Last week we briefly discussed Kobalt’s Hypercoil LED worklight, a new flexible-neck flashlight. A couple of readers commented about how the Hypercoil LED product reminded them of Black & Decker’s SnakeLight worklight.
Well, here’s some good news, and not just for those who have fond memories of Black & Decker’s original SnakeLight products. The SnakeLight is back and it’s better than ever!
Black & Decker has come out with a new SnakeLight, model BDCF4SL, which features a 10-LED flashlight head, a built-in rechargeable 4V Max Lithium-ion battery, and a flexible neck.
Available at: Amazon, Walmart (coming soon)
- 10 LEDs output 44 lumens of illumination
- Runtime of up to 5 hours
- Battery holds charge for up to 18 months
- Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery (4V Max, 3.6V nominal)
- Measures 27 inches long when fully stretched
The Black & Decker SnakeLight is marvelously adjustable, immensely versatile, superbly built, and very nicely engineered.
Flexible Neck for Infinite Adjustability
All of Black & Decker’s SnakeLight flashlights have had a similar design – the light source and power source are at different ends of a flexible hose, and attach together for storage or simpler use. This one is no different.
The new Black & Decker SnakeLight measures about 27 inches long when fully outstretched, and close to 14 inches when closed and bent in half.
Black & Decker isn’t kidding when they say the SnakeLight can wrap around anything. I bent the double-upped hose into a question mark shape and suspended the flashlight from a shelf. Then I opened it up and wrapped it around a table leg. Finally, I formed the flexible hose into a triangular base and had the flashlight self-supported on the floor.
Connecting and disconnecting the battery power source end to the LED flashlight end is fairly quick and simple. They just fit together, with minimal fuss.
As for the flexible hose itself, the outer material is soft, rubbery, and very grippy. It feels very durable and should endure plenty of use and abuse. The inner hose feels like Loc-Line or a similar modular hose. I adjusted the SnakeLight into many different positions, and never felt like the internal hose was about to snap or break apart.
The hose material is soft enough that you can wrap it around your neck, arm, or shoulder, without much discomfort. One of Black & Decker’s product packaging images show the flashlight wrapped around the back of someone’s neck, and I have to say – positioning the SnakeLight in this manner isn’t at all uncomfortable.
LED Brightness, Quality, Performance
The new SnakeLight worklight only outputs 44 lumens of light. Only 44 lumens. I emphasized the only part because I know some readers will scoff at this on-paper measure of brightness.
A few years ago, everyone wanted flashlights with higher wattage LEDs. 3W? Not enough. 5W? Not enough. 10 LEDs, each at 5W? Woo! Now, it’s all about lumens, a seemingly magical specification that people cannot seem to get enough of.
The 1AA Zebralight H502W LED headlamp flashlight we recently reviewed emits 50 lumens on the medium setting. In other words, the new SnakeLight, with its 10 LEDs and 4V Max battery, is out-powered by a teeny tiny 1.5V flashlight with just a single LED.
With something like this, I don’t care about lumens. Or lux and foot-candles. You shouldn’t care either.
The SnakeLight is reasonably bright, and certainly bright enough for a large majority of around-the-home and shop use. It’s bright enough for use as a flashlight, task light, work light, and auto glove box emergency light. It’s not very bright, but it’s far from being pathetically dim.
Light quality is quite good, too. The beam angle appears to be wide, but side-spill is very dim – this is much more of a spotlight than a floodlight. In the following image, the side-spill is barely evident at the dark corners.
The center spot is a bit brighter, and seems to carry a slightly blue or purplish tint. In practice, I didn’t notice this until I pointed the beam at a white wall and ceiling for the umpteenth time during testing.
Grip and Ergonomics
The SnakeLight is comfortable to hold and use – as it very well should be. Black & Decker has had many years to perfect the SnakeLight design, and indeed they had.
The flashlight head and power end tail are a little wide when closed and coupled together, but can still be easily managed.
I wanted to show you this closeup of the grip overmold and hose, not to highlight how they’re great dust magnets, but to show how they’re made from soft polymers and not hard plastic.
You should also be able to see why the hose works so well to grip anything it’s wrapped around. The ribs are wide, rounded, soft, rubber, and stretchy – a great combination.
Here is the part I am not exactly thrilled about, and why I knocked some fractional points off the rating.
Design-wise, I don’t quite get why Black & Decker opted for the SnakeLight to be charged via 9V wall adapter rather than mini- or micro-USB.
Feature-wise, this exposed plug would make me hesitant to use the SnakeLight in environments where it could get wet or covered in dust. I really wish the SnakeLight was at least weather-resistant, but there’s no mention of an IP rating at all.
The charging procedure discussed in the product manual is pretty specific, and says that the SnakeLight requires an initial 16-hour charging time. After that, a full charge takes 12 hours.
There is a bolded and underlined note – Recharge discharged batteries as soon as possible after use or battery life may be greatly diminished. For longest battery life, do not discharge batteries fully. It is recommended that the batteries be recharged after each use.
There does not seem to be any charging light indicator, which I didn’t miss. LED indicators aren’t very useful for products designed to be left charging overnight.
For Household Use Only
The SnakeLight was designed and tested as a consumer household product, and is also warrantied as such. Just something to keep in mind.
Overall, I am deeply fond of the new Black & Decker LED SnakeLight. It is marvelously adjustable, immensely versatile, superbly built, and very nicely engineered. But it is not perfect – the LEDs could be brighter and whiter, and the battery could be quicker to charge and with a USB plug instead of a compact wall-wart adapter.
I gave the SnakeLight a rating of 19/20, meaning there is very little room for improvement. I was tempted to dock another point, or fraction of a point, for the absence of multiple brightness levels, but with an output of 44 lumens, there’s no need for a lower setting.
In terms of build quality and real-world performance, I could find no shortcomings. The SnakeLight is as good as it gets, at least as far as consumer products go.
I feel that the SnakeLight is an exceptionally good around-the-home worklight, and strongly recommend it. If you need more than 44 lumens of brightness, or more than 5 hours of runtime per charge, you’ll probably want to shop around for something else. For everyone else – buy one, you won’t regret it.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Right now the SnakeLight is priced at $42 on Amazon, with a list price of $45. According to Black & Decker, the MSRP is $29.99. The SnakeLight is expected to start shipping in November 2013.
Thank you to Black & Decker for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.