Flashlights are one of those items you don’t give much thought to until you need one. Once you do, you’ll want it to work correctly, casting a bright light where you need it. Good build quality and comfortable to hold are also key for a great flashlight. If this fits your flashlight needs, you might need a Maxxeon WorkStar 340.
This penlight falls into what Maxxeon calls the “everyday carry” category, because it is compact and light (at under an ounce!), and designed to fit in your pocket or bag. It isn’t much larger than a regular pen, and it fits nicely into the pen slots in my regular bag (a Tom Bihn cafe bag). Aesthetically, it looks very cool. The WorkStar is made of anodized aluminum with a carbon fiber skin over it for a shiny, high-tech style. There are ridges to make gripping it easier, and a thin metal pen-style clip. The on/off button is rubbery and dust-proof, with a satisfying clicky feel. It looks and feels like it can take a beating, and according to Maxxeon the flashlight is water-resistant, making this a handy penlight to have during a hurricane.
I was very excited to test this penlight because I have a dog with a sensitive stomach. That may seem like a non sequitur, but the dog refuses to, ahem, “take care of business” in the backyard. This means when he’s not feeling well we’re parading around town in the dark so he can stake his claim. I’ve used my smartphone flashlight and the WorkStar, and the latter is by far the best for late night outside time. It’s so thin I can easily hold it in the same hand as the dog’s leash, and the light is more than bright enough to see where I am going, despite the dog’s best efforts to lead me right into the big ice patches.
Maxxeon claims the WorkStar produces a significantly brighter beam than most LED flashlights, and while I didn’t have another on hand for comparison it does produce a satisfyingly bright light. It doesn’t travel super far, but it illuminates a few feet in front of you with ease. It’s certainly more powerful than turning the flash on my Lumia on! It runs on AAA batteries, meaning it’s cheap and easy to keep the light running nice and bright. I had no complaints about how it performed as a flashlight!
I did have some issues with the clip, though. It worked great when I clipped the light to my wind pants while walking the dog at night, but anything thicker than workout pants proved to be a challenge for it. I had it pop off entirely while trying to clip the light to my jeans, and reattaching it left a few minor scratches on the flashlight’s finish. It also rattles a bit, which is jarring since everything else in the flashlight is fitted perfectly. The clip is, frankly, a cheap add-on that doesn’t fit with the finish and style of the rest of the light. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but if you need a powerful clip this could be a major issue for you.
Here’s the part that might give a would-be buyer pause-the WorkStar 340 is $39.99. That’s not cheap for a small flashlight, especially when you can download a flashlight app for free for every smartphone out there. If you need a dedicated flashlight, though, this definitely falls into the “you get what you paid for” category. A smartphone light is fine for stumbling around the house in the dark, but it’s not going to cast a light very far. And in an emergency, using your smartphone flash runs down the battery, making it a trade off between light and connectivity. If you often find yourself in situations where you NEED a good flashlight, or you do a lot of driving or travel at night and want a light in your emergency kit, it’s not the worst thing in the world to spend a bit more and have a water-resistant penlight that runs on everyday batteries. In many ways flashlights are in the same boat as cameras, voice recorders and other gear that’s been slowly replaced by smartphones for everyday use. If you want a basic camera, or a basic voice recorder, or a basic flashlight, you probably have one built into your smartphone. If you want something that takes those features to anything beyond a very basic level, you need to get a dedicated device, and you need to pay a bit more than entry-level. That is where Maxxeon has positioned their flashlights.
Is it worth it for you? That’s not a question I can answer specifically. But I think $40 isn’t unreasonable for a flashlight that works, and works well, every single time you need it. Especially when you consider that you can keep it in your bag or glove compartment and barely notice it’s there most of the time. Certainly, if you spend a lot of time peering into dark areas, this is a great penlight, and if you’re looking for something light and basic but durable, the WorkStar is solid. Aside from the clip, it looks and feels like an expensive piece of gear, and it performs admirably. Especially if you find yourself stumbling through the suburbs at 2am with a very anxious Labrador!
MSRP: $39.99 from Maxxeon
What I Liked: Lightweight; casts a bright light; solid build quality; water and dust resistant; runs on AAA batteries
What Needs Improvement: Clip is very cheap
Source: Manufacturer supplied review unit