Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lighten7 Elite S1A Review

Lighten7 is still a relatively obscure company in the flashlight industry but they are working on changing that with some new products with the latest being their compact powerhouse, the Elite S1A:

With 700 decently regulated lumens on tap and a pretty compact form, this should be a consideration for those looking to EDC 18650-sized lights. Let's see how it fares in that regard... 

MFG SPECSMSRP (USD): $79 (non-kit version in this review)
• Premium CREE XM-L U2 LED emitter
• Maximum output at 700 lumens with max. runtime over 28 hours
• Powered by 1x18650 Li-ion battery (Kit set bundles battery and charger)
• Easy access side switch for output modes change and strobe, momentary-on at tail switch
• Advanced driver provides constant current discharge, reverse polarity protection, low voltage warning 
• All-in-one circuit room structure enhances heat conduction and dissipation 
• Aerospace class aluminum alloy with military class type III hard anodized body 
• Stainless steel strike bezel adds protection capabilities
• Textured reflector to balance the beam spread and distance with armored lens 
• Compact design for everyday carry and all kind of outdoor activities

PACKAGING / CONTENTSThe S1A arrived in their Eco Packaging (kit versions get a presentation case):

Accessories included are:
- 2 x o-ring's
- lanyard
- holster
- tailclip
- spare lens (& corresponding o-ring)
- user manual

CONDENSED VIDEO SUMMARY Here is a quick high-level video summary of the S1A while while I work on fleshing out this review:

DESIGN / FEATURESThe S1A features a removable SS bezel that allows one to easily note if the S1A is on when stood bezel down:
While it's easily removable and allows access to the lens and o-ring behind it, the reflector seems to be glued down and not removable.

The lens doesn't feature any AR coating:
The XM-L U2 emitter sits perfectly centered in the reflector, albet, given it's textured, it's not as critical as with a smooth reflector.

These heat-sinking fins do a pretty good job of shedding heat from the light:
The electronic side-switch is situated just past it; it's only operable when the rear main switch is on. 

The battery tube features two flat-sides with the company's name engraved on one and the model on the other: 
The texture is pretty smooth (as is the anodizing) and doesn't contribute at all to the grip.

Here's the S1A diassembled into its three main parts:

There is a raised point under the head allowing the use of flat-top cells; the tailcap features two raised "guards" as well as an oblong attachment point for the included lanyard:
The rubber tailcap cover however protrudes past the guards rendering it unable to tail stand; one could possibly replace it using needle-nose pliers to dissasemble the tail switch.

L to R: RediLast 3100 | XENO S3A | Lighten7 Elite S1A | Sunwayman T20C | XENO G10v2 | XTAR TZ20 | FoxFury Rook CheckMate | Niwalker 550N3 | ThruNite TN11S | Crelant V9-T6 | Lighten7 Elite M1A | Lighten7 Elite M1B

As can be seen in the pic above, the S1A ranks as one of the most compact 1x18650 sized lights in my collection with only XENO's ultra-compact S3A being smaller.

When gripped w/my left-hand and with my thumb positioned between the two raised tailcap guards, my pinky conveniently falls on the side-switch allowing me one-handed access to both switches (not the case with my right-hand though):
Regardless if held overhand or underhand, the S1A feels great in my medium-sized hand but could likely be on the smaller side for those w/large hands.

FIT & FINISHLighten7 looks to have stepped up the QC since their initial launch in which the three lights I reviewed from their first production run all had minor issues. I'm delighted to report that none cropped up with the S1A during my time testing it thus far.

The SS bezel is properly deburred with no sharp edges (this was a common problem with the other three):
The side-switch could stand to be just a bit more crisp but that's really more a personal preference than QC issue. Also, I found it a little too easy to engage strobe when cycling through mode changes, I would like to see the double-click timing shortened up a little.

The HA-III finish is interesting in that it's a glossy and while I personally prefer matte, regardless, it was flawless and evenly matched across all parts:

Note: Flash was intentionally used in this shot to highlight any mismatching but none was found.

There were none missing in the grooves of the texture, around sharp edges or within the heat fin areas (these are common issues found on poor anodizing process):

All engravings are also nice and sharp with no blotchiness (although the concrete finish may give it that apperance):
The rear forward-clicky switch provides a nice tactile feedback.

As mentioned, overall, I have yet to find any significant issues but I'll report back long-term on how the S1A holds up.

UIThe tailcap switch acts as the master on/off (ie: when off, side-switch is non-functional) and is a forward-clicky thus can be used for momentary activation. Because it's not used to change output levels or to activate strobe it can be used for signaling purposes without fear of changing levels or accidental strobe activation.

When clicked on, the S1A will always default to High level. With the S1A on, depressing the side-switch will cycle to the next level and always in this order: H > M > L (repeat). Strobe can be activated at any time by double-clicking the side-switch although I did find that the duration to activate it is a bit long thus sometimes it misinterpreted my quick cycling as an intent to activate strobe. I would like to see this tightened up a bit so that it takes two very quick presses to activate strobe. Also, another quirk is that the two quick-presses will actally cause it to cycle to the next mode on the first press and then activate strobe. So if on H, it'll activate M first and then Strobe.

Overall, the three levels are well spaced, although I personally would've preferred a lower low (say around 5lms or less vs. the current 30lms).

BEAMSHOTSIndoors (5m)



For details of the above indoor shots and comparo vs. many other lights, please check Epic Indoor Shots Trilogy

RUNTIMEThe relevant battery stats are provided above each runtime graph along with: 
- Voltage of the battery at the start and end of the test
- Current draw
- Actual runtime using ANSI FL1 (first in HR and then in M so for the RL3100 on High, read this as 1.4hrs or 83min)
- NEW (as of May 2012): Lumens measured on my PVC LMD @ 30 seconds
- Also for High, captured the temperature: ambient, the head/fins at start and the max it reached (fan was used for all bats)

NOTE: The strange temp line is due to incorrect setting on DMM at start so I only caught the latter portion of the run. Will update chart w/other runs and correct temp graphs but ultimately, the important bit is the max temp reached. 

While not table-top flat, the S1A runs pretty well regulated for such a compact light and given the output, there is a bit of heat involved with max temp reached of nearly 112F. I was able to match the runtime of 1.4hrs using a RL3100.

NEW 10/23: Wrapped up runtime w/AW2600 and IMR and took tailcap current measurements. At 2.2A+ draw, this is the hardest driven light in their lineup that I've tested and the 700+ lumens is wholly realistic. I unfortunately didn' log the IMR temp reading but it was pretty much inline w/the other two cells.


turboBB-licious- excellent build quality
- decently regulated output that averages > 680lms over the first hour (with RL3100 or AW2600)
- reasonably compact for an 18650-sized light

turboBB-cautious- not compatible with 18700 cells (or any cell longer than 69mm)
- side-switch a little trigger happy to invoke strobe when cycling through output levels
- might be slippery to hold given the smooth finish and lack of agressive texturing

turboBB-wishes- tightening of timing for double-clicking to invoke strobe

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

XENO S3A Reviews, Features and Comparisons


XENO S3A Review


XENO S3A Manufacturer Specifications:

• Powered by 1x 18650 or 2x CR123's.

• Stainless steel switch guard (allows tail standing, can be used for self defense or to break glass)

• Could be the smallest 18650 flashlight in the world with a reverse clicky. 21.5mm x 111mm, 50g.
• Reliable encircled pocket clip
• 6 stage driver 3 brightness levels (High, medium, low) and 3 hidden modes (Strobe, Locator Beacon, SOS).
• Availble with a Cree XM-L U2 1B Cool White, T6 Neutral White 3C, T4 7B Warm White.
• Precision polished Orange Peel reflector with double AR (anti-reflective) lens
• Linear current driver (no PWM) with built in reverse polarity proteciton. 24k gold plated springs.
• Mil-spec Type III Hard Anodized Aluminum. Color: Gun Grey.

•Light output (U2): 300lms
•Runtime: 2.5hrs High, 100hrs low
•Beam Distance: 65M
•Peak Beam Intensity: 1300cd
•Impact Reisstance: 1M
•Water Resistance: IPX-7, 1M.

XENO S3A Flashlight Packaging and Contents :
The S3A comes with a black outer shell and very nice off-white box w / Magnetic Flap:

Additional items were included:
• Manual / Warranty
• 1 hand strap
• 2 spare O-rings (I have only one)
• a replacement clicky switch

XENO S3A Video:

XENO S3A Features

Maintaining a slim profile typically means all superfluous design elements to sacrifice, because they with additional material for carved (and thus leads to additional bulk) are required to start. While the SA3 adheres to the mantra, it is milled draw some work (though minimal), it prevents a simple cylinder completely.

There is a SS bezel (which can be removed using the appropriate tool, but not surprisingly w / the TW15), which ensures both sides AR coated lens:

A group of etchings on the head with the company name, logo and a symbol that I had previously stated to be (in G10v2 criticism) to a pictogram of a Tiger:

Just aft of the head is a groove for the clip to attach to and a thinner groove right after that . The clip is interesting in that rather than being the typical clip on style, there is an interlocking "dovetail" to keep it securely in place:

The clip also features an attachment point for the included wrist strap. 
There are 5 evenly spaced "dumbell" shaped fluting milled in to the body of which one has the serial number etched within it:

There is one final groove right after this completing all the milled work of the head/body.

Having said that, given there was some space between the final groove on the body and the switch guard, the S3A may have been well served to have another clip groove milled so that the clip could be flipped and allow bezel down carry. Here's a photochop of what it potentially could have looked like:

The SS switch guard is crenelated allowing it to be used for strike purposes or glass breaking duties. The flat surfaces also allow for tailstanding:

There are five dimples running around the circumference and two holes that can be used as attachment points for the wrist strap or potentially to install a custom clip to allow the SA3 to be carried bezel down:

The rubber cover hides a reverse-clicky switch:

The reason this was selected over a forward-clicky is it shaved a few mm off of the total length. Every thought was put into making this light as compact as physically possible but yet retain a clicky switch.

The threads on the switch guard and body are square-cut and on the latter anodized thus allowing lockout with roughly 1/8 of a turn:

There are 24K gold plated springs at both ends of the light [NEW 6/11: and while both my shortest cell (AW IMR 1600 @ 65.2mm) and longest (XTAR 18700 @ 69.2mm) fit in the tube:

I wasn't able to completely tighten the tailcap w/the XTAR18700, thus they will NOT work w/the S3A:
I did confirm that my next longest cell (RL3100 @ 68.3mm) does fit.]

I've confirmed that the S3A's reverse polarity protection works without a hitch:

XENO S3A Comparisons

L to R (same order for both sets of pics): RL 3100 | Sunwayman M11R | Fenix LD10 | Sunwayman V11R | XENO S3A | SureFire L4 | Surefire G2Z | Sunwayman T20C | XENO G10v2 | Prometheus Lights XM18-B

As can be seen above, the S3A is the smallest 18650-sized light in my collection so to help put things in perspective, I've taken a close-up vs. 1xAA lights below and SureFire L4 (2xCR123A):

L to R (same order for both sets of pics): RL 3100 | Sunwayman M11R | Fenix LD10 | Sunwayman V11R | XENO S3A | SureFire L4

Given the size is the main feature being touted, I've taken additional comparo shots to help you "size" it up:


I measured the diamter to be 21.4mm (.84in) and length @ 111mm (4.37in):

Despite the compactness of the S3A, the overall fit and finish is quite outstanding. The square cut threads are ultra smooth and the SS bezel was tightened without any gaps. While the lack of material may not convey the same perception of robustness as say the G10v2, it is still nontheless fairly tough. I had the S3A clipped to my belt that came loose and while getting out of the car, it fell from a height of about 1m onto concrete pavement but only suffered a minor ding to the side of the head and some light scratches/dents in both the bezel and tailcap: 
(Note: The tailcap is not completely tightened in last two pics)

Despite this mishap, the S3A still functions flawlessly. Obviously, this wasn't an extreme impact test by any stretch of the imagination but I do feel the S3A should be able to shrug off a few knocks/drops.

Nitpicking-wise, there is some very minor ano missing from the inner corners of the machined fluting on the body: 

As mentioned in my video, the engraving on the head while sharp has some minor blotchiness to it: 
Although the serial number was fine.

I was able to induce significant rattle with my smaller 18650's as the body has been designed to accomodate larger-sized cells:

However, this is really more a design decison than a fit & finish issue since most of the 18650 cells are neither 18mm in diam nor 65mm in length...

The S3A features three output levels: High, Low, Ultra Low (I really wish XENO would just stick with High, Med, Low since the Ultra Low at 20lms isn't exactly that). There is no memory so the light will always come on in High and then cycle through Med and then Low with each half-press (ie: not full click) of the reverse-clicky switch.

There are three hidden modes: Strobe, Locating Beacon & SOS that are accessed via three quick half-presses of the switch with the S3A on. Again, there is no memory in these modes so it will always come on in Strobe and then cycle through (with a half-press) the other modes sequentially.The only minor quirk w/the UI is that once it enters the hidden modes, you MUST shut off the light and wait 3 seconds before you can get back to standard output levels. It's strange they didn't allow the same three quick half-presses to exit hidden mode as it would've made so much sense. ]


Indoors (5m)
Celing bounce

Low (Med)
Ultra Low (Low)

RUNTIMEThe relevant battery stats are provided above each runtime graph along with: 
- Voltage of the battery at the start and end of the test
- Current draw as taken right before the test
- Actual runtime using ANSI FL1 (first in HR and then in M so for the RL3100 read this as 3.4hrs OR 205min)
- NEW (as of May 2012): Lumens measured on PVC LMD @ 30 seconds
- Also for High, captured the temperature: ambient, the head at start and the max it reached (fan was used for all bats)

Using AW2600's I was able to slightly exceed (2.6hrs) the qouted run time of 2.5hrs. As can be seen, the S3A runs just about perfectly regulated before dropping off steeply, however at the end of this run, there was still usable light but I decided to stop it so as not to completely overdischarge the battery. Also of note is that it doesn't get all that hot hitting a max of 89F (32C).

[NEW 6/12: Completed runtime on H w/the RL3100 and as expected it yieled a longer runtime w/a trailing end as compared to the AW2600 with total ANSI runtime @ 3.4hrs. I continued to let it run to see if I could invoke the low voltage warning but was never able to get it to kick in so I finally stopped the testing at a littler over 4hrs. At this point, there was still very usable light of approximately 1lumen.

As for the overall lower output, I believe it has to do with the ambient temp which was higher than during the AW2600 run. Under the same temp, I actually expect the output to match for this regulated light. Will confirm later and post updates.]
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