REVIEWER'S NOTE: Nitecore has updated the EA41 for a new "2015 edition". Please see my review of that version if you are wondering how the model has changed.
The EA41 is the latest 4xAA light from Nitecore, replacing the previous EA4 model. The EA41 has a revised 2-switch interface and other enhancements, but shares a similar external appearance to the EA4.
Nitecore has recently announced a "2105 edition" of the EA41, featuring a slightly higher output U2-bin XM-L2 emitter. However, this review is of the original 2014 edition (T6-bin version). Please see my newer 2015 edition review for that model (U2-bin version).
Let's see what else has changed with the EA41, and how it does against other 4xAA lights …
Manufacturer/Dealer Reported Specifications:
(note: as always, these are simply what the dealer/manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results).
- Emitter: 1 x Cree XM-L2 T6
- Output/Runtime: Turbo Mode: 960 lumens (1hr 45mins), High Mode: 510 lumens (2 hrs and 45 mins), Mid Mode: 120 lumens (12 hrs), Low Mode: 40 lumens (30 hrs), Micro Mode: 1 lumen (400 hr)
- Beam Intensity: 25,000cd
- Beam Distance: 315m
- Battery Type/Quantity: 4 x AA Battery (not included)
- Modes: 8 (Turbo; High; Middle; Low; Micro; SOS; Strobe Mode; Location Beacon)
- Waterproof: IPX-8 Standard Waterproof (Underwater 2m)
- Reflector: Aluminum Smooth Reflector
- Lens: Toughened Ultra-clear Glass Lens with Anti-reflective Coating
- Impact Resistance: 1.5m
- Aerospace Grade Aluminum Body with Anti Scratching Type III Hard Anodization
- Body Material: Aluminium Alloy
- Available Color: Black
- Product weight: 0.151 kg (without battery)
- Package weight: 0.4 kg
- Product size (L x W x H): 11.7 x 4 x 4.18 cm / 4.6 x 1.57 x 1.65 inches
- Package size (L x W x H): 15 x 6 x 13.5 cm
- Package Contents: 1 x Flashlight, 1 x Quality Holster, 1 x Lanyard, 1 x Spare O-ring
- MSRP: ~$48 (with coupon code, PM for details)
Note that for these are the specs for the original 2014 version, reviewed here. The 2015 edition has revised specs, which have gone through a few iterations by Nitecore. See the 2015 edition review for details.
The EA41 comes in similar packaging to the EA4 and other Nitecore Explorer series lights. Inside the cardboard box, you will find the light, holster with closing flap, decent wrist lanyard, extra o-ring, manual, and warranty card.
From left to right: Panasonic Eneloop Pro (2550mAh) NiMH; Nitecore EA41, EA4; Fenix E41; Sunwayman D40A, F40A; Eagletac GX25A3.
All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed (unless indicated):
Nitecore EA41 4xAA: Weight: 149.9g , Length: 118.2mm, Width (bezel): 40.1mm
Nitecore EA4 4xAA: Weight: 161.6g , Length: 117.9mm, Width (bezel): 40.2mm
Eagletac GX25A3 3xAA: Weight: 151.4g, Length: 109.2mm, Weight (bezel): 38.6mm
Fenix E41 4xAA: Weight: 204.1g , Length: 115.9mm, Width (bezel): 44.1mm
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: Weight: 117.6g, Length: 120.3mm, Width (bezel): 40.1mm
Olight S35 3xAA: Weight 177.3g, Length: 127.7mm, Width (bezel): 38.7mm
Sunwayman D40A 4xAA: Weight: 167.9g, Length: 120.4mm, Weight (bezel): 40.0mm
Sunwayman F40A 4xAA: Weight: 182.0g, Length: 109.3mm, Weight (bezel): 42.0mm
The main difference from the EA4 is that the new EA41 has a dual-switch design. Otherwise, the lights look very similar. They are generally cylindrical, with thick ridges along the body to help with grip. There is no knurling per se, except on the tailcap (but is fairly mild here). Anodizing is a flat black, and seems in excellent shape on my sample. Body labels are rather extensive, and include a serial number. Labels are are very legible and clear.
Instead of a single round button, there are now two square buttons, located one above the other. The lower button is the power button, and the upper is the mode changing button (see my User Interface section for more info). Button feel is fairly "grippy", and they are slightly raised. That said, the light does still have a tendency to roll away from you.
As before, there is also a single faint blue LED located underneath the switch area. This is used to signal the state of the light (i.e., battery status, standby). Scroll down for an explanation of the interface.
Battery handle is quite compact, but easily houses 4xAA (alkaline, NiMH or L91). The battery compartments are molded right into the aluminum, with the cells in a series arrangement as before.
Screw threads are square-cut and anodized as before, but it doesn't really matter – there is no physical lock-out, because the connection is carried by the contacts in the tailcap and not the body. You would need to loosen almost all the way off to break this contact.
The light can both tailstand as before. There is a cut-out on the base to allow you thread a wrist-lanyard through.
The EA41 reflector is smooth finish, and relatively deep. In fact, dimensions seem updated from the EA4 – it looks like the EA41 reflector is even deeper. This should provide even better throw for the class. XM-L2 emitter was well-centered on my sample. Scroll down for beamshots.
The user interface is significantly updated from the EA4, thanks to the use of two separate switches here.
Activation is controlled by the lower power switch – press and release (i.e., click) to turn the light on at the previously memorized constant output level. Click the power switch again to turn off.
While on, click the upper mode switch repeatedly to cycle between the five main output levels in the following repeating sequence: Lower > Lo > Med > Hi > Turbo, in a repeating loop. Note that my EA41 manual incorrectly states you should "half press" the mode switch to change levels (in fact, you need to do a proper click). The light has mode memory, and will return to the last level used when turned back on from off. Note that Lower/Lo/Med output levels have changed from the EA4 - see my direct measures later in this review.
There are a couple of shortcuts available now - you can jump directly to Lower or Turbo mode from Off. Press and hold the power switch from Off for more than 1 sec to activate in Lower. Press and hold the mode switch from Off for more than 1 sec for Turbo. Cycle through modes or turn off as before. You can also jump directly to strobe from Off by a double-click of the mode switch.
For the special modes (i.e., blinking modes), these are normally accessed from On. With the light on, press and hold the mode switch for more than 1 sec. The light will enter into Strobe. To advance to Location (aka beacon mode), press and hold the mode switch again. To advance to SOS, press and hold the mode switch again. A click of the mode switch exits back to constant output modes. Note that there is no memory for the blinking modes.
The light will read-out the voltage of the cells when you first connect the tailcap, by a series of blue flashes under the switch cover. 3 flashes means there is >50% battery life remaining. 2 flashes indicate <50%, and 1 flash means the batteries are almost dead. You can also check the voltage at any time (when Off) my a single click of the Mode switch.
Unlike the EA4 however, this indicator does not continue to flash by default once connected (i.e., to indicate standby mode, as done previously). Instead, you have to trigger the "special" standby indicator flash intentionally. This is activated by a press and hold of the power switch when turning Off the light. The faint blue locator LED will flash every ~3 secs in this standby mode. Otherwise, the light will not flash when in standby mode (default).
To lockout the light, you need to start with the light On. Press and hold both buttons for more than 1 sec to electronically lock-out the light. The light will flash once to confirm the lockout. The same sequence (from Off) is required to unlock the light.
For more information on the overall 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.
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There is no sign of PWM that I can see, at any output level – the EA41 is fully current-controlled, as claimed.
The strobe is a very high frequency strobe, typically around ~22 Hz in my testing. Note that that the duty cycle of this strobe is unusual, with the light only being on a fraction of the time. For most slower strobes, the duty cycle is about 50:50 (i.e., on half the time, off half the time, for each cycle). The EA41 strobe differs in its "on time", as shown in the close-up scale below.
I've seen this before on really high-frequency strobes – it seems that as you increase the frequency, you tend to decrease the on-time. In any case, it is very disorienting.
Note that this differs a bit from the original EA4, with had a true variable strobe (for both overall frequency and pulse duration).
SOS mode is a typical SOS mode.
Beacon is a brief full power flash, once every 2.1 secs (as before).
A standby current drain is inevitable on the EA41, due to the electronic switch in the head. Unfortunately, I'm not able to easily measure it, as the batteries are arranged in series (i.e., I would have to connect everything under tension, without the tailcap in place, to get a reading). Worse, there have been reports that the drain is different before and after activation on the EA41 – but that would require a much more complex arrangement with high current jumpers (to bypass the risk of damaging the uA port of the DMM), in order to accurately measure. As a result, I have not measured the standby drain here.
For the other single-cell members of the Nitecore Explorer series, I found this current to be in the in the low uA range, with occasional spikes up to the low mA range when the indicator would flash. For the parallel multi-cell Li-ion TM-series lights, I typically found these to be in the high uA range, with low mA spikes for the indicator flash. The end result was that most of those related lights would give you several months of runtime before the batteries would be exhausted, under normal Standby usage.
UPDATE: I describe a quick indirect test to estimate battery drain in fresh cells in my EA41 2015 edition in post #22 in that thread. The results suggest Eneloop Pro (2500mAh capacity) would be fully drained in under 9 months in that light. It may be faster than that though, as I haven't tried testing partially depleted cells.
Note the EA41 includes an electronic lock-out mode. I don't know how much this lowers the standby current, but it may. I recommend you make use of it.
Note that you cannot easily break this current by unscrewing the tailcap - it needs to be nearly completely unscrewed to reliably block the current. As with many other models in this class, it is the tension on the springs that maintains the connection (i.e., it has nothing to do with the anodized threads).
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). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences.
Consistent with the slightly deeper reflector on my EA41 sample, throw seems to be increased slightly over the EA4 (for equivalent output). Overall beam pattern remains very similar though, and consistent with this class. Scroll down for direct output and throw measures.
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 EA41 is very much in the same league as other 4xAA lights I've tested (although max output is a little lower than most of the recent competition). Peak beam intensity has increased from the EA4 though, due to the deeper reflector. Peak intensity and beam distance very closely match Nitecore's ANSI FL-1 specs for this model (T6 bin).
Note that on my original EA4, there was a slight increase in max output on alkaline cells. This is no longer the case on the EA41 – NiMH and alkaline produce equivalent output on all levels. Let's see how my output estimates compare to the official Nitecore specs for this T6-version of the EA41 (and the original EA4, while we are at it):
Generally, I get pretty good concordance with Nitecore output specs – except on the Turbo level, where I find initial output to be a bit lower than reported.
Note that these level spacings are revised from the earlier EA4. Basically, the old Med mode is gone (with the old Lower/Lo levels moving to Lo/Med now), and a new Lower mode has been added. See my EA4 review for details on that light. I personally prefer these new level spacings now.
Also, please be advised that the Turbo step-down feature is updated from the EA4. Now, on the EA41, there is a gradual reduction in Turbo output over the first 7 mins – at which point, it levels off at a new set level (~600 estimated lumens) for another ~13 mins. There is a second abrupt step-down at ~21 mins into the run, where the light drops to a new flat-stabilized level (~420 estimated lumens). See runtimes below for more info.
While I generally get very good concordance with the official specs for the 2014 (T6-bin) version, I must say I am a bit surprised by what Nitecore reports for the recently released 2015 (U2-bin) version.
UPDATE DEC 27, 2014: Please see my new "2015 edition" review for a comparison of the output and runtime of the 2014/2015 editions.
Let's start with standard Sanyo Eneloop NiMH (2000mAh capacity)
I know the above graphs are rather busy, but a general take-home message is that the EA41 is not very different from the EA4 in terms of overall efficiency. However, the runtime pattern on Turbo has changed, with revised step-downs.
To see that better, here is a new set of comparisons on Panasonic Eneloop Pro NiMH (2550mAh typical capacity). Panasonic acquired Sanyo a little while back, and the new Panasonic-branded Eneloop Pro cells are an updated version of the former Eneloop XX cells (i.e., Panasonic Pros are basically 3rd generation XX cells, with improved charge holding ability). Given the difficulty in tracking down new 2000mAh Eneloops around here, I will be switching to these higher capacity cells in all new reviews.
Basically, the EA41 remains fairly stable in max output (~750 lumens) for the first 2 mins or so, then gradually drops off in output over the next 5 mins or so. At 7 mins into the run, the output levels off at a flat ~600 lumens. After another 14mins (i.e., at ~21 mins into the run), the light abruptly steps down to a second flat-regulated output level of ~420 lumens. I saw something similar on my recent Nitecore EC20 review.
Here is how it compares on standard alkaline/L91 lithium cells:
Due to the electronic switches in the head, the light has a stand-by current when batteries are installed. I have not measured it in this case, but on most Nitecore lights it tends to be in a range that will drain fully-charged batteries over a course of months. There have been reports that the standby drain is higher when first connected, so you may want to activate/deactivate the light at the switch after a battery change.
You cannot easily lock out the light physically, so I recommend you use the electronic lock-out in regular use, to prevent accidental activations.
There are a couple of timed step-downs from Turbo on the EA41, similar to the EC20 that I recently reviewed.
The EA4 by Nitecore was one of the first compact, cylindrical 4xAA lights on the market. This has clearly proven to be a very popular form factor, with a number of other makers producing similarly sized lights npw. The EA4 had a lot going for it, but it also had some limitations. I am happy to report that the EA41 has addressed most of these, and is a superior product in my view.
The most obvious difference is the move to a two-switch design. This solves a lot of the use issues of the original EA4 – two switches are just a lot more intuitive, and don't require learning specific timings or pressure levels. Nitecore also wisely added shortcuts to jump to Max or Min output from off (in addition to typical mode memory). You can even jump to Strobe from off by a double-click of the mode switch. And I also like the continued use of the Min > Max sequence of constant output levels on the EA41 (as some of the two-switch competition uses a reverse sequence).
Nitecore has also redesigned the lower output levels, with access to a true Lo mode now (though not technically a Moonlight mode). Lower/Lo/Med/Hi/Turbo is now estimated in my lightbox as 1/35/110/480/750 lumens instead of 36/115/275/500/770 on the EA4. Basically, Nitecore has ditched the old Med mode, moved the old Lower/Lo to Lo/Med now, and added a true Lower level. This is an improved spacing in my view, and good a for a general purpose light.
A sticking point for some on the old EA4 was the default standby locator flash under the switch. This increased the visibility of the light in dark (as intended), and increased the standby drain. Previously, you had to electronically lock-out the light to block this locator. Now, you specifically have to turn it on if you want it (i.e., not present by default). While a small change, this is one likely to be appreciated by many.
Overall output/runtime efficiency remains very good as before, consistent with a good current-controlled circuit. Regulation pattern has changed on Turbo though, with two sets of step downs now (once gradual, one abrupt). Please see the runtime section of this review for more info.
Beam pattern is generally similar to before, although the EA41 has a slightly deeper reflector now for greater throw. Note that overall size of the light remains unchanged. I suggest you refer back to my original EA4 review for a discussion of various diffuser options, to further increase the versatility of the light.
The EA41 is an excellent update to the EA4. Nitecore has clearly paid close attention to the feedback on that earlier model, and devised an improved product. This goes beyond the change to a two-stage switch design (although that is welcomed here) – there are small but significant changes across the functioning and use of the light. With these changes, I think the EA41 is now one of the strongest contenders in the (somewhat crowded) 4xAA space.
REVIEWER'S NOTE: Nitecore has updated the EA41 for a new "2015 edition". Please see my review of that version if you are wondering how the model has changed.
EA41 was provided by Gearbest.com for review (sku LL0209501).