This new Solarforce T7 was kindly provided by CPF user waion at no charge for review. You can find more information on these at the supplier’s website: www.solarforce.hk.
UPDATE 1/25/08: They are now currently available for sale at Lighthound for ~$55.
Features of Solarforce T7, according to the supplier and one eBay vendor (note that I do not have independent verification for most of these):
- Cree Q5 LED
- 2xCR123A lithium battery, 2x16340 (RCR) Li-ion rechargeable battery or 1x 17670 Li-ion rechargeable battery (note that my protected AW 17670 won't fit, so I used a lower capacity 14670 in my tests - 18650 will certainly NOT fit)
- Aerospace grade aluminium 6061-T6 body with HA III coating
- 7 output levels (note: my sample actually has 8 levels)
- Max output 240 lumens
- Digitally regulated for constant brightness (see my review for a discussion)
- SOS & flashing modes available at each intensity level
- Unique 3-button control system (see below for an explanation of the UI)
- 4cm (Length) x 2.1cm (Diameter)
- 56-gram weight (excluding batteries)
- Waterproof to IPX-8 Standard.
- Toughened ultra clear glass lens with AR coating.
- Push-button tail cap switch
- Capable of standing up securely on a flat surface to serve as a candle
What came in the package:
On Max with AW protected RCR (black-label). For comparison purposes, I’ve also included the Fenix P2D-Q5 and T1-Q5. For P3D-Q5 comparison, see post #2.
As you can see, the Solarforce T7 seems to be the brightest of bunch, with a similar profile to the Fenix Q5 head. Tint on the T7 isn’t as purple as it looks in the pics, although the Fenix lights are quite warm in comparison. I’d estimate WF tint on the T7 (common on Q5 Crees these days - and the same as my Fenix P3D Q5 which just arrived, shown in post #2).
For more detailed comparisons, please scroll down to the runtime charts below. Here are the results of a quick "ceiling-bounce" test in a small windowless room, with my light meter on the floor near the base of the light (which is shining upward in candle-mode). All are on max output on AW protected RCR except for VB-16 (18650).
Solarforce T7: 8.7 lux
Fenix P2D-Q5: 7.1 lux
Fenix T1: 8.1 lux
Fenix P3D-Q5: 8.1 lux
VB-16 ("4W" overdriven) modded with U-bin SSC: 6.2 lux
Output/Runtime Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. My relative overall output numbers are typically similar to his, although generally a little lower. You can directly compare all my review graphs - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another.
Batteries used were Energizer primary CR123A, AW protected RCR (black-label, 750mAh), and AW protected 14670 Li-ion (1100mAh). My AW 17670 Protected Li-ion is too fat and won't to fit into the tube.
Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1m using a light meter.
- I'm not sure how the Solarforce T7 regulates its output modes. I suspect it is likely current-controlled. If it uses PWM, the frequency is too high for me to detect by eye or by instrument.
- Output is very nicely regulated at every level on primary CR123A and RCR.
- On single-cell Li-ion (14670 in my case), output is only semi-regulated – but all 8 output levels are preserved.
- The light lacks a memory mode, and always comes on at max brightness
- Light is turned on by the reverse clicky switch in the tailcap (note the tailcap threads are anodized, so you activate this light like a twisty if you want). Rear clicky is a bit stiff on my sample.
- The light has 8 output modes, not 7 as claimed by the supplier
- Press the lower red button once to decrease the output level by 1
- Press the upper red button once to increase the output level by 1
- Press and hold the upper red button for 2 sec to get into the flashing mode (or quickly press the tail switch twice - i.e. "flash" the tail switch)
- Press and hold the lower red button for 2 sec to get into the SOS mode
- Overall build quality is fairly good. I don’t have a P3D Q5 to compare to (yet, it’s on order), but I would say build quality is close to the Fenix lights. UPDATE: the P3D Q5 has just arrived, and is certainly not as long (see post #2), but has a slightly more substantial feel to it than the Solarforce (i.e. a bit more "heft" to the P3D-Q5)
- Hard Anodized (type III) finish is in good shape and unblemished on my sample. Lettering is also neat and clear for the most part.
- The head doesn’t open, batteries are changed by unscrewing the tailcap.
- Can't access the head, but the textured OP reflector looks to be aluminum.
- Clicky switch retaining ring was gouged on my sample, likely due to snap-ring pliers slipping during assembly. Note the light would “wobble” when tail-standing as shipped, due to over-tightening of the retaining ring – slightly unscrewing it resolved the issue.
- Rear reverse clicky switch is a bit stiff, and requires a fair amount of pressure to activate
- Red up/down intensity switches have good tactile feel and auditory feedback when pressed (makes a soft clicking noise). This is an improvement over the first generation VB-16s, which were somewhat "squishy" (i.e. you could easily jump a couple of levels at once).
- As you can see in the pics at the top of the page, the light comes in a box very similar in design to Fenix (even has the same description on the front!)
- Solarforce includes a nice sewn-nylon carrying pouch with closing flap and belt attachment.
- Extra o-ring, tailcap cover, and wrist lanyard included.
- Brightest Q5 light of its class. To give you a comparison, output of my Q5 Fenix T1/P3D are about one level down from max on the T7.
- Well-built, worked reliably during testing. I would say overall build quality is close to the Fenix line.
- Good user interface with 3-button setup, very familiar to fans of the VB-16.
- Clever placement of SOS and strobe out of the way, but easy to access by holding down lower and upper red buttons (respectively)
- Fully regulated on RCR and primaries, semi-regulated on single-cell Li-ion. Note that all output levels are maintained on all battery types, which is impressive
- Decent runtimes given the output.
- Anodized tailcap threads, allowing for tailcap lock-out or use a rear “twisty”
- No memory mode, light always starts on Max. At the very least, I think people would want a forward clicky if it was always going to come on in Max. But a memory mode would be far more useful
- Most of the 8 output levels are clustered near the higher end of output. The light could use a lower Min output level, and much more differentiation at the lower end of the output scale
- Body tube is a bit tight: my blue-label AW protected RCRs wouldn’t fit (only black-label fit). Similarly, my AW protected 17670 Li-ion won't fit either (but in fairness, it won't fit in my Fenix P3D-Q5 either). Looks like 14670 is the way to go for maximum compatibility.
- Rear reverse clicky switch is a bit stiff
- The only thing holding me back from giving this light a firm is no memory mode and the relative lack of lower output levels. Fans of the earlier VB-16s will be disappointed by this change, as it seems a step back from two of the main advantages of those lights.
- The user interface is a good design, intuitive and simple to use - with smart placement of the SOS/strobe out of sight, but available at all output levels
- Overall output is the highest for all my general use Cree Q5 lights (although this sample has a slight purple tint – likely a WF tint bin). The Q5 Fenix T1/P3D overall output is close - around level 7 on this light (out of 8 total).
- Compared to my overdriven 1st gen VB-16 "4W" with U-bin SSC mod, the T7 is at least 35-40% brighter overall. I doubt current SSC VB-16s are much brighter than my modded one.
- Price is reasonable at ~$55.