Streamlight Microstream Review: The AAA Benchmark

Introduction

Well, here’s a throwback. Among enthusiasts, there are very few who will not recognize this flashlight. While LED technology has long since moved on, Streamlight has steadily made minor output upgrades to the Microstream over the years. It’s also spawned a newer, USB version. Heads-up: I actually think the original version is better. And as I’ll discuss in this review, this is in part due to how solid the design fundamentals are. Let’s talk about why this is the AAA flashlight benchmark.

Specifications

  • High Lumens: 45
  • Run Time: 2.25 hours
  • Beam Distance: 41m
  • Max Candela: 420
  • Battery Type: AAA Alkaline
  • Length: 3.60in (9.14cm)
  • Weight: 1.1oz (31.18g)

Physical Design

The ergonomics of the Microstream are excellent, it easily fits in most hands and there are notches in the body to facilitate a cigar-grip. This is also one of the few AAAs to use a forward click-switch which beats out the standard twisty in-practice because of momentary activation.

However, the clip is a double-edged sword. While it’s reversible and works well, the Microstream unscrews from the tail-end and doing so will scrape the HA coating. And along these lines, this HA coating is delicate: Without a doubt, Streamlight uses some of the poorest anodizing I’ve seen on a mainstream flashlight. Their flashlights are notorious for what I can only describe as being “stripped naked” with use, and the Microstream is no exception.

The Microstream is hampered by less-than-stellar build quality. They’re incredibly hard to kill though, which is more so a testament to that solid design. It’s very easy to stash this flashlight away in a pocket, simply forget about it, and just know that it’ll turn on when you need it to.

Physical Grade: B+

Technical Performance

Here’s where the Microstream starts showing its age. There’s only one output, “ON”. First, let me just say that this isn’t inherently bad. In fact, sometimes less is more with a flashlight this simple, but many newer generation AAAs feature some level of programmability. Even Streamlight’s been implementing their own take on this called “Ten-Tap programming” in some of their more recent flashlights.

From a pure performance standpoint, the Microstream is nothing exceptional either. You get your ugly cool white LED, output is meh, and runtime is proportional to this “meh” output. The beam is also chock-full of rings and lacks the punch for even most medium-range tasks.

Shot on an iPhone X at a couple feet with no editing.

Technical Performance: C-

Assessment of Value

Make no mistake that the Microstream has long-since been eclipsed by better options, and the Olight i3T EOS is a good example that utterly outperforms it at a similar cost. I won’t bother giving other examples because the good majority of AAA flashlights outperform the Microstream from a technical standpoint. Even one of the few that doesn’t, the Maglite Solitaire, clocks in at several dollars less. I don’t consider the Solitaire a benchmark simply because it’s geared towards the keychain carry market.

But let’s briefly talk about Streamlight’s Microstream USB, the “upgrade” to the original Microstream. Frankly, I think it’s garbage. The USB version is larger and the user-interface is janky; switching outputs requires incredibly quick taps and is more difficult than it should be. They’re also using a proprietary 10440 battery. Once you take into account the USB and original’s price differential, I’d posit that the original Microstream is a better value.

Value: N/A

The Verdict

There is no mainstream, AAA flashlight that screams “average” to me more so than the Streamlight Microstream. But would I consider the Microstream deprecated? On the contrary, far from it. At $20 it’s still a solid, reliable option for most mainstream consumers. Although advances in technology have made the Microstream obsolete on paper, it has very good design fundamentals. And remember, you don’t actually need the barn-burner output we’ve come to expect from more modern flashlights. For better or for worse, this is one flashlight that’s not going anywhere (both figuratively and in terms of technical upgrades) anytime soon. So not bad, Streamlight.

[Microstream] Cumulative Grade: C=

[Microstream USB] Cumulative Grade: C-

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