Reviewer's Note: The VersaTi ET 10 was provided for review by GoingGear.com. Please see their website for more info.
Warning: somewhat pic heavy!
Manufacturer Specifications: (taken from GoingGear's website)
- Material: Titanium Alloy (Ti-6Al-4V)
- Surface treatment: High polished
- Emitter: Cree 7090 XR-E Q5-WD bin LED with a life of 500,000 hours
- Lens: Artificial sapphire lens with double-sided nanometer waterproof coating
- Switch: Unique Twist switch. (Tighten for OFF)
- Battery: Single AAA (Alkaline, Ni-MH, Lithium)
- Input voltage: 0.7-2.0V (Does not support 10440 batteries)
- 2 output types: Ultra low (10mAh) and High (150mAh) mode
- Low ( 5 Lumens, 35 Hours) --- High ( 45 Lumens, 120 Minutes )
- Impact and drop-resistant according to US-MIL-STD-810F.
- Waterproof: 10 meters / 32 feet (Exceeds IPX-8 standard)
- Dimensions: 66.5mm (Length) x 14.5mm (Head)
- Net weight: 20g (Excluding battery)
- Diamond knurling with grooves (Includes Tritium slot)
- Designed to stand up securely on a flat surface to serve as a candle
- Adjustable output by rotating the bezel
- Removable bezel
- MSRP: $75
Although now operating under the name VersaTi, I believe this company was previously known as Horus (e.g. see my FD-1.3 review from two years ago).
This new titanium offering in the 1xAAA space comes in two mode-sequence formats – a Hi-first model (followed by Lo), and Lo-first model (followed by Hi). For this review, I will be focusing on the Lo-first model. Note that the original sample sent to me was a Hi-first model, but this sample proved defective on its Hi mode and was replaced with a Lo-first model to complete the review. The build of the lights are otherwise identical, aside from the sequence differences.
Packaging for the VersaTi is fairly basic. Encased in foam are the light, split ring, carabiner clip, four extra o-rings and user manual. Manual is the same for both versions, except for the Hi/Lo sequence instruction.
The VersaTi is a solid titanium light, with an engraved model name and serial number. Certainly a stylish look - I like the bit of brass heatsink that shows through beneath the receptor cup.
As you may have guessed from the pics, knurling is fairly aggressive for a China-made light. This is one keychain light that won't slip through your fingers (although it may may scratch up other items in your pocket).
The light uses a standard Cree XR-E Q5 emitter. This is a departure from a lot of the other new lights in this class, which use the smaller die XP-E and XP-G emitters. Tint is a premium white (VersaTi claims WD, and that is consistent with my samples). For more information on tints and color perception, please see my Colour tint comparison and the summary LED tint charts found here.
As you can see, the reflector is shallow and seems to be made of polished aluminum (reminds me of the Fenix E01). Unlike the E01, there is a glass lens on the VersaTi to protect the emitter. In my experience, this design coupled with the standard XR-E should produce a wide flood beam with minimal hotspot (scroll down for beamshots).
Rear of the light is well designed, as it can tailstand and still accept a pocket/keychain clip stably. A build-in trit slot is also included, for those of you who like such things.
Design of the head is a little unusual, in keeping with its mechanism of action (i.e. light comes on as soon as you start to screw on the head, shuts off when screwed down fully tight). If you look into the head, you will see a number of small columns attached to the edge of the circuit board. One of these is raised higher than others, and seems to have some give to it. This is presumably how the light senses its state for output modes (i.e. fully tight is off, 1/8 of turn is the first mode, 1/2 turn onward is the second mode – scroll down for a UI discussion).
UPDATE 1/4/2010: The photo above was from my defective Hi-first sample, where the transparent plastic disc in the head had rotated (thus breaking contact with the largest pin). If this happens, you will loose the first mode after fully-tightened off. Here is how the head should look (from the functioning Lo-first sample):
Note the large number of screw threads on the body. I’m not sure why there are so many, as the head only screws down about half of them. As with many titanium lights, there is fair amount of “galling” when screwing down. Those use to aluminum screw threads may find this disturbing (i.e. the feel and sound of titanium on titanium is not the most pleasant). I’m not sure why, but the feel of the threads on VersaTi is stiffer than most titanium lights I’ve handled (maybe something to do with the thinner and narrower threads? ).
The reflector cup comes off easily, allowing you access to both the reflector and emitter. Notice the brass heatsink (brass is a good conductor of heat).
From left to right: Duracell AAA, VersaTi, Maratac (Natural), ITP EOS Upgraded (Natural), LiteFlux LF2XT, Fenix L0D, Lumapower Avenger GX.
VersaTi: Weight: 23.2g, Length: 67.1mm, Width: 14.6mm
Overall size is actually toward the small end of 1xAAA lights, although weight is bit heavier than aluminum lights due to the titanium construction. Given the softness of aluminum, it’s not surprising to see the number of stainless steel and titanium lights coming out in this class (i.e. it is relatively easy to crush the body tubes of thin-walled aluminum 1xAAA lights).
I’m also reasonably confident that the keychain clip won’t be bending or breaking off on you anytime soon here. .
All lights are on Hi/Max on Sanyo AAA Eneloop (NiMH), about 0.5 meters from a white wall.
As expected with such a narrow and shallow reflector, the VersaTi has a very floody beam. In fact, this is probably the widest and smoothest beam I’ve seen on a Cree XR-E – the hotspot is virtually non-existent. Certainly quite different from a typical Cree light (the ITP EOS – which is fairly floody for this class of reflectored light – is shown for comparison).
The VersaTi has an unusual interface, in that you need to screw down the head completely to turn off the light (tighten clockwise). Loosen the head (i.e. turn counterclockwise) to activate the light. This actually helps prevent accidental activation during regular use, but it means you get blasted with light when you go to do a battery swap.
As previously mentioned, the light comes in two sequence models. For the Lo-first model reviewed here (which I prefer), turn the head ~1/8 turn from off to enter into the Low mode. Turn the head ~1/2 of a turn to enter Hi mode. Interestingly, the light doesn’t jump to Hi immediately, but rather ramps up to max output over ~2 secs.
For the Hi-first model, the interface is similar – except that the light comes on immediately on Hi with ~1/8 of a turn, followed by Lo with ~1/2 a turn. Unlike the Lo-first model, Hi comes on instantly with no ramp.
No Pulse-Width-Modulation (PWM)
I was unable to detect any sign of PWM by eye or instrument with the VersaTi. The light is either current-controlled, or uses an incredibly high (and undetectable) PWM.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
Note in the comparison above that my Fenix L0D is an early edition with a Cree P4. Based on a 350mA drive current (where Cree Output bins are determined), a Cree Q5 emitter would be expected to be ~30% brighter on average, for the same drive current.
The VersaTi’s two output levels are basically similar to the Hi/Lo modes of other 1xAAA lights. Max output of the VersaTi was towards the low end of recent 1xAAA offerings, but still quite acceptable.
Wow - no question, the VersaTi is certainly the most efficient 1xAAA light I’ve tested at these output levels. The selection of just two output modes presumably allowed them to maximize relative efficiency.
It is also remarkably well regulated, even on alkaline cells. That has to be the flattest set of curves I’ve seen yet!
Although an intermediate Med mode would be nice, I find the two output levels to be well matched and suitable for a 1xAAA light.
Titanium lights are known to produce galling along their screw threads (i.e. a sticking/binding sensation). The VersaTi is no exception to this, and actually feels a bit more prominent (perhaps due to the large number of thin screw threads?). A bit of lubricant may help.
The inability to anodize titanium means you are limited to a natural finish only (although it can buffed to high gloss – as in this case - or potentially to a more matte look). It also means that locking out the head is going to be more complicated (scroll down for a discussion of the VersaTi’s solution).
The interior diameter is a bit narrow – although all alkaline cells passed in and out easily, a couple of my NiMH cells were too thick to be comfortably inserted. I tried just over a dozen different 1xAAA cells of different makes and capacities, and the issue wasn’t related to any one brand – but 2 of them wouldn’t fit down the battery tube at all, and one required a fair amount of force. It seems the tolerances are just a little too tight, but probably not a deal-breaker since most people buy 1xAAA NiMH batteries in multiple packs (i.e. at least some should fit).
More importantly, I also experienced difficulty fully tightening down the head for off with a larger number of NiMH cells (i.e. almost half of mine required a lot of force, and two just wouldn’t shut-off no matter what). No issue with any alkaline cell – but this again suggests tolerances are too tight for some NiMH cells. Given the screw-tight-for-off interface, this is a potentially more significant issue if you plan to use NiMH.
On the Lo-first model, there is ~2 sec delay when turning to Hi mode (i.e. it ramps up from Lo, instead of jumping to max output).
Does not support 10440 Li-ion (although I personally don't recommend these cells in lights without cut-off protection circuits anyway).
Some of the early samples had a problem of the transparent disc in the head turning, cutting off contact and loosing the first mode after fully-tightened off.
The 1xAAA class seems to be blossoming lately, and the VersaTi is the latest in a series of new offerings. The titanium build is particularly interesting, as a number of makers are coming out with this material in 1xAAA (e.g. ITP EOS Ti, Titanium Innovations IlluminaTi). Given the thin wall construction of the 1xAAA class, titanium makes a certain amount of sense (i.e. much higher tensile strength, should resist crushing better than aluminum).
Of course, titanium also has potential issues – the galling effect of screw threads being the most obvious. I find the threads on the VersaTi to be particularly susceptible to this – although this could be a class effect for small 1xAAA titanium lights. I will be in a better position to comment once I have tested a few of the competing products.
The VersaTi is certainly a solid light for this class. The beam is quite interesting, as it really is a true “flood” style light. Personally, this makes a lot of sense to me for keychain carry, since you are likely to want to illuminate a close-up area smoothly (as opposed to having long throw). Of course, I always carry a typical throw light as EDC, so my keychain carry is more for backup purposes.
The efficiency of the VersaTi is also very impressive – it is the best regulated and best performing light I’ve tested for the 1xAAA class to date. I found the output levels of the VersaTi to be reasonable, as I personally like a low Lo mode for keychain carry (a Med mode would be nice, but not a deal-breaker for me). Coupled with the wide flood beam, premium cool white tint, lack of PWM flicker, and choice of sequence modes (Lo-first or High-first), this light could be a worthy contender.
But there also a few issues to keep in the mind, mostly around the interface and build. The first is the troubling tight tolerances in regard to NiMH – you may need to play around to find individual batteries that fit and work well. I also have some concerns over the long-term stability of the design elements needed to insure the interface functions (i.e. the 3 tiny solid contact pins and the one presumably spring-mounted one in the head). This seems like a somewhat over-engineered solution to the problem introduced by the lack of anodizing lock-out on titanium. Also, at least some of the early samples had a problem of the transparent disc in the head turning, cutting off contact for the first mode after fully-tightened off (including my original Hi-first sample).
As with all lights, long terms reliability is unknown - so it really comes down to feature set, design and price. Efficiency fiends and flood fans (say that three times fast!) will find a lot to like here. But at $75 MSRP, the VersaTi comes in at a higher price point than many of the new titanium offerings coming out in the 1xAAA class (and is certainly more than standard aluminum lights). As always, it comes down to what you are looking for - just make sure you understand what you are getting …