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Consider the Garrity Power Lite instead
on January 21, 2007
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.