I have been dreading this day. The day I get a flashlight so complicated and which uses some whacky batteries that I both need to keep a cheat sheet for operating it on my phone, and all the while run a mild risk of melting/burning/igniting stuff around the light. All of which means this light can both melt stuff (including parts of itself?) and has a lightning mode to use the LEDs to simulate a lightning storm in your bedroom, in case that’s something you are longing for.
So yeah, all in all, pretty cool. Oh, and it’s like $50. So yeah, that too.
I love it though, as it’s completely stupid, unnecessary, and yet perfectly satisfying. Oh so very satisfying.
Battery & Power
As I made reference to above, this light requires a slightly non-standard, not ideal, power source. Specifically unprotected 18650 batteries with a flat top. You likely don’t know what those are — good news is they are stupidly cheap. Bad news is, well, they can overheat (among other things). And I know you might be prone to thinking “it’s a flashlight, it can’t get that hot”.
But you would be wrong.
The reason for this battery is to basically push more power to the light (sort of, deal with it). In other words: the protected cells would be less fun when doing the stupid stuff you bought the light to do. Yeah? Yeah.
Color and LEDs
Just a quick note, that these lights tend to be released in different colors. The one I have is ‘sand’ and looks killer and Reddit seems to like all the options. More importantly is the plethora of LED options. I’ll note just two for you:
- E21A, R9080 Warm White 2700K: this is a high CRI light which will be yellow to your eye. At night (when you typically use lights) this will be a very pleasing look. The sacrifice is raw output power.
- SST-20 4000K: this will be brighter, and be a cooler color temp without being super blue. Still high-CRI, and generally to most this is the color of an LED flashlight. This is the expected color.
Or to simplify:
- If you are arguing with my picks above then I seriously question why you are reading this part.
- If you already have a “good” flashlight that you like, get the E21A I listed.
- If you don’t already have a “good” flashlight, or none you like, still get the E21A.
- If you cannot fathom the idea of a yellowish tint, get the SST-20 — good day to you sir.
I don’t think there is a bad choice between those two options.
But that’s not the end of the story with LEDs on this light. Because there’s a series of small auxiliary LEDs around the edge of the light in the lens. These tiny 8 lights can be setup to display something like 6 different colors, or an alternating pattern of those colors.
Umm, why not? You have four options with these aux LEDs. They can be on at a very low level, on at a high level, blinking at high level, or off. I found that the higher level looks really neat but is just a touch too bright to be on all night and yet slightly too low to be useful as a late night navigation tool.
The low level is amazing. It’s so dim that it doesn’t bother me any more than a light with tritium tubes glowing on it. It is bright enough to aid finding the light in the pitch black, and yet not bright enough to keep you awake. The little LEDs on EVERY CHARGER EVER are much brighter than these 8 LEDs glowing on low. This is very well done. Good luck getting the lights on and to low — man this UI on the light.
I have no idea why you would want the blinking modes for these lights, including the one that goes through all the colors. I keep it on low and red, but the blue is also pretty neat. And you might be worried about battery drain, but don’t be. It’s not an issue on high or low. At least not that I have experienced so far.
UI or ‘How the Button Works’
Ok, well, it sucks. I mean it works just fine, but it is complicated, stupid, annoying, and hard to memorize. Yes I can turn the light on and off and adjust the brightness — the core stuff is easy to commit to memory. But ask me to do anything else with this light and I will need to consult the cheat sheet for it.
It can do a lot. The aforementioned lightning mode, a candle flicker mode. Strobing. So bright it burns shit. It can do a whole lot. There’s even a ‘muggle mode’ which puts the light in a state where most people should be able to use the light without also setting something on fire or melting it. Which kind of says all that needs to be said about the UI on this light to begin with, right? If there’s a simple mode, then the other mode is likely too complex.
That’s the case here. But that’s what you get with this particular brand of UI control for flashlights. So instead I want to focus on how I typically have been using the light which is: on/off, ramping to get to brightness I want.
The simplest way to use the light is to click once to turn it on. It will turn on to the last used brightness level, which I make a habit of always being the lowest brightness. From there a click+hold will smoothly ramp the brightness to max — and the light slightly blinks when you hit max. Releasing the button at any point will keep the light at that brightness. Once you hit the top, repeating the process drops it back down smoothly in power.
The key here is the smooth ramping which is very unnecessary and absolutely lovely to use. Again, no need. But much want. The light gradually increases the output instead of it jumping from one level to the next. The only other mode I use is a double click to get to as bright as I can right away — which doesn’t impact the memory setting and is handy if you just need a lot of light really fast.
All in all, it’s useable, but incredibly fiddly. That’s kind of the story with this light.
Usefulness of Light Output
I am told flashlights are for lighting up the dark, and not playing with and constantly blinding yourself right before video meetings. So I did test this in the dark, and there’s three things I worry about:
- Can I use it without waking up someone sleeping in the room? Kind of. Basically we are looking at the lowest level of light here and on low this light is far from the dimmest I own. It’s mostly ok if you need to walk through a pitch black room where someone else is sleeping — but it is at the cusp of ok for me. I would prefer it to be about 30% dimmer here. Passing grade, but maybe like C+ passing grade. Update 4/23/21: I was informed over on the Member Discord that there’s another mode you can change the light into that makes the lowest output super low with some caveats. I set this up and now the lowest output is fantastic and the main caveat is that it doesn’t instantly turn on, which actually I see as a plus here. This is great, thanks!
- Is there a suitable mode that allows you to work on stuff with the light? Yes, and the smooth ramping really is nice for that. You can find the exact right output for whatever you are doing. The optic is also pleasingly smooth making it even better for working with the light — allowing for enough focused light to get the light where you need it, but enough spill to not give you tunnel vision.
- Can I make night into day? Kind of. I find the overall lumen output a tad misleading. While the site actually doesn’t list the OTF lumens for the E21A I would find it hard to believe it sits lower than the Nichia 219C which is rated to 3000lm. But that’s coming from three LEDs in the housing, so the effective light isn’t as much as you might expect in lights with a more standard reflector. Practically speaking, it is very bright. But not so much brighter than my 500-650lm lights with larger reflectors. This is kind of to be expected, but also the lumen count might mislead you if you don’t think this through. None of this is to say that it isn’t bright. Anything over 500lms is getting close to not that useful for most things, anyways.
Get this light and you will not regret it. E21A in 2700K is my pick. It’s a lovely output, in a really fun and nerdy light. I wouldn’t want to rely on this light in a situation where I need fool proof light. But it’s the only light I have been grabbing since I got it, because you can do silly and awesome stuff with it. And did I mention how lovely the light quality of the E21A is? Because it is lovely.
Highly recommended, one of the most fun things I have bought this year. I may have ordered another one with only red LEDs in it.