2xAA Round-up Review: Fenix, Nitecore, Olight, ITP, Eagletac, Jetbeam, Mag ...

Originally posted: October 31, 2008
Last revised: July 24, 2010

Reviewer's Note: This is a review of the JetBeam Jet-III Military flashlight. Note that this is the first continuously-variable JetBeam IBS light than can take a full voltage input range, allowing all possible batteries configurations (i.e. 2xCR123A/RCR, 1x18650). The Jet-III M was provided for review by JetBeam.

JetBeam Jet-III M Features (from the manufacturer and dealer websites):Estimated price: $85 USD

Light comes in a hard cardboard box with magnetic closing clasp and foam inserts. This is a great improvement over the thin paper box of the original Jet-III PRO. The light features a removable bi-directional pocket clip (installed), and comes with manual, warranty card, good quality wrist lanyard (mine came with 2 for some reason), extra o-rings and tailcap boot cover.

From left to right: CR123A, AW 18650, JetBeam Jet-III M, Olight M20 Warrior, JetBeam Jet-III PRO ST, Jet-III PRO IBS, Solarfoce T7, Romisen RC-M4.

As you can see, size is slightly larger than the more compact general-purpose 2xCR123A lights, but still reasonably small. Very similar in overall size and feel as the Olight M20 Warrior.

Weight: 127.0g
Length: 137.5mm
Width: 33.4mm (head, widest portion), 25.5mm (tailcap)

The Jet-III M is a very well made light - probably the best JetBeam light I've come across yet.

The light is very solid, with a good sturdy hand feel. Both the bezel and tailcap come with stainless steel retaining rings, to enhance durability. A replacement bezel ring with aggressive attack ridges is now available (sold separately).

Everything fits together well, with double o-rings and JetBeam's high quality square-cut screw threads. Tailcap threads are anodized, allowing tailcap lockout. Instead of a spring mounted on the positive contact board in the head (like on the early JetBeam IBS lights), the Jet-III M has the new standard raised contact surface that provides reverse-polarity protection.

Machining and hard anodizing (in JetBeam's typical gunmetal grey colour) are flawless on my sample. The knurling is not overly aggressive, but grip is enhanced by all the exterior design ridges and clip. The removable clip is bi-directional - you can position the light in both bezel-up and bezel-down orientations.

Lettering is reasonably sharp and clear on my sample, although contrast with the dark grey background is not as high as some other lights. That being said, this is one of the "cleanest" examples of lettering I've seen from JetBeam.

Unlike most of the competition, this tactical light can tailstand. Light comes with a forward tactical clicky (momentary on, click for lock-on - see below for a discussion of the UI). Despite being recessed, the crenelated tailcap ring makes it still reasonably easy to activate. Note the tailcap switch retaining ring is now all metal.

The reflector is fairly deep - mine came with a smooth one installed (OP is also available, purchased separately). In my experience of JetBeam lights, the smooth version doesn't usually offer much better throw than the OP, so you are probably best stick with OP to smooth out the Cree rings.

And here is the only minor quibble I had with my light as shipped - I noticed that the reflector seemed slightly misaligned:

As you can see, the beam seemed somewhat defocused, with a slight dark shadow near the emitter (lower right in the first pic above), and a center "donut" at close-up distances (about 0.5m in the pics above).

Upon removing the bezel ring and lens, I quickly spotted the problem - a tiny sliver of the bezel o-ring had gotten stuck just under the lip of the reflector. This basically raised and tilted the reflector slightly, producing the pattern shown above. By simply re-seating the reflector and o-ring, I was good to go - scroll down for the detailed beamshots.

Since I had the head open, I thought I would take some additional shots of the insides for you.

For beamshots, below is a comparison to the Olight M20 Warrior (R2) and JetBeam Jet-III ST that I have recently reviewed. All lights on max on AW Protected 18650 (pics taken ~0.5 m from a white wall).

As you see (with the reflector properly mounted), the smooth reflector on the Jet-IIIM produces very good throw, but with the standard Cree rings. I would recommend most users consider the OP reflector, since I know these typically result in a negligible loss of throw on JetBeam lights. Jet-III M throw is certainly more pronounced the Jet-III ST. For a more detailed throw/output comparison, see my Summary chart below.

UPDATE: Some additional long-distance beamshots, to show you how the light compares to others in its class.

Please see my recent 100-yard Outdoor Beamshot review for more details (and additional lights).

User Interface:

The Jet-III M features a revised IBS interface, in keeping with its wider voltage/battery range and "tactical" focus.

The original IBS lights were 4.2V max, and had 3 programmable output modes (each accessed in sequence by a soft-press of the reverse clicky tail switch). Each mode could be independently programmed to any output along the continuously-variable range, or set to one of many SOS/strobe modes.

This new light is multipower (up to 15V), allowing you to run 1x18650, 2xRCR/CR123A. It has two output states - Max output (head fully tightened against the body) and one programmable output mode (head slightly loosened). Programming of the set-able mode has been slightly altered from the earlier lights, to take into account the forward clicky switch (the original IBS lights were designed to work with a reverse clicky).

To access the "Brightness Setting" on the Jet-III M, from off, rapidly flash the clicky 3 times within one second, then hold the switched half-pressed or fully click to start the ramp. To select the output level you want, simply release the switch or click off. Wait at least 2 secs for the light to memorize your setting before attempting to turn back on.

To access the SOS/strobe modes, flash the switch during the brightness ramp. This will advance you to "Special Functions" mode, which contains a number of SOS/strobe modes. Note the manual fails to describe these - unfortunately, the same text from the previous "Brightness Setting" section of the manual is repeated in this section by mistake. Unlike a lot of other lights, JetBeam actually gives you a good number of different stobe frequencies and output levels to choose from.

EDIT: JetBeam has revised the manual, and EngrPaul has kindly posted pics of the instructions in post #24.

If you flash again while in the Special Functions mode, you will advance to the Reset Function mode. This doesn't have much use now, as it was designed for the original IBS circuit where it reset all 3 programmable modes to factory defaults. Simply flash again to get back to the Brightness Setting mode to restart the ramp.

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 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.

Ramping sequence:

As you can see, ramping is still quite linear, but the time to complete the ramp is much longer now. Not sure why they changed it, but I actually a prefer the original ramping time.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

Peak throw on the Jet-III M is identical to my original Jet-III PRO IBS (although that one had a textured reflector). But as others have reported, there’s very little difference in throw between smooth and OP Jetbeam reflectors.

And now the truly surprising part – the lowest low setting of the Jet-III M is very close to the minimum output setting of my Novatac 120P. That’s quite remarkable!

Output/Runtime Comparison:

And here is how it compares to other lights:

A few comments on Max output:

Performance on Med is pretty much as expected – except 18650 remains only semi-regulated (typically, most multi-power lights maintain complete regulation at lower output levels on 18650).

I’ve done only one relatively Lo-ish runtime on the Jet-III M, and the result is consistent with the others (i.e. similar efficiency to the Solarforce T7). Surprisingly, the ITP C6 seems quite efficient on RCR for a continuously-variable light.

Potential Issues

Honestly, I haven’t found any yet.

UPDATE: One minor issue - due to wide bore tube to allow all protected 18650 cells to fit, there's some rattle of the thinner 2xCR123A. This is also true on the Olight M20 - and as a happy co-incidence, the spare magazine holder for the Olight M20 is a perfect fit for the Jet-III M to stop the rattle. You just can't screw the plastic cap on the holder for use in the Jet-III M.

General Observations

Simply put, the Jet-III M is probably JetBeam’s best built light to date.

Components are all of high quality. The light is a pleasure to hold and use, with a very substantial feel. I like the bi-directional clip, and was surprised to find the forward clicky reasonably accessible with the tailstanding bezel ring. I would rate the overall Jet-III M quality as high as my Olight M20 Warrior – in fact, this light feels even slightly “sturdier” than the M20 (i.e. slightly heavier). Good job!

The interface makes good sense for a “tactical” light – by simply leaving the head tightened, you can insure it always comes on in Max. The programmable user defined mode (head loosened) is a fairly good design, although it limits you to just one programmable state. Obviously, bezel twisting is not ideal for a tactical light, but this is good compromise since you can always insure it comes on in Max if you want.

The forward clicky gives you a true momentary on, which is popular with members here. Unfortunately, this complicates the programmable interface somewhat (recall that the original IBS circuit was designed for a reverse clicky). Although the IBS circuit seems to have been revised for this light to facilitate forward clicky use, it is still not fully intuitive. For example, you no longer have to start the 3 rapid flashes from the on-state, and you don’t need to end with a half-press or click-on. But if you don’t end with the half-press, you don’t know if you’ve succeeded in entering the programming mode (i.e. the light won’t actually start ramping until the next time you click on). You then need to click-off to save the brightness setting. Workable, but not ideal.

In any case, I think it’s great that JetBeam has finally revised the IBS circuit to take a wider voltage range (i.e. true multi-power capability). This means a lack of true regulation on 18650, but I personally find that an acceptable trade-off for multi-power support. Again, many members often complain about this, but it is a fact of life for all multi-power circuits. If you want extremely flat regulation on 18650, you will need to stick with the 18650-only IBS lights (e.g. Jet-III PRO ST and Ultra).

I’m also amazed at the incredibly low output possible on this Jet-III M light – nearly matching my Novatac 120P. Not sure why you would need such a low level on a tactical light, but it should translate into phenomenal runtime for emergency purposes. It's also great for sparing dark-adapted eyes too much trauma in the middle of the night. Note that Max output of my Jet-III M is a bit less than some of the other lights shown here (although it is an exact match of the ITP C6).

Obviously, output/runtime efficiency at higher outputs will not exceed a good current-controlled light matched for the same output. If runtime efficiency matters more to you (and you can live with a limited set of defined output states and a different UI), you should definitely check out my Olight M20 review for a comparison.

In summary, the Jet-III M is very impressive light – both in its build and circuit/UI. It’s a great update to the IBS line, finally bringing fully multi-power support. As always, I recommend users carefully consider what features matter most to them, and go for the light with the best fit. I certainly have no qualms recommending the build quality of this light.

UPDATE 4/26/2009: I've discovered the diffuser and red/green filters for the Olight M20 will also fit this light. See my Olight M20 review, or this post for more details.

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

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