Tiablo E3A 1xAAA (XP-G R5) Review: RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS, and more!

Originally posted: September 23, 2010
Last revised: March 12, 2011

UPDATE NOV 13, 2010: A replacement E3A from a second batch has been added to the review. As you will see, this revised version fixes the deficiencies I observed in the two samples from the first batch.

Warning: pic heavy, as usual.

Specifications:The E3A is the first in a new series of flashlights from Tiablo, termed the “Exquisite” series – using the latest XP-G R5 emitter.

The light comes in fairly typical packaging. Inside the thin cardboard case with plastic insert is the light, spare o-rings, spare boot cover, small split-ring, manual and warranty card.

From left to right: Duracell alkaline AAA, ITP H01, Tiablo E3A, 4GREER WS1, 4Sevens ReVo, Preon 1, Titanium Innovations LuminaTi, Lumapower Avenger GX, Eagletac PN20α, LiteFlux LF2XT, Maratac AAA.

4GREER WS1: Weight: 25.2g , Length 79.3mm x Width 16.2mm (bezel)
4Sevens Preon 1: Weight 15.3g (with keychain clip), Length 75.6mm x Width 14.0mm (bezel)
4Sevens Preon ReVo:: Weight: 11.3g , Length 72.7mm (battery installed) x Width 12.9mm
ITP EOS A3 Upgraded: Weight: 11.6g (no clip), Length: 69.7 x Width 14.1mm (bezel)
ITP H01: Weight: 22.7g, Length 53.7mm x Width 37.2 (max body) or 15.4mm (bezel)
EagleTac PN20α: Weight 22.9g (with pocket clip), Length 80.1mm x Width 16.0mm (bezel), 18.6mm (max, around base)
LiteFlux LF2XT: Weight: 21.2g (with pocket clip). Length 81.2mm x Width 14.9mm (bezel widest portion)
Lumapower Avenger GX: Weight: 22.9g (with Clicky switch), 22.0g (with twisty switch), Length 93.8mm (with clicky switch) or 86.7mm (with twisty switch) x Width 15.2mm (bezel widest portion)
Maratac 1xAAA: Weight: 10.9g , Length: 67.5mm x Width: 14.1mm (bezel)
Tiablo E3A: Weight: 18.3g, Length 87.5mm x Width 14.8mm (bezel)
Titanium Innovations IlluminaTi: Weight 23.5g (with keychain clip), Length 68.8mm x Width 14.0mm (bezel)
VersaTi: Weight: 23.2g (no clip), Length: 67.1mm, Width: 14.6mm

The E3A is longer than most 1xAAA lights, but it does come with clicky switch and removable head and tail regions (which adds to length).

Screw threads are anodized at both ends of the E3A, allowing for lock-out. It also allows for mode switching – you can change modes by clicking repeatedly on the switch, or twisting either the tail or head regions (scroll down for a UI discussion).

Switch is a traditional reverse clicky, with the typical feel for a 1xAAA size light (i.e. not a very deep traverse).

Light cannot tailstand.

Lettering is very clear in bright white against the black matte finish (type III hard anodizing). No chips or flaws on my sample. There is some mild knurling on the body and tailcap to help with grip.

As you can see, the light uses the newer XP-G emitters (R5 output bin), in a fairly deep OP reflector.

And now for the requisite white wall hunting . All lights are on Hi on AW unprotected 10440, about ~0.5 meters from a white wall.

Note: The camera is set to automatic white balance, to try and even out the tint differences. Rest assured, the cool-white emitter lights don’t look that blue in real life!

Sorry for the quality of the white wall beamshots – I’ve recently moved, and haven’t had a chance to set up a proper beamshot closet yet. What you are looking at below is recently primed drywall.

The E3A has a relatively narrow spillbeam, consistent with the deep and narrow reflector. Note there were some faint artefacts in the periphery of the spillbeam – but you can’t really see them in the photos. I suspect these were caused by the “dimples” of the stainless steel bezel ring.

User Interface

Click and release to turn the light on in Hi. Click and release again to turn off. If you click back on again within ~2 secs, the light will cycle to Lo. Click off and back on again to cycle to Strobe.

The light will memorize the last mode you left it in – but you need to wait at least 2 secs before re-illuminating, or you will advance to the next output level.

Note that my original E3A samples from the first batch were deficient in this regard - the memory mode lag was 20secs. This has been fixed on currently shipping samples

Because the head and tailcap regions have anodized screw threads, you can alternately cycle on-off or change modes by a head or tail twist (with the clicky switch in the On position).

PWM and Strobe

The light uses PWM on the Lo mode

PWM measured at 486 Hz on Sanyo Eneloop (top trace) or a 10440 Li-ion (lower trace).

Strobe freq measured at 9.9 Hz.

Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for the extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1 meter from the lens, using a light meter.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

Note that my original E3A samples from the first batch had lower max output. This has been fixed on the currently shipping samples.

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Again, my original E3A samples from the first batch had lower max output (dotted line above). As you can see, performance is back up to what I would expect for a XP-G R5 light (solid line).

Potential Issues

Both of my original samples from the first batch of E3As had abnormally low output/runtime efficiency on standard batteries, and both failed on this battery source (i.e. would eventually only run 10440). The replacement E3A from the second batch appears to have resolved these issues.

While output levels are regulated on 10440, there does not seem to be an over-discharge protection (ODP) feature. If using unprotected cells, you must be careful to recharge frequently and not allow the cells to run down.

Light uses visible PWM on Lo, but at a frequency that is not distracting (i.e. nearly 500 Hz).

Lo output level closer to most other lights Med mode.

Preliminary Observations

UPDATE NOV 13, 2010: A replacement E3A from a second batch has been added to the review. As you will see above, this revised version fixes the deficiencies I observed in the two samples from the first batch.

I'm glad to see the replacement E3A has brought performance back to what I would expect for a XP-G R5 light on standard batteries. Performance is now quite reasonable on these cells.

The E3A supports 10440 Li-ion – output is controlled at both Lo and Hi, and runtimes are reasonably good. However, the light seems to lack an over-discharge protection (ODP) feature, so you need to be careful not to run down your unprotected cells (which are unfortunately the norm for 10440).

I'm glad the odd interface quirk has also been corrected (i.e. mode-changing took up to 20 secs on my first batch samples). The more typical 1-2 sec mode-switching time window on this new batch makes a lot more sense.

As mentioned in some of my other recent reviews, I personally don't get the need for a “tactical” high-freq strobe on a 1xAAA light. A slow signaling strobe makes a lot more sense to me for this class of light, if you are going to include one at all. I also prefer to see it hidden away, and not on the main sequence (as it unfortunately is here).

The build is probably the best aspect the light for me – the E3A has a quality feel from end-to-end. I personally like the stainless steel bezel ring - a nice touch. I also like the option to use it as a head or tail twisty light (i.e. clicky switches on 1xAAA lights always feel less robust that larger lights). The finish and grip is excellent, with no problem for one-handed mode switching (unlike a lot of other lights in this class). Of course, the flip-side to that is the light is longer than typical for the class.

The beam is nice and smooth, with a gradual transition from hotspot to spill. There's no sign of the dreaded XP-G dark center "donut" on my sample, and throw is quite good considering it uses a XP-G emitter. Note that the spillbeam is relatively narrow - this light is likely best suited for outdoor use, rather than in close, cramped quarters.

At the end of the day, the light has a nice build with a quality feel. I am glad Tiablo has managed to fix the efficiency issues on standard batteries.


E3A was supplied by Kit-Tronics.com on behalf of Tiablo.

To follow the online discussions for this review, please see the full review thread at CPF.

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