The Joby Gorillatorch Blade is the latest in a line of hands-free flashlights that includes the Gorillatorch Original and the Gorillatorch Flare. While all three 'torches feature Joby's trademark flexible, bendable legs--a feature that originally debuted on the Gorillapod line of tripods--the Blade differentiates itself with an all-new chassis for the lamp and a few new features. It's also the most expensive, which may be a turn-off for casual users.
Starting with the Gorillatorch Blade's flashlight, the unit features an anodized black aluminum tube chassis that's about 6.25 inches long and 1.33 inches thick. The unit is IPX-5 water-resistant, which means you could probably douse it with a hose or rinse it in a sink, but you probably don't want to go submerging it. The unit's design also lends a bit of inherent shock-resistance. Dropping this guy onto concrete may mar the finish, but the functionality probably won't be affected.
Located at the business end of the lamp is the CREE XLamp XP-C LED. When Joby calls this guy ultra-bright, it's not just blowing smoke. Standard output from this LED is 65 lumens, which matches the output of the Gorillatorch Original and proved to be more than bright enough for most of the uses we could think of. However, for users who need even more brightness, the Blade also features a boost mode that doubles the output to 130 lumens for a moment or for up to a three-minute burst. By twisting the head of the flashlight, users are also able to adjust the cone of light emitted by the Blade, widening it to a 160-degree flood or narrowing it to a 30-degree spotlight.
The flashlight features a rubber power button on its butt that doubles as an illumination strength control. Tapping the button powers the Gorillatorch Blade on and off; holding this button activates the momentary 130-lumen boost; and holding the button for three seconds activates the three-minute 130-lumen boost mode. The power button also doubles as a rubber cap and can be peeled back to expose the mini-USB charging port for the Blade's lithium ion battery. Users can recharge the flashlight by connecting to the supplied USB/AC adapter or by connecting to any powered USB port with the included USB cable. A single, dim blue LED illuminates to let the user know the Blade is charging and shuts off when the battery is full.
Joby claims a 6.5-hour battery life at the standard brightness, dropping down to 2.5 hours of continuous use in the boosted mode (in three-minute bursts, of course). We were able to eke nearly 8 hours of continuous use during our testing. When the battery level drops down to the 30 minutes range, the Gorillatorch Blade goes into power save mode, reducing output to 25 lumens.
The flashlight connects to Joby's flexible legs with a clamp that holds onto a sliding rail with friction. By holding the clamp's tab, users are able to adjust the flashlight's position or easily remove the unit from the legs for more conventional handheld use. The clamp connects to the legs via a ball joint, giving the user even more flexibility in aiming and positioning the lamp.
Each of the Gorillatorch's three legs features nine movable plastic segments, each with a rubber ring that increases grip, and is capped with a red foot segment that houses a strong magnet. The magnetic feet make the Gorillatorch Blade great for working under the hood of a car, where metal surfaces are in no short supply. However, you'll want to exercise caution around magnetically sensitive electronics, such as hard drives, so as not to damage them.
Between the legs' ability to wrap around smaller objects and the feet's ability to hold onto larger ones, we didn't find too many situations and angles that could shake the Gorillatorch Blade. And with two brightnesses to chose from and a generous battery life, the Blade supplied us with more than enough light and use time to install a pair of car stereos in our dark corner of the CNET garage.
However, before we can go wholeheartedly recommending the Gorillatorch, we have to talk about price. The $59.95 MSRP may seem a bit steep for a flashlight, but it's actually in line with 65-lumen LED lamps of similar quality. When you consider that the Gorillatorch Blade comes with the bonus of being self-supported for handsfree use, we think that 60 bucks is a pretty good deal.