Warning: pic heavy, as usual.
IMALENT is a new manufacturer of flashlights, using a distinctive touch-screen interface (among other novel features). This is my first review of an IMALENT light, and it is of their heavy-duty DD4R model – featuring 4xXM-L2, and powered by 4x18650, or 8xCR123A.
One comment right off the bat: it is unusual to find a 4x18650 light that supports the higher voltage of 8xCR123A (as the DD4R does). It also supports in-light charging for 18650.
In this review, I will walk you through the distinctive aspects of the DD4R build and interface, and compare its performance to other high-output lights out there. Buckle up, this is going to be a long one ...
Manufacturer Reported Specifications:
(note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results).
- Utilizes 4pcs CREE XM-L2 LED
- Supports Li-ion 18650 3.7V (compatible and can be recharged), CR123A primary lithium battery (compatible but can NOT be recharged). Li-ion RCR123A 3.7V is NOT supported
- 100 discrete output levels
- Sample output/runtimes: 3800 lumens (Max), 1 hr - 2900 lumens, 5 hr - 895 lumens, 20 hr - 5 lumens (Min), 250 hr
- Peak beam intensity 48,000cd
- Effective range up to 450m
- Side switch to operate with one hand, and much easier to use in dark
- Super intelligent touch display, softly touch the display to adjust brightness
- Use microcomputer controlled efficient constant circuit, run time up to 250 hours
- Double electrical components touch switch display, simple and convenient
- With power display and power indicating
- Wide voltage range compatible with rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries
- Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating
- Sophisticated aluminum alloy reflector make it with greater throw than similar flashlight in the market
- Aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, military grade Type III hard-anodized
- Built-in temperature sensor, multi-layer thermal design, double protection, more stable
- Impact resistant
- IPX-8 waterproof ability (2m), waterproof and submersible
- Dimensions: 142mm length, 54mm width (head), 52.5mm width (tail)
- MSRP: ~$160
Packaging is similar across the IMALENT line. Inside the hard cardboard case with cut-out packing foam are the light, spare O-rings, spare display cover, AC charging cable, belt holster with Velcro closing flap, product inserts and manual.
From left to right: AW protected 18650 2200mAh; IMALENT DD4R; Sunwayman T60CS; Nitecore TM15; Niwalker BK-FA02.
All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed:
IMALENT DD4R: Weight: 339.0g (524g with 4x18650), Length: 145.6mm, Width (bezel): 54.5mm (narrowest, on sides), 63.7mm (widest, on diagonal)
Crelant 7G10: Weight 643.4g (827g with 4x18650), Length: 198mm, Width (bezel): 79.0mm
L3 Illumination X40: Weight: 517.2g (655g with 4x18650), Length: 182mm, Width (bezel): 68.0mm
Fenix TK75: Weight: 516.0g (700g with 4x18650), Length: 184mm, Width (bezel): 87.5mm
Nitecore TM15: Weight: 450.6g (634g with 4x18650). Length: 158mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm
Nitecore TM11: Weight: 342.6g (526g with 8xCR123A), Length 135.3mm, Width (bezel): 59.5mm
Niwalker BK-FA02: Weight: 687.6g (870g with 4x18650), Length: 209mm, Width (bezel): 80.0mm, Width (tailcap): 50.3mm
Sunwayman T60CS: Weight: 338.9g (est 477g with 3x18650), Length: 145.0mm, Width (bezel): 60.0mm
Thrunite TN30: Weight: 468.2g (est 620g with 3x18650), Length: 179mm, Width (bezel): 64.3mm, Width (tailcap): 49.0mm
Note that because of the square head, the max width (on the diagonal) is a little higher than most of the lights listed above.
Overall impression is of a solidly built light, but very compact for a 4x18650, 4xXM-L2 light. Flashlight anodizing is a matte black, and seems to be good quality on my sample. Labels are bright white, clearly legible against the dark background. There is some knurling on the battery handle, but it is fairly mild. But with all the extra fins and details in the head, I would say overall grip is good.
There are anodized screw threads on the handle/battery pack and the head, but that doesn't seem to matter – it is the tension between the head and carrier that determines if contact is made. As you will see below, you can indeed lock out the light by loosening the head slightly.
Light can tailstand stably.
The light is controlled by an electronic control switch in the head, along with a touch screen interface. Press and hold the electronic switch for more than 3 secs to turn the light on or off (there is also a Standby mode, which I will explain later). The touch screen, when activated, displays relevant information about battery status and output level, as well as giving a full range of control options.
Let's took a look at the touch screen:
What you are looking at is two conditions: one when the light is running on full power (i.e., all 6 level bars indicated), and one where it is on minimum output (i.e., one level bar showing). You can control the output using the touch screen, as I will explain in the User Interface section below (and in the Video).
Note that there are a lot more than 6 output levels – I can count dozens of individual levels per status bar on the display (IMALENT reports 100 discrete levels). The display is simply showing a relative output level, using 6 bar indicators. Again, scroll down to my User Interface section to learn how to use the light.
The battery indicator on the left is telling you estimated charge remaining on the installed cells. The right battery indicator seems to be specific for charging (i.e., isn't displaying relevant info when simply running the light). Below the IMALENT name is an ON/OFF indicator, which is used to control activation when the light is in a special Standby mode (or strobe, when the light is on). Again, see my User Interface section below for more info.
Incidentally, you may see pics out there of the touch screen with an orange display. The first batch of samples produced by IMALENT had an orange screen – the recent shipping versions all have a blue screen.
The electronic switch has a typical traverse and firm "click" for an electronic switch – although the metal button cover can move around somewhat (i.e., feels "loose").
Just above it, there is a built-in charging port for 4x18650 cells. Scroll down for details.
There is also a standard tripod attachment at the top of the head (above the charging port and electronic switch).
Let's look at the battery carrier:
The battery carrier has a solid feel, with plenty of room for my 18650 cells (i.e., tall protected cells should fit fine). As you would expect, the four cells are in series (i.e., 4s1p). The gold/brass-colored positive contact plate in the center of the carrier is slightly raised, but has some give (i.e., can compress down). Oddly, the negative current path seems to be carried by the four screws that hold down the struts. Haven't seen that before Tension between the carrier and the head determines if contact is made.
There are slightly raised contact plates at the positive terminals of each well in the carrier, so flat-top cells work fine in the light. The carrier can only be used in the light one way.
The AC charger (rated 800mA) connects to the head through a small barrel plug. Like with most lights, charging of the batteries is presumably in series, which I don't recommend for regular use. Please see my detailed charging results and comments under User Interface below.
Let's take a look at the head and emitters …
The head of the DD4R shows four independent XM-L2 emitters, each in their own reflector compartment.
Note that due to this design, there are separate bezel rings holding each lens/reflector in place. I can see an anti-reflective coating on the lenses. On one of the compartments above, you can see that the lens o-ring has pinched inwards (i.e., the o-ring between the lens and the reflector). The other three heads were fine. I had to unscrew the bezel ring to fix this, which gave me a chance to see how it was assembled:
It is nice to see that there is a secondary o-ring around the bezel ring itself. I would therefore expect pretty good waterproofness – assuming all your o-rings are well seated. Here is what it looked like once corrected:
Individual XM-L2 emitters seemed well centered in all four compartments on my sample.
Scroll down for some standardized beamshots.
IMALENT has a novel interface, with the use of a pressure-sensitive touch screen to control output levels on their lights. When you first connect the carrier to the head, the display will illuminate for ~3 secs, while the circuit determines the best settings to match the installed battery type.
Using the light
Turn the light on or off by a sustained press-hold of the electronic switch in the head for several seconds (~2 secs to turn on, ~3 secs to turn off).
When first activating the light, the touch screen panel will illuminate at the same time as the main beam. You can now set your constant output level by sliding or tapping your finger up and down the screen, in the area where the six bars are located. The light sets the output at whatever level you left it when you remove your finger. Note that the touch screen is pressure sensitive, not capacitive. This means that you can adjust the output while wearing gloves (although it is also means that it is less responsive than a capacitive screen).
Note that although the display only shows six possible bars, there are actually many more discrete levels (IMALENT reports 100). While not enough to make the light seem truly continuously-variable in handling, it is enough that you will not be left wanting for levels. The 6-bar indicator is thus only a rough approximation of output.
The output continuum of the touch display is not "visually linear", but distributed around actual output levels. In practice, this means that there will not be a lot of visual difference between the 4-6 bar levels, and a lot of variation in the low levels (i.e., it is well known our perceptions of relative output are skewed in a non-linear way).
The sensitivity of the screen is reasonably good, but you will likely experience some "jerkiness" as you move up and down between levels. It is also not as touch sensitive as modern smartphone/tablet screens – think more along the lines of the sensitivity of a stand-alone GPS unit.
There is mode memory for when you turn the light off/on at the electronic switch (i.e., returns to the last level you left it at).
The battery indicator on the top left gives an estimate of the battery life remaining.
The "IMALENT" label on the display flashes continuously whenever you are running the light at Max output.
The touch display will turn itself off if there is no activity at the panel for 30 secs. IMALENT considers this to be a "lockout function", as you cannot accidentally change modes after the display shuts off. To toggle the touch display on or off at any time, simply click (press-release) the electronic switch.
Strobe is accessed by touching and holding you finger on the "ON/OFF" label on the touch display for ~2 secs. Press and hold again to advance to SOS. Press and hold again to return to constant output. Note that there is no memory for the blinking modes (i.e., off/on switching returns to you to the last memorized constant output mode). Interestingly, the output level control works when in SOS or Strobe – simply slide your finger over the display to control the relative output of these modes, at any time.
There is an alternate way to control the light, which is to put it into Standby mode. To do this, press and hold the electronic switch for ~2 secs from On, and release. Do not hold it the >3 secs required to fully turn off. If you hold if for between 2-3 secs and release, the main beam will shut off and the light enters Standby mode. When in this mode, the touch screen remains illuminated, but with only the "ON/OFF" indicator lit. Simply tap the "ON/OFF" label on the display to re-activate the light in the last constant-output mode you left it.
Given that this is a novel interface, I recommend you check out the video below for a better idea of how it all works in practice.
Charging the light
To charge 4x18650 (but NOT CR123A), simply plug the included AC charging cable into the port on the head.
When you first plug the charger in, both the left and right battery indicators illuminate. The left indicator will cycle between its 3 bars when charging, the right indicator will flash repeatedly. Once fully charged, the battery indicator on the right will stop flashing and remain fully lit.
In my testing, it took just about 6.5 hours to charge my 4x2200mAh cells – which is surprisingly fast for a rated 800mA charger. Note however that the final resting voltage was <4.15V on each cell (i.e., a bit low for a full charge, by most people's standards). IMALENT reports that they are looking to raise this to the more typical ~4.2V.
There were some inconsistencies in when the charger shut-off on all the IMALENT lights that I was sent for testing. The charging would sometimes terminate early, with the display shutting off. If I unplugged and re-plugged the charger, the charging cycle would re-commence. However, if the cells were reading as fully charged, the cycle wouldn't start and the display stayed off. So a full charge would either show up as constant illumination of the right battery charging indicator, or as a consistently blank screen on attempted re-starts.
IMALENT assures me that they have corrected this on the final shipping versions, and charging should proceed normally without the need to restart. In any case, while in-series charging is consistent with other makers, I always recommend end users charge their cells separately whenever possible (i.e., it is not a good idea to charge multiple cells in series).
For information on the light, including the build and user interface, please see my video overview:
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.
As with all my videos, I recommend you have annotations turned on. I commonly update the commentary with additional information or clarifications before publicly releasing the video.
The DD4R appears to be current-controlled. I saw no sign of PWM in my testing, on any level. There was a weak noise pattern detectable on my oscilloscope, but this was not visible to the eye.
Noise (all levels):
You can't really see it above, but there was a reoccurring high frequency noise signal at ~13 kHz or so, at all levels (in addition to the random spikes seen at the lower frequency shown above). Consistent with my standard review policy, I report on any oscilloscope signals that I can detect in the output of a light. But I can assure you that the above patterns produce no visible effect – even when shining on a fan. The DD4R was "flicker-free" at all levels in my testing.
Strobe pattern above is a little unusual, but it doesn't impact relative perception - is a typical fast strobe, of 9.6 Hz in my testing.
SOS was a standard SOS mode.
Note that you can control the relative output level of the Strobe and SOS modes, just as you can for the constant output.
Due to the electronic nature of the switch in the head, there is a necessary standby drain when connected to the battery pack. When first connecting the head (i.e., when the touch screen first activates), I measured this drain as ~56mA. Once the screen shuts off, the current drops to ~6.7mA. Within a few more seconds, it drops down to ~675uA and stays there stably. This represents the long-term standby current when waiting for a sustained button press to turn on the light.
Given the 4s1p arrangement, for 3100mAh cells that would translate into a little over 6 months before the cells would be fully drained. If you are concerned, you can easily lock-out the light by a quick loosening turn of the head.
Note that there is the additional special Standby mode where the touch screen stays active, and a press will re-illuminate the main light. I haven't measured this standby mode, but given the power required for the screen, this Standby mode drain is bound to be higher than the one reported above.
And now, what you have all been waiting for. All lights are on their respective max rechargeable battery sources (i.e., 18650s), 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.
Note: The DD4R may not be quite at its ANSI FL-1 peak output for all the beamshots above. My DD4R sample had a tendency to come on at a slightly below max output, and step up over the first minute or so (see Runtimes below for more info). All my direct measures (reported below) were done at the point of peak output, but it was hard to ensure that for all the beamshot exposures.
Relative to all the lights in my collection, the DD4R is probably closest in overall output and beam pattern to the Nitecore TM15. It doesn't quite match it for throw however (i.e., somewhat intermediate to the TM11 and TM15 in that regard). But that is reasonable, as it is also intermediate in overall length to those two lights.
Unfortunately, we are still in a middle of a deep freeze here in my part of Canada, with several feet of snow on the ground. As such, outdoor shots would be meaningless (think of snow as equal parts ground-level diffuser and a massive reflector to get the general idea of why outdoor beamshots won't work).
So for now, you will have to make do with some indoor shots in my basement. For your reference, the back of the couch is about 7 feet away (~2.3m) from the opening of the light, and the far wall is about 18 feet away (~5.9m). Below I am showing a couple of exposures, to allow you to better compare hotspot and spill. Comparison lights are the Fenix TK75 and L3 Illumination X40.
Again, the DD4R is not in the same league of these lights for throw, but in a similar range for max output.
All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, as described on my flashlightreviews.ca website. 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. Please see http://www.flashlightreviews.ca/FL1.htm for a discussion, and a description of all the terms used in these tables. Effective July 2012, I have updated all my Peak Intensity/Beam Distance measures with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter (orange highlights).
As mentioned in the Beamshots section above, max output of my DD4R sample fluctuated over the first several minutes after activation. I will discuss this further in the Runtimes section below, but all measures in the table above refer to the peak values I measured within the ANSI FL-1 standard of 30-120 secs post activation.
Peak intensity throw on my sample is not quite as high as the specs indicate, but it still quite good for the size of the light (i.e., the DD4R is intermediate in size to the Nitecore TM11 and TM15, with the throw to match).
Overall output of the DD4R is very consistent with other 3x/4x XM-L/XM-L2 lights in my collection. That said, my max lumen estimate is lower than IMALENT's specs. This makes me think IMALENT is using "emitter lumens" instead of actual measured out-the-front output (i.e., specs are based on theoretical maximum of the emitters, not taking into account all possible sources of loss in a light). As such, it would be reasonable to knock off ~30-35% from the specs, at all levels, for approximate output.
Here is a table giving you a general breakdown of what I was able measure, for each of the various indicator levels:
Again, these are VERY approximate - it is difficult to provide reliable estimates for the output range of each "bar" on the display (recall that IMALENT reports 100 discrete levels, but only 6 indicator bars). Take my numbers above as a general indication of what to expect only. But taking into account that the specs appear to be based on "emitter lumens", my measures seem pretty close to what you would expect in a light this size.
One issue I noticed is that the output on max (bar level 6) and near-max (level 5) is actually somewhat inconsistent. See Runtimes below for more info.
Let's start with a comparison of sample outputs within a number of the DD4R bar indicator levels, on my standard 2200mAh AW Protected 18650 cells. And again, there are actually many possible output levels for each individual bar - so I would take the exact output levels shown below as being approximate examples.
As you can see above, the DD4R regulation pattern is unusual (i.e., all those "jagged" patterns in the runtimes above). It looks like the output gradually drops at any given level, but then periodically jumps back up the next higher discrete level, as the batteries drain. Each step is fairly small in and of itself (i.e., each discrete level is a small difference from the previous one). But you can see the step occur if you are watching carefully at the beam of the light. IMALENT informs me they are trying to improve the regulation pattern.
Output is particularly variable at the max and near-max levels, where output changes a fair amount over time (but only by one small step at a time). Note as well that even when first activated in Max output, my sample would step up several times over the first ~30 secs or so, before reaching the true maximum. You can't really see that above due to the time scale, so here is a closer view of the process:
Note the scales above! My output scale is in estimated lumens, and it doesn't start at zero. This is to give you better resolution on the step changes. The time scale is in seconds, and starts at zero (i.e., activation).
As you can see, it takes a few seconds after activation for the light to reach its true max output (although the initial ~1900 lumens at activation is still pretty bright!).
However, as shown in the earlier graph above, the DD4R soon begins to step back down in output after several minutes of Max runtime. In contrast, the near-Max mode continued to increase in output slowly over time, eventually reaching initial Max output after ~20 mins or so. End of the day, there really isn't much a difference when running on 5 indicator bars or 6 indicator bars.
Let's see how the DD4R performs relative to the competition:
The DD4R seems pretty efficient. Overall runtime is certainly well in keeping with other 4x18650 lights I've tested, for comparable output levels.
My DD4R sample was a bit inconsistent it is max output level, and showed more variation than typical in output over time on the max and near-max runs. Note that the DD4R is not perfectly flat-regulated, but shows subtle step-level alterations over time, across the full run. IMALENT tells me they are working on improving this.
The range of output levels is significant, but not truly "continuously variable" (i.e., you can see the discrete steps). According to IMALENT, there are 100 discrete steps in possible output levels.
The pressure-sensitive touch screen worked well in my testing, but it is not as responsive as the capacitive touch screens of modern smartphones/tablets. To get a better idea, think of what the responsiveness through on an old-style stand-alone GPS unit. Output level changes can also seem somewhat "jerky" in practice.
The built-in charger was inconsistent, with relatively early termination (i.e., <4.15V per cell), with occasional unexpected charging shut-downs. IMALENT informs me that they have resolved the intermittent charging issue on the shipping samples, and are working to set the full charge level to 4.2V. In any case, the charger uses in-series charging (like most lights in this class), so I recommend end users routinely charge cells separately instead.
Manufacturer specs appear to be "emitter lumens", as opposed to actual out-the-front ANSI FL-1 lumens.
Some of the display indicators on the touch screen are not entirely clear. For example, the use of two battery indicators is confusing, as both discharge and charge state could be illustrated by just one. Also, the "ON/OFF" indicator never turns the light "off", and only allows for "on" in the limited case of the specific Standby mode (the rest of the time, it actually controls Strobe/SOS).
The manual is a little unclear in its language - especially as to which "ON/OFF" control they are referring to (i.e., the button, or the display label) when controlling activation or entering into the specific Standby mode. See the User Interface or Video sections of this review for an explanation.
Due to the electronic nature of the switch and interface, there is always a standby current when batteries are connected to the head. Current seemed reasonable on my DD4R sample, and can be easily locked out by a simple twist of the head.
The IMALENT DD4R is a solid and compact light, with a distinctive build featuring an innovative touch-screen control mechanism. I've not seen this user interface before, and it worked fairly well in practice. Physical build quality seems good on the light, on par with some of the more established makers that I have seen.
With any truly novel interface or build, there are bound to be some growing pains. I think the display could use some refinement in its labels to help for clarity (see comments above). IMALENT informs me that they are working on this for next models. In any case, once you understand how to control the light, it is straightforward to switch and adjust levels. The pressure sensitivity of the touch display is not as high as some modern capacitive smartphones/tablets, but at least you can still use the DD4R display with gloves on. Of course, I'm not sure how useful a touch screen display really is for controlling a flashlight.
While not truly "continuously-variable" in the typical sense, the DD4R does offer a good range of output levels – a lot more than most lights in this category (i.e., IMALENT reports 100 discrete levels in total). Note there may be a bit of "jerkiness" when trying to hone in on a specific level (as the display is only so large and so responsive). A nice feature is how the Strobe and SOS modes can also be adjusted in output across the same range of levels.
The max output and overall output/runtime efficiency across all output levels is good, and very much in keeping with other current-controlled lights in this category. The regulation pattern is not as consistently flat as some lights however, as there are subtle single step-changes in output over time (i.e., between the individual 100 or so discrete steps). IMALENT informs me that they are working to improve the regulation pattern.
The beam pattern was good for a multi-emitter light. The fully individual emitter wells help prevent spillbeam artifacts (compared to lights with overlapping wells). Of course, this also tends to reduce peak intensity throw somewhat.
The DD4R supports both rechargeable (4x18650 Li-ion) and primary (8xCR123A) batteries. It is convenient that IMALENT offers in-light charging for the 4x18650 cells. However, the DD4R uses standard in-series charging (common for most lights, but not recommend for multiple Li-ions). As always, I recommend end users routinely charge their cells individually outside the light, and confirm matching voltage levels before use.
At the end of the day, the DD4R produces the expected amount of light - with the expected runtime – of a good 4xXM-L2 light run on 4x18650. You also get a distinctive touch screen interface with a very large number of discrete levels (although I realize this may not be everyone's user interface preference). Despite a few quirks in the interface, there are certainly more available options here than on many other lights in this class. A strong showing for the first light out of the gate by IMALENT.
DD4R provided by IMALENT for review.