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Thread: IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+

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    Wink2 IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+





    IMALENT is a relatively new manufacturer of flashlights, using a distinctive touch-screen interface to control output levels (among other features). In this review, I am looking at their 4xAA SA04 model – which features a unique ability to alter the relative tint contributions of the main Cool White and Warm White XM-L2 emitters. The SA04 also includes a pair of tri-color RGB 5mm LEDs.

    Given the fairly unique interface and feature set, this is likely to be a long review …

    Manufacturer Reported Specifications:
    (note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results).

    • Utilizes one Warm White Cree XM-L2 LED and one Cool White Cree XM-L2 LED, and two RGB LEDs
    • Max/Min Output and Runtime: Hi 930 Lumens / 1hr 45min – Lo 1 Lumen / 200 hrs
    • Multi-functional LCD touch screen display indicate the running level and the remaining power with low-power warning
    • Constant current circuit, constant output
    • Electronic reverse battery protection
    • Effective range of 280 meters
    • Intensity: 14800 cd
    • Uses 4xAA batteries
    • Working voltage: 2.8~8 V
    • Optimized deep metal reflector maintains great throw distance and spread with an ideal beam pattern
    • Dimensions: 119.5mm (length) x 43mm (head diameter) x 40mm (tail diameter)
    • Weight: 208g (battery excluded)
    • Aerospace-grade aluminum alloy body
    • Military Specification Type III- hard anodized
    • Waterproof accords with IPX-6 standard
    • Impact resistant 1.5M
    • Ultra-clear tempered glass lens resists scratches and impacts
    • Tail stand capable- can be used as a candle
    • Accessories: O-rings, Holster
    • Estimated street price ~$95






    Packaging is similar for the recent IMALENT lights, and feature a fairly standard cardboard case with the specs and details printed on it. Inside are the light, spare O-rings, spare display cover, belt holster with Velcro closing flap, product inserts and manual.




    From left to right: Panasonic Eneloop Pro (2550mAh); IMALENT SA04; Sunwayman F40A; Eagletac GX25A3; Sunwayman D40A; Jetbeam SRA40.

    All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed:

    IMALENT SA04 4xAA: Weight: 207.8, Length: 119.5mm, Weight (bezel): 43.0mm
    Eagletac GX25A3 3xAA: Weight: 151.4g, Length: 109.2mm, Weight (bezel): 38.6mm
    JetBeam PA40 4xAA: Weight: 184.0g, Length: 183mm, Width: 40.8mm (bezel), 42.1mm (max width)
    JetBeam SRA40 4xAA: Weight 236.0g, Length: 126.1mm, Width (bezel): 48.5mm
    Lumintop SD10 3xAA: Weight: 117.6g, Length: 120.3mm, Width (bezel): 40.1mm
    Nitecore EA4 4xAA: Weight: 161.6g , Length: 117.9mm, Width (bezel): 40.2mm
    Olight S35 3xAA: Weight 177.3g, Length: 127.7mm, Width (bezel): 38.7mm
    Sunwayman F40A 4xAA: Weight: 182.0g, Length: 109.3mm, Weight (bezel): 42.0mm
    Sunwayman D40A 4xAA: Weight: 167.9g, Length: 120.4mm, Weight (bezel): 40.0mm

    The SA04 is well in keeping in size with other members of this class.







    The SA04 anodizing is a matte black, and seems to be good quality on my sample. Labels are minimal and bright white, clearly legible against the dark background. There is some knurling on the battery tube and tailcap, but it is of mild aggressiveness. With the heatsink fins and buttons in the head, I would say overall grip is OK.

    The tailcap design is similar to a number of other 4xAA lights, and features a rotating disc with columns that line up with corresponding holes in the body of the light. This is the way that proper in-series contact can be made between all the cells. Screw threads are square cut and anodized – but it is actually pressure of the tailcap plate that ensures contact is made (i.e., you would need to significantly loosen the tailcap to almost falling off to physically lock out the light).

    Light can tailstand stably. There is no obvious lanyard attachment point, unfortunately.

    As with other IMALENT lights, there is no physical clicky switch – the light is controlled by a pair of electronic switches and touch screen in the head. See my User Interface section later in this review for an explanation.

    The touch screen, when activated, displays relevant information about battery status and output levels.

    Output level control:


    Tint selection control:


    The touch screen is pressure-sensitive, not capacitive. So you will need a fair amount of of force, but are not restricted to capacitive objects. See my user interface discussion below.

    The electronic switches have a typical traverse and firm "click" – although the metal button covers can move around somewhat (i.e., feel "loose"). The lower switch controls on/off and entering into tint selection mode. The upper switch controls access to the special "blinking" modes, and turning the touch screen on and off. Again, see my detailed comments under User Interface section below.

    Let's take a look at the head and emitters …






    There are two small (and over-lapping) smooth reflector wells for the two XM-L2 emitters – one Warm White, and one Cool White. You can control the relative output contribution of the two emitters (i.e., both on max produces a typical "Neutral White" appearance). Note that due to the overlapping wells, there are some tint color artifacts on the edges of the beam. Scroll down for beamshots.





    There are also two RGB tri-color 5mm emitters that can produce red, green and blue light (plus a flashing red/blue "police strobe").

    Again, scroll down for beamshots.

    User Interface

    IMALENT has a distinctive interface, with the use of a pressure-sensitive touch screen to control output levels (and other features). When you first connect the tailcap, the various emitters will activate in sequence, and the display will illuminate briefly.

    Controlling main output

    Turn the light on by a quick click of the lower electronic switch in the head. Turn the light off by a similar quick click.

    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 sixteen bars are located. The screen is pressure sensitive, not capacitive (so, a firm touch is needed), and the output levels adjustment can be a bit "jerky". The light sets the output at whatever level you left it when you remove your finger.

    Note that although the display shows sixteen bars, there are actually many more discrete levels. 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 16-bar indicator is thus only a rough approximation of output (although this is an improvement of the original 6-bar IMALENT interface).

    The output continuum of the bar display is not "visually linear", but seems to follow a standard current-linear range of outputs.

    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 in the center gives an estimate of the battery life remaining.

    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 upper electronic switch.

    You can lock out the light against activation by pressing and holding both electronic switches for >1 sec. The light will flash and be locked out. Press-and-hold both switches again to unlock the light.

    Special modes

    The strobe modes are accessed by a press-hold of the upper electronic switch. First mode is Strobe, followed by Beacon and SOS on subsequent press-holds. Press-hold again to return to constant white output. There is no mode memory for the strobe modes. However, the output level control works when in these modes – simply slide your finger over the display to control the relative output of these blinking modes, at any time.

    The RGB modes are accessed by pressing and holding your finger on the "MODE" label on the touch display for ~0.5 secs. The first press-hold gives you red light. Press and hold again to advance to Green, Blue and then a flashing Red/Blue police strobe, in sequence. Press-hold again to return to the main white beam (or click the lower electronic switch for off/on). There is no mode memory for color modes. Similarly, there is no output level control for the color modes.

    Controlling the relative tint balance

    To adjust the relative balance between the Cool White and Warm White emitters, press-hold of the lower electronic switch for ~1 sec (when the touch screen is active). The display switches to showing the relative contribution of each emitter – with 1 bar for Cool White only, and 16 bars for Warm White only. 8 bars showing would indicate an even mix of the two emitters. Adjust the touch screen to control the relative balance. Press-hold for the lower switch ~1 sec to return to the main operating mode (or click off/on). The light has mode memory for the tint balance selection.

    Given that this is a revised version of a relatively novel interface, I recommend you check out the video below for a better idea of how it all works in practice.

    Video:

    For information, including the build and user interface, please see my video overview:



    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.

    PWM/Strobe

    The Sa04 appears to be current-controlled. I saw no sign of PWM in my testing, on any level.

    Strobe:


    Strobe is a typical fast strobe, of 9.9 Hz in my testing.

    Beacon:


    Beacon is a brief flash, every ~3.2 secs.

    SOS:


    SOS was a standard SOS mode.

    Again, note that you can control the relative output level of the blinking modes, just as you can for the constant output.

    Standby Drain:

    Due to the electronic nature of the switches in the head, there is a necessary standby drain when the tailcap is connected (with batteries installed). I have not measured it on the SA04, but typically these are in the low mA range for IMALENT lights (higher when the touch screen is active).

    Beamshots:

    And now the white-wall beamshots. All lights are on Sanyo Eneloop NiMH (4x). Lights are about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall).

    Normally I use automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize cool white tint variation – but for the multi-tinted SA04 below, I have locked the camera to its "Daylight" white balance, for consistent comparisons. "Mixed" below refers to an even mix of both emitters.













    It's always hard to show tint difference accurately, but this should give you a good feel. Note that there are some artifacts due to the overlapping well design (i.e., some of the warm spill "spills over" to the left, and some of the cool spill "spills over" to the right).

    Something else to notice is that the max mixed output is not twice as bright as the max single emitter output. When mixed, the individual emitters are not driven as hard. The end result is that max mixed output is only marginally brighter than the cool white emitter on its own. Scroll down to my output tables for more info.

    Let's compare the evenly mixed emitter output (on max) to other lights:













    Due to the two relatively small reflectors, the SA04 is not as throwy as most lights in this size class. Scroll down for detailed output and throw measures.

    To give you a better idea of tint, I have stepped through each of the 16 scale bars on the display one at a time, and then combined in an animated GIF. These were done in my usual basement location. 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). And again, the camera is set to a Daylight white balance for all lights below.

    Note that due to the large size of this file, the transitions may not be smooth (i.e., will take a while to fully download). The ramp is from single Warm White, through mixed, to single Cool White.



    In addition to tint changes, you can probably see how the side spill artifact (due to the overlapping reflector wells) "bubbles over" from left to right.

    Finally, here are how the color modes compare to other recent lights:

    Red










    Green







    Blue










    The Sunwayman F40A has the brightest and cleanest color beams – due to 6x dedicated emitters per color. The tri-color emitters tend to produce more artifacts (i.e., all three color emitters are present in the LED). Overall output of the 2x SA04 is pretty close to the 3x Nitecore SRT7 and Jetbeam RRT26 (although blue is dimmer on the SA04).

    Testing Method:

    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).



    The output range of the light is interesting, and depends on the number of XM-L2 emitters in use. With a single emitter, max output is at the lower end of the typical range for this class, and the lowest level is a fairly standard sub-lumen level moonlight. With both emitters in use, max output is higher than with a single emitter (and more typical for this class). But the lowest level drops below the lowest level of a single emitter (i.e., about a tenth the minimum with a single emitter). It's as if the whole dynamic range of each emitter is shifted lower when both are in use. In any case, these are quite reasonable max and min outputs.

    Peak intensity throw is reasonable for the reflector well size here, but lower than competing single emitter lights with larger reflectors.

    Output/Runtime Graphs:

    Let's start with a comparison of max output with each emitter singly, or both combined



    As you could tell from the output table, max output with both emitters is slightly brighter than Cool White alone (which is itself slightly brighter than Warm White alone). The difference isn't huge however – and since running two emitters at lower drive levels is actually more efficient than one at a higher level, overall runtimes are not that different across the emitter configurations.

    Another thing you will immediately notice is that the SA04 steps down from max after ~3 mins runtime. As with the other IMALENT lights I've tested, there is something of a zig-zag pattern to the regulation (i.e., output slowly decays, and then "jumps" back up to the next higher level). It's a subtle effect in real life (i.e., you will only notice a slight change if watching the instant it occurs)

    Let's see how the SA04 compares to competing lights in this class:









    The overall efficiency and regulation of the SA04 has improved from the earlier IMALENT lights I've tested. Typically, the defined level competition (with current-controlled circuits) still have a slight efficiency advantage over the nearly continuously-variable SA04 – but the difference is not great.

    Potential Issues

    The combination of Warm and Cool White emitters allows a lot of flexibility in customizing tint. However, the slight overlap of the reflector wells means that you will see some tint artifacts in the periphery of the spill beam. Color modes have significant beam artifacts (consistent with other tri-color RGB emitters).

    The regulation pattern shows some small jumps in output over time, although this are not very noticeable in real life.

    The range of output levels is significant, but not truly "continuously variable" (i.e., you can still see the discrete steps).

    The pressure-sensitive touch screen is not as responsive as modern capacitive smartphones/tablets, but works well once you get used to it. Output level changes can still seem somewhat "jerky" in practice, though.

    Interface is more complicated than most lights, due to the dual electronic switches and touch-screen control.

    Due to the electronic nature of the switches and interface, there is always a standby current when batteries are connected to the head. Unfortunately, the light cannot be easily locked out physically due to the way current is carried across the tension of the tailcap. But there is an electronic lock out available by pressing and holding both electronic switches for ~1 sec.

    AA battery width may be an issue with newer higher capacity NiMH cells. For example, my recent Panasonic Eneloop Pro (2550mAh) batteries do not fit inside the light. These new Eneloop Pros are 14.3-14.4mm in diameter, vs. 14.1-14.2mm for the older Sanyo Eneloops. All my primary cells (alkaline and L91) fit fine.

    Preliminary Observations

    IMALENT continues to refine and improve their rather unique touch screen control interface, with nearly continuously-variable output control. In the case of the SA04, you also have a fairly unique ability to adjust the relative balance of Warm White and Cool White XM-L2 emitter output. Oh, and some red/green/blue modes have been thrown in for fun as well.

    As with the other IMALENT's I've tested, overall physical build quality is decent (although bodies do have a rather smooth feel, similar to some budget makers). The main control interface has gone through some improvements – I especially like the less cluttered display, and use of 16 bar levels now (as opposed to the 6 bars before). Note however that the actual number of discrete levels remains much larger – it is just easier to tell where you are at a glance now.

    Sensitivity of the pressure-touch display is not as high as modern capacitive devices like smartphones/tablets, but still works reasonably well when you get used to it. In principle, this is a rather intuitive interface for a continuously-variable light. And I like the fact that even the blinking modes can be "dialed down" to whatever output level you like.

    The overall UI is complex though, with two electronic switches and a touch screen for control. It is not particularly intuitive that touching the touch screen MODE label will activate color modes, but the upper electronic switch will activate strobe modes (or that a press-hold of the power switch will activate the tint balancing option). But that's a result of the extreme customizability of this light – any way you look at it, it's bound to be complex when you have this many options.

    I guess the question becomes, do you need so many options? The tint balancing option through the touch screen is a cute feature to play with – but I wonder how many people really need to dynamically change their tint on the fly? Personally, I quickly set the light to an even balance (as I like a "Neutral White"), and left it there. As a result, two Neutral White emitters would have better suited my tastes, since there would be no tint variation artifacts in the spill. But it certainly does work well as a demonstrator light, to quickly show people the relative differences between tints.

    I am glad to see the continued improvements in output/runtime efficiency – the SA04 is much more in keeping with competing lights in this 4xAA class (compared with some of the early IMALENT offerings). Regulation pattern still has its somewhat jerky zig-zag effect, although this really isn't very toubling in actual use.

    The SA04 is a versatile light in the 4xAA class, with a lot of features – including a unique tint balancing option. Of course, there are tradeoffs for all those extras (i.e., a more complex interface, and visible tint variations in the spillbeam). I suspect this light will appeal to a more specialized "tint conscious" audience – although its basic feature set is quite powerful.

    ----

    SA04 provided by IMALENT for review.
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 09-17-2014 at 02:59 PM.
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
    Gratefully accepting donations to my battery fund.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Ryp's Avatar
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    Default Re: IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+

    Thanks for the review!

  3. #3
    Flashaholic cagenuts's Avatar
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    Default Re: IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+

    Good review as usual.

    I wonder what someone like Vinh could do to drive those emitters to their full potential?

  4. #4

    Default Re: IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+

    Quote Originally Posted by cagenuts View Post
    I wonder what someone like Vinh could do to drive those emitters to their full potential?
    Well, not sure how much further you would really want to drive them - given the 4xAA battery source. But I'm sure you could squeeze some more out (as long as you weren't going to try to use regular alkalines).
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
    Gratefully accepting donations to my battery fund.

  5. #5
    Flashaholic cagenuts's Avatar
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    Default Re: IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+

    My query was in response to your findings that the output from both emitters is not double due to under driving (or whatever the term is).

  6. #6

    Default Re: IMALENT SA04 (Warm/Cool XM-L2, RGB, 4xAA, Touch Screen) Review: RUNTIME, VIDEO+

    Quote Originally Posted by cagenuts View Post
    My query was in response to your findings that the output from both emitters is not double due to under driving (or whatever the term is).
    Right, but they are still dependent on the underlying 4xAA battery source. This is why the light can't be too much brighter on both emitters than a single-emitter - the current drain would likely be too high for standard AA cells. Could probably push it a bit, as long as you stayed with higher capacity NiMH or L91 lithium.
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
    Gratefully accepting donations to my battery fund.

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