Reviewer's Note: The ThruNite TiKey was provided for review by GoingGear.com. Please see their website for more info.
Manufacturer's specifications, according to GoingGear's website:
- Made of Titanium alloy (TC4)
- Resistance to impact by dropping according to US MIL-STD-810F
- Nichia white GS LED with a life of 100,000 hours
- Max output: 10 Lumens
- Uses 3 Pieces of AG13 (LR44) batteries
- 4.6cm (Length) x 1.7cm (Diameter)
- 3+ hours working time
- Polished finish
- 30-gram weight (including batteries)
- Gift box with Three Pieces of AG13 batteries included
- MSRP $39.95)
The TiKey is the first light from the new manufacturer ThruNite. There have already been several excellent reviews of this light here on CPF. This review is of a revised sample that addresses some of the concerns previously reported on here.
The TiKey comes in a hard cardboard box with cut out foam that securely holds the light and extra batteries. Included in the package is the light, two sets of 3xAG13 batteries, a warranty card, spare O-ring, and split ring attachment.
(from left to right: TiKey, ITP EOS single-stage, Maratac 1xAAA, NiteCore EZCR2, Fenix L0D, LiteFlux LF2XT).
Weight 22.8g, Length 46.3mm x Width 16.7 (bezel)
As you can see, the TiKey is of a fairly small construction. The light uses three AG13 (aka LR44) alkaline button cells, and is about the size I would have expected for a light using this battery source. The overall width of the light is similar to my NiteCore EZCR2, but the TiKey is of course shorter. Overall weight is heavier than what an aluminum light of similar size would be.
I will discuss the choice of batteries later my review.
The standout feature of this light is its titanium construction. It is a simple twisty model with the head and body forming two separate units. As you can see, it has a polished finish with no obvious chips or damage on my sample. The identification labels are a soft gray on the polished background – very class looking, IMO.
Titanium screw threads are known to produce a fair amount of galling, which leads to a sticky feeling when screwing the parts together. Despite only a minor amount of lubrication in its stock form upon arrival, I've found thread action to be quite smooth. I don't know if ThruNite has improved the action from the earlier samples, or if this is just a particularly good example. Certainly no worries here.
Not shown above is the gold spring in the base of the body (removable). My light came with button cells installed – which was good, since there are no marking or manual to show you the correct orientation. As it turns out, the positive button cell terminals (i.e. flat end of the cells) point toward the spring in the bottom of the light.
By nature of the twisty action, the light is locked out when not in use. Due to the protruding split ring attachment, the light cannot tailstand.
The light uses a Nichia GS emitter, similar to that found in the Photon Freedom and Fenix E01. This is considered to be one of the better 5mm LEDs on the market. Like the Fenix E01, the light uses a polished built-in reflector as part of the head (and the emitter is exposed with no lens cover).
One concern with the early review samples was waterproofness. Although watertight when off, apparently any water in the reflector well could be drawn into the light once activated (i.e. sucked in around the emitter). Given the fairly simple direct drive circuit setup, this is unlikely to produce a significant amount of damage - but it is never good idea to mix water and batteries in an electrical circuit.
I have tested this review sample and am pleased to report no problems with waterproofness. I filled the reflector well with water several times and repeatedly activated the light by twisting the head tightly against the body. At no time was there ever any indication of water entering the light, even when left activated for several minutes. I can only assume ThruNite has improved waterproofness around the LED entry point on this revised sample.
Here are some comparison beamshots – the TiKey and Photon Freedom are on Max on their respective standard batteries, the Maratac is on Med on Sanyo Eneloop. All lights are about 0.5 meters from a white wall.
As you can see, the TiKey has a somewhat blue center beam followed by a yellowish corona. This is fairly typical for a Nichia GS emitter, as you can tell from the Photon Freedom beam shot (although that light lacks a reflector well, and thus produces a floodier pattern). My TiKey sample actually seems slightly less blue to my eye than my photon freedom does.
As others have noted, the center beam is also somewhat elongated, producing more of an oval shape rather than a perfect circle in the center. Although I no longer have one to compare to, I recall that my Fenix E01 produced a relatively similar beam pattern (i.e. oval center beam, similar spillbeam width).
Consistent with a single mode light, the TiKey has a simple user interface: twist tight to activate, loosen to turn off.
Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for the extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
I've decided not to bother with a throw/output summary chart for this light, for the simple reason that the output and throw are fairly minimal and decay quickly with time (making accurate comparisons difficult). Please see the runtime graphs below for a comparison to other lights.
First thing to note is that the output of the TiKey is consistent with the medium to low output levels of other lights in this keychain class. Of course, due to the use of three alkaline A13 batteries, runtime will be less than lights using standard AAA alkaline or CR2 lithium cells.
The next thing to note is the fairly straightforward direct-drive decay pattern of the TiKey. This is similar to the simple 5mm LED squeeze lights available at a number of vendors (using 2xCR2016 lithium batteries) – although TiKey appears to be somewhat brighter than the standard cheapie squeeze light (i.e. DX "fauxton"). This could be good news for you if you like to use your light regularly for extended periods.
I would note that the storage capacity of an AG13 cell is typically rated at around 140-145 mAh (1.5V), compared to only 75-80 mAh (3V) for a CR2016 cell. Given the 3xAG13 configuration of the TiKey, I would expect potentially longer runtime than a standard cheapy 2xCR2016 squeeze light - at least on fresh cells.
But that raises the interesting question of relative performance of alkaline AG13 batteries over time. Unlike lithium power sources which have a shelf-life of 10 years, the shelf-life of alkaline cells is typically only three years.
Shown above are runtime graphs for the TiKey on several sources of AG13 batteries. As you can see, inexpensive dollar store AG13 batteries (10 for a buck in this case) provide equivalent runtime performance to the stock AG13 cells included in the package. This shows you that you likely don't need to be spending a lot of money on expensive brand-name button cells. But when compared to a pack of AG13 batteries purchased almost 3 years ago at DealExtreme (50 cells for a couple of bucks), you can see the effect of age on alkaline cells.
This suggests that you are best off using your TiKey on a regular basis and replacing the cells as needed. This would not be a light to leave for long-term storage. Of course, I never recommend that with alkaline cells anyway, given their potential to leak
Light is heavier than most keychain lights of this size, but that's to be expected for the titanium construction (which is the reason you're buying the light, right? ).
Use of three AG13 alkaline cells means higher initial capacity, but poorer long-term storage capacity, when compared to lithium powered lights.
Consistent with the use of the Nichia GS emitter, beam pattern is somewhat blue and irregularly shaped.
Previous concerns about waterproofing appear to have been resolved, at least on my one sample.
The ThruNite TiKey has received a fair amount of discussion here on CPF. Consistent with most of the other reviewers, I find the overall form factor to be pretty good for a titanium keychain light. Although I don't have too many titanium lights to compare to, the overall finish and feel (including screw thread feel) seem quite good for the price.
The two main sources of concern for this light appear to be the beam profile (which is a function of the Nichia GS emitter) and the AG13 battery source.
In terms of the emitter, I have to say that the Nichia GS is not my preferred LED. Although more efficient than many bare-bones 5mm LEDs, it is well known to produce a blue center beam with a yellow corona. Like many users, I have always had somewhat mixed feelings about the Fenix E01 for this reason (which uses the same emitter and polished reflector head combo). But at the same time, the Photon Freedom (which again uses the same emitter) has been a mainstay of my keychain for years. I wouldn't want it as my only flashlight, but as a backup source, it is certainly acceptable.
The issue of batteries is a bit more problematic. Personally, I don't have a problem with the use of three AG13 cells - it provides a reasonable amount of power on a commonly available and relatively inexpensive battery source (as long as you buy inexpensive cells). But lithium coin cells are generally a preferred choice for these sorts of lights, as they have a much longer shelf life, lower propensity to leak, and work over a wider environmental range (i.e. better for use in cold conditions). But if you plan to use the light regularly, this AG13 battery option could work better for you.
Still, considering the extra weight and cost of the titanium construction, you could carry a CR2/aluminum-based light with a much better emitter, a choice of output levels and superb runtime for about the same price and size. But of course, utility is not the only consideration in a carry light - and it's certainly hard to top of the bling factor of small titanium lights.
In the end, it all comes down to what you want from a light. As long as you understand what you are getting, I think the TiKey meets the manufacturer’s stated goals. But for their next offering, I personally would like to see what they could do with a multi-level circuit, better battery source (maybe CR2?), and higher end emitter.