Warning: even more pic heavy than usual!
This review is of the new high-output portable spotlight by Olight, the X6 Marauder.
This light is distinctive for a number of reasons, including the 6x XM-L emitters and separate battery pack. Output is well into the realm of HID spotlights. Let's see how it compares …
Manufacturer's Specifications for the NEW Production version:
- Uses 6 CREE XM-L LEDs
- Output levels (runtime): 150lm (30h) - 1200lm (4h30min) - 5000lm (1h15min)
- ANSI FL-1 Beam distance 640m, peak throw 102,400 cd
- Split-battery design perfectly integrates high demands of heat dissipation and low weight of main body.
- Built-in high-capacity lithium battery to ensure extended runtime at high brightness.
- Aluminum alloy 6N01-T6 with Type III hard anodization and Bayer ABS (20% carbon fiber).
- Can work directly with AC110V and AC220V electric supply with optional accessories.
- Lens : Tough ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating.
- Water resistant: IPX6.
- Impact resistant: 1m
- Power indicator:
- Low: red light on and should charge immediately
- Normal: yellow light on
- High: green light on.
- Terminal Control Mode where the main body can be powered by a car battery or other 12V power source.
- MSRP: ~$500
As you might expect, the X6 comes in a high-end carrying case with cut-out foam. Included inside the case are the base X6 unit, battery pack, DC charging cable and transformer, AC adapter case, should strap and manual (not shown).
From left to right: Olight X6, Olight SR92, and Titanium Innovations L35 HID.
Olight X6 Base Unit: Weight 1.1kg, Length: 161mm, Width (bezel): 113mm
Olight X6 Battery Pack: Weight 482g, Length: 144mm, Width (height): 100mm
Other high-output lights:
Titanium Innovations L35 HID: Weight 1.3kg, Length: 234mm , Width (bezel): 110mm
Xtar S1: Weight: 876.0g (est. 1028g with 3x18650 protected), Length: 240mm, Width (bezel): 83.4mm
Nitecore TM11: Weight: 342.6g (476g with 8xCR123A), Length 135.3mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm
4Sevens S18: Weight: 700g (800g with 6xCR123A), Length: 233mm, Width (bezel) 63.0mm, (tailcap) 25.6mm
Olight SR90: Weight: 1.6 kg (with battery pack), Length: 335mm, Width (bezel): 97mm
Olight SR92: Weight: 1.15 kg (with battery pack), Length: 271mm, Width (bezel): 98mm
The X6 clearly falls into the size class of HIDs and other spotlights. As you will see below, so does the output.
Let's start with the base X6 unit:
The light features 6x XM-L emitters, each in their own textured reflector well (scroll down to the beamshots section for more info and close-up pics).
The body has a rubberized grip coating over its exposed surfaces, which the manual describes as ABS with 20% carbon fiber. The core body and cooling fins are described as 6N01-T6 aluminum alloy with type III anodization (i.e., hard anodized). If you scroll back up through the earlier pics, you can see there is a lot space for air-flow over the cooling fins. Overall weight and feel is certainly good for the size, well-balanced when carried by the built-in handle.
Note the weight of the base unit is still substantial (i.e., just over 1kg), which suggests the unit has good heat-sinking. The cooling fins are extensive and well-spaced, and allow a lot of air to move over the core of the light (the specs claim 140,000 square millimeters of exposed fin surface to transfer to air). Note there is also a built-in thermistor and the circuit will adjust output to manage heat levels. I will talk more about the thermal management under the runtime testing section.
There is a coiled cable coming from the back of the base unit, which connects with the battery pack. This allows for ~1m extension of the base unit from the battery pack (more on the connection aspect in a moment).
Here are some close-ups:
There is no printed labeling as such, but you can see the name and model number molded into the ABS sides of the light. There is also a shiny Olight label on the handle.
Electronic switch on the handle of the base unit:
The main switch on the unit is an electronic switch, with a fairly typical feel.
There is a solid metal base to the light, with a standard tripod mount.
The light stands reasonably stably when laid on its base, thanks to two little protruding rubber "feet" under the bezel. I am not sure what sort of optional base holders will be available for the light.
And now the battery pack:
The battery back is a solid unit, with again reasonable weight for the size (just under half a kilogram). There is a very substantial belt clip (although I recommend you wear a substantial belt to go with it, if you don't want your pants falling down),
The button on the top is a forward-style clicky switch, with a solid feel and reasonable traverse. Attached to the switch cover is an extended rubber piece that covers the charging dock when not in use. A fairly typically looking DC-charging port is used for charging.
Let's look at how the battery unit connects to the head:
There are three little pins in the connector at the end of the coiled cable coming from the base unit. This connector mates with a corresponding piece coming from the battery pack. A pair of matching plastic screw threads on either end secure the two halves together. I will discuss this in a little more detail under the Potential Issues section.
Let's take a close-up look at the case:
You can see metal hinges and metal closing clasps, similar to the other high-end Olight search & rescue style lights.
There are two ways to control the light – the default "Portable" mode, and the "Terminal Control" mode.
In the factory default Portable mode, you need to first turn on the battery pack unit by the clicky switch on the pack. The battery pack indicator lights will illuminate, indicating the approximate charge state (i.e. green, yellow, or red).
Press and release the electronic mode switch at the head of the handle to turn the light on. Press and hold the electronic switch to change modes (light cycles through Lo > Med > Hi, in repeating fashion). Release the switch to select the mode you want. Press and release the electronic mode switch again to turn off (actually a Standby mode). Alternatively, can you turn the unit fully off by clicking the main switch on the battery pack. There is a "hidden" strobe mode, accessed by double-clicking the electronic switch.
Light has mode memory, and will return the last mode you set it to after turning off-on with the electronic mode switch or the battery pack clicky switch.
In the Terminal Control mode, the light comes on automatically when supplied by the battery pack or an external power source. The electronic switch in the handle will not operate to change modes. You have two output levels available to you in this mode, accessed by turning the power off and back on (i.e. Lo > Turn off > Hi > Turn off > Lo, etc.). The Terminal Control mode sounds to me to be most appropriate for use when you want to run the light directly off AC or DC power.
To switch into Terminal Control mode, let the light ramp through three cycles of Lo > Med > Hi in Portable mode, releasing the switch on the Hi mode. To return to Portable mode, press and hold the electronic mode switch of the handle for 3 secs (until the light shuts off), and then release the button.
For a more detailed examination of the build and user interface, please see my new video overview:
As always, the video was recorded in 720p, but YouTube typically defaults to 360p. Once the video is running, you can click on the configuration settings icon and select the higher 480p to 720p options. You can also run full-screen.
There was no sign of PWM that I could detect, on the any mode. I assume the light is current-controlled, like the other Olight search & rescue class lights.
Strobe is a fairly standard fast tactical 9.6 Hz.
Due to the electronic switch design in the head, the X6 will be drawing a small current when the battery pack switch is clicked on. I was not able to measure this current, but it is likely fairly small. You can cut this current by simply clicking the battery pack's physical switch off.
The X6 uses a built-in thermistor to monitor real-time internal temperature. According to the documentation, when the inner temp reaches 85 oC, the circuit will gradually reduce output to protect the light.
To see evidence of how this works in action, scroll down to my Output/Runtime testing section.
The head of the X6 has 6 independent reflector wells, each with a textured OP finish. Each reflector seems about typical for an individual single-emitter light (i.e. about one and a quarter inch wide at the opening, with reasonable depth). Individual cool-white XM-L emitters all looked well centered on my sample.
And now, my standard white wall beamshots. All lights are on their respective max battery sources, 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.
Obviously, this is an insanely close distance that no one would be running the X6 at. But it does allow you to compare to other lights tested under my standard regimen.
I am quite surprised to see how consistent a hotspot the X6 has at such a short distance from the wall.
Note that the L35 doesn't fare well in the comparison above because it is more focused for throw than the other lights, and has a much wider spillbeam (i.e. the overall spill is dimmer, because it is spread out over a wider area not captured by the camera). This is illustrated below, using my famed "integrating carpet."
As you can see, the X6 has a fairly even "floody" style beam for a multi-LED light (i.e. there is a lot of light in the spill, not just the hotspot). But it doesn't have as wide an overall spillbeam pattern out the front as a typical HID.
Oh, and bonus point quiz: can you spot how many pets I own? I vacuumed the carpet a few days earlier, and you can see the cat paw prints walking across the middle of the image (horizontally), and the dog claw marks from running around the desk just above where these pics were taken.
UPDATE May 9, 2012: Outdoor beamshots have now been added to the review. These are done in the style of my earlier 100-yard round-up review. Please see that thread for a discussion of the topography (i.e. the road dips in the distance, to better show you the corona in the mid-ground).
As you can see, on Hi the X6 has a lot more output than the other Olight S&R-style lights, or some of my other recent 3xXM-L lights. The X6 beam pattern is very even - a true "wall of light".
It's fankly hard to capture just how crazy bright this thing is with conventional camera settings. In real life, it seemed to evenly illuminate the entire scene, from the edges of the periphery to the tops of all the trees.
For those of you wondering how it compares to the Titanium Innovations L35 HID:
Finally, here is a comparison of the X6 Med mode to the Skilhunt DT-20, a 2xXM-L light that I estimate does very close to 1200 ANSI-FL1 lumens:
As you can probably see above, it looks like the X6 Med mode is a bit higher than the 1200 lumen spec. On the basis of my ceiling bounce data, I would estimate the X6 is something closer to ~1500 lumens.
UPDATE MAY 11, 2012: Here's a blow-up of the center of the beamshots, showing a comparison between the SR90 and X6, both on Hi. Consistent with my lightmeter readings (see below), I don't think there is much a difference is peak throw - but the SR90 may have an advantage at greater distances (e.g. several hundred meters).
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 devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lightbox values to Lumens thread for more info.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
My summary tables are reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Effective March 2012, I have updated the Max Output ANSI FL-1 lumen estimates to represent peak output measured at 30 secs (my earlier gray tables were based on a later time point for Max output). Please see http://www.flashlightreviews.ca/FL1.htm for a discussion, and a description of all the terms used in these tables.
As always, estimating overall output on these sorts of high-output lights is not easy. I generally use ceiling bounce tests to "calibrate" against other lights of known output, and adjust my simple lightbox values accordingly. These are very approximate though, so please take all the "estimated" lumen numbers with a very big grain of salt!
It seems to me that the reported ANSI FL-1 output specs are quite believable on Hi (i.e., my estimate is a little over 5000 lumens). Peak beam intensity/beam distance also seem bang-on in my testing – I directly measured 104k lux @1m.
On Lo and Med, reported output specs seem a little on the low side to me. Based on comparisons to other lights, I would estimate Lo as ~270 lumens (150 lumens spec) and Med as ~1500 lumens (1200 lumen spec).
As a side note, the peak throw value for the L35 HID is a bit high. The reason for that is ANSI FL-1 is based on the peak intensity measure, and HIDs tend to produce an irregular hotspot with at least one region of exceptional intensity. The "average" intensity across the whole hotspot would not be as great.
Alright, this is going to take some explaining.
To start, I ran a Hi mode runtime test under my standard testing regimen of constant cooling using a small fan. Note the output scale (y-axis) has been converted to estimated lumens to improve visual comparisons across graphs.
The pattern above is what you would expect to see for a well-regulated light without a step-down feature.
There is a slight drop-off in output over the first ~10 mins or so, as the emitters heat up. This is a standard aspect of how emitters work – their efficiency drops as they heat up (i.e., this has nothing to do with any circuit thermal control). Runtime was a respectable 49 mins at this level.
But the X6 has thermistor to monitor real-time temperature, and the circuit is supposed to gradually reduce the output when internal temperature increases above 85 oC. Presumably, my cooling fan was keeping it too cool to see that.
So what happens if you run the light without any cooling whatsoever? Keep in mind, the corner of my office with no fan is NOT the same as running the light outdoors (i.e. this test is being done in a relatively cramped, small space with absolutely no air flow).
Here is my first attempt with no cooling:
To start, the first ~12 mins or so looks exactly the same as during the the cooling run. But starting at this point, the output gradually drops off in a visually-linear way until it levels off at ~60% original output by 20 mins into the run. This exactly what you would expect, based on the included documentation from the manufacturer (i.e., presumably the internal thermistor has exceed 85 oC at ~12 mins, and the circuit has limited output in a regulated way).
What is interesting (and is likely due to my cramped office environment) is what occurred at ~31 mins into the run. At this point, the light had been stably limited to ~60% original output for over 10 mins. Now, it started dropping down in output in very discrete steps (you can't really see it in the trace above, but it was very clear steps). Over the next ~12 mins or so, the light stepped down all the way to off.
After a minute or two, it suddenly came back on to original Hi output for a few seconds, then abruptly shut off. Touching it at this point, the head unit casing was quite hot. I let it cool down for >10 mins, until it was quite comfortable to the touch. I then manually turned it back on. It came on at Hi mode, and showed the expected early pattern (i.e., slow drop-off as the emitters warmed up, a gradual step-down to ~60% starting ~10 mins into the run). The light then ran until the battery was exhausted.
The results suggest that the initial circuit-controlled step-down to 60% output was insufficient to keep the light operating <85 oC for the extended run in my cramped office.
Since I know everyone will ask, I did a second run the next morning where I measured temperature concurrently. For the temperature probe placement, I attached it to the head of the ABS bezel, near the opening.
Ok, this time it didn't shut-off, but stayed at the ~60% output level over the course of the entire run. I guess it was a little cooler in my office that day.
Note that I'm sure the absolute temperature reading would have been higher off the aluminum fins. In any case, this pattern is exactly the thermal management that I would have expected to see, based on the manufacturer's reported specs.
The surface temperature leveled off at just over 50 oC as the light output leveled off at its stabilized ~60% output level. But you can also see the temperature continued to slowly drift upwards over the course of the run at this level. Presumably, on that earlier run where the light shut-down, it got hot enough to trigger an additional shut-down routine.
Note also that runtime with this single circuit-controlled step-down was 1hr and 14 mins, consistent with the manufacturer's reported specs.
Since the cramped corner of my office is an unusual situation to run a 5000 lumen light (i.e., an indoor environment with no airflow), what should you expect to happen if you were carrying the light around outdoors?
To test this, I set up an oscillating fan at 6 feet from the light, and gave a few very brief bursts of intermittent cooling once the first step-down had occurred:
Note that my cooling regimen above is very, very mild. Each burst of cooling is just a few passes of an oscillating fan (i.e., the light is only getting a few seconds on each pass). Yet even this was enough to cause the output to start to rise slightly (look carefully at the output level after each arrowhead). As a result, I suspect more extensive cooling at this point would have allowed the output to climb back up to the max level.
All this tells me that the internal thermistor and control circuit are exquisitely sensitive to temperature, and respond in a very dynamic, real-time way.
Here is what it all looks like on the same graph, so you can compare to the other cooling states:
To summarize and put all that into context:
- The blue line is what to expect if you had constant air moving over the light (e.g., riding with it on the top of your car or bike, always in motion)
- The green line is what to expect if you are using the light outdoors - especially if you are walking around with the light, or there is at least some wind (i.e., typical usage where there is at least some normal intermittent air flow over the fins).
- The orange line is what to expect if you lay the light down in an area with no air flow for an extended period (although you could potentially see a second drop-off if it is really warm in the surrounding environment).
IMO, the thermal management feature of this light works well, and should help protect the light from damage.
So, how does runtime performance compare to other high output lights? Here is Hi and Med, under typical cooling conditions:
The X6 is definitely in HID spotlight territory. Compared my 35W L35 HID, the X6 is measurably brighter for the first 15-20 mins, then just slightly less bright for the rest of the thermally-managed run. Total runtime is less than the L35, but I presume the L35's battery pack has higher capacity (i.e., it is heavier, but I don't have specific mAh ratings for it).
The X6's performance on its 5200mAh battery pack certainly blows away the SR90/92 (which is presumably based on a just slightly lower capacity pack of 6x 18650 cells). It also handily beats out the 3x and 4x 18650 solutions, such as the Xtar S1 and Nitecore TM11.
The light comes in two components – separate base unit and battery pack – and there is no way to combine them together. This is apparently for thermal management as was well as weight management.
The connection between the head and battery pack feels a little delicate. It would be hard to line up and connect the pieces in the dark. I would worry about damaging one of the little pins, but there is at least a physical guide inside the connector to facilitate the process. The securing screw pieces also feel a little light-weight. Note that while many may prefer a simple plug/dock interface, the tension on the coiled spring section of the cable would likely cause such a plug to easily pull apart. I can therefore appreciate that a screw-together style of connectors are likely required for this sort of cable - I would just like them to feel more robust.
The thermal management is exquisitely sensitive to changes in temperature on extended runs.
The light will shut-off abruptly when the battery low-voltage protection circuit engages. However, you have several minutes advance warning by the low power red LED ("Lo") lighting up on the battery pack. Note the battery pack quickly drops from the green LED at initial activation ("Hi") to the yellow LED ("Normal") when in use, so it should not be used as a guide to the battery power remaining. Like many such indicators, it is only accurate as to capacity remaining when the light is off.
Optional accessories are unknown at this time.
The X6 is a very high-output light, well into HID territory. The base unit has a rugged exterior build, with evidently good thermal management.
Let's start with the output – the 5000 ANSI FL-1 lumen spec is very believable (although I believe the steady-state output level once it warms up is just slightly lower). Circuit performance is excellent across the board. The thermal management is well done – I don't think I've seen anything quite so exquisitely configured. The controlled step-down pattern once the thermal sensor reaches its internal 85oC threshold is well implemented (i.e. a gradual step-down to ~60% output over 10 mins). This is slow enough that you will not notice it happening.
Under typical outdoor usage, I expect this ~60% output level will be quite stable. But as you can see in my detailed indoor testing under various cooling conditions, the light will fluctuate from this level depending on ambient cooling (i.e. it will go back up to full output under constant air flow, or may drop-down further if in an enclosed environment). This is quite reasonable – I am glad to see the thermal sensor and circuit respond so appropriately to local conditions.
The beam pattern is very impressive, with a well-focused hotspot with little evidence of distortion - even at close range. They have done a very good job on the emitter configuration. Again, bear with me here - the outdoor shots will be coming in a few days ...
How does this really compare to a HID? HID bulbs have a few issues - output rises during the first few minutes after ignition, typically with pronounced color tint-shifting. Beam pattern and tint-shifting is also somewhat variable and motion-sensitive. More importantly, they are typically only single-stage. That said, their throw is typically going to be better than an array of LEDs, and their efficiency is generally quite good. But if the X6's >100K lux @1m (i.e., >630m beam distance) meets your needs (and I suspect it should for most people ), then this is the first LED solution that truly competes quite well with higher-end HIDs. And again, the very uniform X6 beam - both for tint and beam shape/pattern - is very impressive here.
I suspect the greatest concern for most is the separation of the base unit from the battery pack. This was apparently done for thermal- and weight-management issues. The coiled cable gives reasonable flexibility, but it does mean you have do something with the battery pack (i.e. clip on to your belt, or stick it in a very deep pocket, etc). As the battery pack is of significant weight (at just under half a kilo), that may be an issue for some. Also, because you need to screw the cabling together, disassembly will also take a few seconds (i.e. you can just unplug it quickly if you want to put it down). And connecting the rather fine cabling in the dark could be a bit tricky.
But one advantage to this setup is that you should be able to run the light directly off AC or DC power (i.e., why they offer the Terminal Control mode option in the circuit). I am not sure what optional accessories Olight plans to offer for this purpose, so please check with them directly if you want to know more.
At the end of the day, the X6 a thoughtful design that emits an incredible amount of light. The beam pattern and multiple output levels give you a degree of versatility you don't typically get with HIDs. And the promised power accessories (to run directly off AC or DC power) will likely only add to its appeal among high-output enthusiasts. It has performed consistently well in my testing to date, and I am particularly impressed with the exquisite thermal management control it offers.
X6 provided by Olight for review.