Warning: pic heavy, as usual.
UPDATE July 20, 2011: Review updated with results to the currently shipping XM-L version of the E03. Scroll down to the end of the review for a comparison analysis
- LED: CREE XP-G R5 (Cool White 1B tint), XP-G R5 (Neutral White 3C tint), or XP-E Q3 (Warm White, 7B tint)
- Anodizied Aluminum (Rose Red, Deep Sea Blue, or Ti-Black)
- GITD (Glow in the Dark) silicon O-ring and silicon rubber tail cap
- Waterproof (10M dunk-resistance)
- Double O-rings and Square threads
- Battery type: Alkaline, Ni-mh, Ni-cd, Lithium, 14500 Li-ion or Lifepo4
- Linear driver — no PWM
- 3 Modes in this order: Medium, Low, High. (no mode memory)
- Unique finger grip
- Size and Weight: 96.5mm x 21.5mm. 48g
- Included Accessories: 2 spare O-rings, 1 extra switch, 1 lanyard
- Optional Accessories: diffuser tip
- Estimated MSRP $28
I don’t normally review “budget” lights, but the Xeno E03 specifications show a lot of potential for the price. Does it live up ito these specs? Scroll on to find out, gentle reader …
The light comes in a nice presentation style metal case, with black packing foam. Inside, you will find the light, manual, simple wrist strap, extra o-rings and switch.
From left to right: Duracell AA, Xeno E03, ITP SA1, Klarus ST-10, 4Sevens Quark AA, Nitecore D10, Fenix LD10, Zebralight SC51
E03:: Weight: 48.1 g (no battery), Length 96.7mm x Width 21.5mm (bezel)
The overall dimensions are pretty standard for a typical 1xAA light.
Build of the E03 is remarkably good for the price. Of immediate note, notice the polished aluminum bezel ring, square-cut threads and dual body o-rings. You also get a GITD switch boot cover and GITD o-ring in the bezel.
In addition, screw threads are anodized for tailcap lock-out. Although not shown, there is a spring soldered on the positive contact plate in the head, so flat-top 14500s will work fine.
The tailcap switch is a reverse clicky, and has a plastic retaining ring (well, you can’t have everything at this price point ). Switch feel is about typical for a reverse clicky, and the light can tailstand stably.
Knurling is surprisingly good – this is one of the more aggressive patterns I’ve seen on a made-in-China light, but it doesn’t feel like it would be too rough on clothing. The E03 also features a unique grip feature – finger grip indentations on one side of the battery tube. I found these to be well placed for over-hand operation.
Anodizing was perfect on my sample, no chips or smudges (note the light also comes in blue and red). Lettering is sharp and clear, bright white on the gloss black background.
The diffuser cone is an optional accessory, and doesn't come with the light. It does the intended job well.
My general impression of the build of this light is very positive – it feels like a far more expensive offering.
The E03 comes in a choice of emitter types, and my review sample is the XP-G R5 Neutral White. This is actually the first R5-output bin Neutral-tint I’ve seen (most are usually R4s). Note that it is a 3C tint bin, so it is not as warm as the typical 4A/B-5A/B “Neutral” white tints. But I personally quite like it – I am not a fan of overly warm tints, and this 3C is just about right in my books.
All lights feature a medium textured orange peel (MOP) reflector
Which brings us to the requisite white wall hunting . All lights are on Hi on Sanyo Eneloop, about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences.
As you can see, the beam profile of the E03 is reasonably smooth and even. Although not as heavily driven on 1xAA as the Fenix offering, output is quite reasonable for this class (scroll down to my Summary Tables and runtimes for more specifics on output).
UPDATE: Here are some shots without and with the diffuser (f2.7, 1/100sec exposure for both):
Personally, I like this diffuser better than most other wand ones. The flat top gives you a very even beam - a lot of the conical ones tend to still produce some centre throw. Although my preferred diffuser is always a thin flat one over the lens. But note again that the diffuser does not come with the light - it is an optional accessory to be purchased separately.
The UI is strait-forward. Turn the light on by pressing and releasing the tailcap clicky. Switch modes my soft-pressing.
The mode sequence is Med > Lo > Hi, in repeating order. There is no memory, and the light always comes on in medium.
And that's it - no blinking modes, no complex interface. It is very reminiscent of some of the basic Fenix and ITP keychain lights.
PWM and Strobe
The E03 appears to be current-controlled on its low modes - I could find no evidence of PWM.
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 any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.
I have recently devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lighbox values to Lumens thread for more info.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
Effective November 2010, I have revised my summary tables to match with the current ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see http://www.sliderule.ca/FL1.htm for a description of the terms used in these tables.
As you can see, output levels and throw in my testing are very consistent for the class on regular batteries. On 14500, the E03 is a real barn-burner on Hi.
Now this is interesting - the output/runtime performance pattern is remarkably similar to the Fenix LD10.
While it is true that max output on regular alkaline/NiMH is not as high as the LD10, the runtime curves look the same. And on Med, the output level and runtime is virtually identical (with a slight advantage to the E03, likely due to the R5 output bin).
Where the E03 differs is on how it handles 14500. On Med, the E03 is actually identical to the Fenix LD10 on all modes (i.e. direct drive). But on Hi, the E03 is even brighter than the Fenix (!), and on Lo has a reduced output level.
UPDATE March 24, 2011: For those of you who have asked, here is how the E03 compares on standard batteries, 14500, and the new primary lithium Titanium Innovations 3V 14505. Note that these are not ANSI FL-1 lumen estimates, but initial values upon activation.
The light lacks true low modes on 14500. Max output on 14500 also seems unusually high.
Light uses a simple UI, with no memory and a Med > Lo > Hi sequence.
Screw threads are square-cut, but at coarser level than typical (i.e. relatively few threads, spaced further apart than typical).
I will come right to point - for $28, I think this light is a steal. I have seen lights twice this price that don't match the build quality or output/runtime characteristics of the Xeno E03.
Frankly, this light gets it right on just about every measure. The build is outstandingly good for the price. Not just a knock-off, the E03 has some nice specific features (e.g. very good knurling, built-in finger wells, GITD accessories, etc.).
Having the choice of emitter is also great. As previously mentioned, this is the first XP-G R5 Neutral White I've seen (most are R4s). I personally really like the tint on my sample - it uses a 3C tint bin, so it's not quite as warm as the more common 4/5 tint bin Neutrals. But you can also get it in XP-G R5 Cool White (1B) or XP-E Q3 Warm White (7B).
The circuit performance was a very pleasant surprise for the price - on standard batteries, you basically get Fenix current-controlled efficiency, and at generally comparable output levels. And extra bonus - on 14500, you get to keep defined output levels on the E03, albeit at much brighter levels. In contrast, on the Fenix you loose all defined levels on 14500.
I wish more multi-level lights would use this method of output level control (i.e. preferred over the less efficient PWM). Of course, you need to expect some minor tint shifting over the output levels with current-control.
The interface is one area that seems somewhat basic compared to all the other advanced features of the light. Although Med > Lo > Hi is common on consumer-oriented lights, I would personally prefer Lo > Med > Hi with a memory mode. But that wouldn't stop me from recommending this light for the general user.
I was originally reticent to accept this light for review, given the "budget" price point. But the E03 certainly proves you can't judge a light by its price. Still, availability and consistency over time (and over multiple batches) can be concerns with lights in the budget class. However, for right now, I consider this current build to be an outstanding value as a general purpose light.
UPDATE May 30, 2011: Xeno has recently upgraded the E03 line to now include Cree XM-L emitters. Although I haven't directly tested the new versions, you should reasonably expect greater output for equivalent runtime on Max with the XM-L, especially on 14500 Li-ion/14505 lithium. However, due to the floodier beam of the XM-L, this may not appear too noticeable at a distance (i.e. will be more noticeable at close/confined distances - where you are frankly unlikely to be using Max). Lower levels are likely to be the same efficiency as the XP-G emitter. I don't know whether output at Lo/Med are increased compared the XP-G versions, but the difference isn't likely to be huge, in either output or runtime (but will again be less throwy on the XM-L). As such, I would recommend you choose between the XM-L and XP-G versions on the basis on the beam pattern (i.e. flood vs throw, respectively).
UPDATE July 20, 2011: I have just tested a XM-L-based E03 (Neutral T6), comparison results below:
Original E03 is the XP-G Neutral R5 version.
In summary, the new XM-L version has a broader and less defined hotspot, making the light seem "floodier" (i.e. less throw).
On standard batteries, max output has increased somewhat (for equivalent runtime), but you may not notice the difference given the floodier beam. At lower levels, output and runtime are equvalent between the XP-G and XM-L versions.
On 14500, output has increased at ALL levels. The Hi level is now insanely bright, and not something I would recommend running the light at (i.e. heat will be an issue, potentially damaging the light or the battery). The Med level on the XM-L is now slightly brighter than the Hi of the original XP-G version, and the Lo on the XM-L is slightly brighter than the Lo of XP-G verison (with again equvalent runtime). So, basically, you gain a very temporary "burst" Hi mode on this new XL-L version, but loose the old Med mode.
Hope that helps!
Xeno E03 (XP-G Neutral) supplied by TacticalHID for review. E03 XM-L Neutral loaned from eala.