Skilhunt Defier X1 (XM-L) Review: BEAMSHOTS, RUNTIMES, DETAILED PICS and more!

Originally posted: June 15, 2011
Last revised: June 17, 2011

Warning: pic heavy, as usual.

Skilhunt is a new flashlight maker on the scene. They have come out with a distinctive-looking set of models, built around the high-output Cree XM-L emitter. In this review, I will cover with the Defier X1. Please see my Defier X3 review for more info on that model.

Manufacturer's Specifications:Here is the X1 with one battery extender in place:


Packaging is high-end - in a snazzy, plastic presentation-style carry case with cut-out foam (reminiscent of the high-end Olight lights). Carefully packaged inside you will find the light (removable grip ring and clip installed on my sample), battery extender tube, clip replacement cover, good quality wrist lanyard, good quality holster (adjustable for multiple models), o-ring lube (reminiscent of Liteflux), extra o-rings and tailcap cover, and manual.

Skilhunt also included as a gift with my sample a hand-made paracord wrist lanyard. This is high-end lanyard, with a lot of attachment points.

From left to right: Surefire CR123A, Skilhunt Defier X1, Thrunite Scorpion V2 Turbo, Thrunite Scorpion V1, 4Sevens X7, Lumintop TD-15X

From left to right: Surefire CR123A, Skilhunt Defier X1 (1 extender), Lumintop TD-15X (1 extender)

All dimensions are given with no batteries installed:

X1: Weight: 155.6g, Length: 149.6mm , Width (bezel): 36.1mm
X1 with one extender: Weight: 172.9g, Length: 185mm , Width (bezel): 36.1mm
4Sevens X7: Weight 146.9g, Length: 151.5mm, Width (bezel): 38.7mm
Thrunite Scorpion V1: Weight: 167.5g, Length: 168mm, Width: 35.1 (bezel), 37.0mm (tailcap grip ring)
TD-15X: Weight 150.3g, Length 147.3mm, Width: 37.8mm (bezel)

As you can see, the Skilhunt X1 fits in quite well in overall size with the 4Sevens X7 and Luminitop TD-15X. Like the TD-15X, it also comes with one bundled battery tube extender.

Styling is of course quite distinctive on these Skilhunt lights. Those of you who have been around long enough may remember NiteCore's RaidFire Spear, which had a similar cut-out showing the heatsink:

From left to right: AW Protected 18650, Skilhunt Defier X1, NiteCore RaidFire Spear, Skilhunt Defier X3.

The Skilhunt lights are not as beefy as the Spear, which had a thicker and heavier build.

First, a few comments about the holster. It is quite versatile, and can accommodate a range of light sizes given the attachment points and elastic bands. FYI, they seem to be using the same holster for all their models. But I personally think it best fits smaller lights in this 1x18650/2xCR123A size (i.e. like the X1 shown above). To use longer lights, you have open the bottom flap, which leaves the end-bit dangling somewhat.

The overall build of this light (design, quality, machining) is very reminiscent of Olight. I seem to recall making similar comments about the Lumintop lights.

While smaller than I expected overall, construction feels solid. Black anodizing (manufacturer claims type III = HA) is slightly glossy on the smooth areas. Knurling is not very aggressive, although there is more of it than typical on these sorts of lights. With various bundled extras (i.e. clip, grip-ring, etc.), overall grip and hand feel is good. Lettering is bright - clear and sharp. The included clip feels rather weak, and isn't as sturdy as the typical Olight/4Sevens-style clip.

Screw threads are square-cut and anodized at the tailcap, to allow for lock-out.

Of course, the most distinctive aspect of the light is the cut-out regions of the head showing the gold-plated copper heatsink. Ostensibly, these sorts of cut-outs are supposed to improve airflow over the heatsink (but I suspect they are really to show off the gorgeous gold-plated heatsink ). Either way, it makes these Skillhunt lights quite stylish in the modern flashlight world.

Note there is no spring at the positive contact surface in the head, but all my flat-top cells worked fine in the light.

Switch is a forward clicky, and the tailcap comes in two options across the models. The default option on the X1 is the plain one shown in the first pic above. If you want the flared tailcap (default on the X3, as you will see in that review), you have to order it as an optional accessory. Both tailcaps allow tailstanding, but I find it easier to access the switch on the flared tailcap version. Boot cover is yellow to match to heatsink.

The spring on the inside of the tailcap has what looks like a gold-plated cover.

The X1 uses a Cree XM-L emitter (well centered on my sample), with a medium-heavy OP reflector. I would expect throw to slightly less than average for the class, given the medium-sized head and OP reflector.

And now the white-wall beamshots. All lights are on 1xAW protected 18650, about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences.

Beam pattern is good - well-balanced. Due to the OP reflector, the X1 doesn't throw as far as the competition (which all had smooth reflectors in my testing).

I have posted a new 100-yard round-up beamshot review for 2011, showcasing all my current "thrower" lights. Below are a few animated GIFs showing some relevant comparisons for the X1. Please see that round-up review for additional pics of other lights, taken under the same conditions.

My apologies - I seem to have been a little off in aiming the X1. But hopefully you can still get a feel for how it compares to others in this class. As shown in the white wall beamshots, the hotspot is not as well defined, and it typically doesn't throw as far. But the overall beam profile is well-balanced.

As you can see above, the Defier X3 (which has a larger, smooth reflector) is more focused for throw.

User Interface

Turn the light on by pressing the tailcap clicky (press for momentary on, click for locked on),

Basic operation is controlled by loosen-tighten twisting of the head, just like the Olight M20, Lumintop TD-15, etc. Mode sequence is Hi > Med > Lo > Slow Strobe, in repeating sequence.

Light has a memory mode, and retains the last setting used.


The X1 uses visible PWM for its Lo/Med modes, at a common frequency of 196 Hz. This frequency is a little disappointing, as I personally prefer visually-undetectable PWM (i.e. kHz range). While noticeable, it is not as distracting as low PWM (i.e. <120 Hz).

Strobe on the X1 is a slow signaling strobe/beacon - at 1.9 Hz (i.e., about 2 flashes a second). I find this a refreshing change from all the tactical high frequency strobes. Fnally, a frequency I might actually use in real life (i.e. to signal someone, not disorient them. )

Testing Method:

All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's 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 any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

I have recently devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lighbox values to Lumens thread for more info.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

Effective November 2010, I have revised my summary tables to match with the current ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see for a description of the terms used in these tables.

Overall output of the X1 is certainly in keeping with this XM-L class of light. Basically, overall output was slightly higher than the 4Sevens Maelstrom X7 or Thrunite Scorpion V1. Output wasn't as high as the heavily-driven Lumintop TD-15X or Scorpion V2.

According to Skilhunt, current to the LED is 1.7A on the X1 on Hi. That seems believable to me, based on my testing (i.e. output is higher than lights that use a typical 1.5A drive current, not as bright as those using 2.0-2.5A).

Throw is what you would expect for this size light with a textured reflector - in-between the Scorpion V1 and 4Sevens X7, for example.

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Output and runtime on Hi output is consistent with other lights in this class (on all batteries). Relative efficiency seems somewhat lower on the Lo/Med modes, compared to other lights in this class. A similar pattern was observed on the original Thrunite Scorpion V1 - overall performance of the X1 is very similar to that light.

Potential Issues

The light uses visible PWM on the Lo/Med mode, at a visible frequency (196 Hz).

Light lacks a true Lo mode (i.e. it's Lo level is noticeably higher than the min output levels of other lights in this class).

Strobe is included on the main sequence, but is a slow signaling strobe in this case (i.e. <2 Hz).

The cut-outs showing the heatsink are distinctive looking, but they may complicate cleaning the flashlight if you drop in the mud.

Preliminary Observations

For a new manufacturer, Skilhunt certainly impresses with the design, build, and styling of their lights. Everything about these Defier series lights indicates quality and attention to detail. The level of extra "goodies" is also impressive, especially for the price.

Overall build quality is very reminiscent of Olight/4Sevens/Lumintop, but with a lot of extra touches and design flourishes here. Personally, I really like the design elements and styling (especially the distinctive cut-outs for the gold-plated copper heatsink). Hand feel and ease of use is good. The flexibility of the light to run on 3x battery sources is appreciated, as is the bundled battery extender tube.

Beam profile is quite nice, as they have opted for a well-balanced textured reflector. Max overall output is reasonable for the class (about middle of the XM-L pack). No, it is not a high-output thrower, but it does have a very good general purpose beam for everyday use. I think "well-balanced" describes this light very well.

On that note, I like seeing the inclusion of the slow signaling strobe. Skillhunt's other higher-output throw lights come with "tactical" high-frequency strobes, but it makes a lot of sense to bundle a more useful slow strobe on a general purpose light like this (i.e. with the goal of flagging someone down for help, but trying to subdue them ). I'm glad to see they didn't just default to a common circuit design across models.

That being said, the circuit is the one aspect of this light that I think could use some work. It seems clear to me (and Skilhunt confirms) that the focus of these lights was to provide a reasonable balance between output, heat, and battery life on Hi. The Lo/Med modes were add-ons for additional flexibility. The visible PWM of 196 Hz on Lo/Med is minimally acceptable, but I prefer higher frequencies that are not visually detectable. The efficiency of the Lo/Med modes also seems low for the class. Given the limited number of output levels (i.e. the lack of a true Lo mode), I think current-control would be a better idea here.

Despite this one aspect, I am very impressed with the build and bundled extras included with the X1, especially for the price. These Defier lights are remarkably high quality for first-time offerings from a new manufacturer. As is, I think the X1 is a good value for the class. With a few changes to the circuit for Lo/Med, I think it would be an outstanding one.

UPDATE JUNE 16, 2011: My review of the high-output Defier X3 is now up.


Defier X1 provided by Skilhunt for review.

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Page last updated on June 17, 2011 - selfbuilt (at) sliderule (dot) ca (replace the "at" and "dot" labels with the appropriate symbol for e-mail)
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