Our customer support departments receives a lot of questions regarding the flashlights available on eBay or Amazon. One of the most frequently asked questions is: "Why would I pay $70 for your 980 lumen flashlight when I could go buy a 2000 lumen flashlight on eBay right now for $15?"
Great question. In this article, we will address why the majority of flashlight listings on popular auction sites like eBay and Amazon are not only a rip off -- but often times dangerous as well.
1.) The Lumen Lie
The majority of introductory flashlights (and headlamps) will use one of the following diodes: XML-T6 or XM-L2. Outside of some overdriven diodes found only in hardcore modding communities, any flashlight seller claiming their single diode XML-T6 or XM-L2 flashlight has an output greater than 1100 lumens is flat out lying.
You don't have to take our word for it. You can always check the diode manufacturer's data sheet yourself.
This is a common thing to see on popular auction sites. Outrageous lumen claims that are impossible.
OK - So we know that a single XML-T6 or XM-L2 diode can't emit more than 1100 lumens. But what if my flashlight or headlamp has more than one diode?
This three diode headlamp below is advertised to have a 4000 lumen output. Multiply 1100 lumens by the number of diodes and you get more lumens, right? Wrong.
You can put as many diodes into a flashlight or headlamp as you want - but that isn't going to make it any brighter. Without any changes to the current, all that will do is divide the existing current between multiple diodes instead of just one. In other words, you'll just have multiple less bright diodes instead of one really bright diode.
The output of a flashlight is dependent on a number of factors -- one of the biggest being the amount of current being driven to the diode. Headlamps like the one pictured above have been measured to draw around 4.5 Amps. Ignoring the fact that it's unclear whether or not 4.5A can even be safely drawn from the inferior batteries often distributed with these headlamps, this current is simply not enough to generate the inflated 4000 lumen claim. To put it in perspective, most flashlights need around 3A just to generate 1000 lumens.
How To Identify Diodes In eBay Flashlights:
Generally speaking, the XM-L2 diode is considered better than the previous generation XML-T6 diode. It appears brighter and is more power efficient. Unfortunately, the diode itself is also more expensive which is why eBay sellers will either opt for the XML-T6 diode or use a counterfeit XML-T6 entirely. If the flashlight you're looking at is sold with an XML-T6 diode, it's almost always a red flag.
The better XM-L2 diode can easily be identified by the silver backing. This is clearly visible in the picture below. The older generation XML-T6 (on the left) typically has a green backing with exposed circuitry. While the difference is difficult for the average consumer to notice, it's one of many ways eBay flashlights are shortchanging the consumer.
Just look at this chart below. The superior L2 LED appears brighter, is more power efficient, and offers a much better value for the flashlight owner. Unfortunately, most of these sellers opt NOT to use it due to the higher cost.
2.) Battery Inefficiencies & Dangers
Lithium-Ion batteries are not cheap. They are expensive to manufacture and even more expensive to equip with protection circuits. As a result, eBay sellers often times skimp consumers by selling unprotected batteries with misreported capacities. The capacity of a battery should be exactly what the label reads; however, this has proven time and time again to not be true with eBay batteries. Just take a look at this table created back in 2014. The average eBay battery had a measured charge ranging from 300mAh to 800mAh while claiming to be 3000mAh or more!
Do any of these batteries look familiar to you? These are notorious for having misreported capacities, lacking voltage regulation, and being potentially dangerous.
Why This Is Important
The compound used in Lithium-Ion batteries is very volatile by nature and requires special care when being handled. If overcharged, the battery has the potential to explode, leak electrolyte, and burn the user. If over-discharged, the battery can be damaged and/or ruined. The batteries being sold by some auction site merchants are unpredictable and arguably dangerous -- which is why they are cheaper.
Honorable companies address this issue by only selling high quality cells equipped with voltage regulators (also known as PCB Protection Circuits). These small circuit chips essentially monitor the voltage of the battery and prevent it from being too high or too low. Just take a look at the pictures below. We compared and weighed a standard "eBay Battery" with one of our own TakLite cells. Our batteries weigh almost 50% more than the cheap eBay battery -- despite being the same model!
3. Materials Used
At this point, you're probably thinking the same thing we are: could it get any worse?
When it comes these low budget flashlights, the name of the game is volume and sellers are doing everything within their power to cut costs. As a result, sellers gradually reduce the amount of material used in their products. They are essentially taking an already crappy flashlight and making it worse.
Just look at the picture below. We compare two flashlights that appear identical. But in reality, one has had the amount of bar stock reduced by more than 20%.
While the examples described above certainly don't encompass all the shortcomings of flashlights found on popular auction sites, they do a good job at explaining some of the not-so-obvious differences to the average consumer. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Your best bet is to stick to reputable brands like TakLite - a company that guarantees your product for life.