The AIT “NightStar RS” Challenge!!!!

Light Type: 5mm LED
Light Class: Emergency / Survival Use / Etc.


Applied Innovative Technologies

Welcome to the Illumination Arena where tonight we will be witnessing an epic battle between the latest shakelight self-powered flashlight, the AIT Nightstar RS, and some of the more recent competitors to come out on the market. This fight will be decided by TKO (Technical Knock-Off). The competition includes (below from left to right) the Sharper Image Hummer, Excalibur Forever Flashlight, and two Everlast Flashlights – small and large.

AIT was (I believe) the first, and in this reviewer’s opinion, the best made magnetic shakelight on the market. After the AIT NightStar appeared, a large number of knockoff magnetic shakelights appeared, generally in the form of cheap imports which used lesser quality components and therefore had a lower selling cost. In response to these inexpensive units AIT has produced it’s own lower-cost model, the Nightstar RS.

NightStar RS has the same look as NightStar CS except that it doesn’t have the bottom endcap. The NightStar RS also uses a 1 farad capacitor instead of the larger 1.5 farad capacitor found in the CS. Because of this, the NightStar RS provides 5+ minutes of light with 1 minute of shaking. The housing is also not quite as robust as the other NightStar lights because it’s made of recycled acrylic instead of virgin polycarbonate. In all other respects it’s the same as NightStar CS (same LED, electronics, magnets and construction). NightStar RS is, however, considerably less expensive and will allow AIT to compete with all the knockoffs that are capturing the retail market. Because of the component, housing material, and packaging changes (it’s packaged in a simple cardboard box instead of a clamshell), NightStar RS is cost competitive with the knockoffs.

Bezel/Head: The bezel contains the single 5mm LED, a reflector, and a focusing lens which produces a medium spot of light. In the head of the light you will also see the capacitor which holds the charge generated by the magnet and coil, as well as the magnetic reed switch. Of all the comparison lights, only the NightStar is completely sealed to prevent access to the body tube. All the rest have screw-off bezel caps which means that the kids (or someone else) can get into them and potentially mess them up – not a good thing to have happen to your emergency light.


From left to right: Nightstar RS, Excalibur, Hummer, Everlast big, Everlast Small

Output Comparison: As the lights step into the ring for the match, they all come in with a full charge and muscle up to the light meter. Let’s see how they do when we fire them up:

Light
Throw
Start
% Output Loss
in 1 minute
NightStar RS
28
108
47
56%
Excalibur Forever
63
305
80
74%
Hummer
22
177
31
82%
Everlast Big
40
143
26
82%
Everlast Small
18
74
4
95%
All throw readings are in Lux at one meter. The numbers in parenthesis are for comparison in the Comparison Charts.

This is very telling – most of the lights start with stronger output than the NightStar. However, in one minute the NightStar dropped 56% in output. All the rest dropped between 74% and 95% in output during the same time period. Over 5 minutes time, at this rate, the NightStar would be producing significantly more light than all of the other lights. The NightStar may be producing less light up front, but it’s giving more light overall between charges with a slower dropoff of output.

The light produced by the NightStar is in the form of a greenish tinted spot. In total darkness it provides more than adequate light for safety and navigation. As it starts to appear dim simply give it a few shakes to brighten it up again. The interesting thing about the NightStar relative to the other shakelights is that the StarCore Security Quality LED produces more of a greenish tinted light as opposed to the common bluish tint of 5mm LEDs found with the rest of the lights. The result is that the NightStar Security Quality LED is closer in color temperature to the area where the human eye is more sensitive and it gives better color rendition of red and orange objects.


Beam at one meter at target center

Feature Comparison: Now it’s time for the knock-down, drag-out, no holds barred match. And here they go!

Feature
Nightstar
Excalibur
Hummer
Ever. Big
Ever. Sm.
Weight in oz.?
4.8
11.5
9.6
8.3
2.3
On-Time after full charge (advertised)?
5 min
5 min
5 min
3 min
3 min
Focusing Lens?
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Submersible/Floats?
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Focusing Security Quality LED Reflector?
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Constant On Switch?
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Magnetic Reed Switch?
Y
Y
N
N
N
10 hr. Glow in the Dark switch?
Y
N
N
N
N
Repelling Magnets instead of bumpers?
Y
N
N
N
N
LED with more visually sensitive color temperature?
Y
N
N
N
N
Sealed to prevent tampering?
Y
N
N
N
N
Compact Size?
Y
N
N
N
Y
Lanyard attachment point?
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Cost (at time of review)?
24.95
29.95
24.95
?
?

Well, there you have it. If you want to use a lanyard with your shakelight, the NightStar RS is not the way to go (of course, you could just duct tape a loop of paracord to it…). In most other respects, it appears to have considerable advantages over the other common low-cost shakelights used for comparison.

Switch description: The NightStar switch is actually inside the sealed head of the light and it is activated by a rotating cylinder on the outside of the light. The little rotating cylinder, similar in size to the striker on a butane lighter, contains a magnet. When rotated it moves the magnet into position and closes the reed switch inside the head. The folks at AIT decided to go with a rotating switch to decrease the possibility of fouling which could render a sliding switch inoperable. The fact that the switch is activated magnetically means that no additional holes had to be made in the case for the switch which could have compromised the watertight seal. The rotating part of the switch is made of Strontium Aluminate glow-in-the-dark plastic which will glow for up to 10 hours. The switch housing also acts as an anti-roll tab.

The Excalibur also has a magnetic reed switch, but uses a sliding mechanism to move the activating magnet. This design could be subject to jamming due to debris. The Hummer has a click switch under a rubber cover, and the two Everlast lights have momentary only switches underneath a plastic sticker-like cover.

Seals / Water Resistance: The NightStar is completely sealed and is rated watertight to a depth of 160 feet. The Excalibur and Hummer both float and are waterproof, but submersion is not mentioned in any of the instructions. The Everlast lights’ instructions say they are waterproof, but a few sentences further down it says “Do not immerse in water”. Hmmmmmm……

Ergonomics: Well, while shaking these things like crazy to charge them up, you’ll get a pretty good bicep workout. The NightStar is small enough to handle comfortably and the switch is simple to operate with your thumb. The repelling magnets at each end of the charging chamber make for a very smooth charge-up. They naturally recover much of the kinetic energy at the end of the main magnet’s travel and apply it to the reverse travel. The result is less effort overall to get a full charge.

As for the rest? The Excalibur makes the most noise of the bunch while charging up, plus it felt like it was trying to rattle my arm out of its socket each time the main magnet hit the end of the chamber. The Hummer is the most quiet of all of them but the travel of the magnet seems a bit short and as a result it felt like I was fighting with it the whole time I was charging it. Both of the Everlast lights were comfortable to charge up – nothing to report there.


Size compared to a common 2AA aluminum light, and the competition

Batteries: No batteries are required for these lights. Simply shake the light and the large magnet in the center travels back and forth between either end of the travel tube. As the magnet travels through the central coil, a capacitor is charged, giving adequate runtime for emergencies. One minute of shaking provides about 5 minutes of good low-level light for the NightStar.

NOTE As a result of the magnetic field generated by this light, and all the other magnetic lights shown, the light MUST be stored and used away from anything sensitive to a strong magnetic field. DO NOT place near a TV, monitor, floppy disks, hard drives, credit cards (don’t stuff it in your back pocket with your wallet!), video tapes, or sensitive electronics.

What I Liked: Waterproof, Tough/impact resistant, Good output, No batteries, Lightweight, StarCore Security Quality LED gives good color rendition

What I Didn’t Like: No regulation/dims quickly (common issue with all shakelights)

Conclusions: In comparing the new NightStar RS to its competition, I think it’s safe to say “We have a Winner!” The NightStar RS is superior in many ways to all of the other lights tested in this review, and in the same price category. It’s a great little emergency light that you can leave in the kitchen drawer for years and not have to worry about dead batteries when the lights go out.