In 2016, I reviewed the Torch 250, a multipurpose light from Goal Zero. The company is known for its portable power and lighting solutions, with rugged build and lots of clever engineering touches. The Torch 250 was a very impressive “flashlight” that also offered features like the ability to top up a smartphone charge and built-in solar panels. The new Torch 500 is a worthy update, keeping the angular form factor and flexibility of the Torch 250, while improving on the original in almost every way.
Goal Zero Torch 500
The Goal Zero Torch 500 launched in September. Like the original Torch 250, it’s unlike any other flashlight in form factor and capabilities.
You’ll immediately notice the Torch 500 is angular instead of the traditional cylinder. It can be used as a hand-held flashlight (its three-level spot light goes up to 300 Lumens), but the angular body means it can be set on end, or on any of its sides. That’s important because one of the sides is a flood light (again, three power levels up to 300 Lumens), and the other is a monocrystalline solar panel that can be used to recharge the battery.
There are also two pop-out hooks on either end of the Torch 250. With a wide range of ways to position or hang it, and multiple light output sources, this is an incredibly versatile lighting device.
The solar panel won’t charge the battery fully in one shot — that takes roughly 23 hours — but both the spot light and flood light can last up to 50 hours on their low setting. So keep the lights low, use the solar charger by day, and you should be able to keep the Torch 500 going pretty much forever without needing an electrical outlet.
Or, simply plug in to its USB-C port to charge it in four hours. The 5200mAh Li-ion NMC battery can also be used to top up a smartphone in a pinch, using the Flood 500’s 2.1A USB Type-A output port.
Multiple Improvements Over the Torch 250
I really liked the Goal Zero Torch 250. Its utility made it the flashlight I always brought with me for camping. I also use it a lot around the home and office — the angular form factor that lets it be positioned in as needed combined with the flood light made it really useful for working on the back of stereos and PCs when I needed to plug in new components.
But it wasn’t perfect. In particular it was large, and lacked water resistance. So I was happy to see Goal Zero made some big improvements with the Torch 500.
The immediate wins are size and water resistance. The Torch 500 is slightly lighter (12.8 oz vs. 14.4 oz) and it shrinks by over an inch in length. It’s more svelte feeling in general, and the use of metal instead of all plastic makes it feel more rugged. The Torch 500 also gets IP67 water resistance. It can be used in rain and will survive being accidentally dropped in three feet of water.
Goal Zero didn’t stop at shrinking and waterproofing, there are improvements across the board.
Battery capacity gets a boost (from 4400mAh to 5200mAh), the lights are brighter (spot goes from 180 Lumens to 300 Lumens), the solar panels have a higher power rating (0.8W on the Torch 250 vs. 1.2W on the Torch 500), the Torch 500 gets an upgrade to a USB-C output port, and it also has pop-out hanging hooks on both ends instead of on just one end.
What do you lose compared to the Torch 250? So far as I can tell the two features that were omitted in the new Torch 500 are a hand-crank for recharging, and a built-in USB charge cable.
That’s a lot of wins in favor of the Torch 250. Despite the multiple upgrades, the Torch 500 price is also lower. At $49.95, it’s $30 less than the Torch 250 was when I reviewed it.
If you need an all-purpose flashlight for home/emergency and outdoor/camping use, the Goal Zero Torch 500 is an excellent choice. At $49.95 its price is competitive with other premium LED flashlights, but it offers far more utility than most, including the ability to be used as a USB power bank and its built-in solar charge panels.
Even if you already own the Torch 250, the Torch 500 is a tempting upgrade, especially with its water resistance, brighter light, and sleeker form factor. If hand-crank recharging is a must-have feature (and some people do want this in an emergency light), the Goal Zero Torch 250 is still available, and its price is now $69.95 — $10 less than when I reviewed it.
Disclosure: Goal Zero provided a Torch 500 for evaluation but had no input into this review.