MBI HF flashlight review

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I would think it is fair to say that we have done our fair share of flashlight reviews at The Gadgeteer. We get them in all shapes and sizes, so for me to do a review on one it has to be unique or have an unexpected feature. The MBI HF from Match Box Instruments is both unique and has a surprise.

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.


Match Box Instruments or MBI for short, designs, develops and produces unique flashlights and accessories to go along with those lights. The flashlight I was sent is the MBI HF SS model (SS stands for stainless steel). The MBI HF comes in a cylindrical container that is great for storing your MBI HF when not using it. The exact model I was sent to test is the HF SS XM-L2 5000K. This information is used when determining the light output (or lumens) for each particular model.


The MBI HF comes with the following as listed on the website:

  • MBI HF, Micro Flashlight
  • 3x 10250 li-ion batteries
  • 1x 10440 body (for use with 10440 li-ion)
  • 1x HF Custom Aluminum Case
  • 2x Spare O-rings
  • Operator’s Manual

And has the following dimensions:

  • Length: 57mm
  • Diameter: 14mm
  • Weight with 10250 battery: 39gm


Here’s where the story gets a little confusing so I will try to break it down. When the MBI HF arrived, it was in the black aluminum housing. I initially thought that the housing was the flashlight itself, but as I discovered through research and trial and error, the housing is separate from the flashlight. The housing holds the flashlight as well as three 10250 Li-ion batteries. The housing itself is approximately 4 1/8 ” long.


As you can see by the above picture the flashlight itself is silver in color (made of stainless steel). At 2.244″ in length, 0.551″ in diameter and weighing 1.375 ounces with the 10250 li-ion battery installed, this flashlight is small and lightweight. The flashlight itself is referred to as the MBI HF Micro Flashlight.


As I stated before, the housing part of this system was a little confusing at first. The back of the housing has three slots bored out to allow you to store up to three 10250 Li-ion batteries. Since the flashlight itself only uses one battery at a time, this will allow you to always have a backup or three. The batteries are held in place by a two piece cover system. The main cover rotates over the spinning under cover which keeps everything in place. The spinning under cover allows you to turn it to the battery you want to use. All in all, this is a clever and unique way to keep track of your spare batteries.


The top of the housing system has a removable lens cover that allows you to slip the flashlight in and out of the housing. The inside is octagonal to allow the flashlight to slip into it and also be used. The octagonal inner cutouts match the octagonal front cap and tail cap of the flashlight. When in place, the cap holds the flashlight securely in the housing.


The MBI HF comes assembled with the 10250 body but includes a 10440 body for use with 10440 Li-ion batteries giving you the flexibility to use whatever battery is convenient for you. Other than the two body components, the tail cap and head are the same for all configurations.


Since the MBI HF uses non-standard rechargeable Li-ion batteries, a USB charger was included. The charger is very basic in nature but does a good job charging the batteries. To charge your batteries simply attached the magnetic end of each of the wires to the correct poll and plug the charger into a USB outlet. A little red light will let you know your battery is charging and when it goes out, the battery is charged. Charging time varies depending on how low the battery is.


After charging the batteries it was time to do a little testing of the flashlight. Basically you can use this flashlight with the case or by itself. For me using it by itself is the easiest way to carry this light, but when traveling, as I do, having the case with the spare batteries is very convenient. When carried by itself the flashlight has a key chain attachment that will allow you to attach it and remove it from your key chain or anything else you want to attach it to. When the flashlight is in this configuration operating it is as simple as turning the tail cap.


As you can see when the flashlight is in the case it is significantly larger in size. This size and the battery storage make the light great for camping trips or extended outdoor activities. The size and weight are comparable to other flashlights I own, meaning it is not too heavy or too large. When the flashlight is in this configuration operating it is done by turning the top section of the case either clockwise or counter-clockwise, both ways work.


The MBI HF flashlight or to be more precise the MBI HF Micro Flashlight has three light output ranges; low, medium and high. The light does come with a warning not to run it on high for more than 20 seconds at a time. Run time varies by the output level, but are listed on the MBI website as follows. Low setting 8 hours, medium setting 90 minutes and high setting 5 minutes. As you can see from the pictures, the light output varies significantly from the low to high. According to the MBI website this model puts out 0.5-1lm on low, 40lm on medium and 600lm on high. The numbers listed are approximate for a fully charged 10250 battery.

So, what’s my bottom line here? I have two trains of thought on the MBI HF flashlight. The first thought is that MBI HF Micro Flashlight makes a great addition to anyone’s EDC (Every day Carry) because the size is perfect for a keychain or pocket. The included key chain clip adds flexibility to your carry options and is a nice include. Compared to other micro flashlights I have seen, having three light levels is unique. My second train of thought deals with a more generic use. When you have the whole system assembled you have a flashlight that is easy to handle with the added bonus of having spare batteries available. The only catch with this system is the unique battery situation. Being a non-standard battery flashlight may be a concern for some as you will not be able to pop down to your local store and pick up a replacement, but that can also be a plus with battery technology getting better. The additional 10440 body for use with a 10440 li-ion battery again is a nice option and offers more flexibility and freedom in the way you use the light. Now for the bad news. As an overall system, I like the MBI HF flashlight, but it does have its quirks. The main quirk for me is actually getting the micro flashlight into the housing. It can take some maneuvering to get all the hexes to line up just right to allow the light to seat into the housing. At $118 for the model I tested, the MBI HF SS is not out of line, and in some cases cheaper than similar flashlights on the market. If you are looking for a unique flashlight system for your EDC, the MBI HF is not a bad choice.

Update 06/04/17

This is still my go-to flashlight after almost three years of use. The light is still rugged and sexy and the batteries have not let me down. I have had other flashlights but I always seem tp come back to this one for its size and durability.

Source: The sample for this review was provided by MBI. Please visit their site for more info on this product.


Product Information

Manufacturer:MBI Match Box Instruments
  • Small flashlight
  • External large body with battery storage
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Versatiltiy
  • Unique batteries used

14 thoughts on “MBI HF flashlight review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. You know that the black case is only a “storage case.” You are not supposed to use the flashlight in it even it is possible. I’m pretty sure the flashlight comes with a warning about that (I have an HF that I carry every day). On high there are heat dissipation problems when it is in the “storage case.”

  3. @Jong Thanks for your input. According to the user manual it can be operated in the case but the manual also states that using it in the case is more for pleasure and not heavy duty use. I have tested the flashlight both ways and have not had any issues with the system. I will say, as you did and as the website does, “High mode should not be used for more than 20 seconds at a time”. As I stated in the review I personally would use the flashlight outside the case in most situations but when traveling I would tend to have it in the case and be more likely to use it in the case for quick situations. In all honesty I would think that those who would buy this system would want to use the light outside the case, but would appreciate the versatility it provides with the case.

  4. @Lex I cannot really argue price point on this product because everyone has their own ideas of what someething like this is worth. What I will say is that there are lots of people who are into items like this and are willing to pay a premium price for a quality product. Believe it or not this is not the priciest micro flashlight that I have come across. As far as cost vs. value goes that again is a matter of personal preference but I would challenge some of the lower cost products on their quality and workmanship. Is a $118 flashlight for everyone probably not, but I cannot say that this light is not worth it.

  5. Hi Larry,

    Thanks so much for reviewing the MBI HF 🙂

    I originally designed the HF to have the brightest possible output/high mode for a light in this class, specifically geared towards flashaholics looking for the absolute brightest keychain tool whom I should say were very instrumental in helping test and perfect it.

    I tend to be very particular when it comes to design, form and function and wanted a case that was more than just a place to store your batteries with my original “aha” moment being “wouldn’t it be cool if you could switch on and use the light whist it was still in the case”.

    As Jong mentioned, whilst the case was more for fun, it does come in handy if you want to keep everything together when travelling or camping. More than a few HF owners have more than one so its easy to keep both a back up light as well as batteries in the case which as you noted, can be conveniently used as is.

    To date, the number one reason people contact me to purchase an HF continues to be because they are looking for a small light that is shockingly bright for its size. The unique batteries, are very much a part of the special sauce and were developed exclusively to enable an extremely high power draw from a very small size.

    Thanks again,
    Guy / Tgwnn
    MBI – MatchBox Instruments

  6. 20 seconds on high @ 600 lumens ? Pathetic. You can build a 2500 lumen triple led monster that you can program yourself from firefly mode all the way up to 2500 lumen for half the price. Not a deal. Much better and more powerful lights out there for less money.

          1. Jim,
            Thanks for your feedback. Thi review was done about three years ago, the update to the review was just posted recently. I do understand that you can build a different and brighter light for cheaper, but the reason I like this light so much is its size and accessories. The flashlight itself is small enough to carry on my keychain and the optional case allows me to carry spare batteries so I can replace them on the fly. As I noted in my review the price at the time was not out of line for similar products at the time.

  7. There are many smaller lights and there are many more powerful lights but not something that combines both features in one. Having said that, the price is too exorbitant for most folks and lucky are the ones who can afford it but because of the niche, I don’t see this series or brand taking off anytime soon. (And I also hear that the developer has left many of his fans in a disappointed lurch while he gathered gobs on indiegogo but never delivered the product.) Anyway, whether you like the product and brand or not, Larry’s review is detailed and well written as heck! Good job.

  8. nice. I wish I could find the SS version of the HF. it’s the last full light I need to complete my MBI collection.!

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