Tag Archives: 4 stars

Wurkkos TS30S Pro

The TS30S Pro is a high-output thrower light, running on an included single 21700 battery. It also features the sophisticated Anduril user interface.

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

The TS30S Pro is a larger light coming out of Wurkkos – a high-output thrower running on 1×21700. Significantly, it features the Luminus SBT90.2, which is a large but low profile emitter. This means you can generate super high output (i.e., >5000 lumens) while still maintaining great throw when coupled with a large, focused reflector. It also runs at 3V, meaning it can work with a basic FET driver – which is consistent with a lot of the budget lights coming from Wurkkos.

This setup means that Wurkkos was also able to easily implement Anduril, the powerful open-source user interface, giving you a lot of options to play with. Keep in mind though that super-high output is going to require a lot of current (and generate a lot of heat), so you should expect fairly rapid thermal step-down (especially with the default conservative temperature settings in Anduril, although these are user-adjustable).

I’ve had a number of requests to review this light, so let’s see how it does in my testing.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual runtimes.

FeatureSpecs
MakerWurkkos
ModelTS30S Pro
EmitterSBT90.2
Tint5700 K
Max Output (Lumens)6,000
Min Output (Lumens)1
Max Runtime40 days
Max Beam Intensity (cd)295,000 cd
Max Beam Distance (m)1086 m
Constant Levels8
Flashing-
Battery1x21700
Weight (w/o battery)-
Weight (with battery)265 g
Length157.2 mm
Head Diameter61 mm
Body Diameter-
WaterproofIP68 <2m

Package Details






Another example of the nice new packaging for the higher-end lights from Wurkkos (and Sofirn, which share a common manufacturing plant). The hard-sided box comes with a lot of printed specs on the sleeve, and a clear separation of items and components inside thanks to the cut-out foam. Inside the box, I found:

  • Wurkkos TS30S Pro flashlight
  • Wurkkos-branded 5000mAh 21700 battery
  • Wrist lanyard
  • USB-C charging cable
  • 2 Spare O-rings
  • Manual

It’s a decent package for a “budget” build, but I would like to see a holster included. FYI, none of inexpensive holsters that Wurkkos sells fit this light – it’s too large for any of their current offerings.

Build


From left to right: LiitoKala 21700 (5000mAh), Acebeam 21700 USB-C (5100mAh), Lumintop D3, Convoy M21F, Sofirn C8L, Wurkkos TS30S Pro, Wurkkos TD01, Acebeam L19 V2.0, Acebeam P17.









The Wurkkos TS30S Pro is a substantial light for this class, with an exceptionally large head (thanks to a large deep reflector). It does make the light somewhat top-heavy, but not unreasonably so. It is definitely a higher-end “budget” light – keep in mind that over half the cost of the light comes from the emitter alone.

The light is controlled by an electronic side switch in the head, with a rubberized cover. Feel and traverse of the electronic switch is actually a bit better than most Wurkkos and Sofirn lights, which typically have a hard cover that has a bit too much play. There are multi-colour RGB LEDs under the switch. Although set to off by default, you can configure them to light up different colours when a battery is connected (which can make for a great coloured “moonlight” mode). See the user interface section below for more information. There is also a separate set of orange LEDs under the switch to show the charge status (scroll down to the Charging Section for more info).

There are two slightly raised tailcap guards that can serve as the lanyard attachment point. The light is able to tailstand fairly stably (although it is top-heavy).

Tailcap threads are square-cut and anodized, with good feel. I always recommend you keep a light stored locked out when not in use. Thanks to the anodized tailcap threads, you can do this easily on the TS30S Pro by a simple twist of the tailcap.

The side switch flashes orange when charging the battery through the light’s USB-C charging port (solid orange when fully charged). The port is located on the opposite side from the switch, under a rubber cover. The cover fits pretty well – not too too tight, not too loose – just like my recent TD01. I expected waterproofness is reasonable.

There is no actual knurling on the light, but large raised concentric rings around the body tube help with grip (pattern is similar to the TD01, but with greater thickness to the horizontal cutouts). When combined with the head and tailcap ridge detail, I would say overall grip is pretty good. Note that the light can roll fairly easily, although there are some mild cut-outs on the head to help reduce this. Anodizing looks to be good quality for type II, with no damage on my sample. I would describe the finish as satin.

Inside, the light comes with a Wurkkos-branded standard-sized 5000mAh 21700 battery, with a slightly raised flat-top. There is a a slightly raised contact point in the head, so flat-top cells should work just fine.





The TS30S Pro has a large and deep reflector, to help ensure excellent throw with the low-profile SBT90.2 emitter.

The bezel is stainless steel (dull finish) with mild crenelations – not too aggressive, so you can headstand stably. There is a mild purplish anti-reflective (AR) coating on the lens.

Here are a couple of white wall beamshots, to give you an idea of how focused it is:


It’s hard to see above, but there are quite a few “daisy flower-like” artifacts in the corona around the hospot. If you look closely you’ll notice the corona is a bit irregular (i.e., stretches out more to the left and top). This is clearly visible on a white wall, but they are not at all noticeable in real life (scroll down for outdoor beamshots).

As mentioned above, in addition to the amber charging indicator LED under the switch, there are also RGB LEDs. This is fully programmable with the Anduril user interface (described below), allowing you to control the presence, intensity and colour of the optional standby indicator under the switch. This is more than just a cute novelty feature – effectively, it gives you a coloured Moonlight mode if you turn it on (i.e., you can “activate” this Moonlight mode by using the tailcap as a twisty, making or breaking battery contact).

Here is a video of the “Rainbow” indicator switch mode, where it continuously cycles through all the possible switch colours slowly. You can similarly select any of the colours shown as your constant switch indicator (scroll down for a description of the UI controls).

User Interface

The TS30S Pro uses the open-source Anduril 2 user interface (UI). Anduril has two distinct UIs mode sets: Simple and Advanced. The labels are a bit misleading, as both are fairly sophisticated – it is just that the Advanced UI has a lot of extra options not available on the scaled-down Simple UI. Advanced UI also has an option for a discrete Stepped level mode, in addition to the continuously-variable smooth Ramping mode (which is the only mode present on the Simple UI).

To switch from the default Simple UI to Advanced UI, you need to do 10 clicks from Off with a hold on the 10th click (10H), with 10 clicks (10C) to return to Simple UI. Advanced UI has a lot more options available. It’s easier to show the UIs rather than explain them in words, so here is a helpful pic:

ui-diagram

You can also download a plain text-based manual from Anduril creator Toykeeper, or a more interactive one with version control here.

This implementation of Anduril 2 has eight discrete Stepped levels, which I’ve numbered in this review according to Wurkkos preference (H1 through H8, with H1 being the lowest level, and H8 being Turbo).

According to the firmware Version Check, my TS30S sample has model 0715. Full info is 2022-07-25-07-15 (version code is Year-Month-Day the firmware was compiled, followed by a 2-digit brand ID and 2-digit product ID). According to Selene (Toymaker), the TS30S Pro comes with either model 0715 (which was built for the TS25) or model 0716 (built for the FC13). Both of which work fine, but the model 0716 has improved RGB switch functionality, such as indicating battery voltage during use as well as when off.

Again, check the image and link above for more info, but here is a simplified description of the UI to get you started.

From OFF:

  • Press-and-hold (1H): Turns On in lowest output, in either Ramping mode or Stepped mode depending on which mode is enabled (and which UI you are in)
  • Single-click (1C): Turns on in last memorized mode used (Ramping or Stepped)
  • Double-click (2C): Turns on to Turbo (aka the Ramping max output)
  • Triple-click (3C): Battery check (voltage read out a single time) and basic flashing/strobe modes.
  • Triple-click-and-hold (3H): Special strobe modes, but only when in Advanced UI (remembers last strobe mode used)
  • 4 clicks (4C): Lockout mode. In lockout mode you have different options available:
    • Press-and-hold (1H): Momentary Moonlight
    • Double-click-and-hold (2H): Momentary Low
    • 4 clicks (4C): Turns On in memorized output level
    • 4 clicks and hold (4H): Turns On in the lowest level
    • 5 clicks (5C): Turns On in Turbo
    • 10 clicks and hold (10H): Configure the lock timeout threshold (in Advanced UI only), allowing you to pre-set the timeout time of the lock.
  • 7 clicks (7C): (Advanced UI only) Enters AUX/Button LED config for the next mode. There are four modes you can switch between; constant low, blinking low, off, constant hi. Click 7 times again to advance to the next option, in sequence. The light auto-memorizes the last option you select.
  • 7 clicks-and-hold (7H): (Advanced UI only) Enters AUX/Button LED config for the next colour. The colours follow the sequence: Red, Yellow (Red+Green), Green, Cyan (Green+Blue), Blue, Purple (Blue+Red), White (Red+Green+Blue), Disco (fast random colors), Rainbow (cycles through all colors in order more slowly). See the video in the section above for what Rainbow looks like.

From ON:

  • Press-and-hold (1H): Ramps up (or Steps up, depending on the mode). Ramps/steps down if you do it again.
  • Single-click (1C): Turns Off
  • Double-click (2C): Jumps to Turbo
  • Double-click-and-hold (2H): Ramps down (or Steps down)
  • Triple-click (3C): Switch between Ramping and Stepped modes
  • 4 clicks (4C): Lockout mode (see above for options)

Mode memory:

Yes, the circuit memorizes the last constant On output level in either Ramping or Stepped modes.

Strobe/Blinking modes:

Yes, quite a few actually. The strobe/blinking modes are accessible from Off with a triple-click (3C) or triple-click-and-hold (3H), but in Advanced UI only. You can switch between strobe/blinking modes with 2 clicks (2C), in the following sequence (see testing results below to see what these look like):

Triple-click (3C):

  • Battery check
  • Temperature check
  • Beacon mode
  • SOS mode

Triple-click-and hold (3H):

  • Candle mode
  • Bike flasher mode
  • Party strobe mode
  • Tactical strobe mode
  • Lightning mode

Low voltage warning:

Sort of. In operation, the light drops in brightness in steps, and runs for an extended time at a very low level. Apparently it shuts off when the cell is ~2.8V (although I haven’t run it that long to confirm).

Lock-out mode:

Yes. In either Simple UI or Advanced UI, lockout is accessed by 4 clicks (4C) from On or Off (repeat to unlock). The lockout mode is unusual with Anduril, as it actually enables momentary operation in the minimum modes. There are other lockout modes available, as explained above. As always though, I recommend you physically lock out at the light at the tailcap, if you want to guarantee no accidental activation.

Temperature check and thermal calibration mode:

This is a little complicated (and beyond the needs of most users), so I will just refer you to the diagram from the manual above. With default settings, I find this light steps down fairly quickly due to heat (unsurprising, given default Anduril settings are conservative). I have not tried to reconfigure my sample. Note that if you get into any trouble (or wish to reset any custom configurations), you can easily reset the light to the factory defaults by 13 clicks-and-hold (13H).

Powerbank Feature:

The TS30S Pro can serve as a power bank, allowing you to charge other devices (like a cell phone) directly from the light. Simply plug a device into the USB-C port. As you can see above, it can easily charge my phone at ~1.6A, which is a fast charging rate.

Reviewer Comments:

Anduril is a sophisticated setup – a choice of Simple or Advanced UI, Stepped and Ramping modes, etc. Of course, you will never please everyone, and many may prefer a simpler interface (e.g., the Wurkkos TS22 or TD01). Like many flashaholics, I enjoy many of the extra customization items Anduril provides (especially with the switch RGB LED). Some of the features are really novelties though (e.g., candle mode and lightning storm are particularly well done, but when would you practically ever use them other than as a party trick?).

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

There is no sign of PWM on any level, the circuit appears to be fully current-controlled.

That being said, my oscilloscope was able to detect high frequency noise at all levels except max and min outputs, as depicted below.

H1:
L1

H2:
L2

H3:
L3L3

H4:
L4

H5:
L5

H6:
L6

H7:
L7

H8:
L8

Like on other lights running off simple FET drivers (e.g., Sofirn IF25A) there is high-frequency noise of ~5 kHz on non-Turbo levels. This is sufficiently high as to be completely undetectable visually, and is not a concern – the light remains flicker free in actual use.

Strobe Modes:

Note that for most of the strobe / flashing modes below, the actual frequency and intensity are both configurable. What I am showing below is the default speed and/or brightness setting. By pressing and holding the switch (1H or 2H) you can select the frequency – and in some cases, brightness is set from the last-used ramp level.

Beacon:
Beacon

Beacon strobe is a single flash every ~2.25 secs (so, 0.45 Hz) by default.

SOS:
SOS

A fairly typical SOS mode.

Candle:
Candle

Candle strobe is a continuous flicker, of varying intensity (again, accurately simulating a candle).

Bike Strobe:
Bike

Bike strobe is a bit unusual. It is constant On at a lower level, with four brief flashes to max (over ~0.25 secs) every ~1.1 secs or so by default. It certainly is an attention grabber.

Party Strobe:
Party

Party strobe is a super-fast (and annoying) frequency of ~20 Hz by default.

Tactical Strobe:
Tactical
Tactical
Tactical strobe is basically ~9 Hz. Interestingly, it doesn’t stay completely stable on my TS30S Pro, but fluctuates from ~8.5 Hz to ~9 Hz over time. Either way, it is configurable.

Lightning Strobe:
Lightning
Lightning
Lightning
Lightning

I’ve shown four consecutive 10-sec cycles above, so you can a feel for the frequency and intensity of light flashes. Lightning strobe is a fairly realistic lightning simulation, with variable intensity and time between flashes.

Charging:

The switch button flashes orange the light is charging. Changes to solid orange when the charging is complete. Note the orange LEDs are separate from the user-selectable “AUX” RGB emitters under the switch.

Resting voltage <3.0V

Resting voltage >3.0V

The TS30S Pro has a two-stage charging feature, as seen on many modern lights where there is a lower initial charging rate when the cell is heavily discharged. The initial charging rate is 0.17A, which jumps to 2.0A once the cell exceeds 3.0 resting volts. These rates are good for a 21700 cell.

Note that you need to have a good charging adapter and cables to reliably supply the 2A current. I found that if anything else was connected to same USB-AC power adapter concurrently, the TS30S Pro’s switch LED would eventually start to flash rapidly (as some sort of error signal, it seems) – with the current repeatedly dropping to zero. The same would happen sometimes when using multi-pronged charging cables (i.e., those USB cables with multiple heads). Removing any the other devices and using a single dedicated cable resolved the problem.

Charging terminated at ~4.20V on my sample.

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

With the switch LED set to off, I measured the standby drain for the electronic switch as fluctuating evenly between 102uA and 148uA (so, ~125uA on average). For a 5000mAh cell, that would translate into over 4.5 years before the cell would be fully drained – which is quite low. Regardless, I recommend you store the light locked out at the tailcap when not in use (which disables the standby drain).

Emitter Measures

In this section, I directly measure key emitter characteristics in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them. As tint in particular can shift across levels, I typically stick with the highest stably regulated level for all my reported measures.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

TS30S Pro on L6:

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~5060K, and a noticeably positive tint shift (+0.0149 Duv) to greenish-yellow at this temperature. For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 64.

This is my first SBT90.2 emitter, but these values are not inconsistent with other rated 5700K XHP-class emitters I’ve tested.

Beamshots

All long-distance outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 1 sec exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The tree at the centre of the hotspot is approximately 90 meters (~100 yards) from the camera. Note the road dips down and turns away in the distance, out of the camera’s sight line. Learn more about my outdoor beamshot locations here.

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare the overall beams by switching between tabs.



To help illustrate the hotspots better, I’ve also cropped the raw pictures around the centre of the frame. As before, click on any thumbnail below to open a full size image in a new window.



As you can see above, the TS30S Pro puts out a ton of light, while still having excellent throw (i.e., hotspot intensity is roughly on par with the TD01).

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. Note that my lightbox calibration seems to run higher than most hobbyists today, but I’ve kept it to remain consistent with my earlier reviews (when the base calibration standard was first established).

My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

TS30S Pro Testing Results

ModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with BatteryCCT (K)DuvCRI
Smooth Ramp Min-0.0050.005----5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H110.220.22----5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H253.33.3----5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H3151818----5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H4455252----5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H5110150150----5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H6480470460----4,992 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g5,0600.014962
H71,7001,6001,550----4,979 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
H86,0005,5505,200253,000 cd233,000 cd965 m-No0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
Candle--------0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
Bike Strobe------0.9 Hz-0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
Party Strobe------20 Hz-0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
Tactical Strobe------9 Hz-0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
Lightning--------0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
Beacon------2.63 Hz-0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---
SOS-------5,010 Hz0.17 A2.0 A125 uA260 g328 g---

Like the TD01 that I recently reviewed, this light seems to have somewhat inflated specs on its highest levels. It is probably even worse than the numbers above suggest, as I know my lightbox’s relative calibration is generously high for modern high-output lights.

My NIST-calibrated luxmeter similarly shows ~10% lower throw than the specs. But this is still an incredibly bright and far-throwing flashlight.

As an aside, I’ve very impressed with how low the light can go in the Smooth Ramping output level set. This is one of the lowest levels I’ve seen yet for a modern light. Note that this likely reflects the presence of a simple linear FET driver, as a boost driver would have reduced dynamic range (and a higher minimum). Scroll down to output/runtimes for confirmation.

To view and download full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

Max

Hi

Med

For all its larger build and higher-end emitter, it is clear Wurkos is still using a basic FET driver on this light (i.e., something similar to the Anduril-equipped Sofirn IF25A and Lumintop D3 lights). This means you also won’t see any flat voltage-regulated output patterns on the TS30S Pro. It also means the step-down level from max is relatively low (i.e., drops to ~600 lumens and slowly recovers up to ~1300 lumens over the next hour).

At least the output/runtime efficiency of the SBT90.2 is a little higher than the D3’s SFN55.2 and IF25A’s 4xSST20 emitters. That said, overall output/runtime efficiency is definitelty lower than the fully flat-regulated TS22 and Convoy M21F, in comparison.

Although the higher thermal mass here means it won’t step-down quite as quickly on the highest output level (H8), you can also see that the TS30S Pro step-down is pretty steep once it begins. To better show this initial step-down pattern, below is an expanded view of first few minutes of those runtimes.

Max-extended

I’ve thrown in an additional run above for the max of the Ramping mode, showing that this is identical the max of the Stepped modes.

And here is comparison of the all the levels I’ve tested, and a clearer time-scale resolution:Max-extended

I haven’t tried adjusting the thermal management settings (these are configurable with Anduril), but you should be able to extend the runtime before step-down slightly (at the expense of greater heat, of course).

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Super high output and throw, thanks to the SBT90 emitter and large reflectorr.Light doesn't meet the stated max specifications.
Good implementation of the sophisticated Anduril 2.0 user interface.Lacks flat voltage-regulation, and shows instead a somewhat "noisy" gradual direct-drive-like runtime appearance.
Solid build quality, with good fit and finish. Switch performance is particularly good for the budget class.Light steps down rapidly on highest level to a relatively low output.
Rapid USB-C charging and powerbank function.Some beam artifacts, especially in the corona.
Very affordable option for a high-output thrower light.Anduril interface can be intimidating.
Lacks a holster or other carry option.

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

I’m actually reasonably impressed with this model – it delivers an extraordinary amount of output and throw, with a good implementation of the Anduril user interface. Physically, the light feels very solid with good ergonomics (if understandably a bit top-heavy). And I like the feel of the rubberized switch cover, which I find superior to the typical Wurkkos hard button cover. I also like the RGB LED under the switch (in addition to the amber charging LED), as this gives you plenty of configuration options – and an impromptu “coloured Moonlight” mode option to boot. I don’t factor price into my rating system, but it is amazing to me that your can get a SBT90 emitter with all the features of this light for only ~$75 USD (i.e., the emitter alone is more than half that total cost).

That said, there are some missed opportunities here to make this a truly outstanding light. The most significant is the circuit – this light has the same basic FET driver that you see on many inexpensive Anduril lights, with a somewhat noisy and non-voltage-regulated runtime pattern. Overall output/runtime efficiency is somewhat better with the SBT90 than with lower-output emitters I’ve tested with this circuit, but it doesn’t compare to the fully regulated circuits that I’ve seen on the TS22 (and many other lights). This simple circuit is fundamentally why this light tops out at 4 stars in my view.

Physically, this light is pretty impressive for the price, but it would benefit from some refinements. One example is the reflector – while it throws remarkably well, there are a number of “daisy flower” like artifacts in the corona surrounding the hotspot (but that’s only noticeable on a white wall). Another area is thermal management. Like with many Anduril lights, the light steps down quickly from its highest modes due to heat. With a better heatsink in such a substantial build, you should have been able to extend that higher output runtime.

But thanks to the sophistication of Anduril, there is a lot you can do to customize the experience of this light. The rapid USB-C fast charging and powerbank functionality are also nice to see. I think its fair to give this light 4 stars given all that you do get here.

Acknowledgement

The TS30S Pro was supplied by Wurkkos for review. As always, all opinions are my own and the light received the same rigourous and objective testing as all other lights that I have reviewed. At the time of review, this light retails for ~$75 USD (~$100 CDN) with typical discounts on their website here.

Armytek Crystal Headlamp/Keychain

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

This is another mini-review of a pocket-sized headlamp/keychain rechargeable light, the Armytek Crystal. Featuring both a cool white and a red LED, this innovative design lets you strap it to your head with the accompanying band, clip on to a jacket/bag with the built-in pocket clip, strap it to bike frame, or use as a keychain fob.

I won’t be providing quite as much commentary as usual (and beamshots will definitely be out), but otherwise will provide my full suite of testing results so that you can make informed decisions around output, use and performance.

Let’s see how it performs in my testing.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecsSpecs
MakerArmytekArmytek
ModelCrystalCrystal
EmitterLXNZPL696 (White)LXNZPL696 (Red)
TintCool whiteRed
Max Output (Lumens)15030
Min Output (Lumens)0.10.1
Max Runtime50 days30 days
Max Beam Intensity (cd)36 cd7 cd
Max Beam Distance (m)12 m5 m
Constant Levels44
FlashingBeaconBeacon
BatteryLi-Pol 600 mAhLi-Pol 600 mAh
Weight (w/o battery)
Weight (with battery)34 g34 g
Length63 mm63 mm
Head Diameter42.6 mm42.6 mm
Body Diameter14.8 mm14.8 mm
WaterproofIP67 1mIP67 1m

Package Details




The light ships in a colourful cardboard box, with plenty of labels and product details.  Inside, you will find the following:

  • Crystal Headlamp/Keychain light, with built-in pocket clip
  • Headband
  • Adhesive pad
  • Two large black silicone rings (to secure to a bike frame)
  • Simple manual

It’s a basic package, but has what you need to afix the light securely. No charging cable was included, and you will need one with a micro-USB port connector.

Build


From left to right: AAA NiMH, AA NiMH, Wurkkos Keychain SQ05, Armytek Crystal.











One comment to make up front – you can buy the Crystal with various coloured plastic backings. It is currently available in green, blue, red, yellow, or gray. There is also a WRB version, which features a flashing blue/red light, which comes with a blue or gray backing.

Build features a fullly transparent front cover, which allows you to see the bare emitters and the basic circuitry elements of the light. I’m guessing this is to prevent any significant colour distortions in the beam. On that front, most of the colour variations you are seeing above are really just from my camera’s auto-adjust feature, or reflections off my desk. That said, the white emitter does seem to project a somewhat greenish-tint out the edges and sides of the light, likely by reflecting off or through the green plastic backing of my sample.

You can clearly see the main white and red emitters above, on either side of the switch.

You have nice and solid pocket clip on the back, which will hold the light securely to a front pocket. This is actually my preferred way to carry, as it is easy to clip on and go. Alternatively you can slip it into the included headband to use as a headlamp, or use the bike frame securing rings. On the short edge of the light by the red emitter is the keychain attachment point. Overall size is a bit big for keychain carry if you ask me, although I suppose it is not that much larger than a typical car key fob.

The power/mode button is located in the centre of the light. This seems like a bit of an odd placement to me, as it means you will turn the light on shinning in your eyes if you looking down at what you are pressing (makes more sense if you are using as a headlamp). At least it is easy to access by feel. Traverse is good, with a definite but soft click upon activation.

On the short edge of the light by the white emitter is the micro-USB charging port under a rubber cover. I find the cover to be fairly loosely fitting, with a slight hook to hold in place (I wouldn’t consider this very waterproof at all). It’s a shame they didn’t opt for the more common USB-C emitter, but I gather this model has been around for awhile now. According to the manual, the light uses a lithium polymer rechargeable battery of 600 mAh capacity.

One interesting feature – according to the manual, the light can work in “lamp” mode when you plug it into a powerbank or other USB-charging source. I presume that means it runs directly off the power source, instead of the internal battery.

User Interface

As noted in my other recent Armytek reviews, the included manual is actually fairly basic, and just describes the main functions of the light. You can download a more complete manual from their website here.

pretty simple, more a description of the features than an actual set of instructions. Here is a rundown from my testing:

From Off:

  • Press-and-hold the switch. Nothing initially. However, after 4 seconds the Lock out mode is engaged. The white LED will blink once, confirming the Lock out. Press-and-hold for another 4 seconds to re-activate.
  • Single-click the switch: Turns On in last memorized state.

From On:

  • Press-and-hold the switch: Start cycling through the modes of the current colour, in repeating sequence: Firefly > Main1 > Main2 > Main3 > Beacon. Release the switch to select.
  • Single-click the switch: Turns Off.
  • Double-click the switch: Switches between the two emitter choices (i.e., if you are in white light, it switches over to the red LED).

And that’s it, fairly straight-forward and easy enough to remember. That said, I’m not personally a fan of having the flashing mode on the main sequence. But at least it is only a slow flash (i.e., not an obnoxious strobe).

Short-cuts:

No.

Mode memory:

Yes. The light remembers both the the last mode used and the last emitter, and returns to them upon re-activation.

Strobe/Blinking modes:

Yes, there is one beacon mode (available for each emitter).

Low voltage warning:

No.

Lock-out mode:

Yes. Press-and-hold the switch from Off for at least 4 secs to lock/unlock the light.

Reviewer Comments:

This is an OK interface, easy to remember and use (although I don’t like the beacon on the main sequence). I do question the wisdom of a sustained press-hold to lock/unlock the light, but I suppose it removes the risk of an accidental quick-click.

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

Firefly:
Firefly

Main1:
Main1

Main2:
Main2

Main3:
Main3

There is no sign of PWM or circuit noise on any level. The light is current-controlled, and fully flicker-free in both white and red modes. 🙂

Beacon

There is a single beacon mode on both red and white modes, which consists of one brief flash every second (i.e. 1 Hz). This is very reasonable as a signaling light, bike light, etc.

Charging:

There a red/green charging indicator LED, near the white emitter. It glows solid red when charging, turning to green once it is fully charged.

Initial charging current when heavily depleted:

After a few mins:

The initial charging current is ~0.10A, when the battery is nearly fully depleted (i.e., just a very low output from the emitters). As the light charges, the charging current quickly jumps to ~0.30A, and then slowly drops from there as the battery charges fully.

I didn’t time how long it take to charge the light, but Armytek says is 2hr 50 mins to a full charge. Sounds about right, I don’t think it took much longer than 2 hours on any of my tests.

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

Given the electronic nature of the switch, there must be a standby current at all times. However, without breaking it open, and I am not able to measure it.

Emitter Measures

In this section, I directly measure key emitter characteristics of my sample in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them. As tint in particular can shift across levels, I typically stick with the highest stably regulated level for all my reported measures.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

White Main 2 Level:

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~6140K, and no measured tint  shift (-0.0001 Duv). For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 75.

These values are very consistent with a cool white, and match my visual experience of this light. As mentioned above, I did notice a greenish-yellow tinge to the peripheral spill of the light, but I think that is from reflections off the green translucent plastic base of my sample.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to run the red emitter through my Light Master 2 meter, to see what it said. Although these are not designed for monochromatic light sources, its readings seemed reasonable:

Red Main2 level:

As you can see, the red light is well off the Planckian locus, well into the red end of the spectrum (and so, the CCT and Duv are meaningless here).

Beamshots

Sorry, no beamshots for keychain lights. 🙂

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

Crystal Testing Results

EmitterModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with BatteryCCT (K)DuvCRI
WhiteFirefly0.10.110.12---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
WhiteMain154.94.9---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
WhiteMain23635.035---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
WhiteMain3150170.0160101 cd94 cd19 mNoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g6,140-0.000175
WhiteBeacon150-----1 HzNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
RedFirefly0.10.040.04---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
RedMain121.61.6---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
RedMain2121616---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
RedMain3304342---NoNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---
RedBeacon30-----1 HzNo0.10 A0.30 A--34 g---

Estimated output in my lightbox is pretty close to the rated specs across all levels. Indeed, the red emitter reports higher values in my lightbox – but I never calibrated my light sensor for monochromatic sources, so that could be artifactual.

It’s great to see the true moonlight mode here, for both emitters.

To view and download full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

The white emitter Main3 output is basically direct-drive in appearance, slowly dropping off over 2 hours as the battery drains. In contrast Main2 is regulated over its ~6 hour run, with a slightly staggered pattern as it keeps the output within a narrow range around ~35 lumens in my lightbox.

The red emitter Main3 output resembles the white Main2 in its regulation pattern, and lasts for a little over 2 hours in my testing.

Here is how the Crystal compares to the lower output levels of my 18650 headlamps:

These results are very much in keeping with Armytek’s specs, and seem reasonable for the stated 600 mAh capacity of the built-in battery. Performance is at least an order or magnitude or two higher than the budget keychain model from Wurkkos, in comparison.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Good build quality and feature set, suitable as a headlamp, pocket clip or keychain,.Fairly simple design, with power/mode button on front-face with the emitters.
Very good regulation pattern, with constant-current flat stabilization.A bit too large for a keychain light, but works well as a headlamp/pocket clip.
Very floody beam without artifacts, for both cool white and red LEDs
Rechargeable battery built-in, but with older micro-USB connector.
Accurate product specs.

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

The Crystal is a surprisingly versatile little headlamp/keychain light. It is lightweight and easy to attach or carry in a variety ways. It has both white and red flood lights (the later is particularly good for maintaining night vision, or for not attracting bugs/animals). It has a good range of levels, including moonlight and a signaling beacon for each emitter. And its performance is excellent across all levels on its built-in rechargeable lithium polymer battery.

Frankly, there is not much to criticize here. By design, the light is a full flooder, without much throw (i.e., there is no optic to focus the emitters). Other than that, it is mainly small issues that I’ve noted above, like the simple UI, micro-USB port, and front switch location that are not my personal preference. It is also not particularly pretty to look at, with its transparent plastic cover – but I suppose some people may like the honest aesthetic. Personally, I care more about its functional use – and I find it to be a great little headlamp.

Price doesn’t factor into my star rating system, but I find this light to be pretty reasonably priced considering what you get. It is is certainly a lot cheaper (and lighter) than a lot of other headlamp models out there. Of course, it won’t last as longer as larger models with heavier batteries – but the runtimes are perfectly reasonable for what you are getting here.

If you are looking for a budget headlamp that does multiple duty as a front-facing pocket light, bike light, and keychain light, the Crystal could well suit the bill.

Acknowledgement

The Crystal was provided by Armytek for review. As always, all opinions are my own and the light received the same rigourous and objective testing as all other lights that I have reviewed. At the time of review, this light retails for $27 USD (~$36 CDN).

Armytek Doberman Pro

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

Following on my Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Max and C2 Pro Nichia headlamp reviews, I thought I’d test out one of their current tactical lights, the Doberman Pro.

Based on a 1×18650 battery and a warm Cree XHP35 HI emitter, this light features Armytek’s typically solid build enhanced with a variety of recoil-proof adaptions. With an innovative protruding two-stage electronic tailcap switch – and innovative magnetic charging dock – I thought this would be an interesting light to look at.

The light is also distinctive for its beam pattern – thanks to a super deep reflector, the light has excellent throw and a much narrower spillbeam than typical. Let’s see how it performs in my testing.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecs
MakerArmytek
ModelDoberman Pro
EmitterXHP35 HI
TintWarm
Max Output (Lumens)1,400
Min Output (Lumens)37
Max Runtime32 hours
Max Beam Intensity (cd)33,000 cd
Max Beam Distance (m)363 m
Constant Levels4
FlashingStrobe1/2
Battery1x18650
Weight (w/o battery)114 g
Weight (with battery)164 g
Length150 mm
Head Diameter25.4 mm
Body Diameter33.5 mm
WaterproofIP68 25m for 5 hrs

Package Details




The light ships in a cardboard display box with an a lot of labels and descriptions. Inside, you will find the following.

Inside the box, I found:

  • Armytek Doberman Pro flashlight
  • Armytek 18650 battery (3500mAh)
  • Stainless steel pocket clip
  • Tactical cigar grip ring
  • Magnetic USB charging dock
  • 2 spare O-rings
  • Wrist lanyard
  • Nylon belt holster
  • Manual

It’s a good package, and I particularly like seeing all the carry options included (including holster and cigar grip-ring).

As before, the multi-lingual manual is really more of a quick-start guide, and there is a slightly more detailed full manual that you can download from the Armytek website (direct PDF link here). I recommend you download the longer manual in order to take full advantage of all the features and better understand the user interface.

Note that Armytek sells a variety of optional accessories, including a magnetic mount, remote switch, and various colour filters/diffuser cover.

Build


From left to right: Armytek 18650 (3500mAh), Sofirn 21700 (5000mAh), Acebeam 21700 USB-C (5100mAh), Acebeam E70, Acebeam P17, Armytek Doberman Pro, Convoy M21F, Lumintop D3, Nitecore MH12SE, Nitecore P20iX,  Sofirn C8L.








This physical build is reminiscent of the old Viking/Predator lights that I remember from long ago. Handfeel is excellent, and the light feels very solid and robust.

The anodizing looks exactly like the thick matte finish that Armytek has always been known for. Their annodizing has a unique feel, very grippy – almost rubberized in a way. As always, it appears thick and durable. While it resists deep scratches, I find it can mark up fairly easily (i.e., shows handling marks on the surface). As always, it’s clear Armytek sees their lights as work-horses, not show-horses.

The light lacks traditional knurling, but the ridge details cut-outs and grippy finish help produce good hand grip in my view. The pocket clip attaches very firmly (though may mark upon removal) and helps further with grip, just like the cigar ring.

The switch is unique in my experience. It protrudes like a physical clicky switch, but has instead a dual-stage electronic design that simulates a tactical clicky. Switch feel is good, with a light press activating the first stage, and a firmer press producing a virtual click (silent, but with a tactile “click-like” feel). Honestly, I thought this was indeed a physical switch when I first handled it.

The light uses a standard flat-top 18650 cell (Armytek-branded 3500mAh in this case), so can easily be swapped out and charged in a stand-alone charger. Interestingly, the magnetic charging dock connects directly to the switch – and holds on very securely (scroll down to my circuit section for more details on how it works). Note that this charging format means that there are large exposed contact points on the tailcap that connect directly to the battery, which is concerning. Armytek says there is a short-circuit protection feature with the battery, but I don’t like relying on that. Hopefully the contacts are separated sufficiently that it should not be an issue for most people.

Tailstanding is not possible, due to the protruding tailcap. There is a cut-out on the side of the tailcap to securely attach the wrist lanyard.

There are springs in both head and the tailcap, which should hold the cell securely. Armytek says the light is hardened against recoil effects (including potting the electronics in the head), making it suitable as a weapon mount.

Tailcap threads are square-cut, and anodized, allowing you to lock out the light by a twist of the tailcap. Threads are well lubed – as are the two o-rings for waterproofness. I must say this always seems like overkill, but I guess it again shows Armytek’s commitment to robust design.

As per usual, I haven’t tried destructive testing. But this light seems pretty well bomb-proof, and is at least as robust as any other tactical light I’ve ever handled.




The Doberman Pro features a warm temperature XHP35 HI emitter, at the base of a very deep smooth reflector. Thanks to the low profile and small size of this emitter – coupled with such a deep reflector – this means you will get excellent throw with a very narrow spillbeam. See above, and the emitter measures and beamshots sections below for more details.

The black stainless steel bezel has relatively mild crenelations, allowing the light to headstand while still showing you if it is activated.

User Interface

The Doberman Pro can be configured for a pretty straightforward user interface, in keeping with its tactical nature. But there are few extra options, organized into two modes – referred to as Hunting Type (default) and Tactical Type. I will describe both in detail below, but let’s start with how you switch between them:

Mode Switching (between Hunting Type and Tactical Type)

  • Ensure the head is fully tight against the body tube, as well as the tailcap fully tightened.
  • Turn the flashlight On with a full click of the tailcap.
  • Loosen/tighten the head 10 times, completing each twist cycle in under 1 sec.
  • Flashlight blinks once to confirm mode type change.

And now, here is what you get with each of the two mode sets:

Hunting Type Mode (default, available levels: Main1, Main2, Main3, Turbo, Strobe2)

Hunting Type Mode, from OFF:

  • Fully tighten the head for Turbo, loosen by 1/8 of a turn for the additional modes.
  • Partial depress of the switch: In Turbo, Momentary On (i.e., turns Off when released). In Additional modes, turns On in last memorized mode, and repeatedly pressing (or clicking) the switch within 2 secs advances you through Additional modes in the repeating sequence Main1 > Main2 > Main3 > Strobe2.
  • Single-click switch: In Turbo, turns On in Turbo. In Additional modes, turns on in last memorized mode, and repeatedly pressing (or clicking) the switch within 2 secs advances you through Additional modes in the repeating sequence Main1 > Main2 > Main3 > Strobe2.
  • Note that you can remove Strobe2 from the sequence as follows:
    • Partially depress switch at least 20 times, with the last press being a full click.
    • Don’t take longer than 1 sec to cycle through the individual switch presses.
    • The flashlight blinks once, confirming the change.

Hunting Type Mode, from ON:

  • Partial depress of the switch: Nothing.
  • Single-click switch: Turns Off.
  • In Additional modes, repeated clicking the switch within 2 secs advances you through Additional modes in the repeating sequence Main1 > Main2 > Main3 > Strobe2.

Tactical Type Mode (available levels: Main2, Turbo, Strobe1, Strobe2)

Tactical Type Mode, from OFF:

  • Start with head fully tightened for Turbo, or head loosened for Strobe2.
  • Partial depress of the switch: Momentary On in Turbo or Strobe2, depending on head state.
  • Single-click switch: Turns On in Turbo or Strobe2 depending on head state.

Tactical Type Mode, from ON:

  • Partial depress switch: Nothing.
  • Single-click switch: Turns Off.
  • When in head tight (Turbo):
    • Loosen the head by 1/8 of a turn for Strobe2
    • Loosen/tighten the head for Main2
  • When in head loose (Strobe2)
    • Tighten the head for Turbo
    • Loosen/tighten the head when to switch to Strobe1

Short-cuts:

None.

Mode memory:

Yes, depending on the selected Type. For the Hunting Type, there is mode memory in the Additional modes – the light remembers which level you left it in last, and returns to it upon re-activation. Similarly, for Tactical Type, it remembers if you have switched to the alternate constant or strobe mode. It recalls this state even if you loosen the tailcap to cut the current.

Strobe/Blinking modes:

Yes, there is a high-frequency Strobe at full power or mid-level.

Low voltage warning:

Not that I noticed.

Lock-out mode:

Yes, but only by physically locking out the light at the tailcap.

Reviewer Comments:

This user interface has a few trade-offs – it is a bit more complicated than some tactical lights, but it can be configured to largely tactical use. Indeed, this is one case where I might consider leaving the light in Tactical Type mode, since the two constant levels through the head-twist is reasonably simple and straightforward (as long as you never leave it loose, and strobe yourself). And I find the Main2 level is a reasonably good battery-saving level. Alternatively, you can leave it in Hunting Type, and remove strobe from the sequence if you wish.

The two-stage electronic switch really does simulate a physical tactical clicky well.

Note that I can tell from older reviews online that earlier versions of this light had a second lower Turbo mode as well as Firefly modes. I’ve looked for them, and these are not present on my sample. They are not listed in current manual either – they appear to have been removed.

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

Main1:
Lo

Main3:
Hi

Turbo:
Turbo

There is no sign of PWM on any level – the circuit appears to be fully current-controlled. There is some high-frequency noise only at the Turbo level, around 15 KHz, but it is variable and not very intense. It is also completely invisible to the eye, and so not a concern.

Strobes:

Strobe1:

Strobe2:

Strobes are a consistent high-frequency of 15 Hz, Strobe1 is at the lower Main2 level, and Strobe2 is full Turbo power.

Charging:

The Doberman Pro comes with a magnetic charging dock that connects to the exposed terminals on the tail switch. Charger status is given as follows:

  • Solid Green — dock is either plugged in and not connected to the light, or charging is finished if the light is connected.
  • Flashing Green — evaluating battery voltage.
  • Flashing Red — contact error, clean the external and internal contacts of the tailcap and charger.
  • Flashing Orange — USB power source voltage too low, or poor contact made, preventing full current charging. Clean the tailcap and the threads of the flashlight, or use a different power source.
  • Solid Red — charging at full charging current is progressing
  • Solid Orange — USB power source voltage is too low, so charging current is
    reduced.

The Armytek charging dock charges at a constant current of ~1.0A at the start of the cycle, regardless of the resting voltage of the cell. This differs from many lights that use dual charging rates (i.e., starting with a lower current when the cell is heavily depleted). This charge level is reasonable for 18650 cell.

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

I measured the standby current as 0.29 mA. This is a reasonably low standby drain, and it would take over 1 year and 4 months to fully drain the cell. Regardless, I always recommend you lockout the light when not in use, by twisting the tailcap.

Emitter Measures

In this section, I directly measure key emitter characteristics of my sample in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them. As tint in particular can shift across levels, I typically stick with the highest stably regulated level for all my reported measures.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

Doberman Pro on Main3:

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~3890K, and a noticeable positive tint shift (+0.0071 Duv) to yellowy-orange at this temperature. For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 63.

These values are very consistent with the rated specs for the warm white XHP35 HI emitter on my sample, and match my visual experience of this light. The light appears very warm in use.

Beamshots

All outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 0.5 secs exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The bend in the road is approximately 40 meters (~45 yards) from the camera. Learn more about my outdoor beamshots here (scroll down for the floody light position used in this review).

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare beams by switching between tabs.



As you can see above, the Doberman Pro has a relatively throwy beam, with an unusually narrow spillbeam width (due to the unusually deep smooth reflector). Thanks the warm XHP35 HI emitter, beam is quite warm with no obvious chromatic variations.

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

Doberman Pro Testing Results

ModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with BatteryCCT (K)DuvCRI
Main1404545---NoNo1.0 A1.0 A0.29 mA114 g163 g---
Main2120130130---NoNo1.0 A1.0 A0.29 mA114 g163 g---
Main3300330330---NoNo1.0 A1.0 A0.29 mA114 g163 g3,8900.007163
Turbo1,5001,6001,55036,800 cd36,000 cd379 mYes15 KHz1.0 A1.0 A0.29 mA114 g163 g---
Strobe1120-----15 HzNo1.0 A1.0 A0.29 mA114 g163 g---
Strobe21,500-----15 HzNo1.0 A1.0 A0.29 mA114 g163 g---

As usual for Armytek, I find very good concordance between published specs and what my lightbox reports for my sample. Indeed, both my lightbox and NIST-calibrated luxmeter consistently report slightly higher output and beam distance measures than the specs.

To view and download full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

Max

Hi

Med

The runtime results are about what I would expect for a good-quality, current-controlled circuit running a XHP35 HI emitter on 18650. Overall output/runtime efficiency is excellent for the class, comparable to the various modern Nichia offerings shown above. I’m also pleased to see equally good regulation, with this light also showing flat outputs with defined step-downs due to heat or low voltage.

Another example of a good circuit from Armytek!

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Light has excellent output/runtime efficiency for this emitter, at all levels.Turbo steps down fairly quickly, due to heat.
Circuit shows very good regulation, with thermally-mediated or low-voltage step-downs.Number of output levels is limited, and mode spacing may not suit everyone.
Uses an innovative two-stage electronic switch that accurately replicates a forward physical clicky without its limitations.Max output is lower than newer lights featuring higher output emitters.
Very good robust build quality and hand feel, with recoil-protective adaptations (e.g., potted electronics).Magnetic charging dock allows you to charge the battery inside the light, but raises the risk of accidental shorting given the protruding tailcap.
Comes with a lot of extras, and additional "tactical" ones are available for purchase.

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

This is another solid offering from Armytek. Indeed, solid is perhaps a bit of an understatement for the Doberman Pro – this light is designed to be a bomb-proof tactical light, suitable for a weapon mount given its ability to handle recoil without incident.

I am not a tactical guy, so have no real ability to assess its bona fides beyond what I can see from handling it as a flashlight. The extremely deep and smooth reflector – coupled with a HI emitter – does produce excellent throw, with a particularly narrow spillbeam. The warm temperature emitter also produces as a warm a beam pattern as I’ve ever seen on a commercial light.

Fit and finish are excellent, with Armytek’s classic “grippy” thick anodizing. There are plenty of extras included with the light (more than usual in fact), and plenty of extra “tactical” options to choose from as well.

One thing that I find particularly innovative is the two-stage electronic switch. This so accurately replicates a forward clicky switch that I genuinely couldn’t feel the difference – it feels and functions exactly as you’d expect a physical switch would.

I have to give Armytek credit for incorporating a magnetic charging dock on the base, given the protruding switch. But this also increases my concern about accidentally shorting the cell inside – while manageable in practice, I’m not convinced that risk is something you want in a “tactical” light.

The interface also has some quirks to it as well. I appreciate how they have tried to integrate as many options as possible (e.g., Hunting Type mode) while also staying true to a more typically classic tactical interface (i.e., Tactical Type mode with just Turbo and Strobe). But there are still a few too many options (and memory) that could lead you to not always activate in the mode you want.

The beam pattern is distinctive, and I could see this serving well for someone who wanted a throwy light with unusually narrow spill. I’m not qualified to to assess how relevant that is for a firearm carry, but I do find it somewhat limiting for general use.

I’m comfortable giving this light 4 stars, for its overall excellent build and quality, but somewhat limiting interface and emitter/optic choice. As for its suitability for any given task, I’ll leave that to the reader to assess based on the performance results presented above.

Acknowledgement

The Doberman Pro was supplied by Armytek for review. As always, all opinions are my own and the light received the same rigourous and objective testing as all other lights that I have reviewed. At the time of review, this light retails for ~$95 USD (~$125 CDN).

Nitecore P20iX

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

Nitecore is another maker that I am glad to see is still in business upon my return to reviewing. I have reviewed an extensive range of their offerings over the years, and have generally found the quality to be very good, with some innovative approaches. Although there have been some misses (mainly due to pumping out too many new models too quickly, I suspect), there are still a number of Nitecore lights that I use personally.

This is the first of the two relatively compact 1×21700 lights that Nitecore has sent me for review, the P20iX (I see their naming system has remained rather complex). The P series lights have always been generally robust lights with premium quality features. I gather the “i” indicates their custom battery, designed to work with their built-in charger.

Interestingly, the P20iX uses 4x Cree XP-L2 V6 emitters. I remember these emitters from my old reviewing days, and was a bit surprised to see them still in production after all this time. But as I recall, this emitter type was well suited to multi-emitter setups, given their relative efficiency. Let’s see how the light does in my testing.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecs
MakerNitecore
ModelP20iX
Emitter4xXP-L2 V6
Tint-
Max Output (Lumens)4,000
Min Output (Lumens)2
Max Runtime14 days
Max Beam Intensity (cd)12,200 cd
Max Beam Distance (m)221 m
Mode Levels6
FlashingStrobe
Battery1x21700
Weight (w/o battery)116 g
Weight (with battery)-
Length141.5 mm
Head Diameter31.8 mm
Body Diameter28.5 mm
WaterproofIP68 2m

Package Details






In keeping with its premium status, the P20iX comes in a colourfully printed hard cardboard box loaded with information on the light, and a nice bundle of extras inside. Everything is securely packaged (indeed, packaging reminds me of a modern cell phone box). Inside you will find the following:

  • Nitecore P20iX flashlight
  • Nitecore-branded 5000mAh 21700i battery (NL2150HPi)
  • 1×18650/2xCR123A battery holder
  • Tactical belt holster (NTH20)
  • Wrist lanyard
  • Pocket clip
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Spare O-ring
  • Manual

That’s a nice package, including everything you would need for the light. I particularly like seeing the belt holster, as that is always my preferred mode of carry (and very rare to see nowadays). This hard plastic model seems to hold the light securely, and allows for quick grab and release.

Build


From left to right: LiitoKala 21700 (5000mAh), Fenix ARB-L21-5000U 21700 (5000mAh), Sofirm IF25A, Fenix E35 v3, Convoy S21E, Imalent MS03, Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Max, Acebeam E70, Nitecore P20iX, Nitecore MH12SE, Lumintop D3, Convoy M21F.











The P20iX is a bit longer than most flashlights in this class, likely due to the use of an actual forward clicky switch. But it does have a surprisingly narrow head (I’m impressed they managed to fit 4 emitters in there like that). That said, it fits very comfortably in the hand – I don’t find it too long (although I do have large hands).

I fondly remember this tailcap switch arrangement – Nitecore and a couple of other makers have used it in the past. You have a standard protruding forward physical clicky switch as your main switch for on/off operation and signaling, with a recessed secondary MODE electronic switch to cycles modes. This is a very “tactical” style arrangement, but I find it just generally very functional. With the wide use of single electronic switches in most lights now, it feels delightfully old-school to go back to a primary physical clicky. Call me old-fashioned. 😊 Feel and traverse of the main switch is good, for both momentary (half-press) and clicked-on. The secondary switch is electronic, and may be hard to activate if you are using heavy gloves, given its recessed nature.

Note that since the primary switch protrudes, tailstanding is not possible, and accidental activation is easy. So as always, I strongly recommend you keep the light stored locked out at the tailcap when not in use. A simple twist of the tailcap will do the job, thanks to the anodized screw threads. Incidentally, I don’t see any cut-outs anywhere for the wrist lanyard, so I guess you would need to loop it around the clip if you want to use it (personally, I don’t find these lanyards very useful and almost never attach it). The belt clip fits on securely, and comes off without leaving a mark. I believe the clip is intended primary for bezel down carry, but it could be flipped to carry the light the other way.

The body is fairly smooth overall, but has a good number of rings and cutouts to help with grip. Knurling is not very aggressive, which I find a bit surprising for this kind of light – it could be enhanced. Still, overall grip is reasonable, and I didn’t have any issues in my testing. The light can roll, but the flat cut-outs in the head help with this (as would the clip, if you used it).

Anodizing looks to be very good quality, relatively matte in finish. It is advertised as type III (Hard Anodized), and I see no cause to doubt that. I didn’t notice any flaws on my sample.

As you can see above, there is no tailspring in the tailcap (although there is one in the head). Nitecore uses its proprietary i-series battery in this light. I remember previous versions of this battery in my earlier testing – I’ve never been a fan of custom cells, although I understand why went this way in their dual-switch tailcaps. In particular, use of both positive and negative terminals on each end is concerning, even with the plastic spacer feature. You need to be vigilant not to place the batteries end-down on an irregular conductive surface, to avoid a possible short. And do not try to charge these in a standard stand-alone charger, as you are definitely likely to create a short. Again, I appreciate the combined anode/cathode end-plates simplifies things for their built-in charging setup, but I still don’t like these kinds of custom cells.

There is a rubber plug in the head, to cover the integrated USB-C charging port (which fits securely, but without too much resistance). I expect waterproofness to be reasonable, but wouldn’t recommend dunking the light in water.

As always, I find the physical build and robustness of the P-series lights from Nitecore to be very good, and this light is no exception. I really like the bundled MOLLE-compatible holster. Indeed, due to the standard sizes, there are number of accessories from Nitecore you can buy that fit on this light (e.g., diffuser covers, tactical rings, remote switch, weapon mounts, etc.).


I was surprised to see a multi-well reflector setup – most compact multi-emitter lights today use shallow TIR optics to focus/smooth out the beam. Reflector wells are more prone to produce spillbeam artifacts, and there a few here – but they aren’t too bad. There is also some tint shifting from the corona to mid-spillbeam, but again not too bad. It seems Nitecore did put some effort in designing their reflector, and is not just relying on off-the-shelf parts. The 4 XP-L2 emitters were each well centered. The glass lens has a mild AR coating with minimal colour distortion (which I like).

The aluminum bezel has somewhat typical mild crenelations, and a relatively unusual feature – integrated round beads of some sort of high-strength silicon nitride ceramic on the protruding ends. This allows it to be used as a strike bezel, for example to break glass. At the same time, these beads are rounded, so it won’t rip a hole in your clothing (much appreciated, thanks).

There is a small blue LED at the base of the head, which lights up when the light is in use (or charging).

User Interface

The P20iX features Nitecore’s dual user interface (UI) design, which I also recall from a few lights in my earlier reviewing days. Nitecore refers to these as Daily Mode and Tactical Mode.

Switching between them is easy (but not something you are likely to do by accident). Press and hold the MODE button with the tailcap firmly connected, and then slightly unscrew it a little bit without releasing the button (may take a little practice). The light will blink once, confirming the UI change. Then simply tighten the tailcap again.

Simply defined, Daily Mode has 6 constant output levels plus a single strobe. You cycle through the constant output modes in sequence from low to high, and the light has mode memory (except for Turbo, and not for strobe either). Tactical Mode has 4 constant output levels plus strobe. It cycles in the reverse direction from Turbo to low and does not use memory – the light always comes back on in Turbo (or strobe, via the MODE switch).

Let’s start with Daily Mode, then Tactical Mode. Note that the levels are described as: Ultralow, Low, Mid, High, Higher, Turbo, and Strobe.

Daily Mode, from OFF:

  • Partial depress Main switch: Momentary On
  • Single-click Main switch: Turns On in last memorized mode used
  • Press-and-hold MODE switch: Momentary Strobe

Daily Mode, from ON:

  • Single-click Main switch: Turns Off
  • Press-and-hold MODE switch: Momentary Turbo
  • Single-click MODE switch: Advance up to the next level
  • Double-click: Advance up two levels
  • Triple-click MODE switch: Strobe

Tactical Mode, from OFF:

  • Partial depress Main switch: Momentary On
  • Single-click Main switch: Turbo (no memory)
  • Press-and-hold MODE switch: Momentary Strobe

Tactical Mode, from ON:

  • Single-click Main switch: Turns Off
  • Press-and-hold MODE switch: Strobe (no memory)
  • Single-click MODE switch: Move down to lower level

Short-cuts:

  • To Turbo: In Tactical Mode only, the Main switch goes right to Turbo
  • To Strobe: In either Daily or Tactical Mode, from Off the Mode switch activates Momentary Strobe

Mode memory:

Yes, but only in Daily Mode, for constant output levels (not Strobe).

Strobe/Blinking modes:

Yes, but a single Strobe only.

Low voltage warning:

Yes. There is a power LED indicator at the base of the head that remains lit while the flashlight is in use.

Lock-out mode:

Yes, but only by physically locking out the light at the tailcap.

Temperature regulation control:

Yes. This light features Nitecore’s proprietary “Advanced Temperature Regulation” (ATR) control. It should keep the temperature within a reasonable range.

Reviewer Comments:

This is reasonable dual-mode interface, with a number of options. Personally, I like Daily Mode with its memory feature (although I would prefer to customize the secondary switch for Turbo instead of Strobe). But there is always the Tactical Mode (without the memory). Both are reasonable under the circumstances.

And I do like the physical forward clicky as the main switch – call me old-school.

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

There is no sign of PWM on any level, the circuit appears to be fully current-controlled.

It’s actually refreshing to see absolutely no sign of any high-frequency circuit noise (even if it isn’t visible to the eye, it is something that I’m seeing more commonly on modern lights). Glad to see its absence here.

Ultra Lo:
Ultra Lo

Lo:
Lo

Med:
Med

Higher:
Hir

Higher:
Higher

Turbo:
Turbo

Looking good!

Strobe:
Strobe

Tactical strobe is a fast tactical 13.9 Hz, very disorienting.

Charging:

The P20iX uses a single-current charging feature, with a very fast-charging 2.0A rate. I normally like to see a two-stage charging implementation, but I trust Nitrecore knows what it is doing here (it is actually hard to full drain the cell, given the automatic step- and shut-down .

Note that due to the proprietary nature of the battery cell, I do NOT recommend you try charging the cell in a standard stand-alone charger. It would be too easy to accidentally short the battery.

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

I measured the standby current as 33.2 uA, which is completely negligible and not a concern (i.e., it would take many years to fully drain the cell). Regardless, I always recommend you lock the light out when not in use to prevent accidental activation (and cut any standby drain). A single twist of the tailcap will lock out this light, thanks to the anodized screw threads.

Emitter Measures

This section is a new feature of my reviews, where I directly measure key emitter characteristics in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~5860K, and the slightly positive tint shift (+0.0093 Duv) to yellow-green at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 70.

These values are very consistent with cool white XP-L2 emitters, and match my visual experience of this light.

Beamshots

All outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 0.5 secs exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The bend in the road is approximately 40 meters (~45 yards) from the camera. Learn more about my outdoor beamshots here (scroll down for the floody light position used in this review).

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare beams by switching between tabs.



As you can see above, the beam pattern for P20iX is very much on the floody side, without a lot of dedicated throw.

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

P20iX Testing Results

ModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with Battery
Ultralow21.71.7---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g
Low508080---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g
Mid300390380---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g
High8501,1501,100---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g
Higher1,7002,3002,250---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g
Turbo4,0005,1001,05016,440 cd15,510/3,270 cd249/114 mNoNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g
Strobe4,000-----13.9 HzNo2.0 A2.0 A33.2 uA115 g191 g

I think it would be too much of a stretch to consider ~1.7 lumens as Moonlight, but it is quite low, and reasonable enough in the dark. I am glad to see the P20iX perform close to spec, and to include this “Ultralow” level.

To see full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

P20iX-Max

P20iX-Hi

P20iX-Med

Those XP-L2 V6 emitters are clearly very efficient – output/runtime efficiency is right on par with the best-in-class I’ve tested to date. That’s an impressive finding for a multi-emitter setup.

The P20iX also has excellent regulation, with flat and table runtimes. It is only on the Higher level that there is a gradual and slight uptick in output before the light steps down.

Let’s take a closer look at the first few minutes of the High, Higher, and Turbo runs, since this reveals what really differentiates these levels:

P20iX-Max

Basically, Turbo starts at ~5100 lumens and rapidly steps down to the ~1000 lumen Hi level by ~30 secs, whereas Higher starts at ~2300 lumens and gets to ~1100 lumens slowly (i.e., starts to ramp down after 1 min, reaching that lower level by ~3.5 mins). Basically, Turbo and Hi are indistinguishable outside of those first 30 secs, and Higher is just marginally brighter after its step-down.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Light has excellent output/runtime efficiency, at all levelsTurbo and Higher modes both step down to the Hi level fairly quickly, due to heat.
Circuit shows good regulation, with thermally-mediated step-downs on Turbo/HigherLight uses a proprietary Nitecore battery
Uses a dual switch design, with the option of two Mode setsLacks a true Moonlight mode, but has a very good "Ultra-low" level
Very good build quality and hand feel.

A neutral comment would be that the four emitters in such a small head produce a relatively floody beam. The reflectors are surprisingly good at minimizing artifacts (but there are some).

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

This light has helped changed my mind about multi-emitter setups with reflectors instead of optics. In my previous reviewing life, these reflectors typically produced way too many spillbeam artifacts for my taste. So I’m surprised to see how well they function in such a small head here.

But that brings up another point – I was also surprised to see such a tiny head for a multi-emitter light, since I know that means significant step-downs due to thermal management are inevitable. And that is exactly what you see here. Effectively, Turbo, Higher and High are all basically the same ~1000 lumen level over the course of their runs, after the initial thermal step-downs.

Mind you that is not a problem per se – it is just basic thermodynamics, and Nitecore has clearly done a good job with their thermal regulation control. But it does mean that mode spacing is not quite as diverse as it appears from the specs (or my ANSI FL-1 testing results). It’s possible that people may be disappointed if they buy the light based on specs alone. For this reason, I’m inclined to knock off half a star.

That said, it is certainly an excellent performer, as you can see from the runtime graphs above. Nitecore has done a very good job with the circuit, and I have no complaints with performance.

User interface is always a very personal affair, and I think Nitecore has struck a good balance here with the dual Mode sets. I don’t find either set to be “perfect” for my preferences, but both are very reasonable. There is no way to please everyone – it all comes down to what you like. And as I’ve said multiple times above, I realize just how much I like a physical forward clicky as the main switch.

The in-light charging feature worked well, and charges the battery rapidly. I’m not crazy about Nitecore’s proprietary 21700 cell however. While I can understand why they went this way given the tailcap secondary switch, it seems a bit out-of-step with the norm today (i.e., the ability to use standard batteries for lights with the electronics in the head). I’d knock another half-star off on this front – although again, this is the price you pay for the dual tailcap.

All that said, this is an excellent performer, and one with great build quality. A strong contender in the class, and one well worth looking at.

Acknowledgement

The P20iX was provided for review by Nitecore. All opinions are my own however, and the light received the same rigourous and objective testing as all other lights that I have reviewed. At the time of review, this light retails for ~$120 USD (~$170 CDN).

Convoy M21F

The M21F is a general-purpose style flashlight, with moderately high output and reasonable throw, running on a single 21700 battery. Features a decent user interface and good current-controlled circuitry.

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

Upon my recent return to reviewing, the compact 1×21700 Convoy S21E was my first foray into budget models. That light was my first experience of this maker, which was very positive. So I decide to pick up their larger, budget thrower in this 1×21700 class, the M21F.

At the time when I ordered this sample, there was an option for the Luminus SFT40 or Osram CULNM1.TG emitters (both suitable for maximum throw), or the higher output Cree XHP70.2 – with all emitters available in a variety of colour temperatures. Although I expect the SFT40 and Osram emitters would do well in this build, I decided to go for the maximum output to see how it compares to other XHP70.2 lights.

I note this light is now available with the XHP70.3 HI emitter, which might be a good compromise to consider (i.e., greater throw and less chromatic variation for a little less overall output).

Anyway, let’s see how this XHP70.2 version performs in my testing.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecs
MakerConvoy
ModelM21F
EmitterXHP70.2
Tint6500K
Max Output (Lumens)4,000
Min Output (Lumens)-
Max Runtime-
Max Beam Intensity (cd)-
Max Beam Distance (m)-
Mode Levels5 + Ramp
FlashingStrobe
Battery1x21700
Weight (w/o battery)145 g
Weight (with battery)210 g
Length143.8 mm
Head Diameter40 mm
Body Diameter27.5 mm
WaterproofIPX4

Package Details

(edited) 20221229_103547

Like the S21E, the M21F is shipped in a simple cheap cardboard box, wrapped in thin bubble wrap. Inside, you will find the following:

  • Convoy S21E with a thin wrist lanyard, also attached
  • If you buy the version with a battery included, a thin filter pad is included to block contact during shipping

And that’s it. There is no manual or instruction sheet, so you’ll need to check out reviews like this to learn how it works and what all the features are. Minimalist to be sure, in keeping with the price.

Build

20230402_162025
From left to right: LiitoKala 21700 (5000mAh), Fenix ARB-L21-5000U 21700 (5000mAh), Sofirm IF25A, Fenix E35 v3, Convoy S21E, Imalent MS03, Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Max, Acebeam E70, Nitecore P20iX, Nitecore MH12SE, Lumintop D3, Convoy M21F.

(edited) 20221229_104102
20221229_104050
20221229_104034
(edited) 20221229_103936
(edited) 20221229_103608
(edited) 20221229_103626
20221229_104241
20221229_104214
(edited) 20221229_103753
(edited) 20221229_103811

The M21F is larger than its compact S21E cousin, a more “typical” size for a general purpose thrower light. It look more polished and substantial than the S21E.

The electronic switch is more refined here, with a small button with rubberized grip with an integrated clear ring (that shows charging status), along with a stylish blue bezel ring. Button feel is good, with a defined click. There are dim couloured LEDs under the switch which can produce a red, orange or green colour during charging. A more sophisticated implementation than the S21E build for sure (but see below, for my charging experience).

There is a small raised post on the positive contact terminal in the head, so flat top cells can easily be used. Tailcap is flat with a standard spring and retaining ring. Note that like my first S21E sample, the silver-coloured spring included here is fairly stiff, and resulted in some denting of the positive terminal of the battery. I know these springs were replaced with softer gold-coloured ones on later S21E editions.

There is an integrated USB-C charging port on the head of the light, across from the switch, under an attached rubber cover. Cover fits well enough to make me think the light is fairly water-resistant.

The light doesn’t have knurling per se, but rather a series of deep cut-outs with concentric circle “reeling.” I found grip to be pretty good on this model, as the reeling is deeper and more aggressive – better than on the thinner S21E body. The larger head, with cut-out fins, also helps with grip. Wrist lanyard is pretty cheap, and introduces a slight tailstand wobble the way it is attached be default – I recommend you re-thread it to the side cutouts on the tailcap (which is presumably why they are there, to prevent interference with tailstanding).

The light has a distinctive gun-metal blue annodizing, in a satin finish. Anodizing looks to be decent quality, although there are a few small chips on some of the raised reeling rings on the body tube on my sample (making me thing this is indeed type II annodizing, as is common on budget lights). Tailcap screw threads are square-cut and anodized, so you can lock out the light by a twist of the tailcap. Screw threads on the head are not anodized (and don’t need to be).

Any regular-sized 21700 cell (without an integrated USB-C charger) should fit and work in the light. You are best sticking with flat-top cells though, as longer cells (i.e., with a button top) would likely be too tight given the strong tail spring.

A solid build with good hand feel, it certainly feels like a higher-end budget build.

20221229_104007
20221229_104019
(edited) 20221229_104141

The XHP70.2 version here comes with a heavily textured reflector (I believe the SFT40 version comes with a smooth reflector). Reflector is quite deep, which should provide good throw.

The mineral glass lens has a light greenish AR coating, which I prefer. Bezel is stainless steel with crenelations. Not overly aggressive, but I’m sure it would hurt if you were hit with it.

I’m not doing white wall beamshots any more, but I did notice a rather yellowish corona around the hotspot, progressing well into the mid-spillbeam range on my sample. You see it even in the simple desktop shot above. In practice though, it is really only noticeable on a white wall though. This is a common occurrence with XHP70.2 emitters.

User Interface

The M21F has the exact same user interface that I described on the S21E. It has a choice of two distinct multiple-output mode sets you can select: one with a smooth ramp in output from min to max, and one with four discrete steps (1%, 10%, 40%, 100%/Turbo) plus a 0.2%/Moonlight level. Also available is a “Tactical” mode which only has the Turbo level. A strobe mode is also available, along with some other bonus features.

From OFF:

  • Press-and-hold: Moonlight
  • Single-click: Turns on to the memorized brightness level
  • Double-click: Turbo
  • Triple-click: Strobe
  • 4 clicks: set to Tactical mode (i.e., only momentary 100% brightness)
  • 5 clicks: Voltage check. The light will blink out the voltage to one decimal place, first by the main volt, then by the decimal point (e.g., 3 blinks, a pause, and five more blinks would mean 3.5V).
  • 6 clicks: Switch between ramping mode and stepped mode
  • 10 clicks: Electronic lock out. Click for another 10 times to re-activate the light. Note that I suggest you simply lock the light out by a twist of the tailcap instead.

From ON:

  • Press-and-hold (in Ramping mode set): Ramp up to 100%/Turbo. Press-and-hold again to ramp down to 0.2%/Moonlight. Release at any time to select the desired level. Note that when you restart the ramp after selecting a level, it reverses direction on the next press and hold.
  • Press-and-hold (in Stepped mode set): Step up to next level (4 main levels on the sequence, Moonlight is not on the main sequence). Press-and-hold again to step down in levels.
  • Single-click: Off
  • Double-click: Turbo
  • 3 clicks: Strobe
  • 5 clicks: Voltage check
  • 6 clicks: Switch between ramping mode and stepped mode

Shortcuts:

  • To Moonlight: Press-and-hold from off
  • To Turbo: Double-click from any mode except Tactical
  • To Strobe: Triple-click from any mode except Tactical

Mode memory:

Yes. The M21F will memorize any brightness level except for Moonlight and Strobe.

Low voltage warning:

Yes. The light will drop down to ~1% output and the switch surround will blink red before eventually shutting off at ~3V. Note that it can run for a very long time at this level before shutting down.

Reviewer Comments:

As before, I find this to be a very decent and versatile interface – easy to use, but with a decent number of options. Hand the light to someone, and it wouldn’t take them long to get used to it, the modes make a lot of sense. Switching between ramping and stepped mode sets is a bit peculiar with the six clicks, but it’s not something you will want to switch between often anyway.

Note that the Turbo mode steps down automatically after a period of time (scroll down for runtimes). And while I’m glad to see the extra ultra-low mode here, it is not actually low enough to be what I would consider a true Moonlight (see Testing Results for more info).

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

There is no sign of PWM at any level – the light appears to be current-controlled. However, I did detect a faint oscillating noise pattern on two of the discrete levels, 10% and 40%, but not on the 1% or Turbo levels.

Step 40%
M21F-40

Step 10%
M21F-10

Step 1%
M21F-1

The frequency was 1 kHz on the 10/40% levels, and this is not visible in actual use. I am simply including the scope readings for completeness.

Strobe:

Strobe
M21F-Strobe

Strobe frequency is a fast 10.1 Hz, the same as the S21E.

Charging:
(edited) 20230420_193744
M21F-charging1

The M21F has a single high-current charging rate of ~2.1A.

I normally like a two-stage charging feature (i.e., with a lower charging rate for when cells are heavily discharged). But the M21F’s output drops down to a super low mode when the battery is running low, and big red button flashes incessantly, warning you to shut down. In fact, it is actually very hard to get the cell below ~3.0V in this light . As such, this is reasonable compromise to stick with a single high charging rate integrated charger.

There was an issue with the charging feature on my sample. The charger would never go green, even with >12 hours plugged in. It progressed from red to orange as the battery charged, but the cell would always max out at ~4.12V, according to my voltmeter. It seems the integrated charger won’t go any higher on my sample. I tried other batteries, and the effect was the same – the charger terminates at ~4.12V, leaving the battery not quite fully charged (and the charging LED showing charge still in progress). I suspect this is just a quirk of my one sample

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

I measured the standby current at a negligible 39.5 uA on my sample.

This is nice and ultra-low standby current, and is not a concern for draining the cells. However, I always suggest you lock the light out when not in use to prevent accidental activation (and cut the negligible standby drain in this case). A single twist of the tail will lock out this light, thanks to the anodized screw threads.

Emitter Measures

This section is a new feature of my reviews, where I directly measure key emitter characteristics in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~6725K, and the very slight positive tint shift (+0.0036 Duv) to green at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 76.

These values are consistent with a cool white XHP70.2 emitter, and match my visual experience of this light.

Beamshots

All outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 0.5 secs exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The bend in the road is approximately 40 meters (~45 yards) from the camera. Learn more about my outdoor beamshots here (scroll down for the floody light position used in this review).

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare beams by switching between tabs.



The beam pattern is good, with a nice mix of throw and spill (and the mild colour distortion around the hotspot is not noticeable in actual use outdoors). I would be curious to see how far it throws with a smooth reflector and smaller emitter.

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

M21F Testing Results

ModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with Battery
Moon 0.2%-1919---NoNo2.1 A2.1 A39.5 uA150 g219 g
1%-3636---NoNo2.1 A2.1 A39.5 uA150 g219 g
10%-445445---No0.99 kHz2.1 A2.1 A39.5 uA150 g219 g
40%-1,1001,100---No0.99 kHz2.1 A2.1 A39.5 uA150 g219 g
Turbo 100%4,0003,1003,00020,200 cd19,400 cd279 mNoNo2.1 A2.1 A39.5 uA150 g219 g
Strobe------10.0 Hz10.0 Hz2.1 A2.1 A39.5 uA150 g219 g

Max output is much lower than the claimed specs (which I expect are theoretical “emitter lumens” and not actual ANSI FL-1 output lumens). The lowest mode is closer to 0.5%, so there no “Moon” mode here, just a reasonable low.

The M21F is also the second heaviest light in my line-up above. The larger mass should help with managing heat dissipation.

To see full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

MS03-Max

MS03-Hi

M212F-Med

As you can see above, the M21F is very well regulated, with very flat output at all levels tested.

Overall efficiency is excellent, pretty much exactly on par with the much more expensive Acebeam E70 (which also uses the XHP70.2). Convoy is obviously sourcing excellent circuit components.

Here is a blow-up for the first few mins of runtime on Turbo, so you can see the step-down more clearly in comparison to the other lights:

M21F-Max-extended

It is a good implementation of a step-down feature on Turbo, with a nice steady ramp down to the intermediate ~1700 lumen level beginning after 4 mins on max. I suspect the larger thermal mass is helping here.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Excellent output/runtime efficiency and regulation, on par with much more expensive brands.Even with the textured reflector, beam shows a lot of colour variation in the corona and mid-spillbeam with this XHP70.2 emitter.
Decent beam profile with this emitter. However, this build is probably best suited to a smaller die emitter for maximum throw (or the newer XHP70.3 HI option).Charger on my sample never goes green, (always shows as charging). Max charged battery voltage is only ~4.12V.
Good hand feel, with decent grip and nice implementation of an electronic switch.My sample came with a dented positive terminal on the battery, similar to my early S21E model (corrected on that series over time).
A very decent user interface, intuitive yet with a good number of options.Lacks a Moonlight mode, and max output is well below stated specs (but still reasonable for the class).

Another minor issue I noted is the ramping speed is rather quick. But given how few lights actually give you a choice of a continuous ramp option, this is hardly a complaint!

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

The M21F shows all the best characteristics of the S21E, in a more substantial build. It definitely has a more “classy” look and feel, and I particularly like the implementation of electronic switch on this model. A pity that the charger on my sample seems to terminate early, but I suspect that is an odd quirk of this one sample.

Circuit performance – in terms of regulation pattern and output/runtime efficiency – is excellent, on par with more expensive current-controlled lights. As before, I find the discrete levels are not really well spaced – but you always have the ramping mode available instead. And again, “Moonlight 0.2%” is really just a low mode (but to be honest, I’m not really looking for Moonlight in a thrower build).

Also as before, there are some minor issues I noticed on my sample, in keeping with the budget price. None of these are deal-breakers for me, but it does mean the light tops out at 4 stars in my view. The larger thermal mass here is definitely helpful though, in terms of supporting greater output for as long as possible.

Although it was good to be able to gauge max output performance with the XHP70.2 emitter, I regret not having the chance test the throw of one of the smaller profile emitters, like the SFT40. Given that the compact 1×21700 lights typically do a great job serving as general purpose lights, most people probably want to go with maximum throw on this build – especially given that deep reflector. And so, given the new XHP70.3 HI option available now, I think that is a great option to consider in this build.

Certainly a lot of good choices to consider in this budget thrower build!

Acknowledgement

The M21F was personally purchased from the Convoy store on Aliexpress in the fall of 2022. At the time of review, this light retails for ~$40 USD (~$60 CDN) with a bundled battery (and depending on emitter chosen).

Acebeam E70 Mini

The E70 Mini is a compact every-day-carry style flashlight, with excellent colour rendition, running on an included single 18650 battery. Features a rakish looking design typically associated with custom lights.

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

Following on my review of the E70, this Mini version is the smaller 18650-based model that features 3x Hi CRI Nichia 519A emitters. It really is a miniature version of the same build, right down to the custom 18650 battery with built-in UBC-C charging port.

I had planned to focus on the newer 1×21700 class for these first new reviews, but I couldn’t resist this Mini model once I heard about those 3x Nichia 519A emitters. I figured that was worth a look. Let’s see how it compares.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecs
MakerAcebeam
ModelE70 Mini
Emitter3xNichia 519A
Tint5000K (Hi CRI>90)
Max Output (Lumens)2,000
Min Output (Lumens)12
Max Runtime100 hrs
Max Beam Intensity (cd)5,875 cd
Max Beam Distance (m)153 m
Mode Levels6
FlashingStrobe
Battery1x18650
Weight (w/o battery)72 g
Weight (with battery)120 g
Length111 mm
Head Diameter26 mm
Body Diameter23.4 mm
WaterproofIP68 2m

Package Details

20221012_094508
20221012_094450
20221012_094618

The E70 Mini is shipped in the same kind of cardboard display box as the E70. Inside, you will find the following:

  • Acebeam E70 Mini flashlight, with attached clip (Torx screws)
  • Lanyard
  • Pouch
  • 18650 battery
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Extra o-rings
  • Warranty card,
  • Manual

It’s a good package of accessories, identical to its larger sibling.

Build

20230402_162334
From left to right: ArmyTek 18650 (3500mAh), Acebeam 18650 (3100mAh), Armytek Wizard Pro Nichia (18650), Acebeam E70 Mini (18650), Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Max (21700), Acebeam E70 (21700), Fenix E35 v3 (21700), Convoy S21E (21700).

20221012_132955
20221012_133009
20221012_132906
20221012_094842
20221012_094827
20221012_094811
20221012_094918

This is a compact version of the E70 in every way – shorter, thinner, and quite a bit lighter.

As with its larger sibling, the E70 Mini is double-walled, with the inner wall an electric blue colour (visible through the slanted cut-outs along the outside wall). While the extra wall thickness and larger head make this light a little larger than most in the 1×18650 class, it is more compact that the typical 1×21700 light.

The rear switch is electronic in nature, with a stainless steel switch cover. Feel and traverse of the switch is good, and easy to activate even if you don’t hit it dead-on. Thanks to the raised tail cut-outs, the light can still tailstand stably. I found the design and interface very easy to use in my testing.

The light lacks traditional knurling, but the cut-outs in the exterior wall produce the same basic effect, along with circular indents on the head. A very rakish design. Note that this double-walled design does produce a certain “hollow” feel when you tap on it, but that’s a minor point.

The pocket clip is firmly attached, and helps further with grip. It is not reversible, and can only be used for downward carry.

Hard anodizing looks to be good quality (as is typical for Acebeam), and is more on the matte side (which I personally prefer, not a fan of glossy lights). Threads are anodized, so you can lock out the light by a twist of the head.

The light lacks a USB-C charging port on the body, but there is one built into the bundled 18650 battery. There is a charging LED on the battery. Note that given the extra length of these batteries, you may have issues with older style ones making good contact (especially flat-top designs). But all of my old button-top 18650s work just fine in this light, so I think that risk is negligible.

20221012_094655
20221012_094731
20221012_133832

The light uses 3x Nichia 519A 5000K (Hi CRI >90) emitters, under a triple TIR optic. This produces a very nice neutral white tint with excellent colour rendition. Beam pattern is somewhat spot-like, with a fainter spillbeam (scroll down for beamshots). It’s a surprisingly smooth and even spotbeam, with relatively mild artifacts only around the edge of the dimmer spillbeam. There is none of the tint shifting I noticed on the larger E70 (due to its XHP70.2 emitter and lens AR coating).

The bezel has small scalloped crenelations on it, so you can tell if the light is on when head-standing. I haven’t tried using it as a weapon, but I imagine it would be unpleasant to be struck with the business end of this light.

Overall, I find this to be a good looking light with very good ergonomics and a good beam pattern. It fits comfortably in the hand.

User Interface

The E70 Mini uses a single tail-mounted electronic switch to control the flashlight. Available constant output modes, as per the manufacturer labels, are: Ultralow (which I will refer to as Moonlight throughout this review), Low, Med1, Med2, Hi, Turbo. There is one blinking mode outside the main sequence: Strobe. User interface is identical to the E70.

From OFF:

  • Press and hold: Moonlight (release after light activates to maintain Moonlight)
  • Single click: Nothing
  • Double click: Turns on in last mode used
  • Triple click: Strobe
  • 5 clicks: Activates lockout mode. Note the light will activate in Moonlight for ~3 secs, then flash three times, turn off and lock itself out. Press and hold 3 secs to disable lockout (or loosen-tighten the tailcap)

From ON:

  • Press and hold: Cycles through all the modes from Low to High (note that Turbo and Moonlight are not part of the main cycle)
  • Double click: Turbo (and a repeated double-click returns you to the previously used mode)
  • Triple click: Strobe

Shortcuts:

  • To Turbo: Double click from On to enter Turbo (or double-click twice from Off)
  • To Moonlight: Press and hold from Off
  • To Strobe: Triple-click from either On or Off
  • To Lockout: Press and hold the switch for more than 5 secs. Press and hold 3 secs to disable (or loosen-tighten the tailcap)

Mode memory:

Yes. The light remembers the last constant output used, and returns to it next time you turn on it (with the exception of Moonlight and Turbo).

Low battery warning:

No.

Reviewer Comments:

As before, I find this to be a decent enough interface, except for the need to double-click to turn on. Still, it isn’t too hard to remember this little quirk, and the worst thing that will happen is the light won’t come in with a single click (although you are forgoing the option of an extra shortcut this way). Alternatively, a press and hold will activate in Moonlight, and you can always cycle through to the main modes from there.

Note that Turbo requires a double click to enter (and only from On), and ramps down automatically after about a min or so (scroll down for runtimes). But see below for my comments on the new “Ultralow” mode that has replaced Moonlight on this model (see Testing Results for more info).

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

E70Mini-Lo

As before, there is no sign of PWM or circuit noise at any level. The light appears to be fully constant-current controlled. 🙂

Strobe:

E70Mini-Strobe

Strobe frequency is a fast 9.9 Hz. Fairly disorienting.

Charging:
20221012_095043

Resting voltage <3.0V
E70Mini-charging1

Resting voltage >3.0V
E70Mini-charging2

The Acebeam 21700 battery shows an initial low USB-C charging current of 0.08A when the cell is heavily depleted (<3.0V resting), which jumps up to 1.1A once the cell is >3.0V resting. This two-current charging is a good design, and indicates a safe integrated charging circuit. The max charging rate is also very reasonable for a 186500 battery (better than the lower current E70 model).

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

I have recently re-tested the standby current with an improved setup, and measured 59 uA.

This is quite low, and not a concern in practice (i.e., it would take 6 years to fully drain the battery). Still, I suggest you lock the light out when not in use to prevent accidental activation and completely cut this standby drain. A single twist of the head will lock out this light, thanks to the anodized screw threads.

Emitter Measures

This section is a new feature of my reviews, where I directly measure key emitter characteristics in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~4460K, and the moderately negative tint shift (-0.0053 Duv) to rose at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 95.

These values seem reasonable for neutral-white tinted Nichia 519A emitters (which tend toward negative Duvs in my experience), and match my visual experience of this light.

To give you an idea of the range across output levels, I measured Turbo mode as a CCT of ~4600K which dropped consistently down to the Ultralow mode of ~4400K. Duvs fluctuated mainly from -0.0053 to -0.0065 with no real pattern (with an unusually low reading of -0.0075 on Turbo).

Beamshots

All outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 0.5 secs exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The bend in the road is approximately 40 meters (~45 yards) from the camera. Learn more about my outdoor beamshots here (scroll down for the floody light position used in this review).

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare beams by switching between tabs.



Here is an earlier pic I did last fall, of the larger model E70 in this location:

It is an interesting beam pattern; a very even spotbeam effect, with dimmer secondary spill. I find I quite like it. You can’t really notice the mild multi-emitter artifacts in the spillbeam in practice.

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

E70 Mini Testing Results

ModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with Battery
Ultralow121414---NoNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g
Low608585---NoNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g
Med1170240240---NoNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g
Med2380440430---NoNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g
High900-6001,000950---NoNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g
Turbo2,000-6002,3002,1506,020 cd5,670 cd151 mNoNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g
Strobe1,000-----9.9 HzNo0.08 A1.1 A1.39 mA71 g124 g

While the output levels are generally pretty well spaced, I’m disappointed to see the lack of a true Moonlight mode now (i.e., the “Ultralow” minimum output mode is much higher than Moonlight on the E70 model). I’m guessing they weren’t able to produce a true moonlight with the multiple emitter setup (i.e., there’s probably a boost driver in there now, which can help for runtime and regulation, but which can also limit both high and low levels).

At 71g/124g (without/with battery), the E70 Mini is noticeably lighter than the E70, which weighed in at 101g/175g in my testing.

To see full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

18650-Max

18650-Hi

18650-Med

And here’s a blow-up of the first few mins of the E70 Mini on Turbo/Hi, so you can see the initial Turbo step-down better.

18650-Max

The E70 Mini shows very good efficiency and regulation at all levels tested, consistent with its sibling and other good current-controlled circuits. It also seems to accurately step-down (at Turbo/Hi) to a ~600 lumen level after a certain period of time (i.e., 1 min and 21.5 mins, respectively).

The use of multiple 519A emitters appear to be a bit less efficient than the single Nichia 144AR in the competing Armytek Wizard Pro Nichia, but its hard to say for certain given the larger battery capacity of that light. Regardless, this is very good performance on the E70 Mini.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Very good current-controlled efficiency, with stable regulation in all modes.Double-click to turn on is unusual, but easy enough to remember.
Multiple Hi CRI emitters, with a very clean beam.Standby drain higher than typical, leading to a rapid draining of the battery.
Compact and comfortable to hold in the hand.Lacks a true Moonlight mode now.
Included high-capacity battery with USB-C charging port.

In comparison to the E70, the smaller size here is likely to be a plus for many. Both lights have great beams for their classes, but I prefer the E70 Mini for its neutral tint and lack of the spillbeam tint shifing. But the E70 Mini unfortunately lacks the Moonlight mode now.

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

I was initially hoping this light would actually would go up in rating from my E70 review, given some of the relative benefits here – namely the more compact size, higher charge rate, and improved beam pattern with higher CRI. But the lack of a true Moonlight mode now (or even a really low low) really knocks down the value of this light as an all-purpose EDC (i.e., every day carry).

The beam pattern is distinctive, with its defined spot and dimmer spillbeam. It is frankly lovely, as there are (impressively) no artifacts in the spotbeam, and a very even tint throughout. A great job on the spotbeam TIR optic – I see these have come a long way from my earlier reviewing days. And the ~5000K is right up my alley for a preferred colour temperature.

Everything else about this light is consistent with my review of the E70. I find it to be a great looking light, and it is very comfortable to hold and operate. Another improvement over the E70 is the faster charge rate of the bundled 18650 cell, in keeping with most chargers of this class.

Another great light to consider in the rechargeable compact class of modern flashlights. If it weren’t for the missing Moonlight mode (less than optimal UI) this would be a 5 star light.

UPDATE May 11, 20223: I originally reported an unusually high parasitic standby drain on my sample, as I was getting inconsistent readings and so went with the highest value. I’ve upgraded my DMM leads and more carefully masked off the surfaces, and am pleased to report much more reasonable (and inconsequential) drain levels consistent with the competition.

Acknowledgement

The E70 Mini was provided for review by Acebeam. All opinions are my own however, and the light received the same rigourous and objective testing as all other lights that I have reviewed. At the time of review, this light retails for ~$70 USD (~$105 CDN).

Acebeam is making available a discount code for readers of my reviews. If you purchase the light from the Acebeam.com website, you can use the code “selfbuilt” (without the quotation marks) for 10% off.

Imalent MS03

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

When I saw the specs for this light, I couldn’t quite believe it – 13,000 lumens on a single cell? Although that is theoretically possible with 3x Cree XHP70.2 LEDs, it wouldn’t likely last for long in a compact 1×21700 light.

But Imalent has pushed the envelope before with some distinctive and unusual lights, so I was willing to give this one a shot. Let’s see how it does in my testing.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecs
MakerImalent
ModelMS03
Emitter3xXHP70.2
Tint-
Max Output (Lumens)13,000
Min Output (Lumens)150
Max Runtime27 hrs
Max Beam Intensity (cd)26,320 cd
Max Beam Distance (m)324 m
Mode Levels6
Flashing-
Battery1x21700
Weight (w/o battery)117 g
Weight (with battery)-
Length110 mm
Head Diameter36 mm
Body Diameter27 mm
WaterproofIPX-8 2m

Package Details

20220927_133107
20220927_133127
20220927_133445-2
20220927_133445

The MS03 box has a good number of labels, describing everything you are getting and what to expect. Inside the stiff cardboard box with closing flap you will find the following:

  • Imalent MS03 flashlight
  • Imalent 21700 4000mAh high-drain battery
  • Pocket clip
  • Lanyard
  • Holster
  • USB-C Charging cable
  • 2 Spare O-rings

It’s a nice package, with everything you need to use the light. I’m particular glad to see the belt holster, since those are very rare nowadays. Note that you need to use the bundled high-drain 21700 battery if you want to be able to access the highest modes.

Build

20230402_162025
From left to right: LiitoKala 21700 (5000mAh), Fenix ARB-L21-5000U 21700 (5000mAh), Sofirm IF25A, Fenix E35 v3, Convoy S21E, Imalent MS03, Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Max, Acebeam E70, Nitecore P20iX, Nitecore MH12SE, Lumintop D3, Convoy M21F.

20220927_133617
20220927_133629
20220927_133605
20220927_133840
20220927_133855
20220927_135737
20220927_133925

The MS03 is smaller than than I expected – as you can tell from the pics above, it is quite short (the second shortest 1×21700 I’ve tested so far). The head is a bit wider than typical, but that’s not surprising given the 3x XHP70.2 emitters in there.

There is a side-mounted electronic switch on the side of the light near the head, with a stainless steel switch cover. Feel and traverse of the switch is good, and easy to activate (i.e., works even if you don’t hit it straight-on). User interface is very straightforward (scroll down for details). Note that it wouldn’t be hard to accidentally activate the light, so I strongly recommend you keep the light stored locked out at the tailcap. A simple twist of the tailcap will do the job, thanks to the anodized screw threads. And thanks to the flat tailcap, the light can tailstand stably.

The knurling on the body is not very aggressive at all, but with the various rings and cut-outs on the head, overall grip is reasonable. I recommend you attach the pocket clip to further help with grip. The clip is not reversible, and can only be used for head-up carry. Note that the clip doesn’t hold on as tightly as most others I’ve used, so I wouldn’t want to trust it for belt carry – use the holster for that.

Anodizing looks to be good quality, relatively satin black finish. I didn’t notice any flaws on my sample, but I’m not sure if Imalent anodizing is quite as hard as some other makers. One thing I like about the light is the square-cut screw threads – always a nice touch.

The light lacks a USB-C charging port on the body, but there is one built into the bundled high-drain battery. The light is remarkably compact given the length of the cell (due to its integrated USB-C charging port). There is a charging LED on the battery. Note there is a reverse-polarity detection feature in the head, so only button cells will work in the light (but I recommend you stick with the bundled high-drain cell for performance reasons). Also, given the relatively short body length and anodized screw threads, other brands of high-capacity 21700 batteries with USB-C integrated chargers are likely to be too long to fit and work in the light.

I would note that the tailcap spring is very robust, and has caused some minor denting of the bottom battery cell plate. According to Imalent, this robust spring is unavoidable due to the high currents involved.

The light weighed in at 120g without battery in my testing (192g with the included cell). Note that this makes the MS03 the third heaviest light in my compilation above – despite being the second shortest of the group. The light feels relatively top-heavy, suggesting there is good heatsinking.

20220927_133655
20220927_133730
20220927_134451

The light uses 3x Cree XHP70.2 emitters, within a multi-well smooth reflector setup. So you can expect a good amount of output with a relatively floody beam. The beam profile is surprisingly smooth given the multi-well reflector, and I didn’t notice any significant reflector well artifacts in the beam (surprisingly).

I’m also happy to note a relative balancing out of tint differences across the beam (something XHP70.2 HD emitters are well known for producing). Yes, there is some yellow-green highlighting around the corona into the mid-spill area, and some purple fringing at the periphery. There’s also a bit of purple in the center of the hotspot. But the combination reflector seems to be helping somewhat here in evening tint shifts out.

The bezel is flat black aluminum, so you may not be able to tell if the light is on when head-standing – except for the LED just below the switch, which helpfully lights up green by default when the light is activated. The bezel is well integrated into the body, and it’s not immediately clear to me how you would remove it (likely threadlocked in place). The light comes with an AR-coated toughened clear mineral glass lens.

Overall, I find this to be a good looking little light with decent ergonomics and a good beam pattern. It fits well in the hand, and is surprisingly compact. I would like a bit more robust knurling on the body though.

User Interface

The MS03 uses a fairly straightforward user interface. Note that given the incredibly high max output, the built-in temperature regulation will adjust the output as necessary as the light heats up.

From OFF:

  • Single click: Turns On in last memorized mode.
  • Double click: Turns on in Turbo.
  • Triple click: Lockout feature (although I recommend you lock out the light physically at the tailswitch)
  • 4 clicks: Turns on in Strobe
  • Press and hold: Activate or deactivate the LED indicator light below the switch

From ON:

  • Single click: Turns Off.
  • Double click: Jumps to Turbo.
  • Triple click: Nothing.
  • 4 clicks: Jumps to Strobe.
  • Press and hold: The light will cycle through all of its Low to High modes, in that order. Note that Turbo is not on the main sequence. Releasing the switch will select the desired output level.

Memory Mode:

Yes, the MS03 will remember the last constant-output mode used when you re-activate the light (except for Turbo).

Low Battery Warning:

When turned on, the LED indicator light on the head will flash when the battery voltage drops below 3.0V.

Thermal Control:

According to the manufacturer’s specs and reports online, on Turbo/Hi, the light will drop in output to a ~2000 lumen level when the flashlight’s body temperature reaches 65 degrees C (and the light will not activate in Turbo mode at this point). For modes other than Turbo/Hi, the temperature regulation set point is apparently set at 55 degrees C.

Reviewer Comments:

The UI is fairly straightforward, if a bit basic. I find it to be quite serviceable and easy to remember. But I wish it had a Moonlight/ultra-low level that could be accessed through a shortcut from Off. That way, you would have access to jump to max or min output from Off, without having to cycle through all the modes once On (or remembering the last mode used).

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

There is no sign of PWM on any level, the light appears to be fully current-controlled.

That being said, my oscilloscope was able to detect high frequency noise at every level, as depicted below. Note that these are not a concern, as they are not visible to naked the eye – the light remains flicker free in actual use.

Low:
MS03-Lo

Middle-Low:
MS03-MidLow

Middle I:
MS03-MidI

Middle II:
MS03-MidII

High:
MS03-High

Turbo:
MS03-Turbo

As you can see, the frequency of the noise remains constant at ~15.7-15.9 kHz, but increases in amplitude as output levels rise (which is fairly common, as more light is being emitted). Noise these super high frequencies are impossible to detect visually, and so not a concern. I am just including for completeness, as I like to present all my findings (and it is increasingly common to see these patterns on modern lights).

Strobe:

MS03-Strobe

Strobe frequency is very disorienting, at a super high 19.5 Hz. More than than, there are multiple pulses during each “on” cycle, so it seems even faster in practice.

Charging:
20220927_134112

Resting voltage <3.0V
MS03-charging1

Resting voltage >3.0V
MS03-charging2

I measured two distinct charging currents for the 21700’s USB-C charging; 1.0A when the cell is heavily depleted (<3.0V resting), at a slight bump to 1.1A once the cell is above >3.0V resting. Two-stage current charging is a common feature for integrated battery chargers on 21700 cells, although the initial charge rate is usually lower. In any case, while not as high as some, this charge rate will charge the cell in a reasonable amount of time.

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

I measured the standby current as 83.5 uA, which is completely negligible and not a concern (i.e., it would take many years to fully drain the cell). Regardless, I always recommend you lock the light out when not in use to prevent accidental activation (and cut any standby drain). A single twist of the tailcap will lock out this light, thanks to the anodized screw threads.

Emitter Measures

This section is a new feature of my reviews, where I directly measure key emitter characteristics in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~5625K, and the moderately positive tint shift (+0.0095 Duv) to yellow-green at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 70.

These results are very consistent with cool-white XHP70.2 emitters, and match my visual experience of this light.

Beamshots

All outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 0.5 secs exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The bend in the road is approximately 40 meters (~45 yards) from the camera. Learn more about my outdoor beamshots here (scroll down for the floody light position used in this review).

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare beams by switching between tabs.



As you can see, Turbo is exceedingly bright. In fact, the Middle II and Hi modes are more in keeping with other high-output lights in this class.

Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

MS03 Testing Results

ModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o batteryWeight with battery
Low150240240---No15.7 kHz1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g
Middle Low800800790---No15.7 kHz1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g
Middle I1,3001,2001,200---No15.7 kHz1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g
Middle II3,0002,8002,750---No15.8 kHz1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g
High8,000-2,0008,0005,950---No15.8 kHz1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g
Turbo13,000-2,00013,20011,05022,300 cd17,600 cd265 mNo15.9 kHz1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g
Strobe------19.5 HzNo1.0 A1.1 A83.5 uA120 g192 g

To see full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

Let’s start with a blow-up of the first few mins on max, so that you can see how bright the light is initially.

MS03-Max-extended

Believe it or not, it actually seems to reach its rated spec at initiation (or should I say ignition? ;). But after a few secs it does begin to decline in output, at an increasing rate, as you would expect.

Let see how it compares to other lights, on more typical time scales:

MS03-Max

MS03-Hi

The MS03 shows a semi-regulated runtime pattern, similar to the Lumintop D3 above (but with less fluctuations over time). The fluctuations are not a concern, given the timescales involved (i.e., you won’t notice the output changing, given how relatively slow it is over our perceptual scales).

Overall efficiency seems pretty good, given the high-drain 4000mAh cell has 20% lower capacity than most other lights batteries shown above. But the it is not as flatly regulated as some of the competition.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Highest max output that I've seen in a compact single-cell light.Turbo mode drops down quickly, given low thermal mass.
Very good efficiency with the bundled battery, with appropriate thermal-controlled step-downs.Light is not fully regulated in its runtime pattern, and has a very basic interface.
Nicely balanced beam profile with lots of throw and spill.Need to use the bundled high-drain cell for highest output modes.
Very compact build.Lacks a true Lo mode, and has some tint shifting in its beam profile.
Included high-drain battery with USB-C charging port.

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

The MS03 lives up to its rated specs – it really does produce 13,000 lumens (although not for long). The bundled high-drain cell is necessary to reach those max output levels, but this is an impressive feat!

Overall efficiency is also very good, considering a lower capacity high-drain cell is bundled with the light. Runtimes appear semi-regulated however, without the flat regulation associated with some of the competition. I am increasingly noticing this with modern lights, as it helps with efficiency (and the slow drop-off over time is not noticeable by eye).

The beam profile is relatively clean, with a nice balance of throw and spill. The reflector is impressive, as I would have expected to see more artifacts in this type of multi-emitter light – this is well-done here. There are some minor tint shifts across the beam profile (consistent with XHP70.2 emitters), but the multi-emitter setup seems to help even them out a bit.

It is an astonishingly tiny light, I can’t believe they squeezed all that into such a small body. It also has good weight, with decent heatsinking in the head – better than most other lights in this class. But while the overall build is certainly very decent, it doesn’t have quite the hand-feel I would have expected at this price point (e.g., a bit slippery in finish). The light comes with a nice set of accessories though, in a professional looking package.

More disappointing to me is that the lowest output level is ~250 lumens in my testing, so the light lacks any sort of true low mode (not the mention a Moonlight mode, although I appreciate that is not really expected here). The user interface is also very basic, with no way to jump to the lowest levels (i.e., need to cycle through all modes). That is honestly a bit disappointing in a modern light, given that many budget offerings have more sophisticated interfaces nowadays.

There is no question that if you are looking for maximum possible output in as small a build as possible, this is it. Of course, if you don’t need the top-of-the-line max output, you might want to take a look at some of the other offerings in this space, to see what best fits your needs in terms of interface and output levels. But there is no denying the MS03 is an incredible feat of engineering, and I really appreciate how Imalent has met its reported specs here.

Acknowledgement

The MS03 was provided for review by Imalent. All opinions are my own however, and the light received the same rigourous and objective testing as all other lights that I have reviewed. At the time of review, this light retails for ~$135 USD (~$180 CDN).

You can purchase this light directly through the imalentstore.com, or through Amazon.

Convoy S21E

The S21E is a popular light from the budget flashlight maker Convoy, and is powered by a single 21700 battery. It comes with a variety of emitters options, and features a decent user interface.

  1. Introduction
  2. Manufacturer Specifications
  3. Package Details
  4. Build
  5. User Interface
  6. Circuit Measures
  7. Emitter Measures
  8. Beamshots
  9. Testing Results
  10. Runtimes
  11. Pros and Cons
  12. Overall Rating
  13. Preliminary Conclusions
  14. Acknowledgement

Introduction

In my previous reviewing era, I stayed away from budget lights for the reasons I outlined here. But upon my return to reviewing, I’ve noticed a number of inexpensive brands seem to have good quality and consistency. So I thought it was time to start looking at some of the more popular budget models in the 1×21700 class.

Cue up Convoy, whose S21 series was up to its fifth iteration by last fall – the S21E – when I purchased these samples for testing. At the time, the S21E was available with a choice of three different emitters, so I picked them all up from the official store for comparison testing (although many more tint options are available). Specifically, these are ones with the standard “4 mode” circuit (which actually has constant output 5 modes, along with a continuously variable ramp).

I see there are a wider variety of anodizing colours available now, and a different battery than what came bundled with mine. But the specs remain the same, so your performance should match what you see below.

Manufacturer Specifications

Note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results.

FeatureSpecsSpecsSpecs
MakerConvoyConvoyConvoy
ModelS21ES21ES21E
EmitterNicha 519ASST40SFT40
Tint5000K (Hi CRI>90)6500K6500K
Max Output (Lumens)1,3002,4001,800
Min Output (Lumens)---
Max Runtime---
Max Beam Intensity (cd)---
Max Beam Distance (m)---
Mode Levels5 + Ramp5 + Ramp5 + Ramp
FlashingStrobeStrobeStrobe
Battery1x217001x217001x21700
Weight (w/o battery)88 g88 g88 g
Weight (with battery)168 g168 g168 g
Length116.4 mm116.4 mm116.4 mm
Head Diameter27.3mm27.3mm27.3mm
Body Diameter27.3 mm27.3 mm27.3 mm
WaterproofIPX4IPX4IPX4

Package Details

20221204_105843

Like many Convoys, the S21E can be purchased with any of a number of emitter choices and tints. Shown above are the Nichia 519A 5000K, Luminus SST40 6500K, and Luminus SFT40 6500K. But a wide range of 519A tints (from 2700K through 5700K) are possible, along with a limited number of Luminus tints (although not all options available for each emitter, nor at any given time on the store front).

The S21E is shipped in a simple cheap cardboard box, wrapped in thin bubble wrap. Inside, you will find the following:

  • Convoy S21E with removable pocket clip attached
  • Thin wrist lanyard, also attached
  • If you buy the version with a battery included, a thin filter pad is included to block contact during shipping

And that’s it. There is no manual or instruction sheet, so you’ll need to check out reviews like this to learn how it works and what all the features are. Minimalist to be sure, in keeping with the price.

Build

20230402_162025
From left to right: LiitoKala 21700 (5000mAh), Fenix ARB-L21-5000U 21700 (5000mAh), Sofirm IF25A, Fenix E35 v3, Convoy S21E, Imalent MS03, Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Max, Acebeam E70, Nitecore P20iX, Nitecore MH12SE, Lumintop D3, Convoy M21F.

Note: in all photos below, the sequence from left to right (or top to bottom), are always the Nichia 519A, SST40, and SFT40 emitter versions. Also note that the SST40 version was bought in early fall 2022, and the other two were a couple of months later.

20221204_105042
20221204_105104
20221204_105126
20221204_105156
20221204_105423
20221204_105454
20221204_105519
20221204_105544

The S21E is a minimalist, compact build – but seems very well made.

There is a large switch cover over the side-mounted electronic switch. Feel is good, with smooth action. There is a red and a green LED underneath, to show you the charge status when charging (see below).

There is a small spring on the positive contact terminal in the head, so flat top cells can easily be used. Tailcap is flat with a standard spring and retaining ring. Note that my earlier SST40 sample (middle above) came with a stiff silver-coloured tail spring – that applied another enough pressure to dent the positive battery terminal against the head spring. Later specimens (left and right) came with gold-coloured springs than aren’t as stiff – and so, no denting. This also like reflects the thinner metal on the LiitoKala cells.

As an aside, I’m actually impressed to see the rapid correction of this design issue – especially in a budget build. That said, I did notice a batch issue with lens, which I will explain below.

There is an integrated USB-C charging port on the head of the light, across from the switch, under an attached rubber cover. Cover fits well enough to make me think the light is water-resistant, but less so than more expensive offerings in this class (and so, I wouldn’t recommend immersing it in water).

The light doesn’t have knurling per se, but rather a series of cut-outs along with the concentric circle “reeling.” While serviceable, this can be slippery in practice – so I recommend you leave the removable pocket clip attached to help with grip. The pocket clip attaches firmly. It is not reversible, but due to the design can be used for both upward and downward carry (although may be a bit tight, depending on what you want to clip it to).

Anodizing looks to be decent quality, in matte finish (I presume it is only type II, given you can get the light in a variety of colours). Tailcap screw threads are anodized, so you can lock out the light by a twist of the tailcap. I haven’t shown it above, but you can unscrew the head from the body too (screw threads there are not anodized there).

Thanks to the spring in the head, any regular-sized 21700 cell (without an integrated USB-C charger) should fit and work in the lights. You are best sticking with flat-top cells though, as longer cells (i.e., with a button top) may be too tight given the relatively short body.

20221204_105232
20221204_105257
20221204_105319
20221204_105342
20221204_105951

The Nichia 519A comes with a lightly textured reflector, while the Luminus models come with a smooth reflector. Reflectors are relatively shallow, and really seem to be designed best for the SST40 emitter (the SFT40 emitter has quite a few bright rings in its outer spillbeam, for example).

Note that my Nichia 519A and SFT40 samples both show a noticeable amount of purple fringing on the periphery of the spillbeam, due to a heavy purplish AR coating on the lens of those samples (the earlier SST40 sample lens has a milder greenish AR coating, which doesn’t affect the beam as much). Scroll down for beamshots, but I don’t find this purplish AR coating to be as noticeable or a problem on the Nichia model, likely due to the warmer tint and smoother beam profile. The AR tint difference may have been a batch effect of that particular point in time, because I have seen a SST40 model purchased more recently that has the lighter greenish AR coating.

The bezel is stainless steel, and is smooth without crenelations. So you may not be able to tell if the light is on when it is headstanding. The head opens easily at the bezel ring (i.e., no thread locker), and the lens and reflector come right out for easy access to the emitter. I am glad to note an o-ring on both the underside of the lens (toward the reflector) and on the bezel ring itself. This reassures me as to water-proofness.

Overall, I find this to be a very decent quality build – nothing flashy, but serviceable and much better than I expected for the price. Note that this is where having purchased 3 separate samples (over time) to evaluate is important, as I have found in the past that one of the issues with budget lights can be inconsistency. It’s good to see them all equally well made overall, and showing at least one incremental improvement over time (i.e., that prompt revision to a less stiff tail spring). But the lens AR coating issue, which appears to have been limited to a particular intermediate batch, shows that you may still have issues there.

User Interface

The S21E driver is a lot more advanced than I would have expected for a budget offering. It has a choice of two distinct multiple-output mode sets you can select: one with a smooth ramp in output from min to max, and one with four discrete steps (1%, 10%, 40%, 100%/Turbo) plus a 0.2%/Moonlight level. Also available is a “Tactical” mode which only has the Turbo level. A strobe mode is also available, along with some other bonus features.

So, let’s go through the user interface in detail:

From OFF:

  • Press and Hold: Moonlight
  • Single click: Turns on to the memorized brightness level
  • Double click: Turbo
  • Triple click: Strobe
  • 4 clicks: set to Tactical mode (i.e., only momentary 100% brightness)
  • 5 clicks: Voltage check. The light will blink out the voltage to one decimal place, first by the main volt, then by the decimal point (e.g., 3 blinks, a pause, and five more blinks would mean 3.5V).
  • 6 clicks: Switch between ramping mode and stepped mode
  • 10 clicks: Electronic lock out. Click for another 10 times to re-activate the light. Note that I suggest you simply lock the light out by a twist of the tailcap instead.

From ON:

  • Press and Hold (in Ramping mode set): Ramp up to 100%/Turbo. Press and hold again to ramp down to 0.2%/Moonlight. Release at any time to select the desired level. Note that when you restart the ramp after selecting a level, it reverses direction on the next press and hold.
  • Press and Hold (in Stepped mode set): Step up to next level (4 main levels on the sequence, Moonlight is not on the main sequence). Press and hold again to step down in levels.
  • Single click: Off
  • Double click: Turbo
  • 3 clicks: Strobe
  • 5 clicks: Voltage check
  • 6 clicks: Switch between ramping mode and stepped mode

Shortcuts:

  • To Moonlight: Hold from off
  • To Turbo: Double-click from any mode except Tactical
  • To Strobe: Triple-click from any mode except Tactical

Mode memory:

Yes. The S21E will memorize any brightness level except for Moonlight and Strobe.

Low voltage warning:

Yes. The light will drop down to ~1% output and the button will blink red before eventually shutting off at ~3V. Note that it can run for a very long time at this level before shutting down.

Reviewer Comments:

This is a very impressive interface – surprisingly versatile, but also very easy to use (i.e., very intuitive). Hand the light to someone, and it wouldn’t take them long to get used to it, the modes make a lot of sense. Switching between ramping and stepped mode sets is a bit peculiar with the six clicks, but it’s not like it’s something you will want to switch between often anyway.

Note that the highest output modes step down automatically after a period of time (and heat build up – scroll down for runtimes). And while I’m glad to see the “Moonlight” mode here, it is not actually low enough to be what I would consider a true moonlight (see Testing Results for more info).

Circuit Measures

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM):

There is no sign of PWM at any level – the lights appear to be current-controlled. However, I did detect an oscillating noise pattern on several of the levels, include Turbo, as shown below.

Turbo/100% (Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40)
S21E-Nichia-100S21E-SST40-100S21E-SFT40-100

As you can see, the pattern is variable in intensity, and at a high frequency (~3-6kHz). But rest assured it is not something that you can see visually. It is even more detectable at the higher intermediate outputs, as shown below.

Step 40% (Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40)
S21E-Nicha-40S21E-SST40-40S21E-SFT40-40

Here is a blow-up of one of the 40% levels, which clearly shows a simple sine-wave oscillation (i.e., no PWM here). Some people call this a saw-tooth noise pattern.

40% SS40 Zoomed in
S21E-SST40-40-Zoom

Still present at the 10% output level:

Step 10% (Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40)
S21E-Nichia-10S21E-SST40-10S21E-SFT40-10

But it seems to disappear by the lower outputs, as shown below for both the stepped and ramp outputs – but that may just be because the output is too low for my oscilloscope to detect.

Step 1% (Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40)
S21E-Nichia-1S21E-SST40-1S21E-SFT40-1

Ramp Lo (Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40)
S21E-Nichia-LoS21E-SST40-LoS21E-SFT40-Lo

Again, none of the above is an issue in use. I am simply including the scope readings for completeness.

Strobe:

Strobe (Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40)
S21E-Nichia-StrobeS21E-SST40-StrobeS21E-SFT40-Strobe

Strobe frequency is a very consistent fast 10.1 Hz, which most would consider a tactical frequency.

Charging:
20221204_105654
20221204_105715

Note that the red/green LEDs are very bright when charging.

Charging rate for the Nichia 519A, SST40, SFT40:
S21E-Nichia-charging1
S21E-SST40-charging2
S21E-SFT40-charging1

The S21E has a single high-current charging rate of ~2.0A-2.1A, as shown for the 3 specimens above.

I normally like a two-stage charging feature (i.e., with a lower charging rate for when cells are heavily discharged). But the light output drops down to a super low mode when the battery is running low, and big red button flashes incessantly, warning you to shut down. In fact, it is actually very hard to get the cell below ~3.0V in this light. As such, this is reasonable compromise to stick with a single high charging rate.

Standby / Parasitic Drain:

I measured the standby current across the 3 samples at a negligible 31.5 uA, 30.5 uA, and 31.0 uA.

This is nice and ultra-low standby current, and is not a concern for draining the cells. However, I always suggest you lock the light out when not in use to prevent accidental activation (and cut the negligible standby drain in this case). A single twist of the tail will lock out this light, thanks to the anodized screw threads.

Emitter Measures

This section is a new feature of my reviews, where I directly measure key emitter characteristics in terms of colour temperature, tint, and colour rendition. Please see my Emitter Measures page to learn more about what these terms mean, and how I am measuring them.

As explained on that page, since I am using an inexpensive uncalibrated device, you can only make relative comparisons across my reviews (i.e., don’t take these numbers as absolutely accurate values, but as relatively consistent across lights in my testing).

S21E Nichia 519A:

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~4330K, and a slight negative tint shift (-0.0008 Duv) to rose at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 94.

These results are consistent with neutral-white Nichia 519A emitters, and match my visual experience of this light.

S21E SST40:

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~5350K, and the very noticeable positive tint shift (+0.0166 Duv) to green-yellow at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 50.

These results are consistent with high output Luminus SST emitters (although CRI is a bit low on my sample), and match my visual experience of this light.

S21E SFT40:

The key measures above are the colour temperature of ~5660K, and a noticeable positive tint shift (+0.0136 Duv) to green-yellow at this temperature.

For CRI (Ra), I measured a combined score of 65.

These results are again consistent with high output Luminus SST emitters, and match my visual experience of this light.

Beamshots

All outdoor beamshots are taken on my Canon PowerShot S5 IS at f/2.7, 0.5 secs exposure, ISO 400, daylight white balance. The bend in the road is approximately 40 meters (~45 yards) from the camera. Learn more about my outdoor beamshots here (scroll down for the floody light position used in this review).

Click on any thumbnail image below to open a full size image in a new window. You can then easily compare beams by switching between tabs.



Testing Results

My summary tables are generally reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. In addition to the links above, please see my output measures page for more background.

All my output numbers are based on my home-made lightbox setup. As explained on that methodology page, I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values to estimated lumens. My Peak Intensity/Beam Distance are directly measured with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter.

S21E Testing Results

EmitterModeSpec LumensEstimated Lumens @0secEstimated Lumens @30 secsBeam Intensity @0secBeam Intensity @30secsBeam Distance @30secsPWM/Strobe FreqNoise FreqCharging Current <3VCharging Current >3VParasitic DrainWeight w/o BatteryWeight with Battery
Nicha 519AMoon 0.2%-1010---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A31.5 uA89 g154 g
Nicha 519A1%-1919---NoNo2.0 A2.0 A31.5 uA89 g154 g
Nicha 519A10%-230230---No4.4 kHz2.0 A2.0 A31.5 uA89 g154 g
Nicha 519A40%-550540---No5.9 kHz2.0 A2.0 A31.5 uA89 g154 g
Nicha 519ATurbo 100%1,3001,3001,25011,510 cd10,550 cd205 mNo5.3 kHz2.0 A2.0 A31.5 uA89 g154 g
Nicha 519AStrobe------10.1 HzNo2.0 A2.0 A31.5 uA89 g154 g
SST40Moon 0.2%-1616---NoNo1.65 A2.0 A30.5 uA87 g153 g
SST401%-2929---NoNo1.65 A2.0 A30.5 uA87 g153 g
SST4010%-340340---No4.9 kHz1.65 A2.0 A30.5 uA87 g153 g
SST4040%-750740---No6.6 kHz1.65 A2.0 A30.5 uA87 g153 g
SST40Turbo 100%2,4002,0502,00027,300 cd26,000 cd322 mNo6.9 kHz1.65 A2.0 A30.5 uA87 g153 g
SST40Strobe------10.1 HzNo1.65 A2.0 A30.5 uA87 g153 g
SFT40Moon 0.2%-1313---NoNo2.1 A2.1 A31 uA90 g156 g
SFT401%-2626---NoNo2.1 A2.1 A31 uA90 g156 g
SFT4010%-280280---No4.5 kHz2.1 A2.1 A31 uA90 g156 g
SFT4040%-650640-No6.0 kHz2.1 A2.1 A31 uA90 g156 g
SFT40Turbo 100%1,8001,7501,70041,400 cd37,500 cd387 mNo3.2 kHz2.1 A2.1 A31 uA90 g156 g
SFT40Strobe------10.1 HzNo2.1 A2.1 A31 uA90 g156 g

To see full testing results for all modern lights in my testing, check out my Database page.

Runtimes

As always, my runtimes are done under a small cooling fan, for safety and consistency. To learn more about how to interpret runtime graphs, see my runtimes methodology page.

S21E-Max

S21E-Hi

S21E-Med

As you can see above, the S21E circuit is well regulated, with thermal-mediated step-downs at the higher levels. Note that output tends to rise a little bit near the end of the runs on these levels, before stepping down to the low output.

Here is an expanded view of the max runtime graph, so that you can see the first few minutes with better resolution:

S21E-Max-expanded

Overall efficiency is quite good for each given emitter type. I’m taking the budget cell’s 5000mAh rated capacity as face value here (always a stretch for budget cells), but the SST40 specimen shows nearly comparable efficiency to brand name lights, which is impressive. So this suggests the overall efficiency of this circuit is high.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Very good current-controlled efficiency for each emitter type, across all modes/levels.Stepped mode spacing is not ideal, and Moonlight mode is too bright to qualify as a true moonlight.
Great feature set with both ramping and discrete output levels, including Turbo and Moonlight modes.Light heats up quickly on Turbo, given low thermal mass.
Nicely balanced beam profile for SST40 and Nichia 519A models.Significant purple fringing at the edge of the spillbeam on two samples, due to a batch of heavy AR coated lens.
Very compact build, quite petite for the class.Green/Red LEDs under the switch covers are very bright, and the low-voltage warning flash can be distracting.
Optional included high-capacity battery.Older models came with a very stiff tail spring that caused denting of LiitoKala cells (seems resolved on more recent versions).

Another minor issue I noted is the ramping speed is rather quick. But given how few lights actually give you a choice of a continuous ramp option, this is hardly a complaint!

Overall Rating

Preliminary Conclusions

My new rating system above is based solely on the features of the light, without taking cost into account. And so, given the very low cost of these lights, this is a really impressive showing.

I’m particularly impressed by the performance and versatility of the circuit, and the option for both discrete stepped levels and a continuous ramp. Yes, the discrete levels are not really well spaced, and the ramp is a bit fast, but these seem like relatively minor quibbles. It is frankly surprising to see such a versatile circuit in a budget light, with such good regulation and efficiency.

Charging performance was very good under the circumstances, with a negligible standby drain. All said, this is quite an impressive set of of circuit features for the price. It’s definitely few frills in terms of extras, but it has what you need where it counts.

Physically, the light is a very good build, quite serviceable with decent hand feel and use. There is not a lot of mass however, so it does heat up quickly. And of course, as is often the case with budget lights, you can get variability in components over batches (i.e., the too-strong tail spring on my SST40 sample, the heavy purple AR lens coating on the other two, etc.). So that is one thing you will have to accept in a budget brand.

Beam pattern is reasonably good for all three emitters. That said, the rather small improvement in throw of the SFT40 over the brighter overall SST40 doesn’t seem worth it to me. And the small reflector here seems to be introducing brighter defined rings in the periphery of the SFT40 spillbeam (which is accentuating the purple fringing of the AR coating on that particular sample). I think a light with a larger head/reflector would really be necessary to take best advantage of the SFT40 emitter. So I recommend you stick with the SST40 or Nichia 519A in this series, in your preferred colour temperature (and very nice that they offer that).

I’m glad I decided to pick these up to test. Based simply on their own merits, they are worthy contenders to consider in the 1×21700 space. When you factor in their incredibly low-cost budget price, I’d say these lights are well recommended (at least the Nichia 519A and Luminus SST40 versions).

I’m looking forward to seeing how other budget lights perform.

Reviewer’s Additional Comment: A new model in the S21-series has just come out, the S21F. However, this is a significant build change from the earlier S21-series lights, with a blended multi-emitter design. The S21E remains the most advanced version of the compact, single-emitter 1×21700 light from Convoy.

Acknowledgement

The S21E samples were personally purchased from the Convoy store of Aliexpress in the fall of 2022. At the time of review, these lights retail for ~$30 USD (~$40 CDN) with a bundled battery.