Several months ago, I reviewed an LED torch that was powered by the
Principle. As much as I like the idea of battery-free lighting and as much
as I wanted to be able to recommend it, the performance of the
Forever Flashlight was
underwhelming – to say the least. Thankfully, one of our readers emailed and
made me aware of a product that I should try before completely dismissing the
idea of power created by repeatedly passing a magnet through a copper coil. Upon
his recommendation, I visited the Shake Light
site and found that they did indeed offer a similar product to the one I had
Looking at ShakeLight’s pictures and reading their
technical specifications, I could see that their
NightStar LED Flashlight was definitely a more substantial and perhaps
better quality torch than the brand I had reviewed. After reading an
article about Shake Light’s struggles to compete with larger companies that
were essentially selling copies of their design, I realized that I had most
likely reviewed an inferior "knock-off", and that would never do…
A couple of weeks later, I had a genuine NightStar LED Flashlight in my
hands. Available in clear, solid yellow or black, I was sent the clear model.
As you can imagine, the clear model is perfect for someone like me that
enjoys seeing how something works. :0)
Temperature: Storage:-50°F (-45°C) to +140°F (60°C) Operation: -40°F (-40°C) to
Pressure: Operational at an ocean depth of 180 ft. (55m)
Chemical Resistance: Unaffected by salt water, alcohol, and ammonia based
cleaners. Dissolve resistant against medium strength acids.
Shock: Fully functional after repeated random drops from a height of 6 ft (2m)
onto a concrete surface.
The NightStar measures 10" long by 2.5" wide at its thicker end, and it
weighs 11.1 ounces. The shaft is 1.5" thick, which in hand is a comfortable
size. The entire body is composed of a single unit of sealed, slightly textured,
clear plastic. This window into the light’s "guts" allowed me to immediately see
that there were some major interior differences between this light’s composition
and that of the model I had basically destroyed by
First of all, there was no way that I could even perform such exploratory
surgery on the NightStar, since I could not find a non-destructive way to crack
its case. This lends a bit of credence to ShakeLight’s claim of the torch’s
ability to float and its being waterproof.
The on / off switch is contained in its own glow-in-the-dark sealed
receptacle. Close examination of the way that it works reveals that there are
no wires leaving this chamber.
Instead, there is a small metallic plate on the underside of the switch. A
couple millimeters underneath that plate is a raised metal bar. When the switch
is in the forward position, the small metal plate is passed directly over the
metal bar, which reacts to complete the circuit and turn on the light. Sliding
the switch back will then break the circuit and turn off the light. Clever!
Another major difference between the NightStar and the knock-off is that
because of the NightStar’s sealed composition there is no need for rubber
dampers on either end of the interior magnet. Instead, there are repelling
magnets at either end of the shaft which keep the moving magnet from striking
the ends. Even with a short burst of quite vigorous
shaking I was not able to make the magnet hit either end. This was in stark
contrast to the way that the knock-off’s magnet would beat on the rubber dampers
at each end of its shaft.
The see-through shaft of the NightStar reveals an inner chamber, within which
the one inch long magnet moves back and forth. In the center of the shaft, a
tightly wound spool of blue colored wire rests, ready to react to the energy
generated by the repeated passing of the magnet. The two ends of the wire meet
at the top of the coil, and are then twisted together as they travel to the
circuit board under the bulb area.
The LED end of the NightStar is capped by a blue plastic ring which holds the
glass magnifying lens end. This assembly is fused to the plastic sides of the
Overall, I am quite impressed with the construction of the NightStar. Without
even switching it on, there is a definite feeling of quality. However, its
construction is only half of the equation. If the flashlight doesn’t work as
expected, then it will just be a well constructed paper weight.
In order to build up a charge, the NightStar must be shaken in short burst
approximately 90 times. Probably the most effective way to accomplish this, is
to bend the arm and shake the light over the shoulder – parallel to the ground.
While each shake does not necessarily have to be vigorous, the quicker the
shake, the faster the light will charge. According to the website, shaking the
light for three minutes will provide a full charge and 10 to 15 minutes of
usable light. Because the light will not be fully discharged at this point,
shaking the light for 15 more seconds will restore it to a full charge. This
sounds pretty impressive, so of course I had to test it out.
First I gave it 90 shakes with my right arm. After deciding that that had
been a pretty good mini-workout, I decided to do another 90 with my weaker left
I then switched the light on inside my long dark hallway, and found its beam
to be quite bright and strong enough to reach the door at the other end – over
37 feet away. Remember that this is a flashlight with a single LED, so
while it will not have the incredible brightness of a cluster of four or more
LEDs, it is still quite bright and definitely more than sufficient for safe
travel through a dark area.
My next test was to lay the flashlight on its side and time the beam, to see
if I indeed got at least ten minutes of useable light. As you may recall, the
best I could get with the Forever Flashlight was 2.5 minutes of bright light and
about two more minutes of dim light before the torch totally died. Using the
free Counter Time
program on my Pocket PC, I set the timer for ten minutes and went and did other
things. If I returned at ten minutes and the light was still glowing strong,
then I would consider the test passed.
When I returned ten minutes later the light was noticeably dimmer (in my
brightly lit office), but once again entering the darkened hallway I found that
the light was still bright enough that I could see it on the door at the other
end. I consider this test passed with flying colors!
Next, I gave the NightStar 20 brisk shakes, and found that it was indeed just
as bright as before. I used the light for the next couple of days, and purposely
did not recharge it in between uses. Each time, it would switch on and provide a
bright beam for the minute or two that I used it. This in itself was impressive,
but I needed to see how the light would do after a serious period of inactivity.
So I recharged it for about thirty shakes and then set it on my desk and left it
there – unused for over a month.
Today, I finally picked the NightStar up again, switched it on…and was
pleasantly surprised to find that not only did the light come on – it was bright
and strong! Needless to say, I was impressed.
Now it was time for some endurance tests!
First on the block were those "waterproof" claims…
A five minute swim in the 100º hot tub
did not seem to adversely affect the NightStar, even with the jets on and
several purposeful dunkings. As you can see by the picture, the torch floats
from its top end, which means that if you truly fear dropping it in water you
should probably have a lanyard of some kind attached to its end loop, because
there is not much on the surface of the water to grab and the light is highly
mobile with its shaft acting as an underwater sail.
The final test that I performed was the drop test. On the NightStar site,
they show a student
throwing the torch at a wall as well as several videos of assorted
tests. Each time, the NightStar survives – seemingly undamaged. My test was
a bit less radical, yet still effective: I dropped it from our garage
apartment’s second story balcony onto the ground below – about a 20 foot drop.
Not only did the light survive, it didn’t appear to have any cosmetic damage.
This is the flashlight that I was hoping for when I first heard that a
flashlight could be powered by shaking and this will be the flashlight that I
send with my daughter when she goes on her week long
Philmont hike this
summer. There will be no fear of her dropping the light, running out of
batteries, or any other disaster that might wait the typical light. As an added
benefit, the NightStar can act as a compass. Yes, you read that right – when
hung horizontally from a tree, the LED end will point due North. With this use
in mind, I do wish that a groove had been shaped into the correct location on
the light’s shaft to better accommodate the string and balance the light. Not
everyone will need or appreciate this feature, but I think it is pretty cool!
Of course, there is a downside to a light that uses a powerful magnet as its
source of power. The NightStar can not be stored near a computer hard drive or
any other type of media that is adversely affected by magnets. This includes
automatic wristwatches, pacemakers and cassette tapes. As long as the user keeps
those limitations in mind, there are no other issues that I can see regarding
the safe use of this light.
The NightStar is the perfect torch to keep in your disaster kit. There is no
need for expensive replacement batteries, and no fear of battery leakage or
failure if several years pass before the light is actually called into duty. The
peace of mind that is afforded is well worth the already reasonable purchase
The ShakeLight NightStar LED Flashlight may be purchased
Available in clear, solid yellow and black
Never needs batteries
Never needs a new bulb
Will hold a charge for weeks
Waterproof & shockproof
Can be used as a compass
Magnets are in use so the NightStar must be kept away from automatic watches,
hard drives and pacemakers