Everybody we talk to loves LED flashlights. Coast just came out with its new HP7 which boasts 207 ANSI lumens – that is bright! The flashlight is also becoming popular due to Coast products showing up all over Lowe’s. More and more people are becoming familiar with the brand and, as a result, it’s extensive line of high-end LED-based flashlight products. The HP7 has some impressive specs and features, even beyond the bright output of the Cree-style LED. We were more than happy to lend our critique to the new flashlight and see if it’s array of features, functions and flash were as impressive as we were hearing about.
Before we get into the actual use of the light, we thought we’d speak a bit about the physical device itself. Opening up the retail box – which was an impressive kit that included a box for the light and a nylon case with an adjustable hook & loop/snap belt loop so you can put it just about anywhere. The Coast HP7 LED Flashlight isn’t big, measuring just over 5-1/2″ in length and 1-7/16″ in diameter across the lens hood. It’s a really perfect size for a flashlight you want to carry around with you and it fits perfectly in the hand.
The case is made from aluminum and is a really great gunmetal color that wavers between blue and gray depending upon what angle you look at it. It’s a nice, rugged case with just the right amount of texture on the central grip. Opening up the back end, you will find a gasket to protect the battery compartment from water intrusion and the four-chamber battery sled holds four AAA batteries (included). The sled is made very well and there is no chance of a bad connection since the AAA batteries snap in tightly to gold-plated spring-loaded chambers and the entire sled makes positive contact via 3 dedicated pins on the front and back. It’s actually a very advanced power plant. Even the on/off button is housed within a rubber enclosure, so it’s not going to get ruined by rain or inclement weather.
The lens uses advanced optics which are easily visible by looking into the business end of the HP7 (when it is OFF, mind you!). Look in while pulling the focus mechanism out and in and you can see the effects of the lens on the Cree-style LED.
Using the Flashlight – Field Tests
Coast uses what it called a “Quick Cycle” switch. This is actually pretty cool. In practical use, you can depress it slightly to bring up the current mode (high or low beam) and then depress it slightly again to change to the next mode. When you are in the mode you want, give the switch a full click (typically with your thumb. This locks the mode on. In this way you can select full output or partial output and also engage the function as a “momentary” mode for when you don’t need the light on for extended periods of time. It’s a cool system, and you can get the same mode-switching effect by quickly “double-tapping” the switch. In high mode, Coast claims the HP7 will run for up to 3-1/2 hours. In low mode, you’ve got light for nearly a full day (20 hours). This is not a flashlight designed for “throw-away” casual use – it’s a serious tool.
Going back to the focusing optics – we really liked how we could use our fingertips to pull in and push out the lens bezel. We also loved the extremely wide beam angle that lit up nearly everything in our sight. To demonstrate the wide angle, we set the flashlight on a chair approximately 2 feet away from a wall. The resulting solid beam of intense light was nearly 4 feet wide. That’s a beam angle of 90 degrees and the resulting spot was completely even, with no hotspot. Push out the optics via the sliding aluminum bezel and you get a beam angle of approximately 45 degrees, but with a super bright centralized hot spot. This hot spot is perfect for really honing in on your target while giving you a broad wash of surrounding light so you can see everything in context. Even better, you can twist the bezel clockwise to lock in the mode, should you want to make sure the focus doesn’t change on you during use.
When we took this light out around the neighborhood to use it on a near-moonless night late last month, we were impressed by how easy it was to focus in on what we were looking at. The broad beam made it easy to simply flood an area with an unbelievable amount of light that seemed to stretch forever (certainly more than a football field – Coast claims over 600 feet) and the tight beam let us point so far, we were literally using the HP7 as a virtual “sky laser pointer” to trace out some stars in the night sky.
We really like this flashlight. It’s got a build quality that is far above most of what we’ve seen on the market. It’s certainly built with a better attention to detail than those inexpensive throw-aways you are starting to see everywhere. What those cheaper flashlights won’t give you, however, is the ability to drop them, get them wet, and use them in a way that inspires confidence in their ability to handle the tests of time and prolonged use. On top of that, Coast offers a lifetime guarantee, though it seems to be for defects in materials and workmanship. I’m not sure they will replace the HP7 should you leave it outside all night… at the bottom of your swimming pool.
This is a very impressive flashlight. We had a tough time with the rating because we really wanted to give it a perfect score, but there are so many subjective things about flashlights that it’s hard to know when that perfect score should be doled out. In the end, we settled on a strong, well-deserved 9/10 Performance rating with the caveat that if Coast ever begins to include a no-questions-asked warranty policy, that will easily jump to a perfect 10 out of 10. For Value, the HP7 rating is a bit tougher. Clearly, Coast is going after those who are serious about their flashlights. With that in mind, the comparison is not to other low-end models, but to those who claim high quality and superior light output. When you compare against the high quality, high output devices, Coast nets an easy above-average 7/10. It’s a great product with lots of competition. If you want a high-quality, easy-to-use and feature-rich LED flashlight that can literally paint the stars in the night sky, this is it.