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Thread: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

  1. #1

    Default Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    Bronte is a relatively new flashlight manufacturer on the scene, based out of China. From some quick searching it looks like these are going to be in the "budget" price range. I'm sure many will have already formed an opinion about a Chinese company they haven't heard of before, but let's take a look and see how Bronte stacks up. I've been sent two lights from their "EDC" series and two from their "Outdoor" series for review, and the RA01 is from their EDC series.


    Thanks to Bryan at Shiningbeam.com for supplying the RA01 for review.

    Iíll be reviewing the RA01 in two sections: first, Iíll discuss the light objectively (the facts about the light itself), then Iíll discuss the light subjectively (my impressions about the light's performance when used for specific applications). This light seems to be designed as a stylish keychain light, so I'll be reviewing it as such. If you have any other specific applications you'd like the light tested for, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

    Below is a video "quick review" you can watch in just a few minutes, if you're not up for reading the full review right now:



    Objective

    Spec-Check

    In this section, you can see a quickly if I found the claims made about the light to be true. These specs are taken from the packaging of the light. As I test the light, when a spec is confirmed to be accurate (or close enough to be within the limits of experimental error), I will highlight it in green. If I find a spec to be inaccurate or misleading, I'll highlight it in red. Grey will mean that I can neither confirm nor deny it. Blue will be my comments added.

    --------

    -
    LED: Cree XP-G R5, life span up to 50000 hours
    -Max Output: 80 lumens well regulated on each of 3 modes
    -Max Runtime: 65 hours
    -Batteries: 1AAA either alkaline or NiMH
    -Weight: 22g (Excluding Battery)
    -Size: 74mm (L)*9mm(D)
    -Accessories: two spare O-rings, one key ring
    -Functions: three output levels
    -Impact Resistant at 1m
    -Waterproof to IPX-8 at 1.5m

    --------


    Packaging



    The RA01 came in a pretty basic package with the Bronte logo and the specs, with a cutout displaying the light. Inside the package you'll find the light held in a plastic seat, with the spare O-rings and instruction/warranty card tucked behind it.



    Construction Quality

    The RA01 SS, being powered by a single AAA, is obviously going to be pretty small. However, when I first picked it up, I was surprised by how small and light it feels, more so than many of my aluminum AAA lights. Though I was supplied the stainless steel version for review, according to Bronte's website they also make a regular aluminum version and an "Au" version. I doubt they make the RA01 out of actual gold, but their website does not specify the material. The pictures of the Al version show several colors of anodizing available (red, blue, yellow, purple/pink, and black).



    The RA01 SS, though lightweight, has an overall good construction quality. There are a few things that could be done better, but this is a well made light. The finish on the light is especially good, the polished stainless steel looks very professional.

    This light is slightly longer than a AAA, and very slightly wider. It comes with a claw clip on a short chain attached to a post on the rear of the light.

    Let's take a closer look, starting from the front...



    The RA01 features a Cree XP-G R5 emitter. The XP-G is currently the go-to choice for giving a light good throw from a small reflector. The R5 flux bin (brightness group) is the third brightest available for an XP-G, topped only by S2 and S3. This XP-G sits inside a small reflector with LOP (light orange peel) texture, which serves to smooth out any imperfections in the beam at the cost of a little throwing distance.



    The emitter and reflector sit behind a small lens and O-ring, held down by a bezel that appears to be removable with a little force. The instruction manual I received specifies that removing the bezel and opening up the head will void the warranty.



    The head of the light is removable from the body, and it's by tightening/loosening the head that you can turn the light on and off and change modes. A few grooves are cut into the head to give it style, and the grip necessary for turning it. I find that in normal use these grooves provide sufficient grip, but it becomes very difficult to turn if your hands are at all wet or greasy.



    The RA01 has flat portions cut into the sides for more style and grip. One of these had the Bronte logo, and the rest are blank. This logo is the only thing printed on the light.



    The tail of the light has a small rectangular post where the chain is attached by a small split ring. The split ring is easy to remove if you desire to replace the chain with something of your own. This post makes it very difficult for the RA01 to do a tail stand, but it is achievable by seating the post inside of the claw portion of the keychain on a flat surface.



    Now let's open it up!



    The light only comes apart into two pieces (unless you want to void the warranty, as I mentioned earlier), so battery changes are pretty simple. As you can see, at rest the battery sticks out about 3/4 cm when the light is open, but when it closes it compresses a spring with a large travel distance. This means that you have to apply firm even pressure when changing the battery because the spring fights you a bit until you get the threads started, but as a positive it does keep a very good connection between the battery and the head.



    The threads on the RA01 are small and triangular cut. I would prefer to see slightly larger threads, square cut, for improved durability, but on a light this small that would mean either increasing the length or decreasing the number or turns required to fully tighten or remove the head. Twist-on keychain lights are notorious for loosing their heads while hanging from keys, so in this case it's probably a good thing that the threads are small and many. This, combined with the large amount of pressure from the spring should keep the head well in place.



    Looking into the head (left) you can see the metal contact plate for the positive terminal of the battery. Looking into the tail (right) you can see the contact spring for the negative battery terminal (a little hard to make out due to reflections inside the stainless steel body).

    Dimensions

    Length: 70.45mm
    Outer Diameter: 13.75mm
    Inner Diameter: 10.45mm


    User Interface

    The UI of the RA01 is very simple. It has three output levels--Medium, High, and Low, in that order. You turn the light on by fully tightening he head, and turn it off by loosening it slightly. To change the output level, when the light is on you quickly loosen then re-tighten the head within a few seconds, and the light will move to the next level in the sequence.

    This light does not have mode memory, so each time you turn on the light after leaving it off for a while it will start on Medium.

    If you'd like to see a video of the UI, take a look at the one embedded at the top of this page.


    Action Shots

    Light in Hand



    White Wall (Low, Medium, High)
    ISO 100, f/3.3, 1/10"




    BeamSlice


    Indoor Shots (Control, Low, Medium, High)
    ISO 100, f/3.3, 1"





    Outdoor Shots (Control, Low, Medium, High)
    ISO 100, f/3.3, 2.5"






    Performance

    PWM: Pulse width modulation is used to make an LED appear dimmer by flashing it very quickly (thousands of times per second). I found that the RA01 uses detectable PWM on the low and medium mode, and I could not detect any PWM on high mode. The PWM is only noticeable to me when I move the light quickly; it does not show up in normal use.

    Drop: I dropped the RA01 from a distance of about 2 meters onto several surfaces, including carpet, grass, packed dirt, and wood, and I can find no affect on the operation or performance of the light.

    Reverse Polarity Protection: I can find no claims of reverse polarity protection by Bronte, so I have not tested this. However, the positive terminal of the RA01 on the circuit board in the head is not raised in any way, so it would be difficult (but not impossible) for the negative terminal of a battery to make a solid connection if the battery is inserted backwards.

    Over-discharge Protection: The RA01 is not cleared for use with lithium ion batteries, so there should be no need for over-discharge protection.

    Submersion: I submerged the RA01 under about a foot of water for about an hour. During that time I twisted the light on and off repeatedly. Afterwards, the light had no change in operation or performance and I could not find any evidence of water having entered the insides of the light.

    Heat: I have not found the RA01 to build up any substantial heat during normal use on a keychain. The light does get noticeably warm, though not hot, when used on high mode for extended periods of time.

    Spectral Analysis

    All light that we see as white is actually made up of several different colors put together. The relative intensities of the different colors in the mix are what determine the tint of the white we see. For example, cool white LED's have a lot of blue, and warm white LED's have more red or yellow. This measurement was done on a home made spectrometer. Note: the peak in the 900nm region doesn't really exist, it's a piece of the second-order spectrum that's showing up here because of the high intensity of the light source.



    Runtime

    Note: The vertical axis of this chart represents a relative brightness measurement using a home made light box. The horizontal axis is time in hours:minutes:seconds. Runtimes are stated in hours:minutes:seconds.



    High

    Time Regulated: 0:59:57
    Time to 50%: 1:00:16
    Full Runtime: 1:23:15


    Medium
    Time Regulated: 3:01:58
    Time to 50%: 3:04:11
    Full Runtime: 3:31:13

    Coming soon...

    Low
    Time Regulated:
    Time to 50%:
    Full Runtime:

    Subjective Review

    General

    Quick break down:

    +Stylish looks
    +Great regulation
    +Reliable UI
    +Well spaced modes
    +Small
    +Impressive throw from a AAA light
    +Smooth beam
    +Long threaded section
    +Reliable keychain attachment

    -Slippery
    -Noticeable PWM

    Bronte has done a good job impressing me with this little light. It looks great and performs even better. I'm especially impressed with the fact that the regulation is soon good over the course of the battery life, ending with a small amount of time of very dim light so that you have something to use to find the next battery. This is my general favorite type of regulation (good old sun and moon modes).

    I also really like that they used the XP-G emitter and LOP reflector combo here. The RA01 throws much better than I expected from a light this size, and the beam is still very smooth and pleasing even on a white wall.

    Another thing that really contributes to the quality of this light is the reliability of the UI. In my experience, the performance of twisty-style UI like this can be pretty spotty. They can be really picky about how far off you have to twist, how hard you twist it back on, etc. With the RA01 I found it to be pretty easy to get it to do what I wanted, and I haven't experienced any trouble. The "twist off on and on to cycle through modes" UI is definitely not my favorite, but it is well done here. I'll keep on waiting for someone to do a better UI in AAA form.

    This light does have visible PWM, which can be kind of bothersome. It gets the job done, but I know a lot of people are irritated by this. I don't have a way of measuring the frequency. It's fast enough that I never see it in the beam, but slow enough that I do notice it when I look at the emitter and move my hand at moderate speed.

    Overall, I'm very impressed with the RA01 SS. I don't know what the price is going to be on these, but I have reason to believe it's going to be in the "budget" category, and this model is significantly superior to the old standard of the iTP A3.

    EDC/Keychain

    This is pretty obviously meant to be a keychain light (given that it comes with a keychain attachment). Overall, it performs well in this area, with just a few drawbacks.

    One of the most important things about a keychain light is that it stays attached to your keychain. A keychain gets a lot of use outside of your pocket, and there's a lot of opportunity for something like a flashlight to fall off. The RA01's keychain attachment point is solid, and I like that. It's also a long groove, which means it may not hang perfectly straight off your keychain, but it's got room to wiggle around and is less likely to cause things to get tangled up. The chain and claw it comes with are pretty solid (I gave them some considerable tugs to make sure), but you can easily replace it with something else if you like.

    It's also really important for a twisty keychain light that the head be securely attached to the body. Many of these have just a few threads, and when you loosen them to turn them off the head isn't far from falling off. The RA01 takes a full 4.5 turns to remove the head, and only a few degrees to turn off. This means it's very unlikely the head will fall off while it's hanging out only a few degrees loosened on your keychain. The spring is also pretty firm, so it keeps good pressure on the threads and they don't turn too easily.

    Another great thing here is the stainless steel body. It looks great with keys, and I expect it to stand up to abuse well.



    The only thing I don't like about the stainless body is how slippery it is. If my hands are at all wet or greasy it's pretty tough to get enough friction for a good grip to turn the light on/off or change modes.

    Another thing I look for in an EDC is the ability to have different brightness settings available. If a light has only one mode, I might EDC it, but not solo. The RA01 with a max of 80 lumens and a low of about 10 is going to cover most situations you run in to. I'll still be carrying a more powerful EDC, but this just replaced the Sunwayman RA01 on my keychain. We'll see if it stays there.

    Long Term Impressions

    I'll fill this part in after carrying the light for a while. If nothing get's added here, either I find nothing else worth noting about the light, or I end up not using it often.
    Last edited by Bigmac_79; 05-26-2012 at 05:23 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel (In Progress)

    Ok, I've got the first impressions for the Subjective review up. I still have some more tests to run for the Objective section, and a couple videos to shoot. This is on my keychain now, and I've been enjoying it a lot.

  3. #3

    Default thanks for the review Bigmac_79!! Great review!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigmac_79 View Post
    I'm sure many will have already formed an opinion about a Chinese company they haven't heard of before, but let's take a look and see how Bronte stacks up.
    It seems we are lacking of real new flash lights nowadays.


    just my 2 cents on the product. btw, it was reviewed earlier by mev.

  4. #4

    Default Re: thanks for the review Bigmac_79!! Great review!

    Quick video review posted at the top, just a few more details until this review is done

  5. #5

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel (In Progress)

    Ok, this review is effectively complete!

    I still need to run the low run time test, but because those take so long it will have to wait until I have a solid block of time on the datalogger. Thanks for reading!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel (In Progress)

    Great review! I have one in the mail.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel (In Progress)

    Quote Originally Posted by EJ20 View Post
    Great review! I have one in the mail.
    I hope you enjoy it!

  8. #8
    Enlightened
    Join Date
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    Thumbs up Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    Great review, BigMac 79!

    I have an aluminum RA01 Bronte few days ago, and I agree with all your opinions. I am especially pleased with the user interface, it is smooth and well-calibrated (in the Fenix ​​LD01 is very hard turning). I think the three modes are well calibrated, I like the way minimum of 9 lumens. Furthermore, the size is very tight, as the Fenix ​​E05 (about 67 mm without support for the ring).

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Noctiluco View Post
    Great review, BigMac 79!

    I have an aluminum RA01 Bronte few days ago, and I agree with all your opinions. I am especially pleased with the user interface, it is smooth and well-calibrated (in the Fenix ​​LD01 is very hard turning). I think the three modes are well calibrated, I like the way minimum of 9 lumens. Furthermore, the size is very tight, as the Fenix ​​E05 (about 67 mm without support for the ring).
    Thanks for your comments Noctiluco! If you want to, it would be a great addition to this thread to add some pictures of the Al version.

    Sent from my mobile device. Please excuse brevity and typos.

  10. #10
    Enlightened
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Spain
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    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    Here are some pics:










  11. #11

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    Thanks for those! I like that red.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    It's disappointing that they have it default to medium brightness. . . They should have given it a memory. . .
    Bill
    Pacific NW

  13. #13

    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    Low mode ~ 65hrs@9lm!!! That's waay better than Fenix E01, and even LD01 with CC driver and R5...

    Cheers

  14. #14
    Flashaholic Teobaldo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Object/Subject Review: Bronte RA01 Stainless Steel

    Thanks for the complete review, Bigmac_79.

    I bought two months ago and I am very happy with this flashlight in my keychain. I did a test of the runtime (with Sanyo Eneloop) in low mode and I obtained 14 hours, not the 65 of the specifications. For me, is more than sufficient for a small flashlight that use a AAA battery and fits conveniently with the keys.

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