Streamlight Microstream Review: A No-Frills, Workhorse of a USB Flashlight

In this Streamlight Microstream review, we investigate an inexpensive pocket light and learn what makes it such an unexpected powerhouse.
streamlight microstream review
streamlight microstream review

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In a field crowded with high-dollar tactical lights and torches with 1,000+ lumen output, is there a place for a cheap, reliable pocket flashlight? In today’s Streamlight Microstream review, we answer that question and dive deep into what makes this unassuming little flashlight such an unexpected powerhouse.

Streamlight Microstream Review

Quick Overview

The Streamlight Microstream is a proven and durable design that offers dependable light when you need it. Is it the best EDC light? Not at all, but it’s not priced to be the best, it’s priced to be a utilitarian pocket flashlight that works when you need it to and doesn’t break the bank.

Functionality

9.8/10

Style

8.5/10

Dependability

9.5/10

Value

10/10

What We Like

Excellent value for the price
Reasonable runtime on high for its size
Durable construction makes it dependable
Great as a backup EDC light

What We Don’t Like

Basically no downsides considering the Microstream’s price point

Want more flashlight options?

A flashlight is a critical component of your everyday carry, so make sure to check out our review of the best EDC flashlights.

What is the Streamlight Microstream?

The Streamlight Microstream is a pocket flashlight with an affordable price that offers a ton of bang for your buck. The Microstream is a compact light and one of the smallest lights Streamlight offers and has been around for over a decade. It’s small enough to fit into your shirt pocket.

Streamlight microstream review

In all that time, it has never lost popularity among tradespeople, outdoors enthusiasts, and everyone who values dependability and raw utility over gee-whiz features and pointless power (really, though, who needs a 1,000+ lumen flashlight on a daily basis?).

Despite its relative age compared to many competitors, the Microstream has maintained a clear advantage in reliability, functionality, and affordability. The sole upgrade Streamlight made was to offer a USB-rechargeable model that’s one of the best on the market for rechargeable pocket flashlight options.

Streamlight Microstream Design and Style

Streamlight took a no-nonsense approach when designing the Microstream, with a clear goal of packing in essential functionality without needlessly raising the cost. Physically, the Microstream is little more than a 3.6-inch long anodized aircraft aluminum cylinder with a pocket clip and a tail switch.

streamlight microstream review design and style

It lacks tactical features such as a glass-breaking pommel or striking bezel typical on many newer EDC lights and instead focuses on everyday utility. Some may prefer the bolder look that many of the newer tactical light inspired designs offer but personally, but after our Streamlight Microstream review, we like the nondescript, gray man-esque look that the Microstream embodies.

Key features

  • Fits easily in the palm of your hand
  • Offers 2+ hours of light on a single battery
  • Microstream USB makes the total cost of ownership even cheaper

Specifications

  • Brightness (Original/USB): 45 lumens | 250/50 lumens
  • Runtime (Original/USB): 2.25 hrs | 1.5/3.5 hrs
  • Length (Original/USB): 3.60 in / 9.14 cm | 3.87 in / 9.83 cm
  • Weight (Original/USB): 1.10 oz / 31.18 g | 1.20 oz / 34.02 g
  • Water/Impact Resistance (Original/USB): IPX4 | IPX4

Streamlight Microstream Features and Functionality

EDC flashlights are defined by their reliability, functionality, and portability. You need a light that can complete the task at hand reliably but without being too large to carry at all times comfortably. Those were our basic criteria for this Streamlight Microstream review.

Brightness

There’s a significant difference in brightness between the original and USB rechargeable flashlights versions of the Microstream. The original has a single brightness setting, offering a max output of 45 lumens, while the USB version gives you both a high and low, at 250 and 50 lumens, respectively.

streamlight microstream review brightness

There are plenty of flashlights on the market with significantly greater brightness, but this is still a pretty bright light, and brighter isn’t always better for a reliable workhorse. Even 45 lumens is plenty of quality light to see where you dropped your keys in the dark or check under the hood of your car. (It’s not like we’re talking about a pen light here, the Streamlight Microstream USB is still powerful rechargeable light.)

If you prefer having more firepower in your flashlight, the Microstream USB on high was plenty to light up a trail at night or check your yard to see what made that funny sound, making it an effective daily carry light. 

Runtime

As with brightness, runtime on the Microstream is acceptable but not exactly mind-blowing. The original Microstream offers a 2.25-hour runtime on a single AAA battery (which is pretty good for alkaline batteries), while the Streamlight Microstream USB gives you 1.5 hours on high and 3.5 hours on low. For its intended use as a general utility flashlight, though, that’s excellent battery life.

If you opt for the USB version and worhy about your battery level, you can carry a battery bank with you throughout the day for fresh battery, you can get more runtime. This is one advantage the USB flashlight hasv over alkaline-powered light. 

Usability

The Microstream is dead simple to use. It has a single tail cap switch that’s easy to access with one hand and turns on/off with a satisfying click. A clicky tailcap is also intuitive to use, meaning you can pass it to a friend to use, even if they aren’t familiar with LED flashlights.

On the Microstream USB, the tail switch both turns on the flashlight and allows you to cycle from high to low. It can be tricky to get the timing right at first, but if you play with it a bit its relatively easy to manage. The Micro USB port plugs in to standard USB ports. 

Pocketability and carry options

At just over three-and-a-half inches long and a touch over half an inch in diameter, the Microstream lives up to its name. It’s one of the most pocketable flashlights with a compact size we’ve used and disappeared in the palm of our hands when we held it.

We tried out all the usual carry spots, front and back pockets, breast pocket, pocket organizer, and found the Microstream is the perfect size to fit in each. We even tried out the included lanyard strap (though lets be honest, almost no one uses those for a flashlight) and popped it up on a ball cap to see how well it doubles as a headlamp.

streamlight microstream review size comparison

In all cases, we had no problem pocketing, carrying, and quickly accessing the Microstream or Microstream USB. We were astonished at how well it worked as a makeshift headlamp. Initially, we thought it would be too noticeable, but at just over an ounce it was almost imperceptible on our hats.

Accidental pocket activations can happen, but they were rare. We found that storring them downward prevented us for engaging the clicky switches. 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics on a flashlight usually come down to how grippy it is in your hand and whether or not it has got aggressive knurling that can dig into your fingers. The Microstream takes a no-nonsense approach, offering a solid grip with just the right amount of knurling to give you something to hold onto.

streamlight microstream review ergonomics

It slightly flares out from the center, offering a nice tactile feel, and was easy to keep hold of even when wet. We were a bit concerned at first glance by its relatively small size for folks with larger hands, but after using it in multiple settings across several weeks it’s clear that the size wasn’t an issue.

Streamlight MicroStream Ultra-Compact EDC Light
$34.72 $19.39

The Microstream is a compact single AAA alkaline battery powered flashlight featuring a tail cap switch, momentary or constant on operation, a combination pocket/hat clip for convenience, and amazing brightness and run time for a light of its size and value. Great for everyday carry.

Buy on Amazon
02/21/2024 03:06 am GMT

Streamlight Microstream Durability

The Microstream is made from anodized aluminum designed to be durable yet lightweight. During the testing of our Streamlight Microstream review, we found that to mostly be the case.

The Microstream can take some bumps and drops but scratches, nicks, and other marks started to show on the finish very quickly. It’s a purely cosmetic issue with no real impact on the functionality or lifespan of the Microstream, but still something we felt worth mentioning.

streamlight microstream review durability

In previous tests of value-priced flashlights we’ve noticed that lenses can be a potential trouble spot, with the lenses on many cheap lights scratching or even popping loose from minor hits or bumps. The Microstream showed no indication of that kind of problem.

During our Streamlight Microstream review, we were able to put some marks on the lens if we rubbed it around in sand, but the setting of the lens was rock-solid and it had no impact on the brightness or usability.

streamlight microstream review durability

Water Rresistance

Both the Streamlight Microstream and Microstream USB have IPX4 water resistance. That offers protection from splashes and one-meter impact protection. Honestly, this is probably our favorite feature, especially if you work outside a lot. 

In practical terms you can use the Microstream in the rain with no problem, but you wouldn’t want to drop it in anything more than a shallow puddle for any length of time.

Warranty protection

Streamlight backs all its products with a limited lifetime warranty. It covers:

“Streamlight warrants its products to be free of defects for a lifetime of use except for batteries and bulbs, abuse and normal wear*. We will repair, replace or refund the purchase price of this product should we determine it to be defective. This limited lifetime warranty also excludes rechargeable batteries, chargers, switches and electronics which have a 2 year warranty with proof of purchase.

As we all know, a warranty is only as good as the company that issues it. With Streamlight you can rest assured that they’ll take care of you. We’ve seen reports over decades of Streamlight going above and beyond to make things right when any of their products has an issue.

Who is the Streamlight Microstream For?

The Streamlight Microstream USB isn’t the best flashlight available by any stretch of the imagination. Tons of flashlights are more powerful, more compact, or have a longer runtime or more impressive durability.

What the Streamlight Microstream offers is an affordable, reliable, and proven pocket flashlight that gets the job done without any fuss. The Microstream is simple, with just one brightness level on the original and two on the USB version but still packs enough lumens to illuminate your way on a dark night, in a power outage, or on a jobsite.

The Microstream is the pocket light that you’ve always got on you. The beater flashlight you aren’t afraid to drop or take into a messy situation like you would be with a high-end (and high-dollar) tactical flashlight.

We highly recommend just about anyone pick up a Streamlight Microstream as a backup, a glovebox light, a tacklebox tool, a first EDC flashlight for your kids, or as a flashlight to keep in the back of your drawers for those just-in-case situations like a power outage or disaster.

Is the Streamlight Microstream Worth the Money?

After our Streamlight Microstream review, we can say that yes, this torch is worth the money.

For most products we have to dig into a cost/benefit comparison, but with the Microstream it’s an unequivocal yes. The Streamlight Microstream is a wild value considering its price point and light weight, particularly considering it runs on either cheap and widely available AAA batteries or a USB rechargeable lithium ion battery.

We’ve paid significantly more money for flashlights that weren’t nearly as nice as the Streamlight Microstream. You can pick up two or three Microstreams for the price of a comparable EDC light from one of Streamlight’s competitors.

For just a bit more money you can pick up the Microstream USB, arguably an even better value than the original. The USB version is a reliable option for anyone who doesn’t like the weight with batteries and wants something smaller.   

Streamlight Microstream Alternatives

The flashlight market is crowded (especially with larger lights), and there are plenty of alternatives at the Microstreams price point. Here are a few awesome lights we felt worth mentioning.

Streamlight Stylus Pro

Streamlight Stylus Pro

If you’re looking for the perfect EDC light to keep in your breast pocket or pocket organizer, look no further than the Streamlight Stylus Pro. It’s slightly larger and heavier than the Microstream, about the size of a marker, yet is shaped perfectly for a more professional appearance.

It offers 100 lumens for eight hours on a single AAA battery and has the same IPX4 water- and impact-resistance offered by the Microstream. Even better, it’s at roughly the same price point as the Microstream and even comes in a USB model if desired.

The Stylus Pro and Microstream are two sides of the same coin. Each fulfills its intended role without offering unneeded extras.

ThruNite Archer Mini

ThruNite Archer Mini

The ThruNite Archer Mini is a comparably priced and sized EDC flashlight from an up-and-coming brand. It’s about ¼ of an inch shorter than the Microstream and comes standard with a USB rechargeable lithium ion battery.

It advertises a maximum brightness of 405 lumens, which is pretty impressive for a flashlight of that size – until we dug a little deeper and noticed that the runtime at high brightness is just 2.8 minutes. After that initial burst the brightness drops to 157 lumens with a max runtime of just 52 minutes.

It also has a 14 lumen low mode and a 355 lumen strobe mode. The strobe mode is popular among tactical flashlights but doesn’t really make sense in the small EDC light space. As for the low mode, 14 lumen is significantly dimmer than most phone flashlights, begging the question of who the Archer Mini is for and what purpose it realistically serves.

The ThruNite Archer Mini appears impressive at first glance, but on further review it’s clear that the Streamlight Microstream is significantly more helpful at its price point.

OLIGHT I3T EOS

OLIGHT I3T EOS

The Olight I3T EOS is another similarly priced and sized micro flashlight competing with the Microstream. It offers two modes, a 180 lumen high and a 5 lumen low, and also runs on a single AAA battery.

Its high mode compares well to the Microstream USB, until you realize it only lasts for up to 21 minutes. We don’t know about you, but most situations where we need a flashlight require more than 21 minutes of light.

The low mode lasts considerably longer, but 5 lumens is honestly dimmer than most phone screens, let alone phone flashlights. If you’re looking for a true emergency backup light that won’t need to be used for more than 15 minutes at a stretch (assuming here the battery will run down some in storage) the Olight I3T EOS might make sense.

Considering you can spend just a few dollars more and get the Microstream USB with a higher brightness and longer runtime we have to go with the Microstream again.

Final Thoughts

This concludes our Streamlight Microstream review. It’s a powerful light with a proven design from a longstanding company that offers dependable light when you need it. Is it the best EDC light? Not at all, but it’s not priced to be the best. This popular light is priced to be a utilitarian pocket flashlight that works when you need it and doesn’t break the bank, ultimately making it a quality piece of gear for any everyday carry. 

Looking for something a bit higher-end than the Microstream? Check out our in-depth comparison review of the best rechargeable EDC flashlights.

Streamlight MicroStream Ultra-Compact EDC Light
$34.72 $19.39

The Microstream is a compact single AAA alkaline battery powered flashlight featuring a tail cap switch, momentary or constant on operation, a combination pocket/hat clip for convenience, and amazing brightness and run time for a light of its size and value. Great for everyday carry.

Buy on Amazon
02/21/2024 03:06 am GMT
Dennis Hammer
Dennis has been a part of EDC since he was young - before he even knew what it was! As an artist, he loves beautifully designed products that function well. He also likes to be ready for any situation, which makes EDC perfect for his lifestyle.

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