D cell flashlights. And, that was OK with me.

However, the amount of time that the unit would provide light quickly decreased. After just 5 or 6 uses, light output would last only 90 seconds or so, and the brightness level also decreased. It soon became too much hassle to try to sustain light output for more than a few minutes - the frequent cranking was annoying, and every use further decreased battery life and light output.

The light's concept is appealing - but the implementation is poor. The light might be OK for a few uses, but based on the quick deterioration of performance I would not feel very confident that it would dependably work when needed and as long as needed in an emergency. Maybe the best use is in a car when you are unlikely to need light for a long period.

Another OPTION, if also less than perfect: Amazon is selling slow self-discharge rechargeable NiMH batteries. These cells retain 85% of their charge level after 1 year of sitting on a shelf. So, there is the option of buying Sanyo Eneloop (or similar) AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries and adding them to a few quality flashlights. Recharge once per year, and you have viable emergency lights, and perhaps keep some extra batteries around. These long shelf-life batteries are selling like hotcakes to photo enthusiasts, because you can immediately shoot photos even if your camera has been stored for 12 days or 12 months.
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on August 30, 2006
I gave this light 60 cranks last night and set it next to my bed expecting it to go out in 10-15 minutes; 90 minutes later I went to sleep and it was still on. So today I gave it 200 cranks and it's been on for 2 hours. I'm only lighting one of the 3 LEDs. I love it. I can't walk past a LED flashlight display without picking up every model. LEDs fascinate me and driving them with solar power is the perfect marriage. I paid $15 for mine at Gander Mountain and it goes into my Emergency Go Kit.
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on April 30, 2009
I bought 4 of them because they are a great idea, but after a few months of use, the rechargeable battery won't hold a charge anymore so they become useless. Threw all of them away.
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on December 29, 2005
I didn't received the correct items from Bealls. Reading through the reviews it looks like the have a consistent pattern of screwing up. I never seen so many negative reviews. Most of the issues seem to point to poor quality control at Bealls. I say you should drop them from your site before the destroy your good reputation. Bealls never had the common courtesy to return my call or answer my email. Thanks to customer service at Amazon they are working on correcting my problem. I will never buy anything from them again.
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