I needed a low-power, very EDC-able light with long run time.
The ideal such light is the Arc AAA-P, but I'm not paying $45 for anything with less than a Cree in it, period.
I also wanted something identical but running off an AA cell, so I could leech every last milliwatt from the many dying-but-not-yet-flat AAs I have sitting around. Again, the ideal candidate is a Gerber Infinity Ultra, but $25, while cheaper than the AAA-P, is still too much to pay for something with a single 5mm LED in it.
I looked around for chinese clones, but I couldn't find an AA light with a single 5mm emitter anywhere.
I did find an AAA light, however: this one.
So I got two: one to use as it is, and another to extract the driver from it and transplant it into an AA body.
The lights arrived today. I'm still playing around with them (a full review with beamshots will follow), but I can give my first impressions.
The picture on QCG suggests they are made of plastic, but they are in fact made of metal.
The CNC milling isn't perfect, but it's not bad either. There are some rough edges on the keyring attachment, but nothing that could cut you.
Contrary to what the QCG picture shows, the lights are pleasantly free from logos, red or otherwise.
A small peeve I have with them is that they have no ridges and are thus very prone to roll away if you set them down on even slightly sloping surfaces. They have also no texturing, which could make it a bit harder to operate them if you have wet hands or something.
They come with the usual cheap carbon-zinc cells that chinese vendors like to foist on you (these are of the "Shinon" brand), but I've seen worse. At least these look like they'll stay together, which is more than what I can say for some I got from DX, whose outer cover was uneven and bumpy.
I replaced them with alkalines anyway; carbon-zinc cells are ok for powering LCD clocks, but I want something more powerful (and non-leaky) in my lights.
The lights are quite bright, which suggests to me they're overdriving the emitters. They have - of course - nowhere near the output you can get from Crees and such, or even old Luxeon Is, but I was not expecting this much light from a single 5mm LED.
In darkness, with not quite night-adapted eyes, they definitely provide enough light to avoid obstacles and see where you're going. At close range they're perfect for working behind computers, or for looking under furniture to find lost items, or other such tasks that don't require lots of power.
The beam colour and intensity is slightly different, with one flashlight being slightly dimmer and greener and the other slightly brighter and bluer. Neither is what I'd call pure white, although the greener light is vaguely closer. The difference isn't enough to fret about.
Power consumption from 1.5 volts is about 240ma, which supports the overdriving theory. Even considering conversion inefficiency, 240ma is a lot of current for a single-LED driver. I presume the emitter is seeing the thick end of 50 to 60 ma, although this is pure speculation - I'll be able to say more after I do more testing.
At 1.2 volts it draws about 180ma and it's barely dimmer at all - this is a good light to run from an Eneloop AAA. At one volt the draw is still a hefty (relatively speaking) 140ma - although the LED is very noticeably dimmer. The limit below which the step-up converter gives up trying to power the LED seems to be juuuust above 0.5 volts, and even at such a low voltage it's still drawing 65ma. An alkaline cell that outputs 0.6 V under any load is, to all intents and purposes, dead flat, but it still gives useful light in these flashlights. At this low a light level you lose the ability to identify obstacles in the dark before bumping into or tripping over them (unless your eyes are well adapted to night vision), but you can still comfortably read a book.
At the 1.7 volts you'd get from a lithium AAA the driver draws about 285ma, but the brightness doesn't increase noticeably, so there's little reason to use lithiums.
I didn't dare push it any further for fear of smoking the circuit.
Build quality is pretty good. One of the lights has a slightly stiffer tailcap, but it works fine. You get an o-ring on the tailcap, but I fail to see why - the head is definitely not waterproof, as it has no o-ring on the head and there's space between the LED and metal anyway. You could, I guess, silicon-seal the head and have a low-depth water-safe light, but in stock form it's at most slightly water resistant.
They seem quite tough. I dropped one a few times (as I said, they roll away easily) and it's still working fine. I also dropped one while I was playing with it, tried to catch it on the fly, botched the move, hit it with my hand and sent it flying across the room. It hit the wall and fell hard on the ground. It now has a small scuff mark, but still works perfectly.
If you remove the head cover and push with a stick or screwdriver from the battery compartment, you can remove the emitter and driver circuit.
This self-contained pellet looks pretty easy to transplant in another body, but I don't know how hard it'd be to crack it open and replace the LED. Which I definitely want to do, by the way: a newer 20000mcd white emitter would make the beam brighter still and considerably whiter.
I'll let you know when I have more data. So far, I can tell you that I really like the little things. Anyone who's been looking for a tiny EDC light running from an AAA and that doesn't beat it to death in a few minutes (like any superLED powered light will) should give these a try. Not the best there is, but at $4.39 a pop it's hard not to like them. Heck, you can get ten of these for the price of one Arc AAA-P.