Whats the difference between a budget and a high priced flashlight

Since i am not likely to ever own a $100+ flashlight, i am curious what makes them superior (especially the ones that cost over $200)
I’m curious about all details, anodizing, engineering, output, lifetime, drivers, LEDs, metal quality, and anything else i’ve missed.

I have an XTAR D35, which is over $100. I would have preferred to pay less than $100 for the same light, but nobody makes such a thing. The D35 has these features that I haven’t seen on a < $100 light yet:

- selector ring (the best possible UI in my opinion)

- a programmable output level (can also use strobe or SOS as the programmed output)

- excellent regulation and heatsinking (can leave the light on max until the batteries die, and the light doesn’t fade and the body doesn’t get hot (because the body has so much mass))

- waterproof to 100 m

  • good manufacturer support

Dependability, it delivers to specs, always and every time, durability, quality components, build, and function.

I would just add the difference in quality warranty.

I think the main difference is the money left in my pocket. I’ve not yet run across a situation where I needed a $100 light over a $30 light.

After all, all they are is an aluminium tube, reflector, led, driver and switch. Everything else is just unnecessary.

I’m sure CPF would ban you for that. :stuck_out_tongue:

They’d have a job, I banned myself before signing up, its not possible tovwedge my head THAT FAR up my own arse. :slight_smile:

The difference?
How much you will be upset when it stops working, breaks or you lose it.
Simply, higher price = more upset.


Quality of finish. I would expect but it may not be true!
+Better threads
-proprietary driver, like it or dislike it
-outdated emitters most of the time
+better anodizing
+AR coated glass lens hopefully
+consistent manufacturing (unlike the Chinese 1 factory, 3 assembly shops, 10 online shops, 5 different Fire brands, different parts used)
+O-rings that seal and should withstand, be truly rated for the submerge (though I wouldn’t mind testing my Chinese made lights underwater)

Whether it overheats or not, has nothing to do with how much it costs. That’s just how hard you drive it. Chinese lights are far more driven and thus heat more on high.
And are overpriced lights made in US or EU? Really? I doubt it, many seem to be from China as well. Just that the QC and engineering put into it was more expensive.

I have a lot of cheap lights, they do the job. Some are exceptional value for money, some not so much.

I would have agreed with your OP until I got my TN31.

There is just nothing I have that comes close to it, it is one of my most expensive lights, and I consider it by far great value for money. It’s just WOW!

Sometimes, the real deal just costs more, but it’s worth it.

The biggest difference I’ve noticed? I won’t fiddle with my ‘High’ dollar lights. Had a bad experience with a BTU. The budget lights are less expensive to tear up…

When I hear “expensive light” I think Surefire. I know there are others, but that is what pops into my mind. I own two myself. I’m not a hater. I would buy more if I had the need. What I mean is that if my life was truly dependent on the light, I think it would be money well spent just for the insurance aspect of a top quality light. Maximum reliability comes at a price.

That said, I did have the switch fail on a lightly used E2D, so nothing is 100%.

Other pros for an expensive light are all those things others have mentioned, better QC, CS, and warranty.

Some of the nebulous benefits of an expensive light are the reliability, real or imagined, pride of ownership, and the ability to be “in” over at the other place.

The downsides are that we all have budgets, family obligations, and other hobbies so regardless how big our pile of cash, it is always in the end, finite. So it comes down to this. Would you rather a collection of one or ten? The great thing about budget lights is the value the represent. You get 95% of the performance at 15% of the cost and in the end, that is pretty hard to argue against.

Budget lights = mod lights, lots of fun to play around with. Expensive lights = pride. And better features, heatsinking, machining, styling, reliability, design, etc.

IMO, go for lots of budget lights. Mod them, chase the lumens and play with tints. But when money allows and there is an expensive light that is just too irresistible, it feels just great to have one in your collection, if not for more practical reasons when performance and reliability is needed.

Another difference:

I am a bit more at ease handing my 10 year old the Skyray King to go outdoors with than the TM 26!

I have a calculation I use to decide how much I could pay for a flashlight.

I find a decent but budget light in the same league. With similar body mass, emitter and output. Then I add $5 for each item I find important as listed:

  • better anodization (HAIII)
  • a better UI than tail switch mode selection
  • forward clicky if it has a separate mode button or method
  • flexible voltage range and low voltage protection
  • AR coated glass
  • Neutral / HiCRI tint
  • square threads with anodization and thick or double o-rings
  • a decent belt clip
  • an holster
  • boxed and branded
  • well machined, no gaps or sharp edges
  • throwier / floodier than competition in the same size
  • built in charger
  • premium brand with warranty, even if I never needed one

Can find a few more but I think these are the points I find important on a light, and a brand light usually have at least 3-4 of these already.

Lets think about a fake TK21 sold on DX for $33, which should be $25 in real. For a real Fenix TK22 or similar add $5 for each: a clip, better build, better anodization, AR coat, better UI, better driver, holster, box, warranty, better beam profile = +$50. So for $75 I think a Fenix TK22 is a reasonable buy. It is $80 now so I need to find another plus to be able to get it :slight_smile:

A Nitecore P25 is, with the similar calculation is +$55 due to its charging ability. So for $65 from FastTech it was a great buy for me, and got one of course :smiley:


I pray for the wisdom to know the difference. 0:)

It will depend from light to light, but imo it’s the following:

-low mode output not using PWM (or at least not noticeable if it does)
-fit & finish

The high priced ones cost more… thats really it…

Some higher priced lights do some things better - UI, current regulation, better finish and feel, better threads, better heatsinking… etc etc etc

But there are also a handful of smaller lights that do somethings better than expensive production lights.

I think it really needs to be on a case by case basis…

Take for example the TM11 versus the Skyray king.

Right off the bat the skyray king is brighter than the TM11 and currently about 1/3rd the price. Does that make it a better light? For some it does. Others may argue that the TM11 is better since it is better regulated, has better heatsinking and does not have the horrible PWM on low mode that the king has.

It really comes down to what you are looking for in a light, what short comings you are willing to over look, and what you are willing to pay. For me to spend more than $100-150 on a light (what I usually budget per month for flash-lighting) - it has to be unique and move mountains, otherwise I can build a $20 budget light into something better with less than $30 worth of additional parts, and have more enjoyment in doing so.

But do you have any of the more expensive lights? I don’t think I NEED the more expensive ones but it is nice having them.

I always think - ifyou havent tried something more expensive how would you know?

the bottom line… you press a button and it spits light out the end

how much do you want to pay for other bells and whistles and quality?

I have several of the more costly lights. To me, the budget lights are much more fun. When you pay big $$$ for a light. You have certain expectations. When I order budget lights. I have no expectations. I have been more pleasantly surprised by my budget lights than I have the more costly ones.