Reviewer's Note: The pre-release M20C was provided for review by SUNWAYLED. Please see their website for more info.
Warning: pic heavy, as usual
Manufacturer Specifications: (taken from the SUNWAYLED website).
- CREE XR-E R2 LED
- Three modes constant output:
- Output and runtime on 2600mAh 18650 battery : 240 Lumens (2.7 hrs) - 40 Lumens (26 hrs) - 12 Lumens (100 hrs), Strobe mode: 240 Lumens (3.5 hrs)
- Digital Sensor Magnetic Control system, slightly twist the Rotator Ring to select from different modes
- Digitally regulated output - maintains constant brightness
- Effective range of 180 meters
- Compatible with both 2xCR123A (16340）batteries and one single 18650 battery
- Working voltage:0.9~10V
- Reflector of good quality maintains both great throw distance and spread, good beam pattern
- Dimension:133 mm (length)* 32mm(head diameter)*25.4mm（body diameter）
- Weight: 120g（battery excluded）
- Aerospace-grade aluminum alloy
- Military Specification Type III hard anodized
- Waterproof accords with IPX-8 standard
- Ultra-clear toughened glass lens resists scratches and impacts
- Tactical forward clickie switch for momentary on
- Tail stand and can be used as a candle
- Accessories: Clip, O-ring, rubber cap
- Estimated MSRP: ~$82
The M20C is the third light I’ve reviewed for the new manufacturer SUNWAYLED. My reviews of their M10R and M40C models are already up for comparison. SUNWAYLED has made a big splash with these new lights on CPF, and here’s a chance to see how their foray into the general-purpose 2xCR123A/1x18650 world holds up.
Note that my sample was a pre-release version, so I don’t know what the final shipping packaging looks like. Circuit performance should be unchanged on the shipping versions, though. Note that my sample came with a removable clip, removable anodized aluminum grip ring, and wrist lanyard.
From left to right: AW Protected 18650, SUNWAYLED M20C, JetBeam RRT-2 Raptor, Jet-IIIM, Olight M20, Eagletac T20C2-II.
M20C: Weight: 116.7g (no battery), Width 32.1mm (bezel), length 133.1mm
Again, this is just a personal preference, but I find the overall external styling and size of the M20C very attractive – and well suited to a general purpose 2xCR123A-sized light.
What’s particularly impressive is that they managed to fit the dual control interface is such a small size (i.e. forward clicky switch for on/off and a magnetic control ring for output levels). The light can even tailstand.
The control ring has good feel, with noticeable detents at every level (although no identifying labels). I would describe the feel as very similar to the JetBeam RRT-series control ring. Overall styling is also very JetBeam-like, but with a more stream-lined appearance here. I am not sure what material the control ring is made of, but the feel and anodizing color are an exact match to the rest of the aluminum frame.
Like M10R, the M20C comes with a removable pocket clip. Unfortunately, while I found that the M10R clip was somewhat loose, it is even worse on the M20C. In fact, it’s likely to fall off when changing the batteries. A good first attempt, but I find the M20C’s clip to be basically worthless as a securing device – although it does have value as an anti-roll feature and to enhance grip.
Note that the M20C also comes with a removable metal grip ring that will better serve as an anti-roll device (scroll back up to the first pic in the review to see it in action ). It attaches just below the tailcap, instead of the pocket clip (you can only use on or the other). Unfortunately, I found the grip ring wasn't securely fastened in place by the tailcap (i.e. still wobbles).
As previously mentioned, SUNWAYLED is using the older Cree XR-E R2 emitters for the M10R/M20C lights. While this may be in part to maximize throw, I suspect the real reason is the experience of the designers with this class of emitter. I would encourage them to switch to the newer XP-G emitters. Scroll down for beamshots.
The forward clicky on/off switch has a good feel, with a fairly typical traverse. Frankly, I consider it better than the M10R’s switch. The switch is also recessed within the tailstanding ring, so this may interfere somewhat with your ability to activate – but not unreasonably so in my testing.
The build seems excellent – the light uses square-cut machinist screw threads, with a good number in both the head and the tail region. Screw threads are anodized, so lock-out is available.
Fit and finish on my samples are outstanding. I really like the color – a rich, dark grey – very similar to some of the earlier NiteCore lights (e.g. Extreme, and some particularly dark D10/EX10s, etc.). Frankly, this is one of the best anodizing jobs I’ve seen - absolutely no flaws or chips on any of the SUNWAYLED samples I’ve received.
Despite their small size, the labels were sharp and easy to read.
There is no real knurling to speak of, except for a bit on the tailcap. This means the light will have lower grip than some of this class. Use of the optional grip-ring or pocket clip helps improve grip (but I wouldn’t rely on the clip to secure the light).
And now for the white wall hunting. Here are some up-close shots comparing to the original Eagletac T20C2 (which also had a XR-E R2 emitter) and the more recent TK12 (XP-G R5) and T20C2-II (XP-G R5). All lights are about 0.5 meters from a white wall (all lights on AW protected 18650).
As you can see, beam profile is very similar to the R2-equipped T20C2, but with a slightly more focused hotspot on the T20C2. The R5 equipped lights typically have a less defined hotspot with lower centre-beam throw. Scroll for some output/throw numbers on various batteries.
UPDATE: Some additional long-distance beamshots, to show you how the light compares to others in its class.
Please see my recent 100-yard Outdoor Beamshot review for more details (and additional lights).
Like the M10R, on/off is controlled by the tailcap clicky (press for momentary on, click for lock on). Mode switching is controlled entirely by the magnetic control ring in the head.
Basically, this will seem familiar to anyone who has used a magnetic control ring light (e.g. JetBeam RRT-series, NiteCore SR3, Eagletac M2C4). There are four defined levels the ring can be turn to – and you feel the resistance change when it falls into place (these are typically called “detents”). The M20C feels (and looks) most like the JetBeam RRT-series control rings.
The four control ring levels on the M20C are Lo – Med – Hi – Strobe, arranged clockwise if you have the light in hand pointed away from you (oddly, the M10R was counter-clockwise). The total traverse of the ring is ~1/3 circumference of the light, so you can switch back and forth with ease one-handed. Note there is no “standby” mode – you turn the light on or off by the tailcap clicky only. There is thus no parasitic drain to worry about.
There is no sign of PWM flicker by eye or with my sound-card oscilloscope on any level. SUNWAYLED claims the light is current-controlled.
Strobe was measured at a fairly typical “tactical” 12.9 Hz, similar to M10R.
Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlight reviews 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.
Throw values were taken at 1 meter for all lights shown below.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
The M20C’s overall output on Max is among the high-end of a R2-equipped light. Throw is also good for a general purpose light – while not as far throwing as the JetBeam RRT-2 or original Eagletac T20C2, it is in the same range as the more general purpose Jet-III M, NiteCore SR3 and Olight M20.
On 1x18650, Lo output is lower than typical for this class of light. On 2xCR123A/RCR, min output is a bit brighter, but still toward the low end for this class.
Note: Effective January 2010, all CR123A runtimes are now performed solely on Titanium Innovations batteries sponsored by BatteryJunction.com. You can compare the generally excellent performance of these CR123A cells relative to the Duracell/Surefire cells used in all my earlier reviews here. I have marked all the new runtimes of lights with Titanium Innovations CR123As on the graphs with an "*".
At first glance, these output/runtime results look pretty good. Spacing of levels is good, IMO. So how does it stack up to the competition?
On Med/Hi on 1x18650, runtime performance is very good - about what I would expect from a current-controlled R2-equipped light.
On 2xRCR or 2xCR123A, Hi mode is again exactly what I would expect for this type of light. My Med mode 2xRCR run seems a bit on the low side for the output level, but still reasonable.
Grip is lower than some lights of this class, due to the lack of knurling. The removable clip is useless as a securing device, but it does help with grip and prevents rolling. The removable aluminum grip ring also helps with grip and rolling, but has some wobble when installed.
Some small loss of efficiency on Med mode on 2xRCR, but still reasonable performance.
Final packaging and extras are unknown at this time (except for the clip, grip ring and wrist strap shown here).
SUNWAYLED has definitely made a splash here with their recent launch of a full range of lights. The M20C fits in nicely to the general purpose 2xCR123A/1x18650 class. See my earlier M10R and M40C reviews for the 1xCR123A and 2x18650 class lights, respectively. As discussed in those reviews, SUNWAYLED clearly has a lot experience in flashlight design and manufacture.
Although this light shares a lot of design similarities to the M10R, I find it manages to avoid some of the issues with that light. Specifically, the M20C is well regulated on all possible battery types, with a good spacing of output levels. It also has a greater number of screw threads on the head and tail, and a better feel to the forward clicky. For that matter, I even prefer the clockwise orientation of the output modes on the control ring.
What it shares with the M10R and M40C is a magnetic control ring with one of the best feels out there – well done. The anodizing is particularly impressive – the light has a very nice look and feel.
That being said, the M20C lacks any real knurling, so grip is not as high as some of this class (unless you use the optional grip ring, which is a bit wobbly, or the clip, which is loose). But aside from these rather minor issues, I’m quite impressed with the overall feel and build quality of the M20C.
As mentioned in my M10R review, use of the older Cree XR-E emitters seems an odd choice for 2010. But I’m sure future generations of SUNWAYLED lights will incorporate newer emitter types.
Bottom line, this is a very nice offering in the (rather crowded) general purpose 2xCR123A/1x18650 marketplace. That being said, I’ve been surprised at how difficult it is for makers to do this general-purpose class justice - many of the the lights I’ve reviewed in recent years have had odd quirks or issues. But SUNWAYLED is straight out of the gate with a surprisingly strong offering. No surprises here, the light performs as it should (and as you would expect).