Overall Rating: 3 out of 5
|Modes:||High Med Strobe|
|LED Type:||Cree XR-E Q5|
|Date Ordered:||06 March 2011|
- Nice tint
- Good runtime
- Horrible “memory”
- Small reflector
- No Low
- Outdated LED
Features / Value: 3 out of 5
I bought this light after seeing Shiningbeam’s S-mini flashlight, a compact 3-mode 18650-powered light that uses a Cree XP-G LED and comes in either cool or neutral. This is a nice size to fit in your pocket but still give you plenty of runtime from the 18650. An XP-G gives off plenty of light for most uses and the 3 modes were about perfect. Other than the price ($47), the only things I didn’t like were the lack of a clip or anti-roll, the timid driving current of 1000mA on High, and the choice of a 3D tint for the neutral version of the light. I really like about a 5B, but KaiDomain has a 4B neutral which seems like a decent compromise. So for $15 for the light, $6.41 for a neutral XP-G R4, and $3 for a driver, I figured I could get a S-mini type of light for about half the price.
I looked at a couple of other hosts including the Trustfire TR-801, but I like the AKOray style of the X1. [Note that some eBay and other sellers have lights they call an Ultrafire X1 that are actually AAA lights, even though they might use a picture of an 18650.]
Supposedly the light has mode memory, but actually it will always switch to the next mode when you turn it back on, unless the light is off for over a minute, in which case it comes back on in High. So there is really no memory to speak of. What’s worse is if the light has been off for a minute or so you don’t know if it will come on in the next mode or back on High again. This is almost as bad as coming on in a random mode. Also the Low on this light is more of a Medium. It seems about equal to my Fenix L2D Medium mode which is 53 lumens.
I would probably give this light 2 stars for features, but because it is pretty inexpensive at $15, I’ll give it 3 stars. Also Manafont let me apply some points, so the price actually came down about 10% from that. They shipped the light the next day and I got it 2 weeks later which is pretty fantastic considering how swamped the mail has been lately.
Design / Build Quality: 3 out of 5
I like the design of the body, basically an oversized AKOray K-106: a simple knurled cylinder with a clip to keep it from rolling.
The threads are not the big square threads of the AKOray, but are flat and thin. That includes the body tube and the pill. This was a bit of a disappointment, but they work just fine. The Quark 123-2 I owned briefly had kind of similar thin square threads like this. The color of the light is a dark gray, defnitely darker than the AKOray. I don’t see blemishes in the anodizing, but there are a few marks that came from my dog opening the package for me before I got home. The packaging and bubble wrap were shredded, so I feel like the light must be rugged. There are o-rings at the head and tail, but it looks like there was room for a second o-ring at the head like the AKOray and they left it off. In this picture you can also see the knurling isn’t quite as nice as the AKOray either.
One kind of odd thing is that the head is quite thick around the lens. Taking the light apart, the lens measures 18mm in diameter, the same as several of my AA lights. They could have easily used a 20mm lens if such a thing is available. Well, KaiDomain only has 19 and 21 mm coated lenses, so maybe 20mm isn’t a standard size. The K-106 has a 20.5mm head and an 18mm lens. The X1 has a 23.4mm head, so maybe a 21mm lens just barely wouldn’t fit. So instead there is a big lip that holds the reflector and a large black o-ring in front of the lens. The reflector is also barely over 18mm. To me this is a missed opportunity: when you have a larger diameter because of the bigger battery, it would be beneficial to have a bigger reflector for better throw.
Also the LED is a little off center which looks worse than it is due to the black isolator disk under the reflector. There are actually two plastic isolator disks under the reflector. I don’t know if this was an oversight or if they were trying to shim the reflector up a little to get a better beam (I suspect the former).
The clicky seems to work fine, but because it is recessed in the tail a little, you need to use the top of your thumb instead of the ball of it which is a little awkard. It’s nice that the light tailstands perfectly, so I don’t mind that. If you were using gloves, it might be difficult to use the switch though.
Battery Life: 5 out of 5
The battery life seems decent. The current draw is barely above 1000mA, so a 2400mAh battery should last over 2 hours. The light seems well regulated at first as the current draw increases with decreasing voltage. But around 3.8V the current draw peaks out at 1200mA and I suspect then goes into direct drive as the current draw begins to drop at that point. The light got quite warm just sitting on a table, but if you were holding it, I think it would just barely be warm. The head seems a lot hotter than the body, so I don’t think the heat is getting into the rest of the body very well.
The following measurement were made using a Trustfire “flames” protected 18650 rated for 2400 mAh. The battery voltage is measured at rest and the current readings are taken at the tail of the light (well, sort of, that doesn’t work as well with this kind of light). The light stays pretty bright for 2 hours and then starts to tail off as the battery approaches 3.6V.
|Time (hr:min)||Voltage (V)||Current High (mA)||Current Low (mA)|
Light Output: 3 out of 5
The light output is impressive for a Cree XR-E Q5, though it is nothing like a XP-G or XM-L. The tint is a nice white, just barely cool white. It certainly isn’t as cool white as some other lights I have, though it isn’t as neutral as my Fenix L2D’s Q5. I’ll compare the light againt 3 other XR-E lights: a 2xAA Fenix L2D, my Uniquefire S10 R2 in direct drive off a 14500, and a 1×18650 P60 host with a R2 drop-in.
Indoor shots first. Here it is against the Uniquefire AA-S1 which a lot of people have, running on a 14500. These pictures are taken 0.5 meter from a wall with the first picture at 1/25th second, then 1/200th second and then 1/1600th second. The X1 is always on the left.
Now against the Fenix L2D on two AA Eneloops. This light is supposed to be 180 lumens and has a slightly yellowish tint to the XR-E Q5. It has a smooth reflector and although the barrel of the light is thinner, it is focusing the light better than the X1 does with its OP reflector of about the same diameter.
Okay, last set of indoor shots is vs. a Ultrafire WF-501B P60 host with a XR-E R2 and a smooth reflector. The P60 has a very tight intense hotspot, but is also quite ringy:
Okay, now outdoors. These pictures are taken with a 4-second exposure to get something that looks like it does in person. The light is aimed at the fence posts in the distance which are about 100 feet away. The house plant is about 25 feet away.
First, here is the Uniquefire AA-S1 with Osram LED. Not real throwy, but this cranks out a lot of light. However the light gets very hot quickly so this isn’t really sustainable:
Now here is the Fenix on turbo at 180 lumens:
Now here is the Ultrafire X1 on High. I think this edges out the Fenix and shows the fence posts better than the AA-S1, but all of the XR-E lights have the ring of darkness around the hotspot:
Now here is the P60 host with the smooth reflector and XR-E R2. This light is a real thrower, so it does a great job of putting a small beam of light on the fence posts:
Now just for comparison sake, here is a XP-G R4 driven at 1.4A by 3xAAA Eneloops in a Solarforce L2i:
And just for fun, here is my Manafont Ultrafire 3-mode XM-L on High in a Solarforce L2p:
There is some PWM on the lower mode of the X1, but it is barely noticable and won’t bother most people.
Summary: 3 out of 5
This isn’t a bad light. I wish it had a bigger reflector and lens. And the awful memory makes it just about useless. They would have been better off making it 1 mode than this system. Also the Low should be significantly lower, though with a draw of only 270 mA it should run for 8 hours at what is really more of a Medium. And the Strobe of course is completely useless. For me that doesn’t matter because I will replace the driver and LED anyway.
I replaced the driver with a 1.4A 3-mode driver with just about perfect modes. And I put a neutral tint (4B1) Cree XP-G R4 in place of the XR-E. Now it is much brighter, has a better tint, and the modes are perfect. The memory of this driver sets after 2 seconds on, which isn’t my favorite, but I have a lot of lights that way, so it’s no big deal. The reflector isn’t made for an XP-G so I lost some throw and the light is mostly floody, but that’s okay. I also replaced the lens with an 18mm lens with anti-reflective coating which should help output but not noticeably. Lastly, I replaced the glow-in-the-dark tailcap with a spare orange one for my Fenix light, which I think looks better. Now I really like this light and it is my primary light for walking the dogs, at least in the summer when I don’t have a coat pocket to carry a larger light. Even with all of the upgrades the light is about half the price of the S-mini that inspired it, outperforming it in some ways by having a more neutral LED and driving the LED harder (for more light), plus it has a clip.