Bucking the recent trend of multi-emitter & multi-cell lights comes XENO's latest release, the S3A. It features an extremely small form factor for an 18650-sized light that is not much bigger in total volume than some AA-sized lights but with great output and significant runtime benefits.
• Could be the smallest 18650 flashlight in the world with a reverse clicky. 21.5mm x 111mm, 50g.
• Reliable encircled pocket clip
• 6 stage driver 3 brightness levels (High, medium, low) and 3 hidden modes (Strobe, Locator Beacon, SOS).
• Stainless steel switch guard (allows tail standing, can be used for self defense or to break glass)
• Availble with a Cree XM-L U2 1B Cool White, T6 Neutral White 3C, T4 7B Warm White.
• Powered by 1x 18650 or 2x CR123's.
• Precision polished Orange Peel reflector with double AR (anti-reflective) lens
• Linear current driver (no PWM) with built in reverse polarity proteciton. 24k gold plated springs.
• Mil-spec Type III Hard Anodized Aluminum. Color: Gun Grey.
•Light output (U2): 300lms
•Runtime: 2.5hrs High, 100hrs low
•Beam Distance: 65M
•Peak Beam Intensity: 1300cd
•Impact Reisstance: 1M
•Water Resistance: IPX-7, 1M.
PACKAGING / CONTENTS
The S3A comes with a black outer shell and a pretty nice off-white box w/magnetic flap:
Additional items included were:
• 2 spare O-rings (I only received one)
• 1 spare clicky switch
• 1 wrist strap
• Instructions / Warranty Information
CONDENSED VIDEO SUMMARY
I'm in the process of fleshing out the review so in the meanwhile, please watch a high-level summary of the design and features including UI coverage:
DESIGN / FEATURES
Maintaining a slim profile typically means sacrificing all extraneous design elements since it requires additional material to start with to be carved (and thus translates into extra bulk). While the SA3 adheres to this mantra, it does feature some milled work (albeit minimal) that prevents it from being completely a plain cylinder.
There is a SS bezel (that can be removed with the appropriate tool but surprisingly not w/the TW15) which secures a double-sided coated AR lens:
[NEW 6/20: There is a GITD o-ring right behind the lens but given its size, doesn't hold the lume long after it's charged:
A group of etchings on the head include the company name, logo and a symbol I had previously explained (in G10v2 review) to be a pictogram of a Tiger:
Just aft of the head is a groove for the clip to attach to and a thinner groove right after that . The clip is interesting in that rather than being the typical clip on style, there is an interlocking "dovetail" to keep it securely in place:
The clip also features an attachment point for the included wrist strap.
There are 5 evenly spaced "dumbell" shaped fluting milled in to the body of which one has the serial number etched within it:
There is one final groove right after this completing all the milled work of the head/body.
Given there was some space between the final groove on the body and the switch guard, the S3A may have been well served to have another clip groove milled so that the clip could be flipped and allow bezel down carry. Here's a photochop of what it potentially could have looked like:
The SS switch guard is crenelated allowing it to be used for strike purposes or glass breaking duties. The flat surfaces also allow for tailstanding:
There are five dimples running around the circumference and two holes that can be used as attachment points for the wrist strap or potentially to install a custom clip to allow the SA3 to be carried bezel down:
The rubber cover hides a reverse-clicky switch:
The reason this was selected over a forward-clicky is it shaved a few mm off of the total length. Every thought was put into making this light as compact as physically possible but yet retain a clicky switch.
The threads on the switch guard and body are square-cut and on the latter anodized thus allowing lockout with roughly 1/8 of a turn:
There are 24K gold plated springs at both ends of the light [NEW 6/11: and while both my shortest cell (AW IMR 1600 @ 65.2mm) and longest (XTAR 18700 @ 69.2mm) fit in the tube:
I wasn't able to completely tighten the tailcap w/the XTAR18700, thus they will NOT work w/the S3A:
I did confirm that my next longest cell (RL3100 @ 68.3mm) does fit.]
I've confirmed that the S3A's reverse polarity protection works without a hitch:
L: Battery reversed | R: correct polarity
[NEW 6/20: The S3A is just small enough to be used clipped to the bill of a cap and provided it's thick enough (like on the example I used), should hold in place reasonably well:
It is a little long and might end up being just mm's away from your forehead (depending on the cap in question):
L to R (same order for both sets of pics): RL 3100 | Sunwayman M11R | Fenix LD10 | Sunwayman V11R | XENO S3A | SureFire L4 | Surefire G2Z | Sunwayman T20C | XENO G10v2 | Prometheus Lights XM18-B
As can be seen above, the S3A is the smallest 18650-sized light in my collection so to help put things in perspective, I've taken a close-up vs. 1xAA lights below and SureFire L4 (2xCR123A):
L to R (same order for both sets of pics): RL 3100 | Sunwayman M11R | Fenix LD10 | Sunwayman V11R | XENO S3A | SureFire L4
Given the size is the main feature being touted, I've taken additional comparo shots to help you "size" it up:
I measured the diamter to be 21.4mm (.84in) and length @ 111mm (4.37in):
[NEW 6/20: The S3A fits well in my medium-sized hand, however given the tailcap guard, you'll need to position it to allow your thumb easy access to the button:
FIT & FINISH
Despite the compactness of the S3A, the overall fit and finish is quite outstanding. The square cut threads are ultra smooth and the SS bezel was tightened without any gaps. While the lack of material may not convey the same perception of robustness as say the G10v2, it is still nontheless fairly tough. I had the S3A clipped to my belt that came loose and while getting out of the car, it fell from a height of about 1m onto concrete pavement but only suffered a minor ding to the side of the head and some light scratches/dents in both the bezel and tailcap:
(Note: The tailcap is not completely tightened in last two pics)
Despite this mishap, the S3A still functions flawlessly. Obviously, this wasn't an extreme impact test by any stretch of the imagination but I do feel the S3A should be able to shrug off a few knocks/drops.
[NEW 6/20: The anodizing matches across the entire light:
Nitpicking-wise though, there is some very minor ano missing from the inner corners of the machined fluting on the body:
As mentioned in my video, the engraving on the head while sharp has some minor blotchiness to it:
Although the serial number was fine.]
I was able to induce significant rattle with my smaller 18650's as the body has been designed to accomodate larger-sized cells:
However, this is really more a design decision than a fit & finish issue since most of the 18650 cells are neither 18mm in diam nor 65mm in length...
The S3A features three output levels: High, Low, Ultra Low (I really wish XENO would just stick with High, Med, Low since the Ultra Low at 20lms isn't exactly that). There is no memory so the light will always come on in High and then cycle through Med and then Low with each half-press (ie: not full click) of the reverse-clicky switch.
There are three hidden modes: Strobe, Locating Beacon & SOS that are accessed via three quick half-presses of the switch with the S3A on. Again, there is no memory in these modes so it will always come on in Strobe and then cycle through (with a half-press) the other modes sequentially.The only minor quirk w/the UI is that once it enters the hidden modes, you MUST shut off the light and wait 3 seconds before you can get back to standard output levels. It's strange they didn't allow the same three quick half-presses to exit hidden mode as it would've made so much sense. ]
Ultra Low (Low)
For details of the above indoor shots and comparo vs. many other lights, please check Epic Indoor Shots Trilogy
Exposure settings in sequential reading-order from top left: 1/25, 1/100, 1/800, 1/1600 @ f2.9 on AWB (light is ~.4m to wall / camera ~.59m):
The relevant battery stats are provided above each runtime graph along with:
- Voltage of the battery at the start and end of the test
- Current draw as taken right before the test
- Actual runtime using ANSI FL1 (first in HR and then in M so for the RL3100 read this as 3.4hrs OR 205min)
- NEW (as of May 2012): Lumens measured on PVC LMD @ 30 seconds
- Also for High, captured the temperature: ambient, the head at start and the max it reached (fan was used for all bats)
Using AW2600's I was able to slightly exceed (2.6hrs) the qouted run time of 2.5hrs. As can be seen, the S3A runs just about perfectly regulated before dropping off steeply, however at the end of this run, there was still usable light but I decided to stop it so as not to completely overdischarge the battery. Also of note is that it doesn't get all that hot hitting a max of 89F (32C).
[NEW 6/12: Completed runtime on H w/the RL3100 and as expected it yieled a longer runtime w/a trailing end as compared to the AW2600 with total ANSI runtime @ 3.4hrs. I continued to let it run to see if I could invoke the low voltage warning but was never able to get it to kick in so I finally stopped the testing at a littler over 4hrs. At this point, there was still very usable light of approximately 1lumen.
As for the overall lower output, I believe it has to do with the ambient temp which was higher than during the AW2600 run. Under the same temp, I actually expect the output to match for this regulated light. Will confirm later and post updates.]
[NEW 6/13: Completed runtime on H w/2 x Energizer CR123A's. Total ANSI runtime reached was just under 2hrs. I switched over to 400 range on my light meter once the output dropped to 0 on 4K range thus you see a jump in output around 160min. I then proceeded to let it run until the batteries were completely drained but finally had to give up just under 13.5 hrs into the testing.]
[NEW 6/20: INITIAL CONCLUSION
My first experience with XENO's products was with the G10v2. I was tremendously impressed by its build quality and the S3A has not disappointed in that regard. Its overall compact form and light weight may not convey the same feeling of robustness but the accidental drop "test" I incurred assures me that it should stand up to some heavy use.
The S3A has been a joy to EDC and really is at the cusp size-wise of what is EDC-able (for me). I relish the fact that I can get over 3hrs of ~340lms at near perfect regulation on High (using RL3100) if need be and much longer on the lower levels. I also like that there are additional hidden modes I can access even if I don't use them frequently.
The only minor points of annoyances would be the clip's positioning and the surprising amount of battery rattle. Hopefully a future version will feature a revised clip that would allow bezel-down carry. As for the rattle, as mentioned in my video, it's necessary since 18650 batteries can vary widely in their size. It's not a problem with the more recent and larger sized cells in this category.
- outstanding build quality
- extremely compact size offering great output and runtime
- near perfect regulation
- EDC-able 18650-sized light
- awkwardly positioned clip that forces bezel up carry
- copious battery rattle w/smaller sized 18650's and 2 x CR123A's
- must shut light off completely to exit hidden modes
- the Low and Ultra Low mode designations are really misnomers (they are actually Med and Low)
- 18650 cells greater than 69mm in length will not fit
- revised clip in future versions, perferably w/ability to be reversible for bezel down carry
- anti-rattle sleeve for use w/CR123A's (although I don't use them personally I'm sure others who do will find it useful)
- enthusiast version offering a little more oomph ;o)
- slight bump in voltage range to accept 2 x LiFePO4's
Disclosure: XENO S3A provided by edcplus for review.