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Thread: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

  1. #1

    Rolleye11 XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    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.



    MFG SPECS
    • 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.

    ANSI/NEMA FL-1:
    •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:
    [pic]

    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):
    ]


    SIZE/HANDLING


    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...


    UI
    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. ]


    BEAMSHOTS

    Indoors (5m)
    Celing bounce

    High

    Low (Med)

    Ultra Low (Low)

    For details of the above indoor shots and comparo vs. many other lights, please check Epic Indoor Shots Trilogy

    Whitewall Hunting
    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):




    RUNTIME
    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.


    turboBB-licious

    • outstanding build quality
    • extremely compact size offering great output and runtime
    • near perfect regulation
    • EDC-able 18650-sized light



    turboBB-cautious

    • 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



    turboBB-wishes

    • 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.
    Last edited by turboBB; 07-05-2012 at 07:26 AM. Reason: Whitewall shots added

  2. #2

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    RESERVED...

  3. #3
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Beautiful pics, great video!

    I've never heard of this light before.

    Thank you for the review.

  4. #4

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Nice up close pictures, thanks for the great work TurboBB, I had other two sibling, E03 & F42, I also like T6 3C tint, hmmm, maybe I shall add S3A to the family ~
    My list of flashlights, chargers & batteries

  5. #5

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Very impressive device. I've never heard of XENO brand before. Thank you for the review, turboBB.
    Up to me this flashlight looks like nice competitor to Zebralight SC600 as EDC: a bit less in max output, but smaller in size (hard to believe), simpler to use and almost a half cheaper.

    I studied specs, but couple of things stay unclear to me:
    - Is tailcap switch electronical or pure mechanical?
    - Is it allowed to use unprotected cells?

  6. #6

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    thanks for review.
    the product doesnt impress me but it's the V1 of the S3A series. let's see the improvements in V2 and V3.
    i really like their product iterations!!

  7. #7

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    You don't by chance have a Eagletac D25 to compare it to? That's the smallest 18650 I've personally seen. With all your hard work I should send you one!

    I don't suppose it'd be fair to ask you to "drop test" the Xeno for our knowledge and enertainment! I bought 2 of the X03's and they both died from what in my opinion was pretty minor impact...

  8. #8

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Thx guys!! Bunch of new sections added.

    Quote Originally Posted by Triffid View Post
    I studied specs, but couple of things stay unclear to me:
    - Is tailcap switch electronical or pure mechanical?
    - Is it allowed to use unprotected cells?
    The switch is a purely mechanical reverse-clicky. Unprotected cells can be used but just need to be very mindful to not let it overdischarge since I didn't encounter any low voltage cut-off during runtime testing on High.

    ===

    Quote Originally Posted by shelm View Post
    i really like their product iterations!!
    Agreed, if there is one thing XENO does is continually improve their products based on feedback from their customers.

    ===

    Quote Originally Posted by rickypanecatyl View Post
    You don't by chance have a Eagletac D25 to compare it to? That's the smallest 18650 I've personally seen. With all your hard work I should send you one!

    I don't suppose it'd be fair to ask you to "drop test" the Xeno for our knowledge and enertainment! I bought 2 of the X03's and they both died from what in my opinion was pretty minor impact...
    Sorry, I don't have a D25, I am looking forward to the Ti D25C clicky though... As for the drop test, let me think about it since I still need to wrap up this review first.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  9. #9

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Quote Originally Posted by rickypanecatyl View Post
    I don't suppose it'd be fair to ask you to "drop test" the Xeno for our knowledge and enertainment! I bought 2 of the X03's and they both died from what in my opinion was pretty minor impact...
    if one ever does a drop test, then please on youtube video.
    yes, it has been reported elsewhere that the E03's die from minor impact (1.0m) given the right drop angle.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Are you going to run 2x cr123A for your output/heat chart? The 18650 output looks good, assuming the 3100 versions have an extra half-hour of runtime, but if the runtime is only 75 minutes on 2x cr123A, I won't be happy. I'd like 90 minutes at least, preferably 120.
    Last edited by MichaelW; 05-26-2012 at 07:51 AM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Thanks, turboBB.
    I guess, the unusual oriented clip was probably designed for use this torch as a headlamp, mounted at baseball cap.

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* jasonck08's Avatar
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Great Review so far TurboBB. I assume you do your runtime tests with a fan?

    Quote Originally Posted by rickypanecatyl View Post
    I don't suppose it'd be fair to ask you to "drop test" the Xeno for our knowledge and enertainment! I bought 2 of the X03's and they both died from what in my opinion was pretty minor impact...
    You seem to like to keep bringing this up in multiple Xeno threads, but only share part of the story. I've told you multiple times, there was a bad batch of E03 XP-G MPCB's. This effected maybe 30 or so lights I sold. They were not reflowed properly by the LED supplier. I've offered to replace yours in the past, but you refuse to send them in, due to your countries unreliable postal system.

    A drop test of the E03: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZrH2ALjNrE

  13. #13
    Flashaholic* candle lamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Are you going to run 2x cr123A for your output/heat chart? The 18650 output looks good, assuming the 3100 versions have an extra half-hour of runtime, but if the runtime is only 75 minutes on 2x cr123A, I won't be happy. I'd like 90 minutes at least, preferably 120.
    Hi MichaelW,

    The runtime on 2xCR123A(Panasonic) is appr. 111 mins (i.e. 1.8 hrs).
    The runtime on 1x18650(Panasonic 3100mAh) is about 202 mins (i.e. 3.4 hrs).
    It is based on the 10% of initial output.

    Maybe you will be happy.

    KH
    Latest Review : Acebeam K40M Review

  14. #14
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Great review. could you add something about the UI.

    Are the flashy modes hidden or in the sequence?
    Light is the activity of what is transparent - Aristotle

  15. #15

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Thx! Will definitely be adding to this review. Have just been a lil busy lately. As for the blinky modes, they are hidden and accessible only through 3 quick presses of the switch with S3A on. I'll cover this in detail when I add the UI section but it is covered in my video.

    @rickyp - I did an inadvertent drop "test" from 1m onto concrete pavement. Minimal damage incurred and still fully functional. Will post pics and details later (no video since it wasn't planned).

    @michael - I'll graph primaries later and post graph.

  16. #16

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    All, new material added along w/Fit & Finish & UI sections (search 6/11)

    @cave_dave - UI section now up

    @rickyp - details of the drop "test" are in the Fit & Finish section

    Cheers,
    Tim

  17. #17

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Quote Originally Posted by jasonck08 View Post
    Great Review so far TurboBB. I assume you do your runtime tests with a fan?



    You seem to like to keep bringing this up in multiple Xeno threads, but only share part of the story. I've told you multiple times, there was a bad batch of E03 XP-G MPCB's. This effected maybe 30 or so lights I sold. They were not reflowed properly by the LED supplier. I've offered to replace yours in the past, but you refuse to send them in, due to your countries unreliable postal system.

    A drop test of the E03: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZrH2ALjNrE
    Thank you for this post and Video link. Im very happy again and will be getting one

  18. #18

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    @MichaelW - Runtime chart now updated w/RL3100 and details. It's actually 50 extra minutes of runtime vs. AW2600. I'll graph primaries as soon as I locate where I've stored some since I never use them but I believe candlelamp's #'s are from personal experience so I'd go with those values (thx KH!).

    Cheers,
    Tim

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* LEDAdd1ct's Avatar
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    I'm congested and not thinking clearly—does the graph indicate that the 2600mAh cell gives a higher output than the 3100mAh cell?
    "...and the diode multiplied and grew in brightness. And God saw that it was good."

  20. #20
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Quote Originally Posted by LEDAdd1ct View Post
    I'm congested and not thinking clearly—does the graph indicate that the 2600mAh cell gives a higher output than the 3100mAh cell?
    There shouldn't be any difference, as the current draw is the same. Hopefully TurboBB can confirm.

  21. #21

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Jason is correct, there shouldn't be any difference. As mentioned in my review, this was likely due to ambient temp fluctuations which will impact meter readings. I've remeasured using both batteries (freshly charged) and they produce roughly the same ouput which is approx. 340lms @ 30 seconds.

    EDIT: Look at the current draw, they are all the same (including AW IMR @ 958, I'll add runtime as soon as this cell is complete).

    Cheers,
    Tim
    Last edited by turboBB; 06-17-2012 at 09:17 PM.

  22. #22
    Flashaholic* LEDAdd1ct's Avatar
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Thanks for the clarification guys.
    "...and the diode multiplied and grew in brightness. And God saw that it was good."

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* LEDAdd1ct's Avatar
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Quote Originally Posted by turboBB View Post
    Unprotected cells can be used but just need to be very mindful to not let it overdischarge since I didn't encounter any low voltage cut-off during runtime testing on High.
    Is this light broken, such that it is supposed to have this protection by design and lacks it, or, is it not in the specs to begin with?

    If it isn't in the design parameters, that should be right at the top of the list for a Version Two "features that need to be incorporated."

    EDIT: In candle lamp's review, he notes there is a 2.7v cutoff.
    Last edited by LEDAdd1ct; 06-18-2012 at 09:24 PM.
    "...and the diode multiplied and grew in brightness. And God saw that it was good."

  24. #24

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Correct and I didn't want to unnecessarily overdischarge the batteries thus didn't hit the low voltage cut-off. With the 2 x primaries, the voltage was likely above this when I finally terminated the run thus didn't hit it with that either.

    As time allows, I'll try to see if I can validate it (hoping to get a desktop PSU soon so I can do voltage sweeps).

    Cheers,
    Tim

  25. #25
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Thank you for adding the CR123 runtimes.

    I'm a CR123 fan and have been noticing a big difference in runtimes of lights on both CR123 and the 18650.

    Can someone explain why the 18650 has approximately twice the runtime of 2xCR123?

    I always assumed the 18650 was somewhat equivalent to 2xCR123.

  26. #26

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    2 x CR123A's is 6v x 1.3Ah = 7.8Wh
    1 x RL3100 is 3.6v x 3.1Ah = 11.16Wh

    Thus roughly 43% increase, however given the S3A is perfectly regulated, it'll need to boost as the voltage drops and the CR123A's likely can not handle this increased draw as well as the RL3100.

  27. #27

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Add'l material and pics added along w/updated runtime graph and Initial Conclusion section (search 6/20).

    Cheers,
    Tim

  28. #28
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    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    How many 'dogbones' does the V1 have?
    The V2 still has one for the serial number, but has knurling.

  29. #29

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    If you mean the fluting that runs parallel with the light, it's five.

  30. #30

    Default Re: XENO S3A Review (XM-L U2 1B | 1 x 18650 / 2 x CR123A)

    Whitewall shots added

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